Mike: schooling or the study of poetry can be and often is antithetical to the soul of poetry and it's appreciation . . . . for God's sake don't cheapen poetry by making it a vehicle for cultural propaganda -- I mean 'values.'
Eric: Last first. The sonnet is cultural propaganda, so is learning how to scan a line (several ways for the same line, if need be). Having a poetic project is cultural propaganda. Arranging your poems in a book by certain themes is cultural propaganda. Every technique of American poetry is cultural propaganda. ItÂs good propaganda because it tells us who we are and where weÂre going. ItÂs good because itÂs the very essence of technique, the thing you praised in your previous post. ItÂs good because when you learn it you can forget it, but if youÂve never learned it, you have to discover it sloooooooowly. [Insert image of snail leaving trail across parchment.]
Instead of apprenticeship to poetry, we have an
ultrademocratized easy-and-fun-for-beginners approach, based on a sense that students can never be wrong.
Mike: You sound as though you believe poetry is a hieratic pursuit. Poets, priests. T. S. Eliot, indeed. Give me Ginsberg yawping for Ike to go fuck himself with his atom bomb any day of the week. You beweep the lack of apprenticeships to poetry -- what the hell are you talking about, they're a dime a dozen. Every university in the country has MFA programs in creative writing. What we need is LESS official meddling in poetry, not more.
Eric: The criticism of MFA factories is that they are not really apprenticeships, but rather standardized platforms for turning out a standardized product. Every fiction MFA writes a New Yorker story and every poetry MFA writes a New Yorker poem.
Ginsberg had an apprenticeship with WC Williams. Read GinsbergÂs fawning letter at the beginning of WilliamsÂ _Paterson_, and see how it reads like any aspiring artist in search of training from an established master. In later life, Ginsberg taught poetry at Brooklyn College. Even though this was just his way of being surrounded with young males, smoking pot with them every Friday night, and trying to hit on them, Ginsberg did have a mentor effectÂ-at least according to the couple Ginsberg students IÂve met.
Yes, we need less official meddling in poetry, but we need more serious apprenticeships.
Mike: This all started with Lawrence saying he didn't like Berryman's poetry nearly as much as he used to after reading Berryman's biography. That's absurd, I said. Berryman's life should have absolutely nothing to do with whether you like his poetry or not. A poem is NOT the poet.
Eric: CÂmon Mike. You read about a poet and you understand her voice better. You read about a poet and it makes you more curious about the poetÂs body of work. Reading _HumboldtÂs Gift_ made me want to read Delmore Schwartz.
Mike: From there it morphed into what was the poet's intention or meaning in writing the poem. Lawrence insisted that such was essential to understanding the poem. I screamed YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND POETRY, you can only experience it. What is the meaning of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony?
Eric: The meaning of BeethovenÂs Pastoral Symphony is BeethovenÂs Pastoral Symphony. However, you CAN learn to understand it better. For example, you can understand LBÂs use of repetition, the way he starts with a partially developed theme rather than stating the theme at the outset, and so forth. You can understand the way he built the symphony, his programmatic intentions, and so forth.
You are conflating two types of meaning: technical significance and ultimate meaning. The first is subject to understanding and objective assessment; the second is personal and transpersonal.
Regardless...IÂm not hostile to what you write. I enjoy it. Given the vehicle of E-mail, we can only investigate each otherÂs love and understanding of poetry by taking this debating stance.
------------------------------------------------------------------ To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off, digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html