The Arrogance of Poetry

“Every work of art is, in one sense, a self-disclosure.”

You ‘ve heard the term metapoetry–poetry about poetry.  It’s a poem about the poem itself or some aspect of poetry: feet, iambs, couplets, etc.

Billy Collins has written a sonnet about sonnets that I can’t post for copyright reasons but you can read here: Sonnet by Billy Collins

In ModPo we learned that all poetry is to some extent meta. If there is any literary art form more narcissistic, I don’t know of it. (Well, except for maybe selfies, which could be, I suppose, a form of art at times.)

I grinned when I found this tweet:” Can the conceit of metapoetry avoid becoming poetic arrogance?”

Isn’t that the epitome of metaphor? The poem about the poem, which hasn’t been written by the poem, is considered arrogant. (Cue the chuckling irony machine.)

But, then what about the poet?

Poems are often about the poet. They are often soul-bearing, utra-personal, and shall I say, often whiny in nature and overloaded with self-disclosure.

Self-disclosure: the process by which one person lets his or her inner being, thoughts, and emotions be known to another.

Even if we write about concrete or the winter storm or wrinkly feet, the poem is reflective of the word artist and their narrators, disclosing  multiple facets such as:

  1. Depth of simile ideation
    Example: My thoughts are as slimy as wet concrete.
    Ugh!
  2. or weather prejudices
    Example: I abhor the romance of spring.
    Sourpuss!
  3. or the abnormal
    Example: He dreamed about her foot fungus with anticipation.
    Poetically gross.

So why do poets allow themselves to be so overtly vulnerable?  What need do they have that is served by writing short works of art about their deepest longing or observations or perspectives?

The art of poetry is to evoke emotion. That’s hard to do if we don’t connect with our own emotions.  “Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses.”

Even when we write a poem that says nothing about how we feel, the poem is still about the poet. The choice of subject, form, words, spacing, tone, etc.  is revealing.

In the very least, you reveal what you are thinking about at the moment. I’ll admit, sometimes even that feels too exposing for me.

But, it is arrogance that drives us to write poetry?

The criticism that poetry is arrogant, I believe, comes from the thought that we are essentially pointing a finger at ourselves and saying, listen to me.

Then, we blindly assume that someone, somewhere will actually want to pay attention.

That’s not arrogance.

I’d call that human kinship.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Arrogance of Poetry

  1. I agree with you, though I do think you have to be a little arrogant to be a poet (weathering the storms of rejection, the politics of poetics, the egos of some poets, and the pomposities of the vanguard) but a poem isn’t necessarily arrogant. Though some poetry is haughty and self-absorbed, fine poetry is an implicitly humble revelation of self and world, which transcends the poet’s own ego and particular form, mode, lack thereof. What is left on the page is an expression of an existential experience that written down and published belongs to the reader as much as the author.
    You, poet, are kin. Glad to see you made it through Modpo in one piece.

    • Ah, once a poet always a poet. We can’t help but to express ourselves in verse. Maybe that is ego. But, I prefer to think of us not as poetically arrogant but rather resilient to weather the storms of rejections! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Kris!

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