Friday 29 May 2020

Jade Wallace : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes! In at least three ways:

1. Politically—I have always appreciated poetry that is politically engaged. When I was young, that tended to mean poetry that took a clear stance and argued for it. Now I prefer poetry that sharpens my consciousness and forces me to confront new ideas without being didactic. I usually distrust people who are dogmatic about their politics and claim to have definitive answers, even if the person in question is me. Beyond a basic imperative to care about each other and try to limit suffering, I am not sure that there is much I find to be absolute about human relations.

2. Aesthetically—I used to read and write as if poetry's primary purpose was to express truths, as if it were a mere vessel for some important idea. During this phase, someone suggested that my poetry, perhaps, lacked adornment. I fixated on this word, adornment. It was soon after that I started dating my now-partner, who is an artist, so I found myself spending more time in art galleries and antique shops. My partner would often use a particular phrase for things he liked: “that's a beautiful object.” I thought about this phrase a lot as I looked at things that seemed kind of useless but were also inexplicably transfixing, like a century-old Art Deco compact. I began to get enamoured with craft in a way that I hadn't been before. What if poems could also be as ornate and stunning as any other tiny trinket you might see and wish to carry in your pocket because it is so lovely?

3. Cryptically—When I was about ten I bought an anthology of poetry because I wanted to learn how to read “adult poetry.” By adult poetry I meant things that didn't sound like nursery rhymes and that didn't have immediately obvious meanings. I read the whole book while I was on a road trip with my parents. I'm not sure I understood much of it; mostly I was annoyed by it. Yet I would often return to that book after reading others and find that more and more of it made sense to me each time I came back. I now read and enjoy many of the poems, though ironically a lot of them seem over-simplified and sentimental. I still don't much enjoy poetry that I can't understand at all, but the more I read, the more I appreciate poems in which meaning slips elusively in and out of sight, always evading but always returning.

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