It is time to repent my sins. Recently, I have been asking myself if poetry is exempt from a need to entertain. Is the act of reading a poem or a book of poetry an escapist, amusing, joyous diversion from the rigours of reality? Or is it something more tedious, cold-blooded, blandly intellectual – an act not of enjoyment, but of control and imposition?
If you scan enough poetry criticism, it would be fair to assume that entertainment is a distant consideration in measuring poetic quality. The contemporary critic seems less intent on enjoying the work than on trying to explain it; in effect, coming to own it, being smarter than it, displacing it for the critic’s own broad theories and elucidations. Poetry criticism is a show whose performative message is, ‘I belong here. I get this.’