The film-poem genre has attracted considerable interest from various disciplines, and is beginning to gain astute critical insight as an emerging artistic form.
One excellent vehicle is the German-based Poetryfilmkanal website. I was delighted to be asked to write an essay for them about the fascination of the film-poem. The relationship between art and memory has always fascinated me personally, and in this piece I regard memory as a kind of aesthetic glue holding the two genres in relationship to one another.
The Atlantic’s response to a young white male poet contemplating hanging up his pen because of these categories in which he finds himself makes the fine point that guilt is never a good reason to stop making and sharing one’s art.
Yet a fresh spate of plagiarism allegations in the poetry world, combined with the recent furore over racially transgressive conceptual poetry, has me contemplating authenticity, integrity, and the implications of what we write.
On the plane from London to New York, I took in three stunning debuts: Mona Arshi’s sensual, wistful, and surreal poetry; Sarah Fletcher’s imaginative, accomplished, and wry personae; Anja König’s incisive, keenly observed notes on loss — and wrote brief reviews of each for HuffPost Books.
“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant” -Emily Dickinson
It’s pretty easy, really. Take a four-thousand-year-old universal human tradition — say, poetry — and use statistical data within a relatively tiny segment — say, the last ten years in America — to extrapolate into sweeping conclusions.
This of course prompted a friendly debate on Twitter with some mathematical philosophers about poetry’s inherent lack of truth due to its freedom from alethic modality (as you would expect).
Still, I contend that it is easier to lie with statistics than poetry, since one engages statistics expecting objective truth, and often discovers subjective misinterpretation; whereas one enters poetry expecting subjectivity, but often discovers something universal. So much of deception, after all, depends on confidence.
“Poetry must be as new as foam, and as old as the rock”
Dichotomies are often false but useful. Contemplating the similarities and differences between British and American poetry, having steeped myself in both for some time now, I have been slicing my experiences as a reader along two axes: innovation and craft.
Ancestors to the word “craft” come from Germanic languages and originally had to do with “strength, force, power, virtue”, making the transition to mean skill in art or occupation exclusively in English. To “innovate” comes from Latin and French and has always meant, as Ezra Pound would assert, “Make it new!”.
To better define the effects of innovation and craft on readers of poetry, here are some comparisons: