Poetry is most likely deemed successful if it does two things:
1. It describes what must happen.
2. It describes it as it must be described.
Most people, looking back at their lives, would say, I could have, or should have, done it another way, sure.
Poets, however, tend to feel uneasy as poets unless they are able to say, I had to write that.
Most people might see their freedom as a certain point of pride: there’s nothing that I must do. I did that because I liked it.
But poets would almost rather say: I had to write those poems, and I had to write them as I did. I had no choice.
How else to explain the furious truth of this by Brenda Hillman:
Talking flames get rid of hell.
That had to be said. Only Brenda Hillman could have said it.
It talks of hell and how hell exists, but does not exist; it talks of how flames may or may not talk, and flames might be people or they might not be people.
It has the stamp of poetry, and there’s nothing more to say about it.
Marla Muse: What do you mean, Tom? You always have more to say.
This time I don’t. I’m saying something which is too difficult to explain.
Marla Muse: Because Brenda Hillman said something too difficult to explain?
Marla Muse: Tom, you are so awesome.
Lyn Hejinian’s line succeeds on the same principle:
You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon.
Obviously this has many meanings.
Marla Muse: Many meanings.
Marla, if you were not here to help me, I don’t know what I’d do.
Lyn Hejinian (pictured above) wants to be loved.
So does Brenda Hillman.
This tournament shows this from a certain angle.