Dear Editor,

I much appreciated your April issue of Poetry in which the poets attempted to explain their poems—very helpful for those of us who are not professional poets.  

I was particularly struck by how the style of the poem often paralleled the style of the explanation. For example, Rae Armantrout’s explanation of her poem, “Paragraph,” seemed as muddled and obscure as the poem itself. How could anyone possibly know who Lytle is? Isn’t this just solipsism? And her explanation that she put Lytle in the poem (out of all the names in the phone book) because it “sounds” so good seems lame.

I suppose this is one of those poems I should be responding to “bodily” (in your words) rather than “understanding.” And far be it from me to doubt someone who has spent her life writing poems “beautifully immune to meaning” (your words again). But I have a question: If I or Joe Blow had submitted this poem to you instead of Rae Armantrout (out of the 90,000 poems you get each year), would you have responded to it “bodily” and picked it out to publish?

Originally Published: June 1st, 2010
Appeared in Poetry Magazine This Appears In