Letter from Poetry Magazine

Jason Guriel Responds

by Jason Guriel
Jason Guriel responds:

It's generous of Michael Theune to assign me only some of the blame for my "oversight," but I wish he would assign me all of it, and not burden that nebulous "we" he ropes in. "Poets, critics, and readers"—i.e., the literate?—don't have to "pay more attention to turns" if they don't want to. Those who do can consult Theune's book, Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns.

But it's still unclear why the presence of turns in slack poetry should transform that poetry into a self-contained poem that cannot afford the loss of any of its words. It's also unclear why Graham's pieces should be called "exploded haikus." (Wouldn't an exploded haiku have the same number of syllables as a regular haiku and be scattered across the page or something? Seriously, what is an exploded haiku?) It's also unclear why the ending of "Futures"—"and how/one could bend down close to it/and drink"—is a "shockingly singular" arrival. It's sentimental and not trying very hard, as is the preceding perception, "its dry touch, sweet strange/smell." But why hone a perception when you can just move on to the next? In the three-page "Futures" alone, I count thirty instances of the word "and" or the ampersand (not to mention fifteen instances of the vague "it" and seventeen of the passive "is"). If this is poetry "enacting movements of mind," then the mind in question seems a little unfocused, turning in every direction, a mind whose meandering could be cut off just about anywhere, with no real loss to the reader. Indeed, if Graham had ended "Futures" somewhere on its second page, would anyone really have noticed a difference?
Originally Published: December 30, 2008

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This prose originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2009


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 Jason  Guriel


Jason Guriel is a poet and critic whose work has appeared in such influential publications as Poetry, Slate, Reader's Digest, The Walrus, Parnassus, Canadian Notes & Queries, The New Criterion, and PN Review. His poetry has been anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, and in 2007, he was the first Canadian to receive the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine. He won Poetry's Editors Prize for Book Reviewing in . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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