I do believe all poets must not only read a lot of poetry but read a lot about poetry. Of my 50 favorite poets, there is not one who has not written about poetry, the philosophy of their work and of the craft. That in itself is fascinating- and difficult, like the depth you find in NY Review of Books. I do about 2/3 (poems) to 1/3 (being books about poetry) From the most philosophic works of archetypes by Northrop Frye to the most public and basic questions of Zupruders good seller "Why Poetry?" .
That last book opened up a new reality for me, to I ask myself all the time who am I writing for, in context to all this reading...I realized I was really trying to communicate the poetic truths of living, of my own small life in the world so full of beauty, horror, paradox and death. I realized to do this I had to make compromises, to not try to impress or amuse myself with poems that could only be understood by me. The craft and presentation became as important as the message. That is currently my direction, I'm writing "collections" of poems with themes so a reader could enjoy a concrete theme. (The last book I just read, a signed collection by Ferlinghetti ( nice and cheap in a used bookstore) was just that- the theme of light in "How to Paint Sunlight." Accessible and very full of several poems about light)
So you are stating two different issues:
I don't like being not understood, Having people throw up there hands perplexed, I'd rather be popular.... Its lonely
But I cant write for others because than it would be feeling like a commercial venture My motivation would be destroyed.
Id rather be desolated and write for those few who get the twinge...
Well, first of all, we poets are possibly lucky because we ain't making beans for our poems. Forgetaboutit. Even our most lauded poets end up teaching to get the health care and severance. I suppose there may be 3 poets in Amerika that make a living on just writing poetry....if that many. Who's buying? I didn't see much word "poetry" once in this weeks NY Times review of books. Only some letters crashing last weeks review of Leonard Cohen, who the critic called a wonderful lyricist and performer, but an awful poet. These dialogues are important to me, but really, quite a small audience. Either way, lyrics and song paid the rent, not Cohen's books of just poetry.
I'm sure there is no immediate cure for your paradox. If you want to be popular you have to make compromises. If you don't want to alter your vision, you can get the joy of a smaller readership and forget the rest. You have to manage expectations is a world that hardly notices our craft.
It's hard to be both, I suppose you should stay true to your motivation. And if readers like me don't get it, **** em. Let it suffice we acknowledge the craft, and that we will get closer to some poems more than others be enough. For me, accessibility, the ability to engage a reader into whatever poetic truth I am feeling, is more important than in any way hiding the meaning in the poem in which I alone can understand it.
I want people who never read poetry, which is most people, pick up a poem by me and feel the poetry power without feeling intimidation which is what most people feel when they read most poems published today. For me its that fine line between letting the imagination do the work, and the poem setting up the narrative to allow it by inviting a reader into it. I get great joy reading my poems to non poets who are scared by even the idea of it, and get them to feel something new, that wonderful way Aristotle put it- that poetry provides an ultimate truth that is found beyond the boundary of philosophy.
Admittedly I have gone off the rails focusing on the meta or man as dreamer. Are we not dreamers first before descending into the material, deadening the faculty of imagination or as the I Ching says "a darkening of the light"
I want to bring the reader up and when I read I want to have the sensation of ascending I try to give what I like to receive which is to be brought into greater fluency and light
Have we abandoned our inner life to such an extent that when confronted with it we find our selves strangers to it; reinforcing and amplifying a kind of cognitive dissidence?
Are we in a sense a stranger to our selves having lost the lucidity of our magical youth
Do we see the world as vacant utilitarian stuff and other humans predictable lusterless cogs in a wheel like cued robots?
Witches Seers, Voodoons , Hermeticists, Kabbalists and Occultists of very stripe know and use objects as essential to their operations and craft because they have hidden meaning and power.
Has the life of fantastical creative cognition been sacrificed to inveterate congenital pragmatism?
"Beloved imagination, what I most like in you is your unsparing quality".
To transgress is to process ones madness as opposed to the customary botched behaviors of repressive modalities we hide behind . It seems to me that poetry is a great ground for that exploration.
Perhaps Its a good thing for a reader to think about what the writer means, albeit a difficult pleasure as opposed to the instantaneous and facile modes of naming and claiming Reading towards the abstract can be a mystical experience Most people who read are shallow readers Shall I than aspire to be a shallow writer?
What surrealism (Detailed descriptive language unmoored from linear rationality) affords the writer like pure abstraction to the visual artist is a great opportunity to explore the musicality of language ie the musicality of form ie the energetic configurations of architypes.
Part of our craft that makes things crackle as you know well remains sound play ie the strategy of syllables ... Long vowels / short vowels...the length of words and sound of words in relationship to one another
As you know Mark to analyze the subtle abstraction of sounds ie words to the ear is just like music and like music although not wholly translatable has an undertow of non verbal meaning especially if exploited out side the linguistic necessity of linear prose like poems ie a device that most never use consciously and strategically or certainly to its fullest potential
So when we say a poem is beautiful do we impart mean its those amazing tintinnabulating sounds that ****** with their musicality? Poems that do that well stand out to me.
Further I think we are in error when we confuse the realistic with the materialistic. It seems to me realism has magnitudinal underlying meta elements that need to be felt in poetry and to think other wise in my op[inion would be a dull conceit
A good example is thought itself
When we speak our ideas thoughts impulses we have no real sense of where they emerge from The processes are so meta their incomprehensible even to neuro science and scientists have little if any understanding of consciousness or its meaning as far as I know
So perhaps the surrealist has a place of worth too; and that is to remind people of their inner life out side the cage of end product think. After all what is a life and what is a poem?