I like John Tranter’s poetry. Sheesh, he’s twice won my Warrick Poetry Book of the Year Award! But, in the discussion between him and Dennis Haskell reported in Australian Poetry (AP) recently, I guess I’d fall in line with Haskell’s belief. Not that I’m against modernism, but Haskell’s definition of what poetry is, sits more closely to what I understand poetry to be, and trying to be. AP reported:
At the Perth Writers Festival this year John Tranter repeated the idea about poetry he has consistently adhered to, “If you want to communicate, use the telephone”. While John has taken it from modern American poets, it’s an idea that dates from the period of Modernism, one hundred years ago. I want to argue that it’s a form of giving up, and that poetry’s most important role is still the traditional one of communicating a combination of deep emotion, complex thought and a spirituality that often seems to lie just outside the reach of language which constitutes the deepest expression of meaning available to humans. Since Modernism people have run away from poetry to the telephone, and the most urgent need of contemporary poetry is to get them running back.
It’s lofty, recklessly ambitious, even old fashioned but those words, ring true with me a bit:
Poetry is about “communicating a combination of deep emotion, complex thought and a spirituality that often seems to lie just outside the reach of language which constitutes the deepest expression of meaning available to humans” Haskell.
You can read more on the AP site, but you’ve got to be a member and I recommend anyone with a strong interest in poetry to join up. I wonder, what’s the best definition of poetry you’ve heard?