02 February 2009

Powell's question # 6

Here is my unsolicited answer to the sixth question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"How do you react to poetry written in 'poor English', 'poor Spanish' or 'poor French' -- are there certain limits as to what you can accept as a reader and professional, and how much 'artistic license' should be permissible from a bilingual/multilingual poet?"

Of course, it depends on what we mean by "poor." William Wordsworth got it right when he said that "some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose when prose is well written." Most "native" speakers, unfortunately, cannot distinguish good or well-written prose from bad or poor prose; that is why there are school courses on the English language in Britain and the USA. Even at the risk of incurring the ire of my fellow critics, I have to say that there are critics, sad to say, that cannot tell good language from poor language. In any case, poets do have the right, I will even say the responsibility, to push the frontiers of a language, whether that language is their own or only learned later in life. I always say that, when in doubt, it is better to trust the poet than the critic (or any reader). History is full of examples of poets ignored or even maligned during their own times and finding their audience years, decades, or even centuries later.

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