Jejudo, South Korea
I agree with JP as well. I also agree with Ron from a writer's point of view, I think it is important to communicate some idea, some feeling, some image that allows the writer to encapsulate his or her contradictory thoughts and feelings. On my poem, 'The Talk Show' I was recently asked to explain what I meant. I am however not sure how to respond.
I suppose I could say that I was just ranting on the sheer vacuity of mass media conversations -- philisophical sound bites (and the audience goes 'Ohhhh'), the problems in being judged by people who don't know you (in a sixty minute time frame), and the urgent need for quick fixes, answers, and conclusions that leave me less satisfied than if you just left the whole thing alone. On the other hand, I was also indulging in a tempered writer's fantasy that I would ever be famous enough to be on a talk show (even though I said small talk show, I pictured Jay Leno as the host). I was also trying to create the dizzying sensation of success/defeat at the same time: I wanted this but not like this. Furthermore, I wanted to look at the idea of public confessions and how sometimes I wonder if they are created more by the situation at that moment and not by some deep rooted problem (alcoholics don't get drunk on one drink but I tried to make it clear that the character was a little drunk on something and the ultimate dissatisfaction that comes from satisfying desire).
And there's some more stuff too I suppose.
I use the narrative mode for my poetry because it's the one I'm most comfortable with and feel that it allows me to express this stuff without having to explain everything. I also believe that it allows the expression of what can seem some pretty complex ideas at times(but that may be my own arrogance talking). I'm also a shameless self-promoter of my own poetry as I hope this post makes abundantly clear.
So what does my poem mean? What was my intent? I think that it changes so fast that it's hard for me to say. I worry that a reader of my poetry will start to look for the 'answer' to this question and either get bored or miss what I hope is the richness of any poem I write (I try to make it rich anyway). The funny thing is even as I reread my own poems, the meaning shifts for me.
As a reader, by getting away from the writer's intent (What are you trying to say?), I can look at the words themselves and make up my own mind about what it means. Now, I'm only going to do this if the poem works for me at some point, makes me feel or see something that I think is interesting. I don't worry about being right and I don't worry about being wrong. If the writer disagrees with what I say, I can either change my mind or reread the poem and try to persuade he/she and others that my opinion has validity. If I'm persuasive, the best the author can do is say "I didn't intend it that way" but my response would be "so" -- you can't own meaning and not even the author is ever completely in control of the words they use. If the author is persuasive, then I'll change my mind. Actually, if we move away from the sovereign reign of the author, two readers can have the same discussion. Who is right? Who is wrong? It doesn't matter. What matters is who is more persuasive.
I think a lot of people are still caught up in the 'riddle theory of poetics' and it makes reading poetry harder than it should be.
Why I write is a different question altogether and that, as well, is a topic for another thread.
Does this make any sense?