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  #51  
Old 09-24-2017, 12:24 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Moonan View Post
If we equate obscurity with vagueness then it is to be avoided at all times. If we equate it with things like subtlety or complexity, then it becomes an attribute of writing that, when executed skillfully, can draw the reader closer and closer until what's obscured is revealed.
I think this is what I'm really getting at, said well. I don't like the word obscurity. Perhaps polysemous is better. Subtly, complexity, depth. I don't want a poem to hide meaning, I want it to open into deeper ones upon closer examination, like a fractal.

As for audience: each writer creates her own audience by her writing. The poetry world is too fragmented for there to be such a thing as a casual reader who can be catered to in the sense that there once was.
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  #52  
Old 09-24-2017, 12:58 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Originally Posted by Andrew Szilvasy View Post
instead of 'entirely comprehensible,' something more akin to 'easily plumbed.'
Even with this I disagree. Poems can successfully operate in many ways; some of those are easily plumbed. I agree about the value of deeper meaning (gone into in your following post); I only disagree that good poetry requires it.

For instance, the first 47 lines of Larkin's "Aubade" (easily findable online, so I won't take the room to post it here) seem to me easily plumbed. That the poem ends with lines that require more interpretation suggests Larkin may have felt that his poem needed to reach for something more, but I don't think the rest of the poem depends on that ending for its power, which derives from the unflinching look at death, and is enhanced by the poem's straightforwardness.
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  #53  
Old 09-24-2017, 01:03 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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The Larkin poem has lots of intricacies to talk about in the style that I think make it, indeed, quite complex. Complexity need not be tied only to meaning.
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  #54  
Old 09-24-2017, 01:50 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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HI Jim, to your point on jazz. Louis Armstrong said: There's two kinds of music, good and bad. I play the good kind.

Cheers,
John

I too feel, like Max, that art can be simple and yet great, and that this goes for poetry as for any art form. But simplicity isn't necessarily easy to achieve. Pascal wrote, "Please excuse this long letter; I didn't have time to make it short."
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  #55  
Old 09-24-2017, 02:26 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Originally Posted by John Isbell View Post
HI Jim, to your point on jazz. Louis Armstrong said: There's two kinds of music, good and bad. I play the good kind.

Cheers,
John

I too feel, like Max, that art can be simple and yet great, and that this goes for poetry as for any art form. But simplicity isn't necessarily easy to achieve. Pascal wrote, "Please excuse this long letter; I didn't have time to make it short."
True simplicity is paradoxically complex.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
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  #56  
Old 09-24-2017, 03:16 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Thank you, google, for confirming my hunch that that was Pope. :-)
I also like Einstein: Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.


Cheers,
John
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  #57  
Old 09-24-2017, 05:06 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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The original question asks how much a poem should be understandable. I wonder if that's different from asking how much a poem should communicate. I think a poem can convey a mood, a emotional tone, without my necessarily being able to understand much of what's going on in the sense of plot, story, context etc., and that can be enough I think. A poem can also be completely clear and communicate very little in this respect. So perhaps the issue is more whether or not the poem/poet is trying to communicate with the reader (and succeeding). Or at least, I think that may be an issue for me.

But even that is probably too narrow. I guess it's just that case that there are a variety of things that can make a poem enjoyable or affecting, and not all of those are dependent on being able to understand it.
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