It is what you do not say that matters most in poetry.
But how do you not say something?
If I could tell you I would let you know.
This happens to be one of W.H. Auden’s best lines.
But Auden is dead, so he’s not in this tournament.
Peter Gizzi is, and Gizzi has published haunted lyrical poems for some time now, and shows he understands the trope with this line:
No it isn’t amazing, no none of that.
Downplaying things is the modern way in poetry.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, though, was good at it, too:
“Corridors of Time” is weak. Poe excoriated Longfellow on many occasions for things like this.
But “The Day Is Done” by Longfellow as a whole is still a magnificent poem. Longfellow doesn’t downplay rhythm in his poem. He wants to rest, but his poem doesn’t. Longfellow was a professor at Harvard, had married into money, was very famous, and Poe was a little bit jealous. Yet Poe tended to be correct in all his criticisms of Longfellow. Jealous does not mean wrong.
But some say, oh they do say, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Maura Stanton is Gizzi’s opponent, and her line—which is about everything because it is about nothing—is one of those lines we all wish we had written.
We didn’t, and because we didn’t, we weep that Maura Stanton did.
Who made me feel by feeling nothing.