I don’t exactly know who Gly Maxwell is, but here’s a quote from him. Or maybe her.
“The problem with most free verse is that it locates wisdom in the self and not in the language.”
Fine, I think that’s probably true. Most of the time, poetry is solipsistic to a fault: “Looka me, ma, I’m suffering. And my pain is so unique it has made me wise. So I wrote this sonnet.”
But I wasn’t thinking about poetry this morning vis a vis this quote. I was thinking about YA fiction. Where’s its wisdom? Some of it is in the #$%&* moral to the story. (When people ask me about the moral to my stories, I tell them that if I wanted that I’d write it on a freaking note card and hand it out on street corners.)
And I know where the wisdom regularly isn’t, and that’s in the language. Lots of writers must be using some anti-thesaurus, some collection of whatever is most pedestrian and jejune. The MacSimile, the MacPlot.
Maybe that’s why I read poetry more than I do prose. Here are the last few lines of a Victoria Chang poem that me a little less ornery:
as clothes in a dryer in
a laundromat at 3:00 a.m. might finally stop
unclenching and accept their entanglement.
When’s the last time you saw a line half that good in YA fiction?
RK (who’ll be a nicer person in 2010)