What Else Can a Poem Be?

by Arthur Klepchukov

The following snippet of Jack Morgan’s review of blinks of awe brings up some fun questions:

…it’s hard to judge his poetry by itself because it isn’t. Are we going to start judging poetry like we do films and plays, where every job is criticized on its own merit? Should I take the sound production on its own and talk about that? We get a lot of new questions from work like this, which might be why Klepchukov made it in the first place.

Jack is referring to the unique qualities of the poetry in blinks of awe: the book lets you see my visual representation of each poem and lets you hear how I feel each poem should sound. How do you judge poetry by itself when other elements are involved? More importantly, do you even have to?

Why can’t our opinion of a poem be influenced by its fonts, its layout, the texture of its background, the way it sounds in our mind, or the way the poet reads it? There are a multitude of other elements we’ve yet to see, each of which can completely change our opinion. Yes, the words are first and foremost. But do we have to stop there? Who says poetry has to be black text on a white page? Centuries of what poetry is supposed to be? That’s like saying we shouldn’t embrace ebooks because paper books are the way books are supposed to be. 1

The experience of choosing, designing, and recording each of the poems in blinks of awe has changed every single poem in the book. Choosing or creating the perfect image to complement a poem grounded it’s message. Finding a better font changed the mood of the content. Recording what I heard in my head when I re-read my own words inspired edits that I believe wouldn’t have happened otherwise. How successful I was is up to you, the reader. I welcome a critical assault on all those fronts. In any case, you will have a different experience than if I just handed you the same poems without the associated imagery, fonts, and sounds. Part of this experiment is you helping me create a new idea of what poetry can be.

Definitions change. Why not consider something new, something uncertain? Let’s inspire new readers by expanding the very idea of what a poem is.

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1 I’m borrowing this very clever point about negative biases towards ebooks based on paper books from J.A. Konrath.