Friday, 11 June 2010

Real poems vs processing poems

I have come to realise that as a writer it is important to recognize the difference between a real poem and a processing poem. A processing poem is a way of working through all that garbage in one's head, and it is precisely because of this that it is not easily accessible to the casual reader.

A 'real' poem, of course can serve the same purpose but does it in a way that makes it more widely accessible.  It speaks of things that the reader can relate to, or talks of personal issues in a way that makes them universally understandable. A good example of this is the poems that I wrote about clearing out my mum's house after she died. The poems speak of personal experience but not in an intensely personal way - they are not as deeply personal in the way that some of my other poems have been and this makes them stronger I think.

Entering an intensely personal and uncomfortable realm can be a disturbing experience for the reader. Some of Sharon Olds earlier poems take you to this kind of place and because of that they are difficult to read. Over the years she has developed ways of offering the reader a way in to her poems (e.g. making them more of a narrative) which makes them, not exactly less disturbing but easier for the reader who hasn't shared the experience to enter the poem, understand it and not feel so excluded from it.

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