Some thoughts on difficult poetry

Daniel Paul Marshall offers some thoughts on difficult poetry.

Daniel Paul Marshall

Before my hiatus, i did something i have never done. i wrote a handful of poems in a style i assumed a chosen journal would want to read. i made a royal pig’s ear of them. The poems, if i should salvage anything, would be nothing more than an egg cup full of lines, with room to spare. They are clunky, difficult, clearly forced. The information, the subject matter, is honest enough; they are on the surface interesting & yet fall far of the grade, considerably.
Why couldn’t i write difficult poems packed with dislocated ideas & disembodied images, rather than rote, concrete images & anecdotal snippets which, i have directly perceived & then designed into poetry? i have written imaginative poetry without struggle. My Charlie Malurkey poems are odd beyond good reason, written in a difficult, nigh illegible English slang & yet they don’t make me wince in horror.

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15 thoughts on “Some thoughts on difficult poetry

  1. Great – and timely – post. I’ve been wondering lately how to write “difficult” poetry, although I’ve called it “complex” poetry. I guess there’s telling and showing in poetry. I’d like to stop telling and start showing.

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  2. Isn’t all poetry difficult to some degree? Curious hearing his thoughts on poetry and classism. I hadn’t realized that was a thing, though I’m realizing writing, like every thing else, is hitched to access and privilege. Either way, I loved this: “No one knows the exact message a poet had in mind when they wrote a line. & yet it doesn’t stop us applying the line to contexts far removed from both the social & historical juncture at which it gasped for air & scrunched its eyes at the hard light of day.” My favorite part of poetry are the secrets I still get to keep while telling them.

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    • The poetry that most interests me requires a little thought. If I walk away from a poem but the words still resonate and I’m thinking about the piece, then I know I’ve read an outstanding piece. DPM also links to Daniel Schnee’s post on the creative process, wherein he discusses “diatactical thinking.” Very interesting, as are his two posts preceding this.

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    • That was sort of my point, we make this binary distinction, but essentially, perhaps not all, but any poetry worth its salt (not to say all good poetry is necessarily ‘difficult’) should challenge the reader, if not at the syntactical level at least the way it impresses upon the reader its meaning & subject; which you picked up on & which i am thrilled about. Thanks.

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