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Old 10-02-2001, 02:28 PM
Lilith Lilith is offline
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Posts: 118

All this makes me wonder -- is it safe to assume that mastery of the poetic craft works mathematically, that if one were to make a graph of sorts plotting years spent writing poetry against quality of poems written there would be a direct relationship? (Forgive me if I'm unclear or incorrect about the math terminology -- perhaps our resident math whiz can help me out if I'm off track?) In other words, will the later poems in a poet's career always be consistently better than the earlier ones? This seems to be the underlying assumption for claims that a poet's early poems are "fair game for criticism." (Or are we simply assuming that a more experienced poet will be better able to discard the weaker poems she writes and only let the stronger ones out into the world?)

Wasn't it Robert Lowell who said something to the effect that as a young poet he worried a great deal about the fact that editors wouldn't publish anything he wrote, but once he'd made a name for himself the editors would publish *everyhing* he wrote... and this worried him even more?

If we're going to assert that an established poet has earned some sort of license to make apparent mistakes that others of us do not have (or that his "mistakes" aren't really mistakes), then it seems to me that we quickly get into all sorts of problems. When it comes to assessing the success or failure of a poem, I'd much rather take the poem on its own terms rather than worry about the poet's credibility. If the poem is strong enough, it should work as a poem without having to rely on its author's reputation. I think this is as true of metrical substitution as it is of anything else.


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