The Audacity of Artistic Poetry

The Fool (Darya Tsaptsyna)

The Fool (Darya Tsaptsyna)

That word “audacity” might seem to imply a self-conscious motivation or creative impetus. It usually does involve such things, and in those cases, the language tends to hyperventilate. An artificial, preening attitude infects such poets, and the reader slowly steps away from the measly contagion. You have to go back to the marvelous Symbolists to find artistic poems in purest states of approach and presence. Back then, the language was guileless event, the attitude that of a naive entranced medium.

The audacity of poem as strange and glowing art faded.

But the example and spirit of the Symbolists survived for a while, subtly intoxicating the works of certain Russians. Trakl and Rilke were also affected by those lingering spells of written art. Even today, a few souls still write poems as emergent instances of floating wonder and beauty. Zagajewski and Bonnefoy are such quietly audacious makers. But today, it’s usually a case of hectoring ego and language.


Worse still, most poetry these days has lost touch with even the notion that a poem should be a work of written art. Most stuff these days in the important literary journals is the ironic droning of academic careerists. Dreadful. That a poem should startle, should be magic ritual has somehow escaped their notice and aspiration.


On rare occasions, one comes across a poem that is artistic. A symptom of art is that it opens up a universal space of consciousness. The reader is lured and remains in the poem because it creates an equivocal therefore breathable condition of written reality. An artistic poem is more fable (fabulous) than confession or even impression. It’s a metaphysical riddle being entered and explored using words and implicit music.


The reader doesn’t want to know about anyone’s boring history or about their actual personal experience. The reader is horror stricken when a poet attempts to express himself. Artistic poetry isn’t about expression; it’s about intrepid, audacious discovery via written trance. What’s already felt, known, experienced is best conveyed via diary, memoir, whatever. But a poem should be a possible occasion for the marvelous and the uncanny, where stunning metaphors and aural ghosts dance a significant ballet into the reader’s soul.


The Hermit (Darya Tsaptsyna)

The Hermit (Darya Tsaptsyna)

An untitled poem by Barbara Maat:


no sleep.
the disquiet of winter thunder
sulks in humid dark.
clouds stutter in and out of being,
a nervous staccato of
scrimmed light


the pale orchid of
your face blooms in
the heavy air,
the coral petals
of your primitive mouth
round a silent O


we are weary
our ghosts are famished
they twist and bark
a gaunt nocturne
their winding sheets undone.
we have left their unfleshed revenants
as figment offerings for
what we hoped was love


the night soil puts forth filaments
strange opals, stalked and oval fruit
a solace of odd blossoming
i long to dream of bees
but all i taste is stone.


Posted by Tim Buck

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