Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Day Without Poetry

Hi, guys!

No poem today. I almost clipped you one, though. [NAME WITHHELD] posted an "editor's choice" poem and I was going to send it out to remind you guys of what bad poetry looked like. I was thinking about [NAME WITHHELD], who was a serious poet before she turned to writing science fiction, looked pained when I asked her opinion of science fiction poetry and said, "It's rather like the Special Olympics, isn't it?" I had a rhetorical point to make.

But after fourteen lines, I said to myself, "Life is too short," and also, "These guys were in high school. They know from bad poetry."

So today we skip the poem entirely and go straight to the rhetorical point. Which is to posit one of those questions we all should ask at the beginning of an enterprise but somehow never do. Usually because we're too polite.

First, the answer. In Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard (which, incidentally, you can skip with a clean conscience; it has moments, but it's not very good; if you want to try Vonnegut, start with Slaughterhouse Five; best thing he ever wrote, and short to boot), the protagonist, an abstract painter, says something like, "People ask me how I can tell a good abstract painting from a bad one. I tell them to go out and look at ten thousand paintings. Then they'll never be fooled! Never!"

So, too, here. Even the poems you don't like teach you things about your own taste. And who knows? Decades hence you might find some of the stuff you thought was crap are actually great. Happened to me.

Oh, and the question: "Why should we bother reading all these poems you send us? What's the point?" A rude question, but a good one. You get an A-plus for asking it.

All best,


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