Poetry, money, time

What if we read poetry as a statement of time. Or a statement of money. It is clear that writing poetry does not necessarily require a significant time investment. It is even more clear that writing poetry does not require a significant financial investment. It can be jotted onto a slip of paper, or thought up in passing, or burbled as you walk or ride the escalator. But we can choose to take time writing poetry. We can choose to spend money writing poetry. Some poems, you read them, and clearly a lot of time went into them. They are hard-edged, polished, crenelated, long, arduous, learned, thoughtful, constrained. None of these things are definitional to poetry, though. Some poems, you read them, and clearly a lot of money went into them. In some form or another. Perhaps they are carved in stone, perhaps they are inscribed into the genome of a bacterium, perhaps they simply took such a massively long time to write that it required not partaking in other financial remunerative options. We could read these poems as saying: This is how much time I had to spend on this poem. This is how much money I could spend on this poem. We don't have to say: Because you invested so much time and money into this poem, we will value it more. That is not how value works. But we could consider it something worth reading in the poem, part of its meaning-forming syntax. But, we could also decide to ignore it, or not read too much into it. We have options. We could remember, however, that these were choices the poet made, as to how much time and how much money to invest in the poem, that they did not try to solve the problem of how to make poetry without spending that much time and money, but rather "threw money at the problem", threw time at the problem. Although we needn't be so dismissive. There might be reasons to appreciate slowing down the production of poetry. This works for the reader as well. The poet asks the reader to spend a certain amount on the book of poems, perhaps, rather than whatever else the reader might spend money on. The poet asks the reader to spend a certain amount of time (of attention) reading the poem. Reading this poem, and not other poems. A poem might require more attention, or less. Can a poem require more attention? It could certainly cry out for it. Pound's Cantos seems to ask for more of your time, if you are going to read it, than an Ogden Nash couplet does. The reader might ultimately be in control, and might choose to spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about the Nash couplet, but even drawing your eyes across every word of the Cantos takes time, much less making the sort of sense it seems to call out for. But that is only one form of reading, and we as readers don't have to privilege it. And yet. We can read it as a statement, as part of the meaning-forming syntax. The Cantos ask you to spend more time reading them (and not other poetry) than the Nash couplet does. Of course, Nash didn't only write one couplet. We are ignoring this, for the moment. There is so much poetry out there, and time is so short. We can question the ethics of adding to the pile. But we don't have to. We can be grateful for the plenitude of options, and the ability to drown ourselves in abundance from this particular author, or that one, or any of thousands more. But what is required, in this situation of superabundance? It does not require us to strain our time or money much. There is poetry enough. There is poetry everyday. There cannot help but be. We can ask for more, even if we have long ago past the point of diminishing returns, even if poetry is left rotting on the vine. Or, fermenting. We don't have to decide. We don't have to worry about any of this.


  1. Unknown said...

    I like this post, remembering to check in on you! I grew up with rationings and rationalizations of art/money/time/notice on the East Coast - Jersey and NYC - (my Aunt a noted painter, lecturing me on aspirations & realities) and have somewhat dedicated myself to forgetting what I grew up with and have learned on my own. Worth - investment and return - is in flux, utterly. Certainly, there was a time when a blank page meant pushing aside all the other poems that had ever been written in order to write mine (which coordinated with the box poems I think) - the page was never blank for me. But now, having lived through pushing aside even my own work, having been at this for all this time - happily, the page is clear or noisily unkempt, as the case may be. I have no decision to make in that regard. What are my choices? I am not surprised by what I do. I tend to write.

    Love ya!  


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