Form, Szirtes, and The Artistic Pursuit

To front-load my argument and answer the question, “how does form matter to my poetry” as quickly and bluntly as possible, allow me to not only quote Szirtes, but do something wholly unnatural for me and agree with Robert Frost.
Szirtes writes, “Frost’s notion is not about effects as such. For him it is about naturalness, the assurance that no damned quack-doctor of pretty phrases is going to put one over on him.” Pretty purple phrases might sound nice, but the lingering question of what work does it do haunts anyone with a background of poetic criticism. I believe it was David Foster Wallace quoting an old professor when he said, “Good Art’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” There is great verity in such a platitudinous construct. There are ugly assumptions buried in those twelve words, but they are side-lined by the fact that an artist toiling under the guise of a rescue worker will be inherently more successful that one pursuing cash.

On the page, the formal elements not only reflect the content, but refract it in a way. If it’s axiomatic that form is an extension of content, then everything from how the words fall on the page to where the accents and punctuation goes not only deepens the content, but it provides a means with which we might view the poem in a new, inventive way.

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