Restraint in poetry

An epiphany of annoyance. I hate the ways that class status in U.S. poetry is about restraint. It is the tightly reined emotion, squished and squozed into formal patterning. It’s polite, it kicks against the pricks in a tiny box, it understates, it’s wry in its little distance and its scope of muttering under the breath. It’s like everyone’s got the mute button on. Civility! Aesthetes! Subtle hand gestures in an apologetic ballet! Tiptoeing prissy-assed highwire, scripted bow & curtsey…

Fine, there’s a poetics of the quiet moment. I can respect that. I can even respect the extreme neoformalistas, their exquisite marzipan sculptures and intricate architectures. But that is not all of poetry.

In this context, I realized my sprawling, messy yells will have a hard time finding a home if I ever get off my ass and send them out. I don’t want to tuck in the ends in a neat little knot – it makes me feel like vomiting when I realize I ‘ve done this in a poem. I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing! I don’t want to struggle to discipline myself to epitomize the thing that other people are all fucking doing! How boring and sad a fate in the larger scale of literary history. My god. Break something, would you people?

Some emotions should be broken! Messy! Huge! Fucked up! Not stuck into little free-verse couplets. What’s up with that?
Where are the enormous instrumental breaks as the band jams way past midnight and the song becomes bigger than itself and a light goes on and guitars catch on fire, the explosions on stage? Where are the performances that become riots and the riots that don’t start as performances? Juggernauts, elbows, bulldozers, explosions, action movies, shockwaves, meteors? Rants & manifestoes, mothers of the word!

Poetry magazines piss me off today! I’m nauseated by the whole “thing”, by scenes, by the grubbing and scraping, by the lack of actual caring and intercourse and conversation and sparkiness. Once in a while get to see it and it makes me so happy.

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3 thoughts on “Restraint in poetry

  1. It’s polite, it kicks against the pricks in a tiny box, it understates…

    Good lord, a Biblical reference! (Acts 5:9, depicting Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus: “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” I still have no idea what that means.)

  2. Hell, I can quote the Bible without understanding it as well as anyone!

    Now I’m super curious to go look up different translations of that verse and see what they think it means.

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