Thursday, September 13, 2012

Three types of poetry, and George Bilgere

In "The Three Types of Poetry,"the Scarriet blog discusses the poem "Unwise Purchases," from Cleveland's wordplayer George Bilgere:
"This poem is wonderful in a way that would repel the likes of Ron Silliman, Rae Armantrout and the avant-garde, simply for its clarity.  Those who believe that poetry is verse and not prose would also dislike this poem.  But here it stands."

(For what it's worth, the three types are, first poetry as art: it paints a landscape and creates interest with sound; then, the poem which is the poem of rhetoric and idea; and he third type "occurs from a perverse desire to rebel against the other two." But the third type will always exist, human nature being what it is, always at odds with perfectionism.)


Anonymous said...

There's a commonality between Bilgere/Collins/soft MFA poetry and the "Language" poets poetry - they're both boring.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

It seems to be declasse among serious poets these days to admit to liking Billy Collins (gosh, not edgy enough!) but I still do. There are other virtues in poetry than trying to shock an audience that is becoming increasingly jaded.
(Earlier Collins more than late Collins though, I'm afraid.)

pottygok said...

"There are other virtues in poetry than trying to shock an audience that is becoming increasingly jaded."

Yes, there are. But one can, and often does, make the argument that post-Poet Laureate Collins, folks like Bilgere, and similar poets (Pilkington comes to mind, maybe Hoagland, etc.) have commonalities that speak against those virtues. For example, and the blogger points this out, verse/rhythm/meter/etc. are pretty much abandoned. I'm sure we can find examples in Collins of rhymed, metered poems (Paradelle, for example) but there is a conscious effort to move away from that. Thus, the reader is forced to accept that this thing is, despite it's lack of poetic craft, still a poem, to hold it to the same level of respect and scrutiny that they would Tennyson, Frost, etc.

The Collins style of poetry, instead, focuses on clear and deliberate imagery, often of the mundane, asking viewers to explore it in a new way. This often becomes an introspective exploration of culture, when done right, but more often than not, reads as the literary equivalent of a marshmallow--lots of fluff, no substance.

The other thing that seems to characterize these poets is a lack of depth, perhaps even theme. Pre-Laureate Collins (and I'm particularly thinking about "Questions About Angels" here) uses his imagery and speculations to probe deeper, to ask important questions or use the humor to make specific stands. Later Collins (everything after "Picnic, Lightning" perhaps) uses those images and humor to be pretty and funny. There is no depth, no resonance, and no theme to this poem. The Bilgere piece quoted in this blog is pretty much the same. Ultimately, the theme can be summarized as: "Bilgere explores the abandoned hobbies and passing fads of a couple to explore what they want to be instead of what they are." For many readers, this might be enough, but when held up against poets who use these same tools and write in a similar style, but use them to expose deeper and more resonant themes, whose works are equally multi-layered and accessible, the so called "Collins poets" simply fall apart.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau