What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions

Unnecessary Divisions

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I should be packing. The movers are coming in a week and a half. And if I’m not going to be packing, I should be reading poems over at Goodreads to offer my two selections for the newsletter contest. But that’s not as easy a task as packing, even, in some ways, and I’ve been reading over at Harriet, this conversation about some gawdawful poetry reading fiasco involving the interrogation of laughers. Yikes. Kinda makes me glad we’re not moving to NYC, though where we’re going will have plenty of readings, and I’m looking forward to it, poetry readings being one of the things I gave up when we decided to move to the boonies. We’ve served our time in the middle of nowhere, as beautiful as it is, and we’re moving to a place where one is less likely to be viewed with suspicion if one’s been to school (or likes books, which we do…my back attests to this…so far I’ve filled almost thirty file boxes with them, and I’ve got another twenty or so to go). Where we’re going, though, is a bit more laid back than NYC, kind of like a miniature San Franscisco, but with snow. And good thing. I don’t think I could tolerate that sort of attitude.

I’ve also been reading around online about this so-called School of Quietude vs. Post-Avant alleged divide in contemporary poetry. And one of the articles I read was this attempted score card. Dude posted two poems, one apparently belonging to one school and one belonging to the other, and commentors are supposed to weigh in. And I get the difference, but it seems to me they’re both enjoyable, in very different ways. Is that so wrong? I thought diversity was a GOOD thing.

But I’m well aware that folks like to keep current, take a certain pride in being cutting edge. Nobody wants to look out of touch with the times (and some people seem to enjoy looking down their noses at people who are, or who don’t care to appear not to be). But I really like the first one. Is it wrong to enjoy rich language, smooth and complex as a good lobster bisque? I like potato chips, too, and the second poem was a little like that…crunchy and salty and likely to make me feel a bit guilty or stupid afterwards. I confess, if forced to choose between the two, I’d rather spend time rereading the first. Then again, I’ve long had a thing for lobster bisque.

I guess I’m not really interested in interrogating the making of meaning, though I certainly wrote more than one piece of juvenilia in which I railed against language’s inability to really get at its subject. Or at least my inability, using it.

And I got to thinking about the poetry-reading scandal (talk about a teapot tempest, egads, folks need some perspective, methinks). Interrogate is a harsh word. To question seems more apt in most interpersonal situations (and even questioning someone else’s response to a poem seems to require a level of self-importance I don’t think I could come up with). The only folks with a right to interrogate a fellow citizen, I’m pretty sure, are those in law enforcement (my young daughter, btw, loves to interrogate her doll collection…the lists of alibis left around make for fascinating reading). I’d think that at a poetry reading such an attitude would be eschewed for one a little more humane (and grownup?). Shows what I know.

I guess that’s why I don’t interrogate language, either, or particularly enjoy poetry that attempts to. It’s a hostile attitude. Dance with language, maybe, and whisper in its ear, and see what it might, so seduced, reveal.

Author: Wendy Babiak

Poet, permaculturalist, lay Carmelite. Pretty sure the world needs more love and less politics.

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