The unspoken assumption

  • So, I was at the AWP when a lovely man stopped me and asked me why one of my poems wasn’t metered as it had the potential to be (apparently ‘free verse has destroyed poetry’).
  • I explained that I did not seek to write in meter so what appeared like a lean towards meter was accidental even though I was aware of it. I then pointed out that my heritage was different and English wasn’t even my first language so, naturally, my approach would be different. I even mention poets like Atukwei Okai and Christopher Okigbo who this poetry expert hasn’t heard of and agrees to e-mail me so that I can send him examples.
  • Man challenges me and points out that Derek Walcott writes in meter and then mentions a whole range of other poets I should look to – all from the US and the English-speaking Caribbean.
  • All the while, I’m standing there thinking what all this has to do with me as he seems to have ignored my primary point – that English isn’t my first language.
  • He carries on lecturing me – adding more and more examples.
  • Then I realise the entire membership of his  list is black – so, that’s the critical perspective! Because we’re all black, we share the same literary heritage – how silly I am!
  • I am tempted to point out that he has far more in common with them as far as linguistic and literary heritage go, but I figure I’ll wait until he sends me that e-mail so I can break it gently to him. (Maybe he just thought I was from the Caribbean, right?)
  • Instead, I just tell him I think it’s unfair for him to suggest that people who write free verse are not careful editors of their work too and I don’t even think that the boundaries are that clear cut; there’s a sliding scale from rigid meter to free-as-water verse.
  • Of course, I’m still waiting for the e-mail.
  • As my late grandmothers would have said, Hmm!

Note: elements of this entry have been falsified to protect egos



Filed under Critical Perspectives

4 responses to “The unspoken assumption

  1. Hmmm indeed. I think there is an argument not just for a poetry but for poetries plural. The need for something to be this or else it’s that, is a sign of unsound mental health. (anti invasion anti America is no different a mindstate than no meter no poem) Art allows itself much more scope than most writers and critics allow in poetry. Anyway I hope the rest of your tour is good.

    • It’s very interesting because a white USA-American mentor of mine once told me that most USA-Americans are in denial and they see everything in terms of race. I half took it on, but this trip is really showing me that maybe he had a point. It’s almost like you can’t be black on US soil without being ‘African-American’! Yes, I agree with you on ‘poetries’.

  2. wsgeorge

    Quite interesting. I might come along often to take a peek.

  3. lol at the note. he would probably feel more comforted if you would just stay in that bloody box 😀

    ah man…there’s a long way to go……

    The Almighty’s Blessings

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