A Poetry Complaint
I probably shouldn't do this, as I have hopes of being published there one day, but I just had this visceral reaction to the first grouping of poems in this month's issue, and I have to vent.
It's by Geoffrey Hill, about whom I know nothing. I've never, to my knowledge, read any of his other work (which may seem strange to those outside the poetry world, but really isn't unusual--there are too many writers to keep up with), but if these poems are indicative, I won't be hunting him up.
Part of it has to do with his subject matter. The second and third poems are titled after classical opuses, one by Handel, the other by Brahms. I don't know the pieces, and I'd be interested in hearing them, as I'm always open to new musical experiences, but there's nothing in the poems to draw me to them. From "Johannes Brahms, Opus 2":
Each phrase sounding its own future
resolution in opposition, discord in harmony
plus some other disporting of mastership.
Ponderable the elan and tensile bracing
with sorrow of acceptance
all-comporting; nothing that comes to grief.
Okay. It's not terribly lively writing, and it's not real specific either. What it smacks of, to me anyway, is a voice that's trying to get away with saying something sufficiently abstract to apply to any number of pieces of music while counting on the obscurity of the title of the piece to resonate with the reader. How is this Brahms Opus 2 as opposed to "Mood Indigo"?
I certainly understand the subjective nature of poetry--I never like everything I read in any journal, and I'd be worried about my critical abilities if I ever did. But Hill's work in this issue of Poetry seems to me to be in a voice that's condescending to the reader, acting as though it's beneath him to actually use metaphor to get its point across. And I'm just not interested in that.