On writing & editing poetry

I am working right now on a very big and ambitious poetry project — one that will probably take years. I look at the poem drafts I have written, and I can sense the powerful poems, the powerful poetry collection lurking within. The words just begin to capture my vision of words brought together to resonate as story, and this vision lurks on the edge of hearing, just out of reach.

Sometimes I despair of ever cramming my words into proper poetic meter and I wonder why we try to cram English (a language lacking tone or syllable changes based on length) into poetic forms created for just such languages. Thanks to centuries of English-speaking poets’ obsession with classical (Greek & Roman) history, we now have standard ways for English to fit into Greek poetic terms.

I see modern poetry as one long rebellion away from these standard forms. However, I believe modern poetry has gone too far — the most successful (as defined by the poetry world) poets have tossed out not just the standard poetic forms but also any semblance of sense, rhyme, or reason. I do not need my poetry filled with extraneous blood and gore and stream of consciousness, thank you very much.

I think some of the best poetry today is being written by song artists. Songs are pushed aside as being “popular” or not real poetry, but if you listen carefully to the songs playing on the radio, they follow poetic meter and form — they are ballads or sonnets. Some of my favorite artists for this are Passenger, Sarah McLachlan, and Dave Matthews.

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