Here, at Data, thinking specifically about you and how you write, I can’t help but be reminded of the poet Bernadette Mayer when she said, “Poetry makes sure language has no masters.”
As I make a turn here at Ruby, I’m specifically mulling over intelligibility. I often hear that poetry is the most unprofitable of all the arts and those who do make some money out of it write intelligible poetry. Those who write the kind of poetry you write—or integrate into your essays—don’t sell. This is not to say that your poetry is unintelligible: it simply demands more from me than most other poetry I read.
Entering Velasco, I remember that there was once a time when I actually thought ambiguity was a problem of poetry. I was convinced that ambiguity detached poetry from the people who need it the most: the inarticulate. I reasoned that by making it difficult, we are narrowing poetry’s circle of influence. I understand now that poetry is the most aloof animal ever created. Untamable, it owes nothing from any of us.
At Ela, I ask whether an aspiration for intelligibility is motivated by something deeper. Like most things, we are moved by individual temperaments, tendencies—some unfortunately inherited from childhood. Truth be told, although I want to write more beautifully, intelligibility seems to be where my well-spring is.
And thinking about this now here at Pili Drive makes me realize that this desire to understand often led me to crevices of clarity, which, in turn, generated everything that I’ve learned to attach to poetry—primarily, awe.
Of course, I could imagine a different poet who begins with ambiguity and from there generates the emotions and states that we poets and lyric essayists aspire for. This, at least, is what came to me as I make my turn back to Ela.
I suppose, intelligibility and ambiguity don’t always have to be contradictory. Perhaps, they’re distinct gates toward the same garden. And yes, I say “gates” because I just left UP and am now walking the crowded side walk of Lopez.