Rob A Mackenzie got himself in slightly hot water with some comment writers on his blog last week for daring to suggest that he might not consider Magi Gibson's work poetry. Unfortunately, instead of following the question of what makes a poem a poem, which could have thrown up some interesting ideas and insights, the comments took a rather more personal and abusive turn. Disgraceful and disturbing. I for one don't want to inhabit a space where perfectly legitimate aesthetic judgements attract abuse, so good on Rob for standing by his judgement.
Anyway, what does make a poem a poem? I'm interested to know what readers of this blog have to say on that. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet Charles Bernstein has an intriguing go at answering this perennial aesthetic question here. In 60 seconds. Of course, his answer throws up all sorts of questions. What does he mean by "the timing"? Is it something intrinsic to the poem or is it about the relationship of the poem to a moment in history and, therefore, to society? If the former, in what way does it differ from prosody, if at all? If the latter, is it possible for a piece of writing that once was a poem to cease being a poem and for one that formerly wasn't a poem to become a poem? Or is that more about the poem's relationship to time and is that different? If, as some scientists think, time is an illusion, where does that leave us?