On difficulty in poetry

Three kinds of difficulty.

Letter: ‘Does My Poetry Have to Be Difficult to Be Real?’

In responding to this week’s letter, I was of two minds on how to respond, and decided, as I’m discovering I do, to respond mostly to the emotional dilemma at hand for the letter-writer. However, I didn’t want to drop the other thoughts entirely, so I wanted to speak more broadly on the idea of difficulty in poetry in a few ancillary notes.

For purposes of example, I will limit my thoughts here to poetry that works in one primary language. And when I say difficult poetry, I speak of poetry in conversation with intellectual work from the academy but also poetry that requires prior knowledge of some sort, technical, intellectual, cultural, subcultural, or spiritual, aside from a rudimentary understanding of the primary language, that plays a major role in understanding the work and that is not obvious to a reader reading a poem without it.

This post is for paying subscribers only

Subscribe to The Reading

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.