Thursday, February 24, 2005

Breaking the Glass

I was thinking today about writing and perfection, and how I sometimes spend way too much time polishing and polishing a poem; trying to make it perfect; until the life is revised right out of it. I am reminded of a line from Chase Twichell's poem, "Architecture" (in The Snow Watcher):

"Poetry's not window-cleaning.
It breaks the glass."

I said to one of my poetry-group friends last night that her poems were like "broken glass." I mean it as the highest compliment.

9 comments:

Suzanne said...

I have had a serious perfectionist problems in the past--it's shut my process down for years at a time. As for revising, I've learned to listen to the voice that says, "Put the pen down and step away from the poem. That's it, nice and easy lady."

:-)

C. Dale said...

Suzanne, That cracks me up because it so like what I sometimes have to say about lots of things.

Peter said...

Suzanne: that is so funny! "Step away from the poem, mister, and nobody get's hurt. Let's not be a hero now . . . ." Very film noir. Very CSI. (or would it be SVU?)

Pack Bringley said...

My method's never to take on a "OK, I'm going to finish this poem if it kills me" mentality. That kills *it*. I just write, write, and write when I'm feeling things coming, then hunker down through the arduous, embarassing, thrilling task of seeing what the hell it was I wrote the few days before. I take the best bits, rewrite em, riff on em, and the process repeats. Eventually this'll whittle down to a poem, maybe... Is this anyone else's method, I wonder? It requires a surprising amount of organization...

Suzanne said...

Peter,
I think Eliot on SVU is totally HOT. Yummy, yum, yummmmm. *lol* (Don't repeat that as I am a married woman and all. ;-))

Alison P. said...

Peter--

I had a friend who was an artist in college, and he said that the way he could tell he was finished with a painting was because he started to feel that he was decorating the canvass rather than painting it. I always thought that was a wise thing to say. No if only I were wise enough to apply it to writing poetry!

barbara jane said...

2 things:

(1) i like that -- "broken glass." i'd feel complimented if someone said that about my poems.

(2) i, too, think eliot on SVU is totally hot. i don't know what it is about him :-P

--barbara

Peter said...

Suzanne: your secret is safe with me.

Barbara: Yes, Eliot is hot. But did you see him in Oz? My oh my!

Alison: I agree with your painter friend's idea of "decoration." There is oftern much to much decoration in poetry. (In fact, a wonderful essay on this topic in Pushcart a few years ago, by Mary Karr(?): "Against Decoration."

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention the Karr essay. It's interesting and impassioned, but I feel that Karr chooses the wrong scapegoats. First of all, Merrill and Rosanna Warren aren't exactly the first names one associates with the New Formalism, and second, I'd think the New Formalism is the last movement that would be accused of obscurity (a charge laid against Merrill and Warren). Then again, I first read it in 2004, about 10 yrs after it was written. I wonder what Karr would say today. -R.