Poetry as pick-up line?

A wonderful comment about my favourite poem in a New Yorker article about the poetry of Mark Strand and Robert Hass:

“Meditation at Lagunitas” wields its chasteness like bait: it would be just the poem to get a chaste person to go to bed with you.

Here is the full article “Late and Soon” by Dan Chiasson. If you need an in-road with a “chaste person,” here is the poem. If you would like to learn more about the poem, I suggest the chapter in the book Poetry in person : twenty-five years of conversation with America’s poets, where Hass talks about the poem.

3 thoughts on “Poetry as pick-up line?

  1. “Or the other notion that,
    because there is in this world no one thing
    to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
    a word is elegy to what it signifies.”
    Leave it with me, Sarah. I am getting it. Another dozen reads should do it. Can you tell me what it is that sets Hass apart for you? He is relatively new to me, I am smitten by the mind of the man as much as anything else. I’d love to know what makes him your favourite …

  2. I didn’t know who Hass was until I saw him read at the 2006 Readers and Writers Festival in Wellington. I was in the front row, and he read “Meditation at Lagunitas,” and it was a transforming experience for me: the mix of emotion and intellectualism; his sincerity but with a healthy does of self deprecation; his humility about the poem when talking to Bill Manhire afterward. I suddenly realised: this is poetry.

    Up until that point I was creating poems using intuition, and I couldn’t figure out what made one of my own poems successful. Reading Hass helped me understand that I needed to bring my emotional self and the intellectual self to a poem, and balance them together. In my opinion, too much emotion without subtext will leave a poem one dimensional and sentimental. On the other hand a purely intellectual poem will not connect with a reader. Reading Hass taught me a lot about balancing the two, and his work is personal, meditative, revealing and clever. He is the master of creating honest but transformative literal (rather than figurative) images. Like all poets, he has his poetic flaws (and no doubt personal as well), but he has been called the most talented living American poet.

  3. Thank you Sarah!!!!!

    I am so excited by what you’re saying. I have reached the same feeling about poetry but so many years later than you. Lucky you that you’ve found it so young.

    Yes, yes, yes to the mix of emotion and intellectualism. Too much poetry feels to me to be just observation of the quotiden with a slice of emotion … not necessarily sentimental, but somehow frustrating, not enlarging – BIGGER than itself, the way great poetry is.

    I tried to do the mix of emotion/intellect in After Reading Auden – and I felt like I did something that had a different tone from my other work – that rang true for itself and for the sort of poetry I wanted to write. Here’s the link http://mary-mccallum.blogspot.com/2011/01/tuesday-poem-after-reading-auden.html. I would love to know your thoughts on it.

    Thank you for introducing me properly to Hass. Meditation at Lagunitas is wonderful.

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