February 24, 2010

For me, always / the delight is the surprise.

Keeping the poetry hits rolling! I read The Wild Iris, by Louise Gluck. This one won a Pulitzer prize!

I didn’t get much out of it.

Okay, that’s not completely true? There were three poems that really, really spoke to me. I stuck pieces of paper in the book to save them for later, for rereading and re-thinking. The title is the final lines of one of those poems, which seriously was like a big explosion “woah!” kind of moment when I read it, and I had to go back and re-read the entire thing, knowing what I now knew. Those sorts of poems in the book were fantastic. The rest, the vast majority, were… okay? But also very confusing. Mostly because of the use of the word “You.”

One thing I tried really hard in my book to do is to make sure that the reader always knows who “you” is referring to at any time. In the first half of the book, it is always the Deleter. In the second half, it is always the Repeater. The idea is that this builds up the idea of dialog I am going for, and also keeps from confusing the story.
There’s none of that in this book. I kept being very confused. Was “you” the gardener? The gardener’s wife? God? The flowers? It changed from poem to poem. Every one used “you” and the “you” seemed very different in each one. That’s not depth to me. That’s just confusion for no reason. There is a plot arc of sorts going through the poems. I know it’s there. I can feel inklings of it. But it simply isn’t clear, because I just don’t know who is being spoken to at any time.

This is only compounded by the fact that I also don’t know who is speaking at any time. Many poems have the exact same title. I deduced at some point that these were less titles so much as the names of the speakers in the poems. This would work, except that there are other poems that seem to be by other speakers than who is named. I’ll read a poem, and think it has to be by the wife, but it’s not titled with the wife’s name. I’m just confused even more.

I must also admit that, since this is a very nature-oriented book of poetry, I also got lost in the nature imagery quite a bit. That just isn’t my bag. I am all about humanity, fabrication, and artificiality. I am not one that walks out and enjoys the splendidness of nature. Those images just don’t move me as much as the true, human sort of conversation like I saw in Enough Said.

I feel like I can take something away from this book, but it’s mostly a list of things about how not to set up my narrative. I don’t want my work to be this obtuse. I’m sure it’s a great book, and as I said, there were some amazing poems in there. But this just isn’t for me, and I don’t want my own work to turn out this way.

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