05 December 2012

a poetic "personality profile"

The OLJ Countdown to New Year's:
III. A Poetic "Personality Profile"
Before launching into the full-on search for the perfect New Year’s Eve dead poet date, I decided it’s a good idea to know what I look for in poetry … Not the poet, but the art. It’s strange, really, to realize that I’m just now tackling this question head on despite having, in the past few years, served as an editor, instructor, and reviewer of poetry. I read this stuff for a living … but I seldom stop to think about what my personal poetic aesthetic is: what strikes me, in poetry, as beautiful and heart-stopping and “worthwhile.” So, today’s Countdown to New Year’s task is to examine that aesthetic, and try to both figure out and express what it is I love in poetry.

Earlier today I sat down and took way too many quizzes that promised to tell me everything from which famous poet I am to which famous poem describes me. I was told I was Maya Angelou, Shel Silverstein, and Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” among others. Interestingly, I kept coming up with poets and poems who were very playful … Which, perhaps more than being interesting, is extremely appropriate. I’m often told I have a very “chill” personality. I’m not always sure that’s a supposed to be a good thing—I once had a coworker ask, somewhat accusingly, “Do you care about anything?” (In that case, I could have answered, “I care about most things … just not what you’re talking about.” But I didn’t care enough to do it). But it’s actually what I’d call a pretty good descriptor for me. I tend to be, or try to be, pretty laid back. And that applies to my poetry as well. I think carefully about my word choices and line breaks, but I also tend more toward the side of letting what happens happen within a poem. A poet friend once described it as poetry driven by serendipity. Another described me as a “water poet”—I’m still not entirely sure what that one means, but I like the sounds of it!

When it comes to who I am and what I love when it comes to poetry, I am a very sensory person. I love to feel my way around my poems. Similarly, I love poems that I can really feel—poems with words that propel me through the poem and that I can feel a connection to the poet through. A poem that makes me swoon, makes me hold my breath. I think this is part of why I have a hard time associating with “favorite poets” or “favorite poems”—I live the poem in the moment, and in many ways I sometimes think I care more about the feeling from a poem than the particular content or meaning.

So how does all of this relate to the Countdown to New Year’s?

One of the major factors that will determine the “winner” is each poet’s poetry. I’ll be hunting down a “love poem” from each poet—one that somehow speaks to the feeling or hints at love, whether it’s identified as a love poem or not. It doesn’t have to be romantic love—but it should relate to the love of another person, or people, or something through which one could “read” the poet’s relationship with the world and people. There will be some instances in which there just isn’t a poem that meets these requirements for me … in that case, the poet will be disqualified. (Sorry, boys, but if you don’t speak to me, you just don’t speak to me!)

Your Turn: Which poet(s)/author(s) do you relate to the most? What speaks to you in his/her/their work? What defines your “aesthetic” as a writer and/or reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below; I’d love to hear what makes each of you “you” as the writers, poets, and readers you are!


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  1. I like a poet who can turn a phrase. I love to find a word combination that really catches my attention, whether its a couple of words or a couple of lines.

    1. Thank you, Michelle. There's a lot of power in the ability to manipulate and artfully play with the combination of words!


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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