Saturday, November 27, 2010

What kind of poetry do you write?

How do you answer this question?

It came up again last week at a dinner party. I hem and haw, never sure what to say.

And it depends who's asking. If it's another poet, do I say lyrical or narrative? I'm still trying to wrap my head around those two, because at one end we have the Iliad and the Odyssey, and at the other hand we have postmodern lyrics (and probably post-postmodern lyrics), and I fall somewhere in the vast middle.

If it isn't a poet, I want to say "accessible," because that's true. Even my new, more fragmented poems are still pretty accessible. And I don't want to get into explaining how I'm exploring with more nonlinear poems, trying to break up the narrative in longer poems that are divided into sections. How dry. (Although I'm having a blast writing them.)

Often, I try to answer the question by saying what I write about. The stock answer: gardening and death. Except that my forthcoming manuscript is about illness and healing. And the poems I'm working on right now are mostly about middle age, set in the Pacific Northwest landscape. Except for a few more poems about death and grief. And then I'm toying around from time to time with the messy confessional poem.

Clearly, I need a succinct answer that is generous and--yes--accessible.

How do you answer this question?

2 comments:

Martha Silano said...

"The good kind."

Michael said...

Hey, I would think the fact that they ask and don't run is a good sign.

But seriously - I understand the quandary. And who really rights inside such a tight box that it can be described in such a singular day. Ok, Kooser maybe. Billy Collins. But really most people I read are not so easily defined by one set of terms.