Friday, October 15, 2004
"For me, to be a poet is also to understand when the dictionary has it wrong"--Eileen Tabios (from her blog). I can go with this. I think my poetry got better when my English (as a 1st language, that is) got better. I was working for a wine store, years agone, and had the opportunity to write up wines. a task I took seriously, not wanting to sound like crap. at the time, the punctuation in my poetry was mostly commas, rarely periods. and my journal was full of dashes. I wasn't writing in prose then, and really worried whether I could. but writing about wines presented me the challenge of writing prose, and a somewhat formal prose at that. I made a study, and of course read and reread The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. the point of this being that having a clearer sense of 'good' English, I could misuse the language better. disjunctions and questionable grammatical choices and such empowered by what I heard in my head as an insistent pulse... well, I'm sounding like slop. the revelation I wish to convey is that you can't really take licenses until you know what licenses you take. I learned (to whatever degree, but allow that I did) the right of the dictionary, so that I could, as it came to me, use the wrong. it's not so much that I understand this, but that am at least sensitive to this. I think I learned as much about poetry from good prose as from other poets. I always knew I could write, if only to blurt lavishly, but to have care is (for one who never attempted formal poetry, rhyme and metre) a matter of learning prose thoroughly. enough to know what rules needed breaking.