On Poetry & Accessibility

Joshua Marie Wilkinson:

But if poets are suppoed to veer towards that which they do not know or understand, to make something out of that grappling, as I’ve argued, why should we expect anybody to follow along in such a strange, murky endeavor? We can’t expect that, nor should we. In fact, to expect some kind of dutiful, assiduous readership is also a kind of elitism. I’m not sure poetry deserves readers, actually—which I know is odd to say, I realize, after all the railing against the dogma of accessibility I’ve unleashed here. But actually: a reader’s intelligence, patience, and inquisitiveness really are gifts. And following Auden, when he says, “Every poet has his dream reader,” I’ve come to feel like any careful reader whosoever is a dream.

One of my mantras as a teacher, which attempts to boil down the essence of being a writer: don’t be boring. This is harder than it sounds; it sounds too easy. I like how Joshua here so persuasively argues that difficulty is not the antithesis to accessibility (“accessibility”) in poetry, but rather is the location of the poem in a poem, if there is a poem to be located.