(This is the latest in a series of letters about poems and what I love in them.)
The commonest insult to lob at a poem is "This isn't a poem at all!" I've heard this about my poems before, on Tumblr, where all the real arbiters of poetry clearly reside. First it inflames all my insecurities; then I laugh it off.
When I was assigned to review Real Kill List, a poem in Facebook posts, as part of the Volta Blog's 365 Reviews project, I had to steer myself clear of "this isn't a poem!" territory. I take an expansive definition of poetry. I'm willing to be frustrated, to examine that frustration, and to explain it to another reader. I'm willing even to be trolled a little in the service of poetics. Why not?
Conceptual poetry presents particular complications for poets outside the academy. It's harder to know its full context without teachers and peers immersed in reading stuff like this closely, the way the poets in that Facebook thread are reading Kill List.
I don't have a degree higher than a B.A. I don't particularly want one. Still, anyone can read something critically and come away from it with her own kernel of meaning, so I stubbornly persist.
In the course of reviewing Real Kill List, I came around to thinking it's is a fascinating object. Even a conceptual poem offers an opportunity to examine your influences and emotions as a reader, if you're putting your critical hat on at that angle. Conversely, you can choose to read pieces of the internet as though they're poems. Reading with an eye for sound and form isn't a tactic that's limited by genre, or what degrees you've earned, or how many poets you know.
Poetry takes plenty of opportunities to comment slyly on internet discourse: in poems that are guerrilla ad campaigns, gchats, or image macros of poets in sweatpants, to name just a few that have delighted me. And self-published poetry, both online and from countless tiny presses, happens faster than anyone could possibly keep up. I'm constantly daunted and excited by trying.