I am drawn to authors who can express an idea or thought within an emotional context that doesn't degenerate into sentimentality. Stirring feelings is not enough. Most of the poems on this forum are just that ---feelings. Feelings about love...feelings about death....feelings about life. When they should be about love, death, life...etc.What poem do you think to be good? or great? and what draws you to a particular poem or author?
I will give you a few examples of what I mean. I'm sure every one here has read these poems at one time or another...so I know it's nothing new. But it's the only way I can demonstrate what I mean.
The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing
Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.
Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers' terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before red apoplectic streetcars--
Misfit in any space. And never on time.
A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease.
In traffic of wit expertly manoeuvre
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.
Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gayly in love's unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.
Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses--
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.
John Frederick Nims (b. 1914)
These two poems have totally different subject matter. Neither is sentimental. The Ball Turret Gunner's death is emotionally powerful because we aren't being manipulated by mere sentiment or "cheap" feelings. It's more than just a "description". There's an idea behind it.
Nims' "Love Poem" isn't just a catalogue of cliches about the way he feels. When you read this poem...you get the distinct idea that he's talking about a real woman and that he is really in love with her.
Now, I don't expect anyone here to rise to the level of these "minor" poets. But poetry shouldn't be therapy. Or at least it shouldn't be therapy all the time. There is nothing wrong with introspection...but if you are not careful (or talented enough) when you attempt to write poetry it will come out as just an emotional spasm. And the fact that people will respond to an emotional spasm with sympathetic clucking is nice... but it doesn't mean its poetry.
Fire when ready, Gridley!