More Poetic Canons

See Poetic Canons: I - XV

XVI: If Alan Ginsberg were alive today and tried to read "Howl," he would be hooked off stage. Only poems that are short, clownish, so political that their authors' appear to be running for office, or full of bizarre imagery—Bat Man or Godzilla having sex with a chipmunk?—are acceptable. Unless, of course, they are so sentimental as to drown themselves in a bucket of tears. And Lenny Bruce, while saying "Fuck" on stage, would probably be told by some millennial brat to "shut the fuck up!" thinking that he, not Bruce, owned the F word.

XVII: These days the "perfect poem" has no point at all and no sound to please or tease the ear; it is composed simply of bizarre images, as from the mind of a tortured soul with canker sores at one end of the digestive tract and hemorrhoids at the other. Nevertheless, it is political in that it assigns blame to a group of people not likely to be present at any reading of the poem.

XVIII: In every aspect of life, politics, money, and corruption are to be found. Poetry is no exception. While there is little money to be made in poetry, the scramble for reputation replaces it with one-upmanship. In fact, the best and wisest poets never read in public, as lesser poets will flock around them in an attempt to steal the magic dust of their reputation.

XIX: If a poems is written by a female, it will be full of sly sexuality; if it is written by a male, it will contain some form or expression of conquest, if only conquest of one's male feelings. As a result, women are generally happier poets than men are.

XX: Male poets with tattoos and pierced body parts and female poets with streaked hair—both reading from "smart" phones—represent a brave new world of poetry in which style and attitude tell language and meaning to get lost.

XXI: When questioning a line of poetry, ask yourself, "What would Shakespeare think?" If you think he would be pleased, do not change a word. If you see him frowning, rewrite it till the frown goes away. Or pretend your line of poetry is music and ask yourself, "What would Mozart think?" Got the idea?

XXII: A very nice older woman who gives poetry seminars says, "Every one is a poet." I do not give poetry seminars and wouldn't know how. But I am pretty sure that few people are poets, especially those who think they are. A real poet is never quite sure.
By Louis Martin