Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Friday, June 18, 2010

Talks Too Much

Last Saturday June 12 the 2nd Saturday Poets Reading ( enjoyed as its featured reader Judy Kronenfeld, an accomplished professional writer and scholar from California. I clapped along with pretty much everyone else, yet privately was offended by frustration.

Commonly readers intro and outro their works, often to good effect, clarifying a theme, touching on a critical fact, concept or connnection, or brightening with humor. But please, how about let your poem stand up on its own two legs and do its own walking? Kronenfeld prefaced almost every poem with, "I just want to say one thing first," and then went on to say any number of additional things for minutes at a stretch, mostly more of the story of her life, leaving me wondering: if this extra story of your life is so worth my attention, how come it's not inside the poem? She mentioned at one point that she often edits her poetry as much as 30 times. Well, good. Too bad she didn't so edit her comments. She should have, since they were nearly half of the reading. I felt like shouting, "Stop competing with yourself and let me hear your poetry!"

I notice in her book, for sale at the reading (my wife bought a copy:"light lowering in diminished sevenths"--The Litchfield Review Press.) that the poems are dutifully in lines and stanzas surrounded by much paper space, and so, read by my eyes, seem a bit more like poetry than they had sounded. Out loud of course poems lose their paper spaces, and so the sense of preciousness and definition conferred thereby. Out loud a poem must work harder for its preciousness and definition. Kronenfeld's mostly don't. They rely mostly not on the cherishing of details, but on their careful accummulation, which is the mainstay of prose.

A local woman I know, also a writer and scholar, took issue with the 2nd Saturday Readings a few years back when it mixed poetry with prose. She claimed she could not readily switch her head over from poetry to prose and back again from one reader to the next. Her problem puzzled me at the time, but I'm finding some utility in it here. To my ears Kronenfeld, heard as poetry, is far too wordy, but as prose essay is comfortably compact. As soon as I switched my head over, about halfway through the reading, and pretended she was an essayist, I felt better.

For this listener it was a shame. Kronenfeld has much worth saying, and often says it very well indeed. But she talks too much, and good poets don't need to.

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