The established laws of form poetry, and the dead white male poet. How do we break away from it? The answer: with time and historical changes. It is no different than learning from the masters, and then trying to either mimic or challenge what they did, taking a form and making it your own. I met a new poet friend for lunch this week, who showed me a new form he is playing with (although I don't think anyone can possibly write the same poem or truly steal poetry, I will only reveal that his poetic form strives to reflect the structure of music in a unique, concrete way). We entered a discussion on whether a new form or idea of poetry would be accepted, since it doesn't necessarily follow the time-tested rules of poetry. Are there rules? Yes, there is definitely a craft and a science to poetry, but there is also room for new expression.
I likened his frontiering endeavour to Bissett. In Bissett's poetry, there is a structure, but the entire infrastructure of language is challenged within that structure. How else did poetry evolve from the iambic pentameter of the Chaucerian age, to the Sonnets of Shakespeare, to the 'no holds barred' cavaliers, to the sentimental romantics, to the prim fundamentalists, to the naturalists, to the modern beatniks and post-modern, free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness poetry, and then reverting back to form and trying something new from the beginning. Always, as poets, we are questioning language -- how we can reign it in, twist it around, make it fit, and finally let it go and transform into what it will. We can hold in the lines, but not always the content that flies off the page. Sometimes, the poem begs to be something else, and if you don't let it - it will find a way anyhow, at times something completely unexpected. Or else it will play dead and not do anything you ask.
We also discussed the notion of the dead, white, male poet - and how His poetry was revered for centuries. Women poets were forced to not reveal their gender when submitting their poetry, and very few or none were brought into the classrooms of the last generations for study. Even fairly recently, students of the 60's were busy re-discovering poets such as Keats and Blake. These poets have their genius and their place, but we are now enjoying an age where a range of female poets are bursting onto the scene.
My friend was acknowledging to me how, by reading my work and the work of other women poets half his age, his perspective is refreshed. He admitted that he never would have been inclined to explore the poetry of female voices when he was younger. As a young man, perhaps he felt a young woman's perspective of the world would clash with his own ideals, or simply not have anything of substance to offer him. How far from the truth. We are not classes of race or gender - we are human beings (I believe I've stressed this point before). As human beings, we are all going to view the world and interact with it differently, given our own personal environments and history that shapes our path and existence; how we perceive everything. At a later stage, my friend was able to look at this writing of a wholly different perspective than his own, and appreciate the fresh view. As well, to his astonishment, many of the themes and ideas and perceptions meshed with his own. He wrote a poem, which he shared with me, about his coming to the words of women poets who were not born when he was first navigating his way through poetry, and the gifts they bring him.