Arizona, is one of those towns—every state has one—that gets called “unique.”
Or “colorful.” Or “quirky.” Which can be a polite replacements for other terms.
As it turns out, Arizona is blessed with two such communities: Bisbee, in the
southeastern part of the state, and Jerome, half-way between Phoenix and the
Grand Canyon. Both are former mining towns that had to reinvent themselves when
the mines closed. Both became havens for artists and folks who didn’t quite fit
course, no town would function if all the residents fit that description, so
there are plenty of people in Bisbee who are simply more flexible and forgiving
of the quirks of the more unusual residents. Debrah Strait is one of that
first encountered De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems Gone Wrong as a text
book for an undergraduate English course I had to take to build up my
humanities credits before I could be accepted into a Master’s Degree program in
English at the University of Central Oklahoma. Author W. D. Snodgrass’s idea,
to take 101 highly-regarded poems, from Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare to
Donald Hall’s 1990 “The Man in the Dead Machine,” and turn them into something
less than great, is an interesting one, particularly as an academic exercise.
He groups the poems into five general categories—abstract and general versus
concrete and specific; undercurrents; the singular voice; metrics and music;
and structure and climax—and focuses his “de/composition” work in these areas.
a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware, is both a
good enough poet to do this, and one not good enough. Why do I say that?
the one hand, when “de/composing” each poem, he maintains its poetic structure,
in particular its form and its rhyme and beat patterns, while reducing the
qualities that made the poem stand out. With some poems, he even provides alternative
versions with different beat patterns or number of beats per line. In a few
cases, he even shows early drafts by the poet him- or herself, so the reader
can see how the poem developed.
of this is fine, even excellent… for an advanced poetry student who has the
time and guidance to study each poem and absorb the lessons the