the art of “suck”: a poet’s eternal question

Whether it’s on a word processor, a napkin, tattooed on my body, a piece of lined paper…the same question always seems to get asked when a piece of my craft is finished:

Does this suck?

I know that every poet has a voice. I know that art is beyond subjective. I know that poetry is never truly finished until the poet is dead (and that’s debatable). I know revision doesn’t die. I know, I know, I know. Even so, it still seems as if I can never gage what is good and what isn’t. It reminds me of looking at a newborn baby…you know it’s supposed to be cute, because it’s a baaaaaaby, but it’s just so darn ugly and wrinkly and it looks like a Christmas ham or an alien or something. Even so, the parents are so damn proud of their bundle of joy, a piece of themselves, that is now in their arms.

I don’t want to be cynical and call my own baby ugly, but I don’t want to be overly proud of something that isn’t very good. I find that I can’t tell whether I’m too proud or too insecure about my work: am I an egoist? Am I my own worst critic? Am I even a poet? Why am I doing this? What am I doing this for?

All by looking at a series of words, lines, white space…who gets to decide what is good? I think that the beauty of craft is that we’re all just at the mercy of our own poems. Sometimes I write something and it feels like it wrote itself. How did this even happen? How did one thing turn into something else? It reminds me of the Spicer interview when he talked about poetry being a sort of parasite. I think the parasitic nature of poetry (if you’re willing to subscribe to that) makes for a loss of control that maybe leads to a loss of knowing the goodness and validity of a poem.

Just conjecture. I’m sorry this post is all over the place. Does this suck?

It’s never ending.

One Reply to “the art of “suck”: a poet’s eternal question”

  1. The struggle is real. A lot of my poems, especially ones I don’t immediately see “good” in or ones that feel like they need a lot of revision, give off that ugly baby/parasite vibe. I think embracing our work for what it is–whether that is by staunchly refusing to change a first draft (which isn’t something most would recommend) or revising it based on its potential to BE rather than the drive to make something that subjectively does not “suck”–is something that seems wild and strange.
    But we can use that to our advantage, you know? They say some of the best things are happy accidents and that’s kind of what poetry is at the beginning. Maybe we set out to tell a story or the words flowed through us from the Outside…regardless, whatever is put out there has got some of who we are in it. And this is a fairly egotistical, but isn’t that what we all want? To create something to be talked of, shared, loved?
    So what if it’s ugly at first or it’s ugly forever? It still has character. It still exists (if purely out of coincidence and/or spite). I think writers, and artists in general, should try to not be so quick to place negative labels. Why enter so pessimistically when you can go searching for awesomeness in your own poems? A great line here, a style you weren’t aware worked really well for you there, and oh look! A bird? A plane? No, it is your own use of humorous paralogical thinking! Yay for paradoxes!
    …Did I make that weird? It felt weird. Anyway, what I’m trying to argue is that we should give our ugly babies more credit. I’m really really good at actively hating my work, but as time goes on I’m getting better and better at preserving some things. I’ll write a full page and delete everything but the title and one line about dogs. Or I won’t write anything more of a short story for half a year and when I turn to it again, my baby is crawling around on its own and shaking a rattle. Which is adorable. I do not advise people leaving their actual babies alone for months at a time, though. Probably should have stopped with this metaphor a while ago. Eh.

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