Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Auden and Appreciating Others' Work

Gordon Stamper, Jr.

During this National Poetry Month, I thought about some of my favorite poems.  One of them is Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts,” impressions and inspirations the poet had after viewing The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel.  It is partly a profound meditation on how life goes on, even after the events that are of the greatest personal importance to us.
In the concluding stanza, Auden reflects on the ploughman who may have heard and seen Icarus’ fall:  “. . .the ploughman may/Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,/But for him it was not an important failure.” 
As a poet, you may write something that is extremely significant for you, but unfortunately very few others ever read.  Many poets are guilty of the same thing:  they don’t read other poems, especially those of contemporary poets, their peers, or don’t make much of an effort to do so. 
If you’re guilty of this, your practical and selfish concern is that if you want to be published (and not only self-published), you should read the poetry of the markets where you send it.  When I was a staff editor for a literary magazine, I saw how many people missed the mark when it came to submissions.  For poetry, we received poems with forced rhymes and sing-song rhythm for a publication that generally published cutting edge and mostly free, unrhymed verse.  So please, read your intended markets!
Another more altruistic and intrinsic reason for reading poetry is to soak in poets’ artistry and insights, and then share them with others.  Appreciate the effort of crafting the phrase, layering their messages, using powerful imagery to impress their words into your psyche.
Poets, please keep flying, and also appreciate the efforts of the fellow flyers around you.
Gordon Stamper, Jr. is a poet, co-moderator of Highland Writers Group, and a founding member of Indiana Writers’ Consortium.  He currently teaches English composition and research writing at Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University Northwest.
The picture at the head of this post shows The Fall of Icarus, a 1500’s painting attributed to Pieter Brueghel. The picture is in the public domain because of its age.

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