Often this summer, I’ve been intrigued by a particular article arriving by newsletter, inspired to print it out with the intention of reading offline. And then of course, they go into a pending file and join the others in a growing pile.
I’ve been slacking off in the reading side of it, though. Today, by chance, I selected two, based only on the shortness of each piece, and the time I had available. It turned out to be quite a coincidence.
The first one, The Unsympathetic Voice in Poetry… appearing on the North American Review site, was written by Robin Richardson, on the differences between sympathetic and unsympathetic voice in writing poetry. The digest version: sympathetic poetry voice is one that seeks to give a good impression of the poet, at the expense of offering something that challenges the reader, whether psychologically, spiritually or philosophically. My understanding of the unsympathetic voice is one of truth-teller, whether it meets the approval of society or not. It makes the reader question. This voice writes poems that stay with you for some time afterward, or sends you digging deeper into its message. At least, that’s what I take from this article. You can read the full piece here: North American Review, The Unsympathetic Voice in Poetry.
Robin Richardson blogs here: http://knifehypnosis.squarespace.com/
The second article I read immediately after Richardson’s was titled, A Brutal American Epic, by Charles Simic, on the New York Review of Books. He’s writing about a long poem by Charles Reznikoff, Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recititative.
Reznikoff (1894-1976) took his poem from the stories he found in 500 court cases between 1885-1915. He writes as the Imagists wrote, and the poems are stark, as Simic notes in his article. The piece ends with the line, “Let whoever reads it be upset.”
And I couldn’t help but think of Richardson’s article, and tell myself, this is the kind truth-telling she meant, here is the unsympathetic voice.
Click here To read Simic’s full article, A Brutal American Epic.
Charles Simic is a former Poet Laureate of the United States.