Curtis Faville wrote a long response to a post I made a while back where I disagreed with him about the relative values of poetry as it occurs on the page vs. poetry as it occurs in a reading (or as it occurs in other situations, I suppose). It's what I'm tracking with the spoken vs read tag.

Ultimately, I suspect Curtis and I are going to have to agree to disagree. Curtis finds it disturbing "the idea that great, or good, poetry must be suitable for the audible voice", and I do too. But I also find disturbing the idea that great, or good, poetry must be suitable for the page; I find disturbing the idea that it must be suitable for contexts (of time, space, culture, audience, whatever) other than the one it is presented (or, even, appreciated) in. I find disturbing the idea that poetry has "inherent merit", although I like the slant rhyme of the phrase. I find disturbing the idea that poetry needs to be boiled down to an essential mode of production, that anything other than "one person producing a text" should be brushed away, should not "amount to very much in the last analysis"; I find disturbing the idea that there should be a last analysis, that this analysis, the analysis that a reader is engaging in on this interaction with some poetry, is somehow always already deficient, not matching up to a teleologically driven last analysis. And Curtis doesn't seem disturbed by any of this.

I also find disturbing throwing around a phrase like "the greatest writers of the 20th Century", which seems riddled with many problematic assumptions as to what greatness is, how it should be universal, how it should be lasting (and point towards that last eschaton of analysis?), and how its effects must be documentable, and...well, anyway, that's a different issue, perhaps for another day.



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