Thursday, March 26, 2009


I've been thinking about this post from Nada Gordon which addresses what one looks for in poetry, or maybe in a poet or poet's work or whatever. She says personality and style, and agrees with music as an addendum to the criteria. Coming up with a criteria like this is all about being put on the spot, as in having the question directly put to you, "What do you look for in poetry?". I have to give props that she performed under pressure like that. And I agree mostly with it. And who wouldn't respond to personality, style and a musical quality etc? But I've been thinking that I would definitely substitute or in any case put in my top 3 the quality of charm. Alot of the most intense interactions I find I have with poetry have to do with just being charmed in some way that I may or may not be able to put into words. An obvious (to me anyway) example of a poet whose work just exhibits so much personality, style, music, and charm (not to mention wit, nerve, sensitivity, alluring inscrutability) would be O'Hara. If ever there was a poet who I'd describe as irresistible, it's Frank O'Hara. But "charm" as an adjective to plug into an ideal poetry criteria seems like sort of, I don't know, untrustworthy. But not in a way that would distinguish it from any other quality that would appear in this or that criteria. When you try to articulate what to look for in something that you already nerdishly devote yourself to the pursuit of, there are bound to be exceptions upon exceptions upon contradictions enough to capsize the whole frickin criteria boat in pretty short time. But charm does hold up for me. As in I do want be charmed when I'm reading poetry, or put it this way-- if I'm faced with a complete lack of charm, then I'm gonna to have a really hard time finishing this book or poem or piece, or getting through this reading without just resorting to a complete mind-lapse into thoughts about artichoke dip, or sex, or some Marx Brothers bit, or Frank O'Hara, until it's finished and it's socially acceptable for me to leave. All of the other stuff-- my head getting lopped off, my soul being permanently scarred and deformed, my testes being stuck in a vice, me being told to change my life, well I'm thinking right now that none of that will work without charm. And since I peed and grabbed another beer, I've been thinking two things: 1. O'Hara is like the ultimate Criteria Poet, as in the variousness of his work (and he's sure not a "neglectorino" or anything) exhibits so many qualities that it makes it almost tempting in light of it to just advocate for a poetry that packs in as many qualities into as various a tapestry as possible, & 2. I should really try to expand on the whole charm thing or at least come up with some examples of charm in poetry within the next few days, which I'm too lazy to do right now. Thoughts?


mister jim said...

The charm thing has a
good deal of variation. If you
wanna tweak it, ask around about
your actual peaks of charm in
your stuff. They are there early.
There's personal access in charm.

When you talk about variety,
and a lot of ingredients in
O'Hara, I think that's one thing
that really makes a read great
(as long as they fit OK).
The line mixing in Berrigan's
"Sonnets" makes all the
ingredients go around and around,
before a string gets to long.

Anyway, that's just some
hunching of mine.

mister jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mister jim said...


OK, I will put up
something from Mike Hauser.

(From "Hair Extensions"):

I can write through two thoughts
beyond the elephantine curtain the meatball jargon

And in the softness of your pushiness
you're forcing me to snort backwards without getting your shoes wet

AMy King thought that was charming
(at a reading maybe?), and pasted
it on her blog. And so I went
and got Crets Crets Crets.
How many forms of charm are there?

Nada said...

I agreeeeeee. It's like your term, "charm," encompasses the three I was using.

Nada said...

Plus words are spelled, or "spells," which makes them "charms." I also like charms as in what dangles from bracelets.