A Spectrum of Aesthetics, Part II: Arda Collins

casey - 07

Off I 75 in North Georgia

The following passage continues where I left off in the first post about contemporary poetry.

Contemporary poetry, and contemporary art in general, reveals the Zeitgeist of the 21st century–we seem to live in a moment in which we are reevaluating the myths that motivate us; as a culture we question the roles language, poetry (or art), science, and religion play in our lives. This reconsideration of reality has produced eclectic collections from both younger and older poets.

Each of the books we discussed this semester in our contemporary poetry course, in varying degrees, serves as a barometer of our country’s mood as perceived through the feelings and thoughts of the individual poet, although the psychological and emotional landscapes differ in their representation.

I will identify some essential questions that underlie or motivate three of the individual projects, examining poems from It Is Daylight by Arda Collins, Matthew Dickman’s All-American Poem, and Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife. My hope is that these sample poems will serve as emblems for the poets’ overarching motivations to write, as well as illustrate the wide spectrum of aesthetics in contemporary American poetry.

Among the books we studied, Arda Colin’s It Is Daylight represents the collection least inclined toward the Romantic ideal of union with nature. Luis Glück, who chose Collins’s collection for the Yale Younger Poet’s Prize, characterizes Collin’s poetry as “savage, desolate, brutally ironic” (vii).

Glück later states that “[a]t the heart of the poems is shame, which results not from something the poet has done, but rather from being” (vii). Even though there is an overt depiction of shame in Collins‘ collection, I would say the heart of her poems also contains a desire to understand what being alive means to a neurotic speaker (whom we shouldn’t confuse with the author). Continue reading