Being too abstract is something I'm often accused of in my poetry. My constant goal is to blend the world of the concrete with the abstract- to fill in some of the void of the abstract with the concrete while not completely uncovering it. I admire the abstract, I am fueled by the abstract. I feel that things that exist too much in the concrete world have a tendency to be boring or overstated. And I am VERY averted to being boring. Some would argue, though,that the abstractions in my poems create a similar effect to boredom- instead of being lost in the realm of the tedious, thay are lost in a world quite the opposite- a world of non-reference, a world that exists not in a vaccuum, but OF a vaccuum. A workshop that I took last semester from poet Chicu Reddy called attention to my abstractions quite often. A lot of times, I agreed with the criticism. Often, I did not. I'm OK with people not always being able to "enter" my poems in the traditional sense of entering a poem. In fact, I'm happier that way.
The fabulous poetry workshop that I am part of (all women, thank you!) met at my house last night for talk about babies, pets, and poems. A fellow group member, Katia Zalkind, said something so profound about my poem that it brought tears to my eyes. She had really put her finger on a pulse in my poetry that I had never realized but knew immediately when she said it, that she was dead on. She said "the images are concrete but the relationship is abstract". That is exactly what I was going for i that poem, and many others, to be honest. Often this is exactly the effect I am going for- the images fill in the void of the relationship, as images do (meaning this in the Roland Barthes sense of the image/love relationship) and hopefully by the end of the poem, the reader can feel the sense both of an absence and presence, both a void and a clarity of vision. How often do we wallow in the void of relationships, clinging desperately to the slip of paper he left on your pillow years ago in a far away world? The relationship becomes the paper, yet it is also everything outside of the paper- the emptiest space of death. I am amazed by Katia's insight into my poem, but I shouldn't be. She lost someone very close to her recently, and often this kind of reality can make someone aware in a sense that the rest of the world is not. It's like you have an open wound that wouldn't otherwise be sensitive, but now the nerve-rich flesh is exposed to the world and everything is experienced in a different way. I felt this way when I had my son. The first three months were filled with a strange awareness of my own sphere of reality (a new sphere, mind you) and a brutality that is unparalelled.
I thank Katia for her insight and hope I can continue to create the sense of abstraction to which she called attention. . .though I'm a little nervous now. It's like now you know everyone is watching. . .