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Spiral Orb and Tony Hoagland

October 13, 2010

Spiral Orb is a new web journal—their second issue launched earlier this month—that performs a hybrid/mash-up with the poems it publishes. The site’s opening page is a Table of Contents that combines lines from each work to create a collaboration, presumably sculpted by the editor, Eric Magrane.

The artistic leanings of said editor are appropriately open to work that invokes all levels and ideas of inter-relatedness.

Tony Hoagland has a fine analysis at The Poetry Foundation of the pull between the two poles of poetry—a) the representative, in which a reader’s efforts are rewarded with a recognizable event and clarification, whether the clarity is emotional, psychological, tribal; and b) the directionally amorphous, the freest of the free verse, challenging readers, inventing (invisible) rules, moving further and further out from a guidepost already swamped in darkness.

Hoagland points out that the two aren’t “mutually exclusive,” but his essay eloquently illuminates a quandary that I feel many would-be readers of poetry are confronted with. For new readers, deciding to begin reading is like choosing a CD at random—Prince, The Dixie Chicks, Eddie Murphy, Pavarotti, Tom Waits—there is no telling what type of poet will be chosen—Oliver, Frost, Snyder, Baudelaire, Merwin—let alone the stage, mood, state of consciousness the poet was in for that particular book. The frustrating lack of guidance and fertility of styles can intimidate many possible poetry persons.

The essay is instructive for writers of poetry as well, as it is a position poetry is allowed to entertain—the entertainment value of poetry. That is, “If they don’t get it, who cares?” The public place of poetry—the role it can serve, the illuminating qualities is can share—is arguably pointless trapped at aloof universities, dull readings, or pompous conversations. Alternatively, to produce easy, predetermined poems for mass consumption is to cheat human existence.

Artistic discovery has to drive the poem-making/finding process; how we balance that exploration of the wild with the needs of the people back at camp is one honorable question Hoagland takes up with more clarity that I have, and with a number of modern writers to help clarify his stance.
-Joshua Jennings Wood

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