I have learned that there are many different definitions of “good” poetry. Being a novice writer I strive to perfect my craft by reading and learning from professionals. With this thought in mind I have done a small bit of research and found that the question what is good poetry which, by the way is now being termed approachable poetry, is a hot topic among the ranks of writers. This topic is being debated all the way down the literary echelon, from the learned and professional poets to those of us who write poetry for personal use and self-gratification.
I am not sure why I was lead to write this column or article, however you readers want to categorize this, but I am. My favorite poet Billy Collins was scheduled to speak at a literary conference in Salt Lake City this weekend and seems to have caused an uproar (maybe that’s why I just love that man) among his literary peers. He has now been dubbed “the poster child of approachable poetry” in literary circles (Salt Lake City Tribune Sun. Sept. 11, 2005). Mr. Collins brought on the ire of some critics who believe that good poetry does not necessarily have to appeal to the masses and should not have to be explained. This argument, in literary circles, is about whether poets should write for the audiences or write to please themselves (Salt Lake City Tribune). This article went further to explain that many of the American people are no longer reading as much as they use to. Said article provided statistics gathered by Association of American Publishers to supplement this statement. My question is this: how will a Writer, Poet, Novelist etc… be a writer if they do not read the classics... novels, poetry, plays of established writers? My contention is and always has been, we should read poetry, write poetry, read poetry…
This same argument mentioned in the above paragraph has been broached on many poetry forums of different types in one way or another. I find it interesting that those of the academic and professional writing world are asking the same questions many of us novice-want-to-bes are asking, what is good or approachable poetry. How is it defined? If the professionals are debating the issue then, who is to say what is good and approachable writing. Is this subjectivity rearing its obscure head?
Salt Lake City Tribune Article