I screwed up somehow, and lost yesterday's post while trying to configure a potential new home for this blog, so I'm reposting it. There were no trackbacks I'm aware of, so there should be no need to change links—at least until I get the new domain working right.
Just a quick note on some long and thoughtful posts from Josh Corey (all over January) and Kasey Mohammad (here and here).
Kasey's quite right that "lyric" and "narrative" are not in opposition to each other, but the reason is far more fundamental than the difference between "mode" and "genre." Narrative and metaphor make human thought possible. "A Sonnet is a moment's monument" is not a bit of poeticising; it must be literally true. Though the monument (the sonnet) may be neither good nor lasting, it must capture a frame, an episode, a moment in the story of a human life, and if it doesn't, it cannot be good or lasting. The denigration of narrative, rhetoric, and traditional modes is the reason for "the current profusion of superficially 'new-sentence'-style prose poems that aim at graceful or congenially playful "lyric" surreality or abstraction rather than, say, an aggressively coherent dismantling of intellectual, aesthetic, or political ideologies." I'm not sure those are laudable goals, but they can't be done without thinking, and even argument is structured as narrative; even Josh tells a story about why he dislikes narrative in poetry.
I suspect the academic distrust of narrative has a partial explanation in what Jonathan Mayhew says about plot summaries as structural elements of the criticism of novels. If that's what you do with a poem, there's not much to say, and how do you justify making your students come to class?
Here are two recent pieces, one a slide show at Slate and the other an essay by Denis Dutton, at least indirectly related to the above. Mark Turner's The Literary Mind should be on every poet's bookshelf. And Josh, if you want to stop time from disappearing in poetry, try meter.