We spent so much time analyzing poetry for its form and meta-poetic style that I had forgotten about poetry as vehicle. Not that the ModPo poets were not offering cultural content, but perhaps it was the context in which these poems were explored. We seemed to focus on the meta-poetic; other context seemed secondary and perhaps not relevant. Over-simplistic of an interpretation, perhaps…

It was a nice surprise then, to listen to a PoemTalk today that dealt with something more than the meta. Yes, ars poetica was alluded to in Charles Reznikoff’s first poem, but both poems seemed to explore Reznikoff’s heritage as a Jewish-American poet.

Whilst I appreciate what a poem does with words, I appreciate more what I can learn from a poem within its language. The poems highlighted in PoemTalk #56 were rather serendipitous for me since I am on a bit of journey to learn more about Judaism. Not to infer that Reznikoff’s poems are religious; no, they are as Michelle Taransky posited, documentary poems. Reznikoff is documenting events as he experiences them which cannot be done without his cultural context as a Jewish-American.

This cultural context seems especially pertinent with “During the Second World War, I was going home one night”.  Whilst I was in awe of both poems, this is one I wish we could discuss ModPo style. I would be curious to see this poem on the page (I have only found the audio) but the hearing of it alone conjures several inferences and opinions. I agree with the commentary that there is not a blatant agenda, however, this cannot be read without drawing greater conclusions from what is not being stated.

Curiously, upon finishing this PoemTalk, I stumbled upon a LARB tweet that mentioned Whitman. Yes, Whitman starts the essay, but it goes beyond poetry. “The Gaza Poetry Roundtable” segment gathers poets, poetic writing, and prose that deals with politically charged content. It reminds me why I champion certain poetics — they open expression better than what can be stated in ordinary prose.  (I will disclaimer, though, LARB’s article is heavy on agenda. It tries to parlay that it is balanced, but I felt a slant that I am not sure is ever turned upright…a process of abstraction perhaps…)

Abstraction. Abstraction allows us to open the door, but what do we do when we have walked through its context. I circle, I circle again uncertain where I should reenter the picture. What do we do with the abstract?  Does Art as abstraction offer us more Freedom? In poetry, is the abstract  better than the concrete? 

Truthfully…if someone wants to declare it in That way, who can say — for what is Truth? Whose Truth. Is it told with an “I” or a “You” can it be “We”?  Shall we hark back to dear Emily… “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”. Sometimes it is safer just to sing…

On that note, I shall leave with this, my own abstraction…a work in progress that shall progress if i leave the ego to play with more found things. ~ a



13 thoughts on “abstract / abstraction / — tell it slant/

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    • Hi Carl…well, meta in the context mentioned here is the meta-poetic meaning that the work is self-referential. A poem that is about the art of poetry or the art of writing, etc.. It was a huge theme with the Coursera.org course I just completed called ModPo (Modern and Contemporary Poetry of America). That is why I started this blog and YHC is a bit more quiet these days…

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