Mike Snider's Formal Blog at the Sonnetarium :
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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

What to do about a poem by someone I've never read at all? Never encountered in any context? Never heard of? In bookstores, I'm almost bothered to admit, I open a book to a shortish poem somewhere near the middle, and, if the words are scattered all over the page, I put the book back on the shelf. It does bother me to admit that the next thing I do is to try to scan a few lines and to look for rhymes. I'll read the poem in any case, and, unless I think it's terrible, I'll try a few other randomly chosen shortish poems, but I can't pretend I'm not biased toward metrical poems: other kinds of poems probably have to work harder to keep me reading. Since nothing gets bought unless something knocks me out, I might very well miss that non-metrical knockout just because I stopped too soon.

It's different with a magazine. I open to the first poem and at least start reading, no matter what, and go on reading until 2 or 3 poems in a row have failed to interest me. I might still buy it, depending on how long it's held my interest. If I've liked what I've read so far, I'll probably even read that scattershot poem that closed the book unread, thinking that an editorial staff that's done so well so far might have a real surprise for me. (None has yet, but I'm willing to accept that as a personal problem.) And if I find a knockout poem of whatever kind in the magazine, I'll look for a book by its author and buy it if I can find one—I won't even open the book on the way to the cash register. If I can't find a book there, or if I'm at home when I read that knockout poem, I'll order a book online.

And as the po-blog world grows (just look at that link-list, which I still feel is badly incomplete), I find myself reading a lot of poetry I wouldn't ordinarily give more than a glance, and some of it has been very good indeed. I've ordered some books and chapbooks and feel guilty about not ordering others. I don't exactly know the other po-bloggers, but just knowing something of their attitudes and tastes, and getting a little feel for what I suppose have to be called their voices, makes me willing to read. It's something like what happens when I read a metrical poem by a poet new to me: I feel (probably wrongly) as if I know some of the choices that poet has faced and therefore am a little more engaged with the poem than I might otherwise be.

But there ain't no danger I'll suddenly give up sonnets. In fact, I've been so pleasantly surprised working on the things I made back in January and February that I'm almost threatening to try that near-daily madness again for the month of May, with maybe a little more variety— triolets, anapestic or trochaic verse, terza rima, different line lengths, some het-met. It'd be a good way to gear up for West Chester.


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