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Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Eight Rules & The Bowl of Diogenes

This past week I recieved my copies of Poetry and American Poet. Each included an article on criticism. The American Poet included "Eight Rules" by Linda Gregerson and Poetry featured "The Bowl of Diogenes" by William Logan. I found each of them relevant and helpful to me as a writer who often tries my hand at criticism as well as poetry. I've often thought that thinking critically about other people's work helps me to refine and define what I'm aiming for in my own poetry.

Gregerson's article is brief, yet practical advice for the poet/ critic. Her rules include encouraging the poet/critic to write articles that are significant rather than merely thumbs up or thumbs down, she asks us to write in good faith, she invites curiosity in the world, in history, and in theory. She also suggests that we should be honest about our patronage and friends in the business. I find myself agreeing with her. She says "Both poetry and criticism are forms of thinking through, of attempting to be in the world in such a way that the world shall not be lost on us" (American Poet 16). I think perhaps the most important of her requests is that the poet/critic be well read. I believe to be well read helps us to see the greater picture, to find our niche in society, history, theory, and the world.

Logan's article is a recounting of his experiences in a long career of writing criticism, of the waxing and waning of his desire to write it, and in some ways, an argument for the complex in poetry. He also makes a lot of sense in his article, suggesting that criticism is mostly *for* the critic, and is helps the critic to pay closer attention than perhaps he or she would otherwise. He also says "for what is good about good criticism is that it imagines with the same sympathies as the poet" (Poetry 414). I like how he speaks of the complexity of poetry: "Surely we read poetry because it gives us a sense of the depths of language, meaning nudging meaning, then darting away, down to the unfathomed and muddy bottom" (414). I can imagine poetry as a minnow, reflecting a glimmer of sunlight, iridescent: a small essential beauty. And a critic wading in the shadows, searching in the muddy water, exclaiming aloud when the flash and shimmer catches her eye.

American Poet, Fall 2005.
Poetry, February 2006.

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