Saturday, April 8, 2017


I have been thinking of the topic of identity this semester, as I teach Modern Poetry. There's a balance one sees in a successful poem, a balance between what the poet reveals of him/herself and how the poet recedes in order to allow the reader to see him/herself in the poem. Even a poet with a strong, distinctive, unmistakeable voice, such as Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Bishop, is able to allow the reader some space.

(And now that I have written that, I wonder if it's true: Can one say this about Emily Dickinson? I think so, even if she didn't care [and one feels she may not have cared a whole heck of a lot] about giving the reader space. But space there is, if only for a reader to discover him/herself trying to find common ground with this uncommon poet—and that's a pretty remarkable space. So.)

Modern poetry certainly did not begin as confessional poetry: think of Dickinson; think of Whitman who, for all his frankness, did not "put it all out there"; think of Eliot (another strong, distinctive, unmistakeable voice)—all of whom remain "hidden" in a sense (in many senses) and yet whose words we read again and again, returning to the words, returning to them, the ones who are hidden and yet who reveal so much. The idea that poetry is a means of self-discovery is a modern one; the truth of which "self" one is discovering as one reads (or even as one writes) is what makes it so deeply and infinitely interesting.


  1. __ I wonder, would Crapsey consider this?

    Paused eyes,
    each morning's look
    at our empty depots
    while noise filled trains travel onward;

    1. Oh, Magyar, this is especially beautiful. Thank you.