September 30, 2010

Wordsworth, Blake and constructive criticism

Filed under: Poetry,reading — crcb @ 10:19 pm
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I was reading William Blake‘s notes on reading William Wordsworth (Blake’s verdict: conflicted), and I started thinking about the two poets together.

Wordsworth’s problem as a poet: he became possessed by Wordsworth. Anything was significant if he observed or experienced it.

Blake’s problem: he was a crank, with no one to tell him when he was being silly. As a “signal of solemn mourning” (Milton), a sandal on the head is hard to pull off with a straight face.

Both needed someone — someone loved and loving, respected and respecting — to laugh at them, or yawn.

But given such friendly critics, would either have written his greatest poems? Isn’t it their excesses that bring their work to life? Wordsworth could be full of himself and focused on minutiae, but close observation of his experience and inner life are the marks of his best work. Blake was eccentric, but if he hadn’t followed his imagination into questionable realms, we wouldn’t have the wonderful Marriage of Heaven & Hell, and we’d be missing at least half of Songs of Innocence & Experience.

Wordsworth and Blake willfully flouted the tastes of their time. The fact that they sometimes violate my tastes may not be a condemnation of them.


September 16, 2010

LotRIoT, 9-16-2010: LOC Poetry 180

Filed under: Links,LotRIoT,Poetry — crcb @ 7:00 am
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Link of the Random Interval of Time: The Library of Congress 180 Project.

The Library of Congress Poetry 180 project displays a poem every weekday throughout the school year, selected by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins. Geared for high school students, but not student poetry. Sign up for an e-mail subscription at or use the RSS feed at

September 8, 2010

Why I don’t write 5-7-5 haiku

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 11:31 pm
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Why I don’t write 5-7-5 haiku

Sometimes, to get the
right number of syllables,
one must pad sometimes.

At other times one
must omit expected words
for it come out right.

Of course, I write 5-7-5 poems, but they’re usually not haiku. The 5-7-5 poem (or stanza) has become a vehicle for epigrams in English, and it’s well suited for that.

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