Been following all the goodly debate on poetry's popularity, audience, coteries, & etc., provided by the forthright Mike Snider.

Seems like if you want to address an educated general public, as Mike suggests, on a par with scientists, novelists, journalists, through poetry - well, you have your work cut out for you.

My view is this gets back to the notion of Tradition in poetry as something bigger & wider than any one literary movement or language. Almost as if there is an ethical aspect to the literary vocation : if you want to achieve such relevance, you have to labor to transcend your own craft. It's not only a craft issue. There is of course an ethics & an ethos of craft, but I don't think you can simply say, as Pound apparently did, that a poet's craft is the ethics (lessen' I'm quotin' him all wrong).

If we have an idea of the poetic vocation as a journey beyond one's immediate training-ground, into an engagement with the great Tradition - then, if this Tradition is still relevant & worth anything, that journey will also be a labor of ethical engagement. (I'm glad, by the way, that Jordan is reading Brothers Karamazov. There's an example of a poetics (in this case, prose fiction) of vast & magnanimous engagement with the "human predicament", as they used to call it.)

As I see it, this vocational journey can embark from any one of the modes of contemporary poetics & style. They are all preliminaries, they are all training-grounds. Moreover, there is no designated correct path. Somebody in this discussion argued that John Donne didn't labor for fame as a poet, he wrote for a coterie. We don't really know what he thought about fame, though. The literary situation was different then. Donne may have (correctly) assumed that he was not part of a coterie, but rather part of the Mandelshtamian, trans-historical community of "philology". His poems glowed with it, irregardless of who read them & when. This is not "coterie" writing in the sense of a private, coded dialect.

But achieving general "relevance" as a poet has less to do with verbal effects and meter & so on, & more to do, I think, with the communicative effects of imaginative constructs, be they poems, plays, stories, films. What moves an audience is what engages them - logically, emotionally, ethically. & I also think that the line of inquiry I've pointed toward recently (the Chicago Critics) offers a perspective on what poetic form might be, which lends itself to noting such "constructs" & their effects.

& poets are not going to move anyone or engage anyone unless they themselves have been emotionally moved & intellectually engaged with the great crises & debates which face human beings & the world. So part of the vocational journey, as I said, may involve getting beyond oneself & one's craft.

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