- Myth or Truth? Buying a poetry collection in the Kindle version may save you money, but it’s just not the same experience as reading the poems in book form.
Truth: Based on wide-ranging experience (once), I found that trying to read poems on an electronic device was an antiseptic experience at best, one which took from the overall aesthetic pleasure of reading poetry. Worst still, some of the formatting was wonky. Imagine writing a poem that uses white space and stanzas in a unique way, only to see it eviscerated by the indignity of ether.
- Myth or Truth? The translation of a poetry collection you choose is everything.
Truth: Some purists go so far as to say you should never read poetry in translation. For the real experience, it must be read in its native language. To me, that’s going too far. Imagine the poets we would miss if we were that inflexible. That said, the difference between translations of the same work is often immense, and researching “the best translation of such-and-such work” online is of little help because it is so subjective. It’s better to know thyself. Do you prefer translations that are loyal to the exact word, or to figures of speech? Catching the flavor, the connotations, and the syntax is no small feat, and boy does it affect your reading of a work.
- Myth or Truth? Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice” rule can not only make you the next William, but the next Carlos Williams.
Myth: There is practice and there is practice. Do we all agree on a definition to the word? And do we all set egg timers each time we sit to write? And really, if a dogwood practices being a dog for 10,000 hours, is it going to become man’s best friend? All bark and no bite, I’m afraid. Pretty flowers in the spring, though.
- It is possible there is an undiscovered William Carlos Williams out there who has submitted poetry for 10,000 hours and come up empty-handed, at least as far as the big-bopper markets go.
Truth: Talent will not always out. Like translations, it is subjective, and unknown names are like salmon leaping whitewater upstream. Busy editors can be drowned by the din of the river—the river of established names.
- Myth or Truth? When someone buys a Kindle version of your book and it leaps to the Top 100 in Poetry slash American slash Contemporary, you feel like the company you keep (read: Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and a bevy of female Instagram poets-of-the-moment).
Truth: Seriously. You had to give this some thought?
- Myth or Truth? It is more difficult to read a poetry collection cover-to-cover than it is to read a novel cover-to-cover.
Myth: After a few experiences and whether or not I did it chronologically or chrono-illogically, I’ve learned that reading entire poetry collections is not “more difficult,” it is just “different.” Sometimes parents call the unique child in their brood a “difficult” child. That is a rather selfish job of labelling, reflecting more on the parent than the child.
- Myth or Truth? Deciding how to spend a Christmas gift certificate to either Barnes or Noble is an inexact science because sometimes you order books that you will never read.
Truth: Whims, they’re called. Or, channeling Ken Kesey: sometimes a great notion. Some books look damn interesting in theory and then, once they find a home on your shelves, “nest,” happily remaining there because you can find no reason to disturb them. “Who was that person who ordered these things way back when?” you wind up asking yourself, as if your book ordering is done by a doppelgänger. Still—pretty spines, don’t you think?
- Myth or Truth? Myth or Truth columns are random and unable to conclusively determine whether something is a myth or a truth.
Truth. No, Myth! No… Ah, just enjoy the ride, why don’t you.
4 thoughts on “Poetry Myth or Truth? You’d Be Surprised.”
Another thought-provoking (as opposed to merely provoking,, or should it be provocative?) blog entry. I dislike Kindle because I connect with holding a book in my hands. Browsing library or bookstore shelves is a sacred activity. Pick them up, hold them, see if the book itself speaks to me. And my ritual for reading a poetry collection is to read a few poems, let them settle into my soul, then read a few more. When reviewing a poetry collection I will go back and read it straight through, to see if I get any different vibes.
A very poetic response, Nina, especially that bit about communing with the book. As for rereading poetry collections for more vibes, I never thought of that. I HAVE run a few stop signs at the end of books and started over, but that’s only because I did not want them to end. It’s a different animal from rereading a book years later….
As for translations, I always go for the best English version of the poem (according to my rather rigid tastes). Translating a poem word-for-word or, even more dangerous, sticking to the rhyme scheme of the original, is a guaranteed downer. Check out the different versions of Tomas Transtromer available—some are wonderful poems in English, others are stiff and clunky poems in English. I even like Robert Bly’s often off-the-wall translations, poems he turns into good Bly poems! His “Leaping Poetry,” though packed with strange psychological notions, is a book
full of thrilling translations!
What a coincidence, your mention of Bly. I just picked up his new book today, the Collected. A doorstopper! Apparently Bly was not shy when it came to banging out poems!