What Makes A Poem Mind Shatteringly Brilliant?

Joy Marchand engages the Rhysling Anthology for this year on her blog here.  I send you there for two reasons: one, I encourage the discussion of poetry and figure the more people we can link in an interrelated web of posts is a good thing, and two: Ms. Marchand is a brilliant writer whose story “Sleep Sweetly Junie Carter” is achingly poetic and you should go find it and read it.

So, regarding the post, I am most intrigued by this line: “And yet. And yet.”

And yet indeed.  Ms. Marchand states that 10 poems she loved in the Rhysling Anthology–she will reread them again and again.  But what of the others?  What is it about some poems that slices open stomachs, rips out our intestines and forces a hand, an elbow, an entire arm up our bronchi and trachea choking us on brilliance and sound and metaphor?  What is it that the other poems lack?

I endeavored to start reviewing poetry on this blog because even I, who have been writing and reading poetry for over a decade cannot express why Hass and Emerson and Jordan and Jones and Gilbert send me into a state of ecstatic bliss while others make me shrug ‘eh.’  Part of this is I am not very smart.  I don’t read enough or write enough or think long and hard enough about movements and construction. But I am trying. Honest.

Recently I decided that I would officially/unofficially open After Ever After to reprint submissions.  Guidelines can be found here.  But you’ll note that I’ll be paying a flat $10 fee for anything I accept: which is what several markets pay for original poetry, so if you would like to send original poetry, I’ll look at it.  The reason I am opening to submissions is I would like to keep a consistent publishing schedule–no more month long hiatuses.  It also means that I am not obligating myself to buying a poem once a week, I always have the option of writing my own poem, or writing some other post about poetry.  So in order for you to send me something I want to buy, it has to be really good.  Good enough that I want to pay you for the privilege of posting it on a blog that doesn’t earn me any money.  So good that I want to post it because I want the world to see it and I want the world to know that I like it.  So good it shatters the mind that tries to comprehend it like a frozen liquid terminator falling to the ground.

I want you to send me poems that I would email to all my friends–that I would memorize and recite to strangers in the street.  Send me something I’m going to nominate for the Rhysling award.

What poem is that?  It’s a poem that is balanced in, for lack of a better phrase, the four humors: Language, Form, Imagination and Music.  It’s a poem with a brilliant idea, flawless execution and a theme that vibrates in my diaphragm.  It’s the poem that dares–it makes leaps and associations, it travels from Kenya to the moon and back again.  It’s a poem about elephants that manages to also be about the human condition and also the feeling of a sudden absence of weight.

I wouldn’t necessarily look to the poems I’ve already put here on the blog as a reliable measure since they’re mine and I’m still learning.  I want poems that are better than my own.  I want poems that I wish I had written myself.  I want poems that will teach me.

If I had the money, I would be paying $10 a line for such a poem.  But alas I am poor.  Hopefully the challenge enough will tempt you.

Also, because I think I overdosed on the number of I’s in the above, how do you define a mind shatteringly brilliant poem?


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