In L.A., anyway, (and I imagine on other NPR stations) a guy named Michael Silverblatt does an interview-the-author show. I tuned in for just a minute as I got off the freeway and pointed my Toyota (only going 35 compared to 135) toward the race track. MS was interviewing a poet, and Michael said something complimentary along these lines: “Sometimes when I read your work I’m reminded of a child talking before he’s really sure what words mean.”
And I thought, “So that’s it!” I read a lot of poetry and some of it I like but don’t, in the usual sense of the word, get. Some of it I just can’t stand. Now I might understand why/why not.
A lot of the likable stuff resembles free-for-all, creative babble while the less likable has a manufactured, look-at-me-be-pre-verbal odor to it. I prefer to watch poets’ minds at play, anyway, compared to concentrating on what they write. (And don’t get me started about what-poems-mean!)
The so-called Language Poets have a political agenda; they think language has been so debased by advertising and “Meet the Press” dissembling that jarring juxtaposition and nonsense is the only way to reanimate language. Maybe they’re right, but they rarely seem to be having any fun. While the kind of poetry I’m writing about this morning is usually very high-spirited.
Naturally, there’s something in all of this for all of us: I’m a natural smarty-pants, so in YA faction I like high spirits and electricity on every page. And I know now why some competent picture books leave me feeling enervated. I don’t feel a mind at play.