Sunday, February 10, 2008

Experimental Shmexperimental

Poetry has long been littered with unfair assessments and ridiculous labels. "Experimental," I think, is one of those. I don't believe in experimental things in general (it's the assumption that the creator of the "experiment" has not idea what she is doing...hence the need for experiments, i.e., lets see if this works), but in terms of art it just seems stupid. The labeling of poetry as anything but plain ol' poetry, is just a way to pronounce it as an other, an other apart from what we are comfortable with.

I've spent the last three years, or so, working to develop a voice and style that I felt captured the sentiment of what I was needing to say. I would have no problems calling the poems I wrote during those years experimental, because in fact, they were. I was experimenting with the absurd. I was experimenting with form, function. I was experimenting with my own ideas of what a poem needed to be...those were experiments, but now that I have found a poetry that works for me, these particular results are not really experimental because I know what they are doing and why they are doing it. Yes, I still do experiment, but those poems rarely ever see the light of day.

Mostly, though, it's the othering effect of the label that perturbs me most. We have our mainstream journals and we have our "experimental" journals. We have reading series and we have "experimental" reading series. We have poems that expect to understand, and we have "experimental" poems that we deem okay to not understand. And why? Because they're experimental, we obviously weren't meant to "get them."

Ultimately, the goals of both factions are the inhabit space in a readers conscience. To become part of their mental vernacular. To affect their thought process if only temporarily. This is what we ALL do, we just have different ways of doing it. The best analogy I can think of is this; There are millions of English speakers in the world and each of them can tell you how the sun sets, but which one of them are you more likely to listen to?

As a brief side note, I think I'm really going to like to the new Nada Surf record.

Also, go to and buy everything you can, and since they are out of McNally and Kerksiecks's postcards, if you really want to see one, e-mail me and I will be more than happy to send one along...they are awesome.

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