Happy Poetry Friday!
One of the poets I went to see at the Dodge Poetry Festival earlier this month was Rachel Hadas. She is called a neo-formalist. During the craft-talk, Hadas had some interesting things to say about the value of form in modern poetry.
I loved this one (aimed at classrooms, I'm sure): don't encourage students to discuss what "the poet was trying to say." He or she has said it.
Hadas said that we can't know a poet's intentions. It's probably better to talk about what the poem is doing and how -- the tools the poet uses that allow us to read a poem and say, "This is how the poem feels to me. This is what it means to me."
She used this wonderful simile: poetry is like a blank check. The reader fills in his own connections to some extent. Hadas' well known poem "The Red Hat" is a great example of this idea.
After reading this poem to us, Hadas said the experience described in "The Red Hat" "is something that every parent and child negotiate all over the world."
The Red Hat
by Rachel Hadas
It started before Christmas. Now our son
officially walks to school alone.
Semi-alone, it's accurate to say;
I or his father track him on the way.
He walks up on the east side of West End,
we on the west side. Glances can extend
(and do) across the street; not eye contact.
Already ties are feeling and not fact.
Straus Park is where these parallel paths part;
he goes alone from there. The watcher's heart
stretches, elastic in its love and fear,
toward him as we see him disappear ...
You can view the entire poem, read by both Laurie Wessely and Roy Bumiller for National Poetry Month, on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRJmNWeFBSQ
As Hadas pointed out, even poems that are rooted in specific experience will "float free" of their occasion and speak to a larger truth.
Have a wonderful Poetry Friday. In Maryland, we're putting on our red (and purple and blue) hats. It's getting cold! Andi at A Wrung Sponge is on poetry-post round-up duty today. Check out her blog for more poems.