Guest Posts, or How Poems Work

The idea for the guest posts stems from my appreciation of the How Poems Work column that the Globe & Mail ran a few years back. The posts were generally insightful and instructive, opening up poems and poetry not only to other poets, but to the uninitiated. Some of them became useful pedagogical tools. Some conversation starters. The column became an entity that often inserted poetry into a conversation that otherwise would not have occurred. Few were disturbing. And few were disturbing because the agenda of the writer was clear: read this poem, it works like this, it makes me think this, look at this line, what about this… See how she did that? What does it mean that she chooses to do this? What does it mean that she didn’t choose this, this is how a sonnet works, this is what she did with the form, and so on.

Poof! In an instant all that verbose “review speak” gone.

The purpose, to my mind, of the “How Poems” work genre, isn’t to gloss, or rant about a poem or poet, but simply to engage with the text, to query the inner workings, to tease out meaning, to wonder, yes, to appreciate too, but mostly to open up texts. Open, open.

The other thing that excites me about this genre is that it models a way of reading. How we read is under-investigated. How does one approach a text when they have no clues as to what it’s responding to and why? What if there are no difficult texts, just texts that one hasn’t found a way to enter? Let these posts be points of entry.

The “How Poems Work” offerings will be mixed in with reprints, such as derek bealieu’s last Friday, and a few upcoming posts of reviews published elsewhere. But the reviews posted I believe, are more in line with the latter, than the kind of review we’ve come accustomed to reading. And they are a very mixed bag of voices and styles.


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