What themes do you explore in your poetry? | Yuli Gugolev | Big Think


Gugolev’s response to this question is thought provoking, but a bit arch. I wonder how many poets and writers sit down to write by saying, “I’m going to explore this theme?” On the other hand, I could easily point out what broad thematic category my poems fall into.

One of my teachers said all poems are about death, and he was only half joking.

Usually I have a feeling, an image, a thought, or even a tangle of all three, that I start to work out in a free write. But when I look at many of the poems and stories I’ve written this last year, most of them revolve around sex, love, and death.

What do you think? How would you respond to the question? Do you set out to explore a theme? Are you working on a particular project in which each story or poem is somewhat planned from the beginning? Or do you write individual poems that in the end seem to make a cohesive whole?

3 thoughts on “What themes do you explore in your poetry? | Yuli Gugolev | Big Think

  1. Bob Wood says:

    I don’t think Gugolev is being arch possibly because I have always thought “theme” was a weak concept. To the extent that universals are expressed, it is through particulars. People sometimes have interesting things to say about writing particular books of poetry like “let the poems talk to each other.” You might call that finding a theme. Certainly cycles of poems can be planned, moving through childhood, a relationship, the seasons, a liturgy, a country… But the chances that individual poems will just happen to form a cohesive whole is unlikely without some revision, weeding, discovery, sorting. Or so the successful tell me.


  2. christine says:

    I agree, “arch” is kind of harsh. Maybe “coy” would be a better word. And there was also the issue of language, as he’s Russian.

    You have done the weeding and discovery, and you were successful. _Gorizia Notebook_ is a gem.

    Maybe he just doesn’t like talk about his own poetry, which I can understand.


  3. EKSwitaj says:

    I find it more interesting to talk about words the recur than about themes. In the past, “red” and “blood” have been common for me, but I think that’s fading. “Water” is becoming more common.


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