Maybe part of the feeling had to do with the conversations I had read recently on Limetree [click here] about Dead Kitten poetics. This discussion has to do with a Mary Oliver poem that KSM, Drew Gardner [click here]and others, possibly including Mary Oliver herself (never can tell with these comment signatures)have been intensely discussing. The issue is an all too familiar one in blogland: can anyone say with certainty that this or that poem is “bad.” Kasey concludes that you can say a poem is adequate or inadequate. I’ve succumbed to this discussion too many times already (usually with Jonathan Mayhew- who, as has been once celebrated in song, is back in town again -I’m sure to see him tomorrow at the Bowery Poetry Club where Alan Davies and Drew Gardner are reading).
My point, during the last go round with Jonathan (or was it the one before?) that a poem is sort of like a prayer, and what would be a bad prayer?
this from Nick Piombino's blog
have had some scant talks with Kasey re: bad -- I tend to use pragmatics rather than adequacy -- before checking limetree, also I do have some recent dead kitten exp. and some recent Mary Oliver slagging reading -- i.e. if it is not "Lines Written upon the Death of a Favorite Cat"... then what it is in student work is reading the death-rich canon while the only death you are likely to experience or to have experienced -- as a poem occasion -- while an undergrad is the death of a grandparent (usually gradmother in my generation, now probably grandfather); no surprse that then this should generate a poem, like the street person and anorexia poem --
I for one don't think subject matter should be banned; I think tho it is the difficulty students have coming to terms with content when all they've got as formal examples are Mary Oliver and most of what they've got for examples of content are suicides and Victorians.
The Mary Oliver essay I'd read and now dimly recall was about how her extreme reticence (sp?) has given her loads of admirers and no serious critics.
but KSM isn't talking about content so much as craft, ecomony, and a sort of least common demoninator called adequacy which must be founded in form
I tend to think of teaching poetry writing more like teaching swimming or riding a bike (things I can do) or juggling (things I can't do) -- you're teaching the two things at once, and for students who are just aquiring adequate craft and also trying to find an approach to subject matter, I think the training wheels to someone holding the bike to you thinking someone is holding the bike while you're actually balancing is probably best -- though I don't locate the training wheels or holding the bike parts in the realm of "poetry exercises"
I also know well that this approach is seen as idiodic for students merely interested in writing something adequate for a grade, merely seeking approval for "creativity," or a pursuit of mastery of meter and rhyme without responsibillity to content.
For example, in the Oliver dead kitten poem, as opposed to Grey's, Oliver relies on a sort of ad hoc support or allusion to natural selection with some of the drama of the monstrous / bestial births to the early American female heretics thrown in -- one concept not likely to be under contention by her readers, one entirely accepted at face value -- while Grey draws a more deliberate moral point.