I am reading Tom Clark's selected poems, Light & Shade. Tom is the epitome of the minor poet; the journeyman, the friend of better known writers.
There's nothing wrong with his poems. Well, actually there is. His poems are good, not great. You can pick up his book and find several poems that grab your attention. A phrase here or an image there that holds true and shines. But then you'll read for pages inwardly shrugging your shoulders.
The fact is, Clark's poems are better than most of what's out there. They aren't obscure (intentionally), they aren't pretentious, they don't pretend to be something they are not. His poems are, as a whole, a fairly complete record of a man's life, his thoughts, and his milieu. Clark writes out of his experience and the settings of his poems read like the travelogue of a life: New York, San Francisco, Europe, Santa Barbara, etc.
Unfortunately, Clark's thoughts and expressions are just not very deep. It is a damning assessment of a person's life and artistic work to say so, but I am afraid it is both true and far too often the case with modern poets. Clark isn't alone. And of the horde of minor poets, he's actually quite good. But it doesn't get better than that.
So I am reading his book and I am finding things to enjoy. But I am thinking more about why it was written than what was written. And although I'll probably read it to the end, I don't expect I'll be going back to it any time soon. If ever. I'd like to like the book more, but I don't think that will happen.