I’ve always been fearful about debating the constituents of Modern Poetry. Many things have elapsed between the outer edges of lyricism and the poetic revolution of Modernism and Post-Modernism of the twentieth century, and many more have been extensively debated and explored. The state of poetry requires no true explanation, however, because the same is palpable: declining, withering and un-captivating.
Why? That’s a complicated question, even grasping the width of what is being asked seems to be an exhausting task, but many can be tackled individually without being smothered by higher scopes. To me, the production of modern poetry fails on many fronts, and between abstractionism and minimalism (both highly unstable chains of literary generation) one can only agree on a singular vision if only one poem is analysed, anything else would be overly ambitious.
Conveniently, over-ambition is my middle name.
One of the most common communication mistakes I see in Modern Poetry is the distance crafted between poetic narration and poetic subject. This is, of course, reinforced by the usage of pronouns such as “she” and “he”, and you might be more familiar with the paradigm if I exemplify:
“She was formed of shimmer and golden-dust,
she glanced the sky with rose-form and blood,
she wept, sighting those made of iron and rust.”
Merely an example with no true conveyance that I made in a second and a half, but the idea is there. The She, the He, are experiences akin to those Arts of Hollow Men, they are conjured to inspire an empathic relation between the reader and the poem, but they do precisely the opposite. The She and the He, the They, are but objects of a poetic landscape, and as objects, they cannot mutate as fluidly as a poetic subject can. The vision; the transmission — must occur in the gap between the vision of the poet and their ultimate subject. Generating a false distance between the two is a lie many keen readers wont be willing to bite into.
The inability to create a tangible sensation of humanity within ones own composition mustn’t be corrected by stripping that humanity all-together.
Of course, this does not apply to lengthy narrative poems where the pronoun in question actually relates to a character that was previously constructed — although even then, the product can be considerably insufficient, ex. Margaret Atwood’s “Penelopiad”, whose construction was so detached that I genuinely believed Penelope was nothing more than a prop outlining the spaces where the poetic narrative took place.
It is an easy trap to fall into, one that is created by our own sense of insufficiency. But I tell you this, might I know little more: anything truly essential, anything with enough weight to be transmitted, is something that only the heart is able to encapsulate. The “She” and the “He”, and even that distorted Penelope, are but constructs of fear.
To unlock that transmutation of essentiality to poetry — or any other Art — must be a speech your heart imparts towards another.
I’ve personally never constructed poems like these simply because I do not know how to transmit what I want to transmit without being myself. The “I” of my poetry is the only “I” I’m able to create, even if false or imaginative, it is still something I can materially shape. Allowing yourself the freedom of communicating as a being rather than a master, to the point where you belong to a story rather than create it, to the point where reality is the dome you inhabit even when you attempt to escape it, is a truth that unlocks the devices necessary to produce actual genuine work. Work that not only resonates, but can be overpowered by someone else. The Shes and Hes will always be Shes and Hes, to any of us. But the I, that can be any of us, and I need to allow it that luxury, otherwise I’m strangling my poem even before it leaves the pen.
Of course, analysing these aspects can come off pretentious or detached, because not everyone constructs poems with the intention of general availability or understanding. To many, it’s merely a therapeutic activity and serves its purpose as such. I don’t often feel the need to criticise any poem on WordPress because there is no need to do so objectively, it is simply human expression and every single one I’ve read, whether my type or otherwise, whether nicely constructed or otherwise, has beauty of its own and by its own merit.
What I propose analysing here is poetry as a commerce, that which is sold and traded, and by consequence, must present a level of quality that justifies the interest. It is also of interest to mention the anglo-centric nature of this post, since I’ve never read any poem in Italian, Portuguese, French or Spanish that utilised this method of extreme spectating. I’m not sure why it is so exclusive to English, but I suppose its but a product of a fragile poetic culture, and because English was the seat of power to Modernism and other movements that allowed the rejection of classical composing methods.
If by any chance you use this technique to write, I have no intentions of demoralising you from using it. I also have no doubts that incredible compositions can be made using it, because poetry is much more than the usage of pronouns, but if you felt like something was “off”, I might have provided some clarity. And if, for any reason, you oppose my view, feel free to comment as to why and I will provide opposition/concordance, as we all grow with dialogue.
PS: I wrote this while listening to Portuguese Artist “Filho da Mãe” and his album “Mergulho“, his amazing collection of guitar instrumental work is both relaxing and incredibly inspiring for achieving mind-clarity in writing. It transcends language, so I believe everyone would benefit from giving him a shot.