4 Modes of Poetry

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to write about 4 main areas of poetry. Before I get started, I need to lay the ground rules for this little project. First, these four areas are by no means the the only divisions in the poetry world, and they are not formed in marble. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the poetry out there. This is intended to be a launching point for a study in the various forms poetry can take–as well as the various ways it can be perceived. Not only might this spark some conversation, but it will be a good comparison between various poets, styles, and perceptive joy. There seems to be a lot of blogs lately on the joy of writing, reading, and discussing (sorry, not so much math). So that may play in to my posts as well.

The premise of this entire project is the investigation of 4 areas of poetry: Post-Avant/Language, Hybrid, Beats, and Mainstream.

Let’s start with Mainstream poetry. I don’t think I have to be too academic about this one. In the sense of the word “mainstream,” poetry is just like music, news media, fiction, and coffee: it’s what people are buying.  I bet you could walk into any corporate bookstore (Borders, B&N, urrrr, are there any others?) and find a poetry book by Ted Kooser or Billy Collins. In fact, go over to Amazon.com and you will see that two of their top 12 poetry books are by Dr. Seuss!!

The Ivory Tower of Poetry (iToP for short, ie the post-avant academics) chastise the likes of Collins and Kooser for writing such quiet, boring, easy poetry. The truth of the matter is, the majority of Mainstream poetry is easier to understand than something from another line of thought, but it says something because people are buying it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think Collins and Kooser are fantastic poets to teach basic poetry ideas to people who have know idea about, and even a hatred towards poetry in general. Oh yeah, both Kooser and Collins have been US poet laureates. I know the likes of Ron Silliman have disdain towards such “simpletons,” But people must be buying it for a reason: it brings them some sort of pleasure–maybe not the intellectual high that iToP gets from language, but at least something.

Is there anything else to “Mainstream” besides accessibility and sales? Not that I can think of right now. I will post my thoughts on Tony Hoaglands Hard Rain chapbook published in 2005. Hoagland is also considered mainstream, and I’ll explain why when I review the book!

Part 2 is posted here.

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7 thoughts on “4 Modes of Poetry

  1. I love Billy Collins. While his poetry is simple, I think there are a lot of layers that the intelligent reader can pull back and examine. Bah to those who call Collins a “simpleton.”

    Good post Joel

  2. It’s ironic that someone whom we assume enjoys the freshness of phrase and originality of language poets can provide would use a term as stale as “Ivory Tower of Poetry” to describe a mode of writing they obviously don’t like. Please, some better descriptions of what chaps your hide. Harold Bloom did a fine job when he dismissed Post Structualist attacks on the Wester Canon as coming from “The School of Resentment”; it’s a choice description that makes it point and still stings. You might be anti-intellectual, but you can surely think of a punchier name for the fellas you don’t like.

  3. Hi Ted, thanks for the question. It’s not that there’s people I don’t like, it’s the academic mentality of “my style is best because I say so, and because I’m smart” that chaps my hide. And I don’t want to get caught up in name calling and labeling–I’ll let Silliman stick to that!! But I do think it’s unfortunate when people miss out on or dismiss strong poetry because they can’t see beyond their own ideas.

    Scott–nice to hear from you. I enjoy Collins too, but I do think overall his poetry is a bit easier than a lot that’s out there.

  4. I can’t speak for Ron, or anyone else for that matter, but what annoys me about folk like Collins &c is that they rag on “experimental” or “post-avant” (another term i don’t particularly like) poets for being too difficult. I don’t particularly like his poetry, but am happy if people are reading poetry at all. shouldn’t such sentiment go both ways?

  5. That’s the problem…everybody rags on everybody else for being wrong. With all this hoopla about poetry being dead and dying in regards to the masses, you’d think we’d all find a way to be unified in all the different approaches. But maybe the more one gripes, the less poetry one needs to write while still being heard.

  6. I found your comments to be quite centered and employing the reader to assess thier internal sense of the archaic in a modernistic setting. I would like to employ you to check out 1markt’s blog @wordpress.com. With your acute intellect I would very much appreciate any critique that may be given.
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