Poetry, thy name is subjectivity

I’m fond of telling the story of how my poem “The Day After Christmas” was published many moons ago in the now-defunct and wonderful magazine Taurus. The poem was, at least in my mind and my intent, on how a relationship could be like the day after Christmas — all the excitement that comes while it’s building up, then the event itself, then the letdown afterward. But one reviewer saw it as “a scathing indictment of the commercialism of the holiday season,” not at all what I intended. Maybe, as Oscar Wilde said, “I’m so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word I’m saying.”

Anyway, recently someone posted a review of my book, The Black Dog and the Road, on his blog. I was and am appreciative. But again it always strikes me that reviewing, like poetry itself, can be quite subjective. For instance, I recently had an editor tell me that he really liked my stuff, but it wasn’t quite “weird” enough for his magazine. Hmmm. Usually, I’m considered sufficiently weird for anyone’s taste.

But that book review. It’s quite favorable, although the reviewer seems to have inordinate concern about (a) my personal habit of breaking the last line of the poem away from the rest, and (b) my use of sentence case instead of title case for my titles. I kinda wish he would have spent a little less time on those issues and more on the book, but it is what it is, as they say.

Our reviewer doesn’t seem to be aware that title case and sentence case — The Black Dog and the Road as opposed to The black dog and the road — are a matter of choice. At IBM, where I’ve worked for the past decade, sentence case is preferred, and I’ve gotten into the habit of using that. I really like title case just as well, and using sentence case is just a habit I’ve fallen into … much like my habit of dropping the last line off from the rest of the poem. In many cases, I do feel that it adds emphasis to the finale of the poem, but sometimes I just do it because, well, it’s what I do.

(I also overuse ellipses … because I feel it’s a gentler break than that harsh old dash and stronger than a comma.)

Anyway, I’m quibbling. A favorable review of my book. I’ll take that any day!

P.S. Don’t forget about us at Pig in a Poke magazine. Second issue coming out in less than a week!

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~ by harryc13 on June 26, 2010.

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