Friday, January 06, 2012

Lao Poetics: Form vs. Ideas?

Carol J. Compton's Lao Poetics: Internal Rhyme in the Text of a Lam Sithandon Performance is  a short but interesting document for Lao American poets to consider.

I would definitely say that the oral character of a poem is a strong consideration within my own work. She is intrigued at the possibility that Lao aesthetics may be similar to Thai aesthetics, where we are to be more interested in the 'manipulation of language within the constraints imposed by the various verse patterns," if Gedney is correct. Value would come from 'the form, as opposed to the semantic content' according to Gedney.

Burnshaw asserts that "The words are the poem. Ideas can often be carried across, but poems are not made of ideas...they are made of words...An English translation is always a different thing; it is always an English poem."

I find this a contentious line of thinking for us as Lao American poets because it creates a mindset that in its extreme means a poem can be any pile of random gibberish as long as it is constructed of word 'elements.' Coherence is not an issue so long as the form is followed?

Is the role of poetry to enforce and show rules of grammar? Argue not always, I would. To challenge, in fact, a valid core of poetry, rather, to raise words back up from the sludge of the quotidian.

Nationwide, I've seen Lao American poets are frequently taking on formal forms, but rarely stay with them for long, with the possible exception of the haiku.

Poetry has often been on the edge of chaos and the mysterious: What makes a word work, or not, a phrase, then a stanza, then an epic? Do we document the mundane of the great mysteries or the mysteries within the mundane? Or just crank out ephemeral hallmark cards about bugs and red roses?

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