Most of the daily language we use values efficiency and utility: I'd like a pastrami on rye with mustard. We rely on our words to be sturdy and clear. We, not surprisingly then, are inclined to praise the poem that displays a reasoned and coherent meaning, well-developed, connected and intact. These types of poems, also, were the reliable models used to initiate us into poetry in grammar school, the ones that, because familiar, make up our inner definition of what a poem is and does as it stops by woods on a snowy evening.
And so, many of us coming upon the "inaccessible poem," discard its associative leaps, its disruptions, the pressured silences of the poem's white-spaces as so much chaos and mumbo-jumbo. Why is this poem published in this journal, we say, a prestigious journal, no less! I can make absolutely no sense from it. More like the symphony or the Rothko painting, these poems present us with tones, atmospherics, possibilities, but unlike a painting or symphony, we may begrudge them this haziness because we are so accustomed to expect language that's stable, that focuses for us its sense, makes clear its meanings.
We thought we'd offer—in this installment of the poetry forum—a few thoughts meant to defuse the angst of diving into the "wreck" of the difficult poem. A few thoughts meant to situate such poems and then a humble attempt at enjoying and mining one "inaccessible" poem.
Christie, A. V. and Gibboney, Richard
"Poetry Forum: Approaching the "Inaccessible" Poem,"
Education and Culture: Vol. 19
, Article 5.
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc/vol19/iss1/art5