Steve Kronen
January 2009

 

Steve KronenSteve Kronen was born in Cleveland in 1953. His latest book, Splendor, was published by BOA in 2006. His first book, Empirical Evidence was published by the University of Georgia Press in 1992. He has received fellowships from the NEA, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Breadloaf, the Florida Arts Council, and received the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Republic, Ploughshares, APR, The Threepenny Review, The Georgia Review, The American Scholar, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. He is a librarian at Miami Dade College in Miami where he lives with his wife, novelist Ivonne Lamazares, and their daughter Sophie. His website is www.stevekronen.com.


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Statement of Poetics

               Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time - I think I've forgotten this before.”
                                                                          —
Steven Wright
 
A good poem, I suspect, works with the same sly mechanism as does a good joke - with a sudden leap of logic that baffles and delights.  It must do so by nimbleness: how did I, the reader, get from there to here? - and by wisdom: yes, that is what it's like to be human.  Both - joke and poem - depend on precise timing and diction without which the whole enterprise falls apart.  (Though a joke loses all currency if it need be explained, a good poem is not crippled by explanation, and is, perhaps, enhanced when, afterwards, its tiny levers and fine sprockets are laid out for admiration.)

Some of the levers and sprockets I admire most in a good poem are meter and rhyme. Because meter and rhyme are relative, contextual, a poem's latches and trip wires may be sprung in surprising, though hidden ways, defying gravity and linearity.  The reader, even without knowing how or why, is dazzled or moved or transported.  

1106

We do not know the time we lose —
The awful moment is
And takes its fundamental place
Among the certainties —

A firm appearance still inflates
The card — the chance — the friend —
The spectre of solidities
Whose substances are sand —

                    — Emily Dickinson

Dickinson's subdued half rhymes, lose/place, is/certainties, inflates/solidities, friend/sand are but small chimes only half heard in the back of the mind, perhaps re-minding us, without our knowing it, of something we did not even know we had forgotten.  And Dickinson's hymn meter (the Yellow Rose of Texas aside,) recalls to her devout 19th century audience (hardly any of whom had actually read her poems) their own familiar church and God.  It resonates still in our too-wise, 21st century collective memory.  
None of which explains Dickinson, who juggles half a dozen miracles at once: her diction, her syntax, her assonance, her consonance, her metaphors, her amazing x-ray vision.   In a great poem (hers and others') the heap of its parts will never (a)mount to its sum(mit), which is one small clue to its greatness.  My poetics is to aspire to that Parnassus.  How do I get to Parnassus?  Practice.


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