Reading contemporary poetry so often humbles and delights simultaneously. I bought a subscription to Poetry. The 12th issue has just arrived. I find that as I look at most issues, probably 80% of the poems, I'm as clueless as if they had been written in Sanskrit.
It's embarrassing. I actually buy books of poetry that mean something even on the first reading; many are by prize-winning poets; all are younger than I; all articulate and describe ideas and things in ways that provide a reader with something valuable and pleasurable to add to life's lessons.
That set me wondering about the impulse to produce a poem that is so utterly opaque as so many in the most prestigious journals. It also made me wonder how a poet manages to learn what it takes to accomplish a feat like that. Furthermore, how (if as such) poetry is taught today, especially at the secondary level. Finally, I'm speechless with admiration for the editors who can evaluate such work.
Along came a kind of corollary question: could it be that there is a fraudulent wing of the little magazine establishment to go along with the gradually emerging realization that so much contemporary "art" has become exercises in self-promotion and behind-the-hand titters to make big money? Of course, there's no big money in poetry, but a big enough ego is doubtless happy with admiration coming from the right quarters.
The idea that an artist may have to educate his audience isn't new to me. To an extent, I agree with it. However, it seems to be a scam to appeal either to an audience too foolish to know it's being "had," or to one that has to be part of some kind of exclusive society of those who are in on the secret.
Maybe some reader of this complaint will help to explain this to me.
Finally, to go back to the first sentence, I get my consolation from the really impressive (accessible) poems that so many younger and just plain young poets are producing. Not only do they give pleasure and insight to a reader, they provide the hope that all is not lost when it comes to education and the arts in America.