“There is more, not less intensity in plainness, because simple stuff operates without the safety net of the poetical.”
–Hugo Williams, Strong Words, 2000
I’ve been reading many quotations about obscurity, vagueness, mystery, accessibility, etc., and how they relate to poetry. I love poems that I can understand. I want rhythm, imagery, and perfect word choices, of course. Beautiful language is wonderful. But if all that is wrapped up in a poem that makes me go, “Huh?” then I won’t go any further with the poem. Maybe I’m just a lazy reader. Or an impatient one. But I want meaning, meaning that’s created in two-thirds, at least, by the poet, with me as the reader creating the rest of it. This is why I’ve never liked nonsense poems for kids–the sounds aren’t enough for me. Words carry so much inside them, and I feel like that’s wasted somehow when a poem consists of nonsense syllables. And it’s why I don’t like obscure poems, where the words make sense and there’s some mood-setting and/or fantastic imagery, but I also have no idea what the poem or poet is trying to say. When I can read a simple poem, one that tells a narrative or shows an image in clear words, but one that still makes me nod, tear up, laugh out loud, think about something new, think about something familiar in a new way–that’s when I feel like I’m in the hands of a master poet who’ll take good care of me.
What do you think? I know not everybody agrees with my stance here. If you have a favorite poem–obscure or plain–that you’d like to share an excerpt from, please do! Or just share your opinion:>)