zundel

Friday 346

Poetry with footnotes

Filed under: Poetry — Tags: — zundel @ am

John Donne wrote complicated poetry. Called metaphysical, he wrote unusually realistic and sensual poems. Poor and ambitious, he too often reached to display his erudition. But his metaphors grabbed his readers. Now we need footnotes.

Classically educated readers of poets in dead languages gave Donne 20th century attention. So many footnotes.

And much of modern poetry went off into obscurantism. Imagery and words, poets’ tools for conveying, became methods to conceal. Abstruse got praise.

Good poems have something to tell. A poem has no purpose making a reader search for meaning. The dense crafted ambiguity of poetry should reveal at least one meaning.

Perhaps reading the great but now footnoted leads to the naive assumption that great poetry must conceal its meaning. Perhaps apparatus got mistaken for seriousness. 

Poetry has mostly returned from recondite metaphors—some never wandered. But concern for clear meaning among poetry’s many beauties seems to have got misplaced.

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