Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Complex Subjects

Peter Porter, reviewing David Harsent’s book, Legion, in the Observer newspaper some time ago, suggests one reason why Harsent’s poetry stands out from the pack.

“Harsent’s commitment to lyricism has caused him to fight hard over difficult territory, since he is not content to isolate shining moments, but is driven to tackle complex subjects.”

It strikes me that the isolation of shining moments is characteristic of much poetry at the moment. A poem starts off with a domestic scene – hanging out clothes, walking the dog, looking out the window – and suddenly becomes infused with epiphany.

But complex, difficult subjects are going to make for poems that really get under the skin in a way that shining moments won’t do, or will do only momentarily.

As long as the complex, difficult subjects are handled well, of course.


Eloise said...

Any chance of an example of a poem tackling a complex and difficult subject? I know what you mean with the other one, but I am tragically under-read in contemporary poetry and I'm a little confused as to what a poem like that would entail. I'm also entirely lost by all the nonsensical modern poetry, but that is a whole different question.

Ren said...

When you speak of "shining moments," Ted Kooser comes to mind. He's great at capturing small moments and making them special, but his poems will never move beyond "very well crafted" to "brilliant." Nonetheless, he's enjoyable (and, as pointed out on PFFA, a great gateway poet). I don't know, however, if that's the sort of moment you mean--maybe I'm taking your phrase too literally?