Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Raiding the Inarticulate

I'm writing new poems, tinkering with something (I don't know what, exactly). But I've been re-reading Seamus Heaney's wonderful essays. In "Feeling into Words," he talks about technique vs. craft, which I find abundantly interesting:

"I think technique is different from craft. Craft is what you can learn from other verse. Craft is the skill of making. It wins competitions in The Irish Times or the New Statesmen. It can be deployed without reference to the feelings or the self. It knows how to keep up a capable verbal athletic display; it can be content to be vox et praeterea nihil--all voice and nothing else--but not voice as in 'finding a voice'. Learning the craft is learning to turn the windlass as the well of poetry. Usually you begin by dropping the bucket halfway down the shaft and winding up a taking of air. You are miming the real thing until one day the chain draws unexpectedly tight and you have dipped into waters that will continue to entice you back. You'll have broken the skin on the pool of yourself. Your praties will be 'fit for digging'.
At that point it becomes appropriate to speak of technique rather than craft. Technique, as I would define it, involves not only a poet's way with words, his management of metre, rhythm and verbal texture; it involves also a definition of his stance towards life, a definition of his own reality. It involves the discovery of ways to go out of his normal cognitive bounds and raid the inarticulate: a dynamic alertness that mediates between the origins of feeling in memory and experience and the formal ploys that express these in a work of art. Technique entails the watermarking of your essential patterns of perception, voice and thought into the touch and texture of your lines; it is that whole creative effort of the mind's and body's resources to bring the meaning of experience within the jurisdiction of form. Technique is what turns, in Yeats's phrase, 'the bundle of accident and incoherence that sits down to breakfast' into 'an idea, something intended, complete'."

Even if you don't love his poems (though, you should probably know that I love them), I highly recommend this collection of essays to anyone who values the reading and writing of poetry: Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001.


This made me laugh:


Po-biz stuff:

Last week, I had a poem accepted to appear in Epoch, which is especially exciting not only because it is a magazine I admire, but also because the journal comes out of Ithaca (where I spent my first 17 years) and Cornell University (where my father spent 20 years working as chaplain). The accepted poem is set in a university-owned orchard from which half-breed coyotes would poach apples.

Was thrilled, too, to see the final galleys for Best New Poets 2010 and the fall issue of 32 Poems, both of which I'm honored to be appearing in and eager to read. Hopefully, there will be some readings for BNP around the Seattle area during November/December. I'll let you know, fa sho.

Submission season is full-swing. I have a few new poems out, but mostly just a ton in the hopper. I need to get my shit together and lick some envelopes. I want to send poems here and here. I want to believe they have a chance of being accepted. I cannot decide if I do or not. I want to send to the Southern Review, too, more than anything. But, I must first wait for a non-simultaneous market to decide on the poems I want to send.

I, I, I. Self-promotion over. Thanks for your indulgence.



Singin' it.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Luke, congrats on the new poems coming out and the ones in the hopper. Without the self-promotion, how would I know where to seek out your work?

Luke said...

Thanks for the good words, Sandy!