Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Richard Thompson

Dear Editor,

Thank you for Tony Hoagland’s essay. I have to admit that the great bulk of “poems of disorientation” have left me flat. I resist them as much as they resist me. Perhaps I am overly sentimental or need too much closure. In any case, I am grateful for the invitation to revisit the work of James Tate and Lyn Hejinian. In the broader context of poems of disorientation, their work stands out even more than it always has.

I wonder if part of the problem that is developing is related to the monotony noted by Hoagland. There may in fact be many ways to say “vertigo,” but there are not an infinite number of ways. The issue may not be that the poems resist meaning, but that the meaning is right there, and resistance is futile. One thinks, “Yeah, I get it—life is confusing, hectic, and disjointed; now, how many more of your poems do I have to read?”

Perhaps the most successful poems are neither completely perspectival nor completely disorienting. When one considers the standouts in the long history of poetry, one very frequently recalls resistance as well as recognition. And one thing I get from Tate and Hejinian is perspective, albeit a contested perspective. When I read them, I am challenged and frequently disoriented, but I also get a sense that there’s a “there” there—it is contradiction-laden, provisional, even  shattered, but it’s there.

chicago, illinois

Originally Published: November 1, 2010

Poetry is looking for thought-provoking responses to work published in the magazine, as well as letters that raise new questions about the state of contemporary poetry. To send us your letter, please fill out all the fields below.

If we choose to use your letter, we will notify you by phone. If you have not heard from us within two weeks of sending your letter, you may assume we will not be using it. All letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may appear online, in print, or both.

Please do NOT send poetry submissions to this account. See Submission Guidelines for further information and policies regarding poetry submissions.

   Cancel

* All fields are required

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

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

November 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.