Monday, February 18, 2013

Cork Spring Poetry Festival - Saturday 2

Saturday afternoon's programme at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival began with Canadian poet, Karen Solie's Craft Talk.  A very enthusiastic talk full of wisdom and challenge.

Here are some random notes from the talk which I hope give some flavour but certainly don't even begin to do justice to it.

She began by quoting a poet, Robert Haas I think, who said that he still doesn't know what he is doing when writing a poem. But the important thing is to get better at not knowing what you are doing.

There should be a constant tension in good poems between order and chaos, discipline and recklessness, form and nothingness. A great poem must have precise language and syntax. Vague expression is the enemy of good poetry. Ambiguity is different, it allows more than one possible meaning.

The precise language used in a poem may not be of the normal variety. The poet must allow a little weirdness into the poem. She gave as example Canadian poet Steven McCaffery’s Position of Sheep I poem which contains the word sheep in various positions on the page. There is a  Position of Sheep II in which the sheep, or some of them, have moved.

The writer gives and the reader takes. For the reader the poem must be a first hand experience. The poet writes from his/her own experience and place and the reader is interested in this, especially if there are vivid, fascinating details.

How can we write honestly? Often a poem is an expression of our unknowing. We normally don't know. Allow doubt and ignorance into the poem. It's easy to opt for safety and be coy, sarcastic, cynical.

The poet must be honest but can make things up. It may be important which things are made up and which are true. She gave as example a poem by Robert Haas, The World as Will and Representation, where the correct name of the drug as vital but the details of his father's dress were not.

She recommended Robert Haas' book Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry and the Gray Wolf "The Art of" series of short books on poetry especially mentioning  The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young and The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach

Plenty to think about there!

A video of Karen Solie reading is available here on Vimeo, (screenshot above). It includes both Migration and Tractor which she read in Cork. Tractor is especially good.

In times of doubt, we cast our eyes
upon the Buhler Versatile 2360
and are comforted.

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