Thursday, January 06, 2005

My Aesthetic Preferences

Whoa, a third post today! Doesn't this guy have anything better to do with his life?! The answer is yes. And I want to do it. But I'm procrastinating. I don't like to procrastinate, but I just feel an urgency to post in light of a few e-mails that I've received...Basically, I feel that it is time to articulate my aesthetic prefrences before proceeding with this blog. I suspect that they will change as this blog progresses:

1. I'm a reader of ALL types of poetry. This one is the most important. I probably don't know as much about the imagists, the visual poets, Latino poetry, the New York school, etc. as I do about Asian-American poetry, but I am receptive to all types of poetry. I try to read historically, though I must confess a slight bias against Ye Olde English. I'm interested in poetry in other languages, though I also must confess here that poems in languages other than English are harder for me to understand. But I am open-minded and willing to learn.

2. I don't belong to any "school of thought" in poetry. On a related note, I don't believe that, say, surrealist poetry is necessarily better than narrative poetry. I'm not sure if I will eventually join a school of thought, but I haven't at this point. Also, at this point, I don't find that one "type" of poetry necessarily touches me more profoundly than another "type."

3. I believe that "schools of thought" form artificial distinctions that need justification. Self-explanatory.

4. I try to focus on the poetry rather than the poet. This one is difficult for me. For example, I conflate Asian-American poets and Asian-American poetry easily sometimes. I try not to do it, but I guess I can take some comfort in the fact that I'm not alone in this faux-pas.

5. I try to focus on the individual poem over the poetry. This one is equally difficult, especially in contexts outside a workshop format. I realize that even the "best" books of poetry contain a few "not-so-good" poems and vice versa, and to make that distinction in a book review is difficult. But I'll still try.

6. I believe that the literary merit of any poem needs justification, the more articulate, the better. Also self-explanatory from reading this blog.

7. I would argue that external forces of power dictate the poems we read. This argument is more global. I'm interested in the question of why we know and care about, say, the poetry of Coleridge, Eliot, and Frost, but we know and care far less about, say, the poetry of Asian-American poets. In the past, in academic scholarship, powerful, well-educated critics at prestigious universities and institutions have told us that such poems are better, but their intelligence and prestige doesn't necessarily make them correct. We must revisit justifications over the merit of poetry. If there are these external forces of power, they should be justified in today's society. It is what generations upon generations of "intellectuals" have tried to do, and this wannabe "intellectual" wants to help carry the torch.

8. My comments are a reflection of my own biases. For example, the very desire not to belong to a school of thought is itself a bias. I try to justify myself here. And I should note that the point of this blog, and at least I feel, the point in life, is not to be obstinate and try to "conquer" each other's opinions. The very process of justification is in itself one of the primary purposes of critical reflection of poetry. I find it fun sometimes, but what do I know? I've just spent another 30 minutes typing this entry when I've got tons of other stuff to do. :)


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