February 5, 2007

The "Real" Poem vs. The Fake Poem

That is, even if we could discover what the poem meant to its author or its original audience, we still would not have discovered the full range of the "legitimate" meanings of the poem. In short, the "real" poem, in this argument, is not the poem in the author's mind at the moment of creation, so there is little point in searching for that mind or that moment.
Donald Keesey (Contexts for Criticism)

The "real" poem: The poem that is presented to the audience for approval or disapproval.

The fake poem: The poem that is understood by the audience in the fashion that the poet intended. The poem that is deciphered down to the point that there is nothing more to be learned from it. (Side note - if a poem gets to the point where its fake-ness cannot be deigned, it probably wasn't a very good poem to begin with.) (Side side note - To the poet, I have a feeling that every draft until the final draft of all their work is fake.)

The battle: Is it what the audience thinks the poem is, or what the author wanted the audience to think the poem is?

Which side do you choose?

I'm on the side of the "real" poem. (Note the prejudice of the name and sides of the battle.) I don't think that what the poet wanted his or her audience to get out of the poem is what really matters. I think what matters is what the audience actually gets out of it. After all, the audience are the people reading it. When the audience reads it shouldn't matter. If the audience of the poet's lifetime read it and loved it - good for the poet. If the audience of the poet's lifetime read it and hated it - not so good for the poet. But if the audience surpassing the author's lifetime read it and see the beauty of the linguistics - that is a "real" poem.

In defense of the fake poem however, what the poet did with the poem does indeed matter. I just think it stops there. The poet wrote (past tense) the poem. The audience reads (present tense) the poem. So it is a question of which has more value, the past or the present; and that is a matter of opinion.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at February 5, 2007 12:32 PM | TrackBack

I think you made a very great argument for both the real and fake poem.
I am going to agree with you a little.
I do think that the authors intentions are semi-important but not in a reader interpretting the work in their own opinon. I also think that sometimes readers and critics look to much into the intent when trying to interpret the work.

Posted by: Denamarie at February 5, 2007 10:04 PM

It isn't just that the whole thing is a matter of opinion, it also matters how well you defend that opinion and how many other people have the same opinion. And even if you are in favor of basing value on what the reader is actually reading, that doesn't mean that studying what the poet might have been trying to say can't and won't be insightful for the reader in determining the present value.

Posted by: Lorin at February 8, 2007 8:35 AM
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