The Economics of a Poem

In an earlier part of my life I earned  a master’s degree in organizational management.  It’s no surprise as I look back now that it was the overuse of the left side of my brain (along with having a new baby) that catapulted me into writing poetry during this same period of life.  One of the classes that was the most challenging for me was economics.  One theory or law has stuck with me, though, and it is the Law of Diminishing Returns.  In an assignment, I had to describe what this law means in my own words, and my response was this:  the law of diminishing returns could be explained through (of all things) leftovers!  You see, when you first eat the meal, let’s say it’s a homemade pizza, all warm and cheesy with fresh tomatoes, basil, and oregano, it tastes great.  But when you go back for lunch the next day, it is just not as good for some reason.  Something about re-heating it…the basil is all shriveled and has lost its potency.  And then, by the third day, well, you only take a bite or two and off into the trash that stale soggy slice goes.  I know this is not how Allen Greenspan would describe diminishing returns (and it’s certainly not what you’ll find in the management lit), but it is how this poet does…

So what does this have to do with poetry?  Well, no one wants the Law of Diminishing Return to apply to her poem.  Nope.  What she wants is for her poem to be just as potent at the first read, the second read, and the 100th read.  In fact, she wants the opposite of diminishing return.  Just think if each time the reader returns to your poem, she finds something new that she missed the first or second time.  Like an onion (without the stink), the poem is full of surprising layers.  Yes.  This is what a great poem should do.  It’s akin what the Mother of American Poetry, Ms. Emily said, If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.  I’d say this quote applies best to a great poem – one that you read again and again and feel dizzy for doing so.  Even if you know the outcome of the poem, the emotions in it, its essence, its imagery and craft invite you back with the same loving embrace it did the first time.  Oh, what an aim for a poem, what return!

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3 thoughts on “The Economics of a Poem

  1. I know what you say about poetry is true in my experience in wisdom sayings and some of the Psalms. I will see a new layer of meaning. It could be that because of my change in life makes it able for me to understand the same phrase in a new light. I would suggest that a good poem gets better because we are able to connect primary stream of thought to a new life situation. That’s my two cents. Keep up the blog.
    Dad

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  2. Hi Rosemary, thanks for e-mail answer re: Eastern ky appalachian conference. I goggled the weekend there and a lot going on, applicable, culturally edifying , and historically interesting to me. here’s something subscribe to. it is Cory Doctorow’s third party reader folded into my e-mail. Cory is EL’s son, I’m thinkin’. I’m interested in his promotion schema and wiles and ways to promote small press work as well as major house submissions. ( how he goes about promoting. very interesting.) to begin if you wish…. go to http://www.ctyme.com/mailman/listinfo/doctorow. enjoy. i’m finding it fascinating and the engine that drives his promotion is a natural extension of blogging. I was at St Lawrence writers conference back in 1990’s sometime and I think just after seymour lawrence folded his publications efforts.It might have been Black Swan Press ‘m thinkin’. Jayne Ann Phillips didn’t show that year, she was off on a promo of the second printing of “Black Tickets.” E.L had a fiction seminar and I told him I wrote long- form narrative poetry and he repiled” Is there a difference?” and left me to ponder that one. cheers fred tarr

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