Poetry for Southern California


Maria Machado Guest Editorial










Genius and Craft

by Maria Machado

Recognition of patterns is fundamental to the way the human mind works.

 Some people are only capable of recognizing patterns of seasons, night and day, and suchlike. Others can recognize patterns in sounds. Some of us can play on and elaborate those patterns in a way that goes beyond our own individual taste and can make patterns that say something to other people. That can manifest themselves as music, poetry and many other art forms.

 Poetry has a different set of dimensions from music, because it can draw on and evoke explicit meaning as well as raw emotion.

 With either art form, there are those people whose understanding of the patterns is instinctive and comes without the need to study them. There are also those who, no matter how much they study, will never even begin to master them. And there are all manner of people between those extremes. But I would say that even the genius would gain something from a formal study of the patterns behind their craft and indeed would probably want to study them. I'm sure Mozart needed no formal musical instruction to be a genius, but probably benefited from it for all that.

 The same is true of those poets to whom we apply the word genius. They were grounded in mastery of their craft, and that includes the poets we associate with free verse, projective verse, the Beats, and other poets who eschew traditional form. They were perfectly capable of writing a sonnet, a ballad, or a sestina. The true and creative abandonment of closed verse comes from its mastery.

Maria Machado is a poet and student of at the University of Havana studying modern US Literature.