Friday, October 5, 2007

Kooser and Accessiblity: I broke the rules

When he was Poet Laureate, one of Ted Kooser’s main messages was accessibility. He argued that good poems should be accessible. He used the analogy of the glass bottom boat. The poem is a glass bottom boat the reader looks through or reads to enter the poem. Kooser argues putting an object on the glass or dropping an object on the surface interferes with the understanding and enjoyment of the experience. This interference can be anything from using 5 instead of five or an & instead of and.
I argue that Kooser misses an entire aspect of poetry and of art. Modernist painters learned that the picture was the illusion. Painters strived for centuries to make the painting look as “real” as possible. The frame itself, is a replica of the window frame to create the illusion of looking outside at a “real” scene. In the 19th century, painters begin to realize the picture is the illusion. The “real” is the paint on the canvas. A painting is an arrangement of lines, colors, and forms on a flat surface. This arrangement can lead to or trigger emotions, concepts, or ideas, but the reality is the paint on the canvas.
A poem is an arrangement of words and symbols on a page. How these words are arranged can lead to emotions, meanings, stories… Pound and definitely cummins realized a poem is words and symbols on a page. Sometimes dropping an object on the glass is part of the poem. The poem is about the arrangement as well as or even instead of the narrative.

The previous posts were some poems I have written over the last few years which clearly disagree with Kooser's opinon.