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Audience, Risks, and Voigt’s “The Lotus Flowers”

I would have liked to finish that discussion I walked out on yesterday (jeez, Obama) about whether and to what extent poetry is for the poet or a wider audience.  It’s something I think about a lot as a reader, and usually I fall on the side of the audience–because I believe that perhaps the most important thing literature can do is forge intense connections among people in a way little else can.  That’s not to say that I don’t value writing as a tool for the individual to become more in touch with her/himself.  I absolutely think writing is a rewarding act for oneself, but usually I think that kind of writing has more limits than the kind that you revise to make accessible to other readers.

That actually leads me to the biggest risk I found in “The Lotus Flowers”–the specificity of the setting and occasion.  It basically becomes a narrative–it feels like that especially on p. 81, four lines from the bottom of the page, till the end of the poem.  I almost felt like it was too specific description and not enough context for me to jump in.  To put it harshly, I never understood why this particular gathering was worth writing or reading about.  Maybe that isn’t important, maybe Voigt wrote this poem so that the reader can connect with it having little to no understanding of Voigt’s own history.  I hope so, but I just haven’t gotten there yet.  I’d be interested to hear where the class discussion went on this topic and/or to hear what anyone else thinks about audience and risks.


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