amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

on reading American poets

Recently I read Stuart Ross' book "Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer." It's a wonderful book, an honest portrayal of the small press scene. Ross recommends that writers read
American poets from the 60s and 70s. Throughout the book he references folks like Ted Berrigan. I've read stuff from that era; primarily male poets and I have to say that while I admire the language skills, I'm never that involved in their work. It comes off for me mostly as cold, and stuff I can't really relate too: the existential angst that French writers like Camus and Sartre already dealth with much more proficiently for me. Really I guess it's a personal preference, but I prefer poems about moments, rather than those that make arcane and obscure illusions to mythological characters such as those by John Berryman. And also I find the ramblings to be very prose like. Doesn't do a thing for me. Give me a Sylvia Plath or Gwendolyn Macewen any day. I need strong, strong images as much as I need a few glasses of full bodied red wine. The male Yanks I've read from the 60s and 70s just sound kind of pretentious to me, self involved, clever. There's one thing I really can't stand is show off poetry. It doesn't feel like it's from the heart at all. Many people say poetry should transcend the personal in order for the reader to feel it..for it to become a kind of universal experience, and I'm all for that. But that doesn't happen to me with these poets. Instead I just marvel at the distance, the coldness. It makes me shudder, but not in a good way. I wonder if women can really relate to this kind of distance writing? I can't. For male poets, give me Metis poet Gregory Scofield, or Torontonian Robert Priest. Give me emotion. Give me moments. Give me imagery that sticks with me, not long three syllable abstractions and mean comments against other writers. Just not my thing.

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