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dumbfoundry

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Rhyme and reason:
In my new book, Break, Blow, Burn, I offer line-by-line close readings of 43 poems, from canonical Renaissance verse to Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, which became an anthem for my conflicted generation. In gathering material, I was shocked at how weak individual poems have become over the past 40 years. Our most honoured poets are gifted and prolific, but we have come to respect them for their intelligence, commitment and the body of their work. They ceased focusing long ago on production of the powerful, distinctive, self-contained poem. They have lost ambition and no longer believe they can or should speak for their era. Elevating process over form, they treat their poems like meandering diary entries and craft them for effect in live readings rather than on the page. Arresting themes or images are proposed, then dropped or left to dribble away. Or, in a sign of lack of confidence in the reader or material, suggestive points are prosaically rephrased and hammered into obviousness. Rote formulas are rampant - a lugubrious victimology of accident, disease, and depression or a simplistic, ranting politics (people good, government bad) that looks naive next to the incisive writing about politics on today's op-ed pages. To be included in this book, a poem had to be strong enough, as an artefact, to stand up to all the great poems that precede it. One of my aims is to challenge contemporary poets to reassess their assumptions and modus operandi. [...]
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