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July 3, 2013 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Of your favorite poets, which write the least about poetry?

I haven't read much poetry in the past couple years and want to pick it up again as bedtime material. One thing I'd like to avoid—as best I can—is poetry that is either about poetry or conscious of itself as poetry.

I get tired too easily of ars poetica and annoyed too quickly with poets who insist on showing me their writing hands. For casual reading, I'm uninterested in "the sharp tip of a pen moving across an empty page" (that's Billy Collins, a frequent transgressor in my finnicky world), and I tend to flip the page quickly whenever poets begin to wonder over writing, reading, art, or anything "poetic." I'm as curious as anyone about why I like the things I do, but I get weary of talking about it all the time, particularly when I'm trying to enjoy those things.

What I'm looking for is transparent—poetry as a vehicle for story, image, or occasion. A perfect example would give no explicit thought either to the writer or the reader; would show no concern for the poem's place in a body of work, whether the poet's own or a larger one; and would draw no attention to the fact of an allusion, whenever an allusion is purposefully made.

An obvious tactic would be to shy away from the lyrical, but I think that would be too limiting.

Which poets or books do you like that do little of this, or do it infrequently to the best of your memory? Which encourage their readers to escape into their poems, not consider their poems or others'? ("Imagists" tend to be good examples, but not always—which is just like them.)

English language, but this includes good translations.

Any period, etc. Very recent is great, very old is in style. I like form, but get along well with free.

I have read a bit, but assume complete ignorance. There are gaping holes in my library check-out history that you might fill, or you might remind me of something that I have been away from too long.
posted by mcoo to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
For story: perhaps some classic epic, like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid?

Or perhaps Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology? Interlocking stories of a community told by narrators who are all dead. It's extremely absorbing.

Most of the poets in my line of work tend towards the meta--it's an occupational hazard of being Romantic and post-Romantic--but Victorian dramatic monologues might be up your alley (R. Browning and Tennyson in particular). If genre is no object, you might look at Shelley's verse drama The Cenci, which blew my students away when I taught it this past semester.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:19 PM on July 3, 2013

The whole poems about poetry is really recent, right? Because poets don't live anymore; they get MFAs and teach. So just avoid contemporary poets.

My faves: Auden, Larkin, Dickinson, Rilke.

I've also enjoyed over the years: Tagore, Eliot, Yeats, AH Clough, Kavafy
posted by seemoreglass at 7:01 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Avoid John Keats, he gleaned his pen into his teeming brain!

(Sorry. Actually, I agree with the old New Yorker editor William Shawn: Never tell a story about a writer writing a story.)
posted by ovvl at 9:22 PM on July 3, 2013

If you want a longer read, try Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate, a novel in verse that follows the lives of a group of yuppies in San Francisco.
posted by Kerasia at 3:21 AM on July 4, 2013

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