Innovation and Craft: A Trans-Atlantic Theory of Poetry

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“Poetry must be as new as foam, and as old as the rock”

-Emerson

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:

CraftInnovation
Reassures us with skillDisorients us with newness
Builds trustGenerates excitement
Pleases the sensesDelights the mind
Refers to conventionInaugurates new paradigms

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