American Poetry [Gerry LaFemina]

In Memory of Thomas Lux

I recognize these claims I make are not science-based. I praise American poetry’s diversity for its diversity is its strength. Each poem conceived in a climax of inspiration—an image or an overheard phrase, or a word banned by bureaucrats, committees or point-totaling politicians, or you name it. Then the gestation of drafts.

I’m aware this is a terrible metaphor, but the poem becomes fetus and eventually gets its entitlement of a title. Most Americans don’t care, don’t read poems any more than they read medical journals. They remain ambivalent about peer reviews. Not that it matters.

Nor does it matter that sometimes revisions are transgenre-d—prose poems longing for lineation and vice versa: verse (free and formal both) believing it should be a paragraph, wanting only the cadence of the sentence. How vulnerable each word, each syllable. What evidence-based claims might the critics down the hall make with their deconstructions about these matters? I couldn’t construct their hypotheses or their outcomes, only know the myths of their methodologies. I wouldn’t want anything else. I recognize my claims are not science-based, but I praise American poetry for its diversity. Its diversity is its strength.


Gerry LaFemina’s newest collection of poetry, The Story of Ash, is forthcoming in 2018. His other books include numerous collections of poetry, prose poetry, and fiction, as well as Palpable Magic: Essays on Poetry and Prosody and the textbook Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically. He is an Associate Professor of English at Frostburg State University, and a writing mentor at the Carlow University MFA program.

Inspiration: My initial impulse was to pass on this project because I felt the pull to write a poem that was pedantic would be too hard to resist. It was only when looking at the word transgender and seeing how,  with a slight juxtaposition of letters, it could become transgenred that I found my “in” into the poem, which was to celebrate American poetry in all its amazing diversity, thus avoiding some of those potential pitfalls.


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