Poetry that fails to communicate to the reader or hearer is nothing, and poetry that does not sing is something but not poetry.
Unlike paints or musical notes, which remain appearances or sounds throughout the artistic process, words persist in meaning things apart from their appearance and sound whether a poet likes it or not. As a result, the love of words had better keep company with a proper respect for what they say. If the structure and the music of a poem are lacking, then intellectual brilliance will not make it a good poem. On the other hand, it is the duty of a poet to say what he means or at least to mean what he says. After all, words communicate meanings to the reader or hearer. (This is not to say, of course, that a good poet tries for a pedestrian, factual accuracy; poetic license, like allusion, is a useful tool.)
In harmony with this necessary concern for content, my ambition as a poet is to overcome the limiting concept of a poetic subject matter. We have outgrown the notion of poetic diction; we do not speak of sheep as “the fleecy care” or fish as “the finny tribe.” No longer are we allowed to torture syntax in order to fix the meter or rhyme scheme. Obsolete expressions (thee-thou-thy, wouldst, doeth, and the like) are not available to achieve formality the easy way. And yet there still seems to be such a thing as legitimate poetic subject matter. The safest choice of subject these days is perhaps the sensibility of the poet, which unfortunately may lack interest for many others. And as a minor contribution to the art, I avoid poetic punctuation, especially the capitalization of the beginning of each line just because This Is A Poem.
Structurally, I am something of a formalist, little able to sing the lyrics without knowing the tune. Put another way, for me there is no solution without a problem, no answer without a question. By this, I intend no disrespect for the improvisations of free verse. On the contrary, they seem to me the hardest kind of poetry to write really well; a Marianne Moore comes as a sort of miracle.
I choose to publish electronically and to give away a part of my copyright in order to encourage the growth of a cultural community. Reproduction of my poetry is permitted provided that it is reproduced accurately (even though your version is better) and with credit to C.H. Connors or C. Connors. Reproduction for gain is by permission only; please apply to the above at P O Box 182, Tenants Harbor, Maine 04860.
A while back, our great cities were hugely alive and centers of a common culture. A man with a blue shirt and a lunch box could debate with you the merits of his favorite composer (Gershwin, Copeland, Ellington); a woman in a flowered apron could yell from the fire escape through a mouthful of clothespins her favorite poet (Whitman, Eliot) or prose writer (Mansfield, Porter, O’Connor).
Poetry has become inaccessible to almost everyone now, read by poets and critics and buried in journals which purport to control what poetry should be – much as the New York galleries have controlled visual art to its great disadvantage. In time, donations of copyright and the availability of the internet may provide an expanded forum for poetry and other art forms. Upon that event, we can become a cultural community once again – and even without leaving home for the city. Imagine.
In the meantime, I encourage you to recite, print, copy and distribute my poetry. After all, few writers make a living from poetry. You can only help the cause of poetry, in my opinion, by publishing mine. As Dr. Johnson observed, “Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.” Let’s be neighbors in the City of What-Is-Written.