Thoughts on the Dynamic Image in Poetry
I think it is necessary to learn about poetry in high school. As a developing poet, it is an essential period of safe exploration.
But we must unlearn what we have learned in school, in order to fully participate in the dynamism of living poetry.
It’s true that as members of the human race, we need poems that can be memorized and shared, that connect directly with our own memories and emotions. Canonized poems are the ones we tend to read in school because they are repeated, repeatable; some were subversive at some point but now they are subject to analysis by teachers and students, and thus they become conventional and further from their origins with each reading.
I can think of many “conventional” poems that sing in my heart over many years. Poems I enjoyed for their cleverness, their mastery of form and device. Poems that contain a continuous narrative. Poems that speak to me. Sylvia Plath’s “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”, William Butler Yeats’ “Second Coming”. Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking”. John Donne’s “Daybreak”. These are only a few.
To fully understand the power and purpose of poetry, the poet must evolve over time. The alternative is to stay suspended as if in a clear gel, to relive the same patterns over again. To replay a greatest hits album. To live in a museum of sorts.
I’m no longer infatuated with derangement of the senses—a seemingly dynamic method of poetry–though I love Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, my old party friends. Although there is dynamism when tapping into the subconscious, in this method and lifestyle, the experience is too random. If fueled by drugs, is tied up in the ego and is, ultimately, damaging. (Sure love Jack’s “Bowery Blues” . . .).
Some poems have a thesis, a persuasive point they are trying to make. I feel a little sad reading a poem that has the soul of a persuasive essay. I’d much rather read a poetic essay than an essay masquerading as a poem.
Ancient poetry is narrative, formal, memorizable. The most innovative, energetic poetry today is not.
Now, the image is everything. With an image, a poet creates a world. Creates the world.
The dynamic image does not come from a set of stock cultural photos one pulls down from a shelf.
The experience of accessing the image is a channeling—a tunneling—to make room, and then walls slowly peel away from the room leaving only the indifferent universe. And there lives and breathes the Image.
The dynamic image is not recycled or manipulated. The dynamic image is born.
Future topics: entropy in poetry; insight