the Bolshevik poet and critic Vladimir Mayakovsky, notes in regard to the study of Prodosy his 1926 essay 'How are verses made' that :
"I've several times got down to studying this, understood the mechanics of is, and then forgotten it again. Things like this, which take up ninety percent of poetry textbooks, are about three percent of my practical work!"
It would be an understatement to say that I agree with his sentiment. Yet, every time I find myself wondering into the critical rabbit hole that is critical Prosody I find myself simultaneously repulsed and fascinated. Reading criticism is often onerous, arduous and infuriating, but the ideas gleaned from the coalface have also been the supporting pillars of the work I'm proudest of.
There is so much wrong with the traditional approaches to deconstructing the ever-loving shit out of contemporary poetry, that criticism can easily excoriate any vestige of beauty or vitality from good verse. Yet, without a somewhat mechanistic approach to analysing verse, it is impossible as a poet to learn and develop the ideas of your predecessors.
Criticism, in the words of Simon Jarvis, still "looks forward 'to a unified field-theory' and finds it 'painful to live in a pre-newtonian age'". But one thing that becomes clear to someone like me who has immersed himself in poetic criticism in an effort to develop their craft is that no such theory can possibly exist amongst the vast an nebulous subjectivities that comprise human experience.
So whats the point? why do I have a headache from re-reading opaque paragraphs on the nihilism of deconstructionist verse? I just want to write, I want to write and sometimes I want that writing to rhyme.
The point, In my humble opinion, is part of the point of Art itself. Endeavour. Art should be something to be 'mastered', it should be difficult, it should be struggled towards with a mix of additive and ablative processes until the artist comes to understand not only the scope of their abilities but the modes of expression which most eloquently allow them to evoke what they want to evoke in the viewer, listener or reader.
In that context, the poet removed from criticism seems as likely to succeed as Michelangelo looking up at the bare plaster of the Sistine Chapel and going "fuck it, I'll work it out when I'm up there"
No artist relishes hundreds of hours of preparatory sketches, no poet loves endless revision, no storyteller 'loves' the 20th edit. but you have to know your tools, the exact parameters of your abilities and where you can develop or improve. sometimes you just have to turn to the practice, the obtuse soliloquising of the 'masters' of a form to figure out how to do something with your Art that you haven't managed before, or if you are lucky, that No-one has managed before.
Without self-reflection and deep focus on the 'physics' of our work, we can't push forward. I get that.
I would still rather gargle salt than re-read Alfred Corn. but, I still bought The Poem's Heartbeat for reference... so it goes.