My name is Max Roderick and this is my cozy little corner of the internet. Here you’ll be able to find a selection of my poetry, some articles and musings on the subject, and various other odds and ends.
I’d like this to be a welcome home for those curious about contemporary poetry, which seems almost to be a contradiction in terms in the twenty-first century. I have no proper credentials, only my decades of practice and scattered readings, and here I’m going to attempt to turn that failing to my advantage. You see, I think poetry is in a rough spot.
We have “slam poets” preaching to the choir, reciting safe polemics to their political allies while asserting their own bravery. We have “instagram poets” who offer affirmation to the creatively destitute, churning out truisms in the style of a corporate greeting card. The poets of the academies, meanwhile, have learned their craft so strictly that the human soul barely seems to squeak through the structures. None of them are to blame; the age of salesmanship, of opaque profitability, is upon us, and challenging work is rarely profitable.
In the modern age everything strives to be egalitarian, accessible, and to some extent simple. Poetry, however, is necessarily inaccessible. When you read a poem for the first time it so often loses you, you float away from it, you get to know it only by vague impressions. This is not the failing of an amateur reader, this is an important part of the experience of poetry. If a poem were instantly understood, it could not be instantly felt. The poet contrives ways to keep it inaccessible so that it may attack you from unseen angles.
There are other ways to read poetry, and I do think good poetry should lavish in scrutiny, is at its best when each new attempt at scrutiny is only another frustrated attempt at understanding, revealing another unexpected attack — until, in the final summation, its solution is both a universal solution and a personal revelation. This is my poetic ideal, and it couldn’t possibly survive social media, open mics, or rote learning.
I’m not quite an expert, but I am an incredibly dedicated amateur. Many who explore poetry are little more than tour guides, showing an audience points of interest and giving them a satisfying conclusion. I will attempt to explore it as a jungle, and if you and I make it through a poem at all, I hope we will both be left with the impression that it is larger and more mysterious than it ever seemed from the outside. Do not mistake this attitude as uncritical or averse to research — every expedition sets the terms of its own approach, and every tool we can think of will find its use at some point, I’m sure.