The merits of short, independent poetic expression

2022-08-31 @Literature

I talk a lot of poetry. Increasingly of short poetry. These past months even entertained imagism: that early 20th century movement characteristic for compactness, precision of word, unambiguity of imagery, heavy classicist allusion (however much lacking the frame of reference, despite the clear language).

Free verse encouraged. Understandable: minimize the pomp prevalent in the older romanticism movements, maximize clarity without sacrificing language. Sometimes approaches the compactness of the Haiku expression even. Ezra Pound took it to the extreme:

Ezra Pound - L'art

Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth,
Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes.

However appreciative of the high encoding factor, I generally prefer something bulkier around the waste. And most imagist poetry I’ve encountered respects a sufficient length factor.

But can’t claim universal appreciation for the movement. Awfully selective by far. Much feels immature or underdeveloped. Well, let’s not get caught up on sentiment.

Concerning poetry in general. We find it not strictly in verse but in all literature, do we not? Prose can evince poetry. Poetry evinces prose. The loose concepts frequently intermingle.

Case point, take a grandiose composition, say, Joyce’s Ulysses. Therein manifests poetic expression all over: of impact more powerful than much of the catered verse I read. Or take any prose of sufficient literary merit. Same applies. I need not burden you with a catalogue of authors.

But prose tends to be long. However slow we read and however long we ruminate in each remarkably poetic fragment, the pressure to move on prevails; to cover further ground. We mark sections, we can linger in a particularly powerful specimen for a good part of the afternoon. But ultimately our impression in the tree dilutes in favour of the forest.

Overgrown vegetation. Even sumptuous trees planted in a catered habitat, ie botanical garden: the sheer quantity can overwhelm the senses.

To read independent works of verse thus makes great sense, if you’re already among those who value poetic expression in literature over whatever argument lies therein.

A short poem lives independently. Short enough, and scribble it in your notebook or memorize. It usually carries a title which further provides a frame of reference, in contrast to poetry discovered in the dense forestry of prose literature. It will gracefully stand out in the groves of your conciousness.

Questions, comments? Connect.