Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, in a 2016 chat with a Wall Street Journal reporter, talked about “banging his head” against the likes of Joyce, Pound and their attendant difficulties and his eventual decision to align himself with poets like Philip Larkin and Robert Frost and “poets, who dare to be clear.” Superb models to use if you're aspiring to write in contiguous sentences, unmarred by needless line breaks. Poetry readers should be grateful that Collins found his voice in the place where the conversations are actually happening, in the world and not the rheumy chambers of a book-addled soul. Difficult poetry that is actually good is difficult to write, and there are only a few among the millions who do so who actually deserve attention, praise, and continued discussion. At this stage, it becomes increasingly the case that there are far too many poets in the world who are trying to out-perform Stevens, Eliot, Stein, Olson in pushing the limits of poetry; the last group I paid attention to who managed difficulty that intrigued, provoked and which stopped making sense in a variety of works that made younger poets like myself examine the tropes I was using and attempt, with some success, to put it back together again, perception and images in newer works that come out just a little more out of the long shadow of previous and still present genius.
I might mention as well that Collins' work seems to be a sequence of experiences that are uninterrupted by work situations. Others can, I imagine, provide me with poems of his where work is an element, a strong one, perhaps even the subject of the poem, but it occurs to me that Collins, at least in many of his poems, is a flâneur, a walker in the city, a watcher, the character who observes, records, relates the isolated bits of daily experience, testing the limits of his ideas, constantly re-acquainting himself with his fallibility. Please don't mistake that for a bad thing. It's nice work if you can get it.