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Random Thoughts on Accessibility

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:27 am
by Marc Gilbert
Poems are made of words and what is a word other than an audible expression of experience? Words are symbols made of sound. As symbols, they can never be what they represent. At their most basic they are pretty utilitarian, "bread", "home", "run", etc. To complicate matters further, we live in a world of ideas as much as we do of matter and we have to draw on the physical world to give these ideas voice. Very quickly the mind leaps from the object: bread to the idea: sustenance back to another object: money. And that's an easy one. Just think for a second on how the physical manifestation of light impressed upon us so powerfully that it is common to speak of a human being as, "brilliant". So common that no one would for a second question the description anywhere let alone a poem, but what could be more poetic? Surely the person isn't actual luminous, however, we do call people luminaries, so who knows? Emerson said, "Every word was once a poem." I think this is what he meant.

My point with the above is to demonstrate, however poorly, just how big the question is and the problem we face when looking for an answer. Keep in mind, we aren't even addressing sound or structure, both critical elements of poetics.

I also throw it out there as cover for what is surely a cop out in addressing the idea of 'accessibility' in a poem. A poem is an experience both in the reading and the writing. Some are easily digestible and some take time. In some poems bread is bread and in others, it's the body of Christ. What I look for personally is some form of consistency and cognizance on the part of the poet of the connotative relationships implied by their word choices. I like to feel I'm being manipulated into a new experience, one that will let me see the world the poet sees or saw.

I take the most from the poems I read that I have to work at. Some I've lived with for years and they still bear new fruit. I guess my point is, even the easy isn't all that easy if you look hard enough. And when some folks say accessible, they actually mean familiar.

I may be naive, but I approach every poem (reader or writer) as an attempt at clarity. That there is a nuance to the experience at hand that simply cannot be expressed by any other means. When I get it as a reader, I am enriched. When I connect as a poet, I am gratified.