In 1901, a woman threw herself over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She was the first to survive this trip, which she had executed specifically for fame and fortune, though she earned more of the former than the latter. Despite world-wide headlines and a number of speaking engagements, she remained poor, hawking photo-ops and signatures to tourists. She also wrote a novel about the experience.
“It seems to me that there are only two essential things we bring to our creative work: our tools–language or fabric or paper–and the truth of our own experience, our own psychic realities. For years, I tried to write in traditional narrative forms, but I struggled with moving a plot forward in time. As much as I wanted a kind of cohesive linearity, it was not something I could do. Both the truth of my experience–which is living between places and with rupture–and what I am interested in aesthetically is about resisting boundaries and creating some kind of meaning out of chaos, from fragments.”
Good poetry is good poetry because of who wrote it. If you want to get fancy about it, it’s an index of the culturally defined experiences of the author and the ways that author has taken agency within them, has interacted with his or her own received cultural and historical condition. Poetry isn’t good simply because it has kickass slant rhyme or wicked trippy imagery but because it employs those techniques mimetically to engage heritages and traditions that constitute the wisdom—and oppressions—of most acute concern at a given historical moment.