Poetics and Poetry Discussion

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Jefferson Carter Jefferson Carter Male, 92, United States (8/9/2013 8:24:00 PM)

Jim Crawford, in your discussion with Angie, you bring up that eternally vexed question: is poetic worth in the eye of the beholder?I can't believe the answer is yes (I never could have taught poetry writing at a community college for 25 years) and I don't believe the answer is yes. In my class, I'd act like the pedant in " Dead Poets' Society, " putting up a scale of 1 to 10 and rating various poems on the scale,1 for abysmal crap,5 for competent,10 for immortally great. The closer the numbers, say 4 and 5, the more willing I'd be to say it was a matter of opinion. HOWEVER, my premise was that anybody with some background in poetry would not confuse a 1 with a 10, or even a 2 with a 9, or (I'd start sweating here) a 3 with an 8. This kind of coarse measuring actually helped the students get past the tyranny of radical subjectivism, which, in a way, you're promoting by exalting " the emotional center of the individual." An illiterate teenager, his emotional center all a-quiver, might give a 9 to Rod McKuen's " Thoughts on Capital Punishment" but, after passing a literature course, no way would he give this poem a 9, especially if he had studied some 10s, like Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 or Larkin's " The Explosion" or, well, you get the point.

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