theory and poetry

I started thinking about this (again) because Emily Lloyd (poesy galore) commented on the commonly-suggested idea that form is oppressive and patriarchal.

I find that particular idea somewhat bizarre. I can entirely understand that someone would take the aesthetic decision not to write formal poetry because of its cultural associations; by writing in metre, you are writing ‘in the tradition’ in a very obvious way. And ‘the tradition’ is just shorthand for ‘huge amounts of cultural baggage’. But relecting form because of its cultural associations is a very different thing to rejecting it because of some intrinsic quality of the technique. And I can’t see how language arranged into patterns is oppressive.

But that wasn’t really what I was going to say. It’s not just feminist rejection of form – all pronouncements about poetry, by everyone from Aristotle to Coleridge to me, are partial, narrow, one-sided and oversimplistic.

But today, I’m not seeing this as a bad thing. Probably because the sun is shining. Whatever gives someone the impetus to write is a good thing. Whether you choose to reject form for its pivotal role in the phallogocentric military-industrial-literary complex, or you write formal poetry in order to subvert the tradition, or just write formal poetry because you like the sound – it’s all good. The quality of the resulting poetry doesn’t seem to be dependent on the coherency of the theory. At least if someone is motivated by some intellectual or political agenda, their work may gain some energy and focus from it.

I just had an ice-cream in the park.