Sunday, November 14, 2021

Bongenback’s “The Resistance to Poetry”: A Short Summary

Bongenback’s position, that what makes poets and poetry so powerful as well as entertaining is the way in which they resist themselves from power, meaning, relevance, wisdom, etc., is the compelling paradox the chapter “The Resistance to Poetry” seems to be built on. To support his case, Bongenback has drawn so many examples from the ancient Graeco-Roman to the present ages. Yeats’ advice to Pound, “Do not be elected to the Senate of your country,” (1) for example, is emblematic of how poets resist themselves from powerful social and political positions and want to remain in the margin, outside of the power. To Bongenback, however, “the marginality of poetry is in many ways the sources of its power” (1). Poems inspire our trust by not asking them “to be trusted” (1). They resist truth because they contain the language of self-questioning and metaphors that go against themselves and create disjunction (1-2). This could also be a key function of poetry, because “a poem’s obfuscation of the established terms of accountability might be the poem’s most accountable act” (1-2).


Bongenback seems to be searching for the things that inspire poets to write their poetry. Considering a wide array of poets, from Callimachus to Dickinson, what he finds is that most often these poets have resisted the temptation of being popular, and even explicitly relevant to their time and society. They consciously chose a secluded life and the assumption that poetry is irrelevant sometimes acted as a “liberating” (6) force for them. But at the end of the day, this resistance to being relevant has made them so relevant and entertaining to read. Finally, it can be said that poets’ self-resistance is the source of the reader's pleasure. In terms of the pedagogical value, Bongenback’s “The Resistance to Poetry” can open a wide range of implications for understanding and teaching poetry in general. One thing that strikes me is the chapter’s relevance to resistance poetry. Resistance poetry is a popular poetic genre around the world. It seems that most of the resistance poetry in one way or other is inspired by what Bongenback says in “The Resistance to Poetry”.