Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thank you for reading.

I hope you've enjoyed the Wallace Stevens poems I've been posting this month; because you're going to see a lot more of his poetry in the next two months.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be posting Stevens's long poem, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, and following that up with another of his longer poems, The Man With the Blue Guitar. Each one will be posted over a month, and will be the only thing I post that month: so that the month's archive will be an archive of the complete poem, broken into installments.

Because I want the poems to appear in the archives in proper order, I'll be posting them backwards; so that the first part of NTaSF that will appear, tomorrow, is his Coda. That might be confusing to some readers, but I don't think it really hurts the experience.

In the old days before the Internet, TV, radio, or even daily newspapers, a reader might have time, leisure, and interest to read a long poem from start to finish in one go, like a novel; and it made sense for poets to write long poems like that. But today the reader is different; with so much else to do, and so much competition for his attention, he's less likely to engage with a poem that way, or to like the result if he tries it that way. That's my theory, anyway, and that's the type of reader I wrote "Penny; or, Penny's Hat" for: it's not designed to be read in sequence, but to be dipped into at any time, at any place. One can read any part without having to read and remember what went before; it can be savoured over a period of years, if the reader wants.

I see a similar structure to Stevens's poems -- any part can be read on its own, without having to read all the others -- and it's one reason I'd consider them the first modern long poems (I don't like to say 'epic', because that connotes a story, and that is precisely what they are not.) Trying to read one start to finish would result only in frustration or boredom (or boredom from frustration). There are other copies of Blue Guitar on the web, but they all present the poem as one uninterrupted piece; I tried to read one, but (for the reasons I've said) I didn't even finish it.

I hope that presenting the poems this way -- as one monthly archive, but broken down into individual posts -- provides a better way to read them, and they'll be read (and appreciated) more in consequence.

Since I'll be posting nothing else but those poems for the next two months, this is my last chance to tell you about my National Poetry Month project. I want to make April a sort of magazine of less familiar, contemporary poets. I've been approaching the poets I know on usenet; but here I'd like to make an appeal to blogger poets as well. I'd urge every reader with a blog to submit a poem for inclusion. It can be either a new one or one you've already published on your blog; I'll be happy to publish them all (subject to editorial discretion). I'll also ask you to give me your name (either real name or the name you use for your blog), where you're from (since I've been getting a response from around the world, I'd like to highlight that), and a url (the default I'll use will be the one to your blog). I can't pay anything, but it will be a way to advertise your blog, to attract more readers to your own work.

I hope you decide to participate in April, and, in the interim, I hope that you enjoy reading Stevens's two masterpieces.

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