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Page 26

Why a workshop? How about a poetry
PLAY shop? Or we could get our
kinkier erotic poems unbent
in a baudy shop.

Since workshops specialize in cutting
(critics secretly being in the service
of silence, considering that all writing
soils the sacred innocence of the
blank page), we should have poetry work-
CHOPS (less nutritious than pork chops,
but with hisses sweeter than swine.)

Too many poets have been taught
to mistake themselves for surgeons.
Poetry is not brain surgery. (It's more like
rocket science, since it is argued
that an intense enough flame
beneath a poem will make it go
from here to there.)

All this cutting to the bone gives us
less fatty tissue, but too much prosthetic
poetry (where the scalpels have slipped) --
handy, though, to be able to unscrew
one's passions each night, leave one's set
of fresh new voices to be rejuvenated
in a glass of water on the bedside table.

Pardon (says a sonnet, shedding a sonnet tear) --
Pardon my wooden feet -- or have they just
gone to sleep?


Notes: Stanza two above suggests that critics are defenders of silence (and blankness of pages), since many, failed writers themselves, operate on the assumption that most poetry should never have been written. (Whoops! Sometimes I think they're right. On the other hand, most readers think that most annotations to poems should never have been written.)

Apart from the general slash and burn tactics of some critics, editors and reviewers, there's the modern dogma of criticism (a dogma that would wipe out much of the work of, for example, Shakespeare, Melville, Faulkner and other artists who favor lavishness, richness, excess) that a poet should never use two words where one will do, and, it is implied, never use one word where none will do. Thus, at every poetry workshop, one hears first from the helpful critic who says, "I think this poem has wonderful possibilities, but it could use trimming – to about one third its length" (which is the critics version of the doctor's "take two aspirin and call me in the morning"). The worst thing about such critics is that often they're RIGHT! (All my fine phrases must go? All my little ones, in one fell swoop!)

The phrase "fresh new voices" in stanza 4 is a critical platitude. Every new author who follows the latest critical fads (and thus sounds exactly like every other author who follows those fads) is hailed by reviewers as a "fresh, new, strong, authoritative voice". (Adjectives may vary, but inevitably include "fresh"; but with time, all these freshmen/women begin to sound sophomoric.) Where scalpels slip (stanza 4) too much is cut (or never written, since we write with our internal censors set to anticipate the critics of the day), so we have, for example, poems that are prosthetic, using passionate words as a substitute for passion (almost a coded thing, what I call "blood-and-bone" poetry), sonnets with wooden feet, etc. (But MY voice will always be fresh – says one of my voices.)

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