Good art is partially about resisting one’s own initial interpretations of the subject. According to the masterful poet, Stephen Dunn, it is more about saying the difficult ‘no’ than giving in to the accessible ‘yes.’ In a way, such commitment to a mode of seeing that is beyond one’s complacent intuition, requires commitment to ‘seeing’ differently and the patience required to put that new way of seeing into words such that they expand the collective consciousness.
Not only must poets turn away from tried or dead language, they must be wary of their best ideas and all the language that was available to them before the poem began. That is, all language that hasn’t been found by the language in the poem. And then even that new language should be doubted and resisted. Resistance leads to discovery. No, no, no, no, and then yes. The good poem offers us a compelling and vibrant replacement for what, in our complacency, we allowed ourselves to believe we knew and felt.
A good artist must doubt the ideas and language that come naturally to her. This will become possible when she begins to resist the easy publicity handed to her by our time’s click-bait addiction, and also when she actively fights the impatience generated by the need to receive quick praise and amass more ‘likes.’ She must commit herself to seeing and interpreting deeply, which cannot happen until she becomes suspicious of satisfaction and adulation that are achieved easily. Her passion must take root in the flip side of obviousness, she must strive to turn things on their head and try to word them from different, and often difficult, angles.
The not so good poem sometimes too easily reflects or accommodates what is available prior to the poem’s inception. Its author says yes too soon.