Letter to the Editor

by Henry Gould

Dear Editor,

In 1966 lots of poetry gurus of every “school” were crossing the land. Bishop’s comment to Wesley Wehr (“People seem to think that doing something like writing a poem makes one happier in life. It doesn’t solve anything. Perhaps it does at least give one the 
satisfaction of   having done a thing well or having put in a good day’s work”) sounds like an old New England tonic to all that, as well as to the Confessionals, for whom poetry-making had to be something hugely spectacular, public, and cathartic.

On another note, I was struck by this statement: “Actually I don’t like craft that isn’t part of  the drama of the poem. Unobtrusive craft, craft that assumes its own naturalization into the order of things, is dissembling.” This is diametrically opposed to the ancient dictum of Horace: ars est celare artem (art is to hide art). Not that Horace is right, and Mlinko is wrong: it’s just an interesting contrast. I do think the equipoise that Bishop achieves — when she blends a very plain, straightforward, understated manner with some very ornate forms — works pretty well.

Originally Published: April 1, 2013

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This prose originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2013

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