A Witless Poetic Itinerary

Simon Brooks Poetry Blog PostBlog Post by Simon Brooks

As a reader and writer of poetry, being a reviewer for Silk Road literary magazine has taught me a few things about the wide world of publishing. First off, there is a lot of material devoid of merit floating through the tubes of the internet. Secondly, there are a lot of journals and magazines that don’t publish certain kinds of pieces, regardless of the merit they actually might have. At Silk Road, we have been trying to find written work that lends an international perspective to an audience, and for some reason, I have had to sift through countless poems about death and approximately four poems about frogs.

As a writer, one should probably find out which publishers accept which kinds of material before deciding which publisher he or she would suit best, and only then should a decision be made about where the piece is sent. Of course, this is all granted that a written work of a specific theme or genre is worth the paper it is printed on. Honestly, I am not pretentious, arrogant, condescending, dismissive, snobby, or presumptuous, but lately, I have been reading lots of good poetry, and it would be an understatement to say that basically every poem I went through paled in comparison.

Now that that’s off my chest, I would like to say a few things about themes of poetry: Some are fitting, and some are not understandable to regular people. It pains me to say so, but readers constitute the entire reason that anything has ever, in the history of any language since the beginning of thought, been published, and most of those readers are regular people. Without the reader, one’s poem is pure catharsis, just as cutting cans with a samurai sword is.

I have heard many a person say “people are stupid.” I have said that myself. During my stint as a reviewer, there have been many poems that seemed to not be about anything when I finished reading the last line. Some poets would tell me that I am stupid, and others would sit down with me and try to articulate the poetic motif that had struck their very hearts with an inspiring bolt of sluggish transcendence. Both of those poets need to work on their writing. Other poems I read during my reviewing stint were slightly entertaining and instructing, but Silk Road magazine was not a publisher that wanted anything to do with their subject matter.

In the art of poetry, there is a cunning connection that one can make between style and content. In the realm of publishing, there is an immediate relation between what was written and what is desired. A great writer works with all of these aspects in a way that brings the written word to life, so to speak. A mediocre writer works with two of these aspects, if “what is written” is still being counted as one. There is just one way to fix a disparity between either association, and that is with research or study.

Silk Road Assistant Editor: Simon Brooks

Simon Brooks photoMajor: Creative Writing

Graduation Year: 2015

Hometown: Ketchikan, Alaska

What do you look for in a Silk Road piece (or any writing)?

I am reviewing poetry for Silk Road. In a poem, I look for strong sensory details, tangible images, original descriptions, assessments of systems that provide profound perspectives on other systems that affect life, a lack of unnecessary words, sounds that go well together, rhythm, cohesion of ideas, seamless transitions, specificity, reciprocity, control of narrative, visceral verbs, innovation in creativity, accessible language, words with multiple associations, striking connotations, wit, thoughtful comparisons, aesthetic contrasts, relevant concepts, emotive power, unique notions, emphasis, philosophical residue, and/or an interesting message that I can agree with by the end of the poem.

If you could have ANY job once you graduate, what would you love to do? Money is no object.

If I could have any job once I graduate, I would love to write novels, poems, essays, short stories, articles, manifestos, a column, and maybe a memoir after enough time has passed, but definitely not screen plays. Someone else would be hired to translate one of my novels into a screenplay, but only under the condition that I closely oversaw every step of the process and approved every line. I would probably help direct the film, because the story would be mine and books that are made into movies seldom do justice. Also, every other week, I would get paid to be a judge in a competition of the world’s finest chef’s and bakers. Each round of the competition would have a different theme of renowned cuisine from different cultures all over the globe. Maybe I would write a gimmicky poem about the best dish of each round, and it would be put on the menu of whatever restaurant served that dish.

Do you have any authors (or pieces of literature) that inspire you?

Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite novelist. In my opinion, The Sirens of Titan is his best work. It inspires me because the science fiction narrative that’s present is captivating and relates so directly to the non-scientific nonfiction of (everyday) life. I do not have a favorite poet. William Blake, William Butler Yeats, William Stafford, William Shakespeare, William Carlos Williams, William Wordsworth, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Alexander Pope, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Robinson Jeffers, Charles Bukowski, John Donne, and John Keats are all inspiring poets because I suppose they fulfill the criteria put forth in my answer to the first question, on some level.

What does Silk Road embody to you? What words would you use to describe Silk Road to someone who knows nothing about it?

Silk Road, to me, as someone with about a month’s experience with it, embodies an opportunity for students to learn about the many perils and gratuities of the publishing realm. Also embodied is the importance of the written craft, and it pains me to say this, but I have been taking too large a part in the embodiment of the disappointment that comes with bad poetry’s rejection. There are so many poems that get submitted, and there is no room in the magazine for poems that aren’t of a higher quality. I had never realized how many poets there really are, and I will never realize how many good poets there are. I’ve made some all too insensitive comments about the possible writing processes of these learning poets.