Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gus Ginsburg vs. Modern Poetry

Jacob Appel gave me several literary journals. Many of them contain poetry. And I swear 90% of it is dreadful. Worse than the Vogon poetry of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide...at least the Vogon poetry featured new words and imagery...

With the expulsion of rhyme and meter, what makes a poem a poem? The mere fact that we chop up the lines? Most of the "poems" I've read of late would easily pass for crappy flash fiction if you integrated the lines into paragraphs. Clever wordplay seems passe these days as well. Ah for medieval times, when poetry was poetic...yes, some of it was dreck--for instance, Gersonides' poems about his new astronomical invention The Revealer of Secrets (Jacob's Staff). It was a fantastic invention, used by astronomers, navigators and surveyors until displaced by the sextant. But his poems about it were little better than our modern flash fiction poems. Yet some of the works of other medieval poets exude beauty, depth and cleverness. Samuel Ibn Naghrela ha-Nagid's poems about his dead brother moved me to tears...Judah Halevi penned a very nice piece in which he describes a woman's chest, using a variety of Biblical allusions and metaphors...

If modern poets have done away with rhyme, at least give the piece a good rhythm. And pay attention to beauty. Don't end lines with the word "that." It's ugly and dadaist.

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