Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Shawn Kirchner

Dear Editor,

I was particularly interested in the back-and-forth with Spencer Reece regarding style in his poem “Gilgamesh.” You note that his poem “is notably different from the current period style...its ‘I’ isn’t fractured or ‘destabilized’; it employs images to express and elicit affect.” Then you ask if he was “conscious of these things at all when writing, even if only to react against them?” He responds by saying that he is “not so conscious of what is being done in my time. I need the poems to be understandable to me.” Then he counterposes: “Wouldn’t you agree it is just as hard to write something clear as something obscure?”

This exchange brought to mind a scene I recently observed in, of all places, an episode of the current television show America’s Next Top Model. The host, Tyra Banks, was complimenting one of the aspiring models for a photo. Banks said “that if even a hint of a smile had crept in, it would have been a no-go” or something to that effect, adding that the current style is “edgy.”

I had to ask myself: When, and why in the world, would a smile go out of style? The young model in question had a warm, winsome personality, and smiled all the time off camera. To me, there is a similar question to be put to poetry: When, and why in the world, would employing “images to express and elicit affect” go out of style? Is there any other reason, regardless of the stylistic heights we might have since attained, that any of us, responding to some instinct, first picked up a pen to write a poem?

la verne, california

Originally Published: May 27, 2010

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This prose originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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