Friday, June 26, 2009
Dipalma, Raymond (Ray) ed.
Doones Volume 1 Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 (all published).
Bowling Green, Ohio: Raymond Dipalma, 1969-70. First edition. 8vo. Wraps. All four numbers of Dipalma's little magazine of experimental poetry, published in Ohio before he moved to New York City. Contributors include Ted Berrigan, Merrill Gilfallan, Ted Greenwald, Darrell Gray, Anselm Hollo, Robert Kelly, James Tate, Bill Knott, Ron Silliman, Larry Fagin, etc. Condition is near fine to fine with minor toning. Price: $125.00
What can I say—
it was the Sixties, man.
"ActionYes" is an always-interesting webzine that publishes poetry in translation as well as English originals—
reading its latest issue the poet whose work I was most struck by is Andrew Lundwall . . .
I suspect that if I were his age I'd probably be trying to write this sort of thing:
by Andrew Lundwall
petals will plug porno depths fueled in hammers of look which frogs on the shadows of camp yeah — delirium will you enter me now? the elect scuffed — pepsi midnight is a voracious socket squirts on immortality clinically like that hungrily fuck taped using in rodeo trance to the immense smile — camouflage lambs are lying to seem out some new throbs and confusion a new lion of scrawled eye-catching shackle of want the jazzy spurted fissures — high-speed binoculars of arthritic champagne session engulfed in microwaved captivity — is that a way to wait? asked sacrifice cob i have sold a fir to your eyelids and rationalized their crumbs — bewitchments smoked cyan taillights dragged so nevertheless that it made industrial-strength missionary corridor silver to sound — whimper chewed with painted heartbeat more metaphysical than a bellyful of toes chose
intense minutes of zeros unfolding only the curious mysteries are kissed to it made of horny hallucination in tulip state of squirt — robotic electric typewriter to fix this time unwinds the flakes of star-capital flickered with toy pump turntables about the nerves — walls on which clock knots huddle and painters with magnifying stripes fix over half-inch omen machines — cheekbones all worried to please this powerful hologram musky sewage edges carved with strangers — vise of breath is beautiful in dirty playroom weeks of half-grown details where dancing interferences steer the skeleton of blur about — this mathematical delirium pussy is amazed beyond the hurrah of files
apnea of a trolley orgasms in a load of distress — ecstasy squirmed becomes known into lost clitoris — scared croissants and twisted visitors in galleries of synapse — porno-hurried curtains that province icicles — pee erupted like a stiffening eavesdropper — mermaid phones skull you blew it at desire you fug like a scarf where were you when you sam jesus had a picture of arithmetic? — twisting out incense smudged high-pitched cassettes — thighs are down so much for geographic limbo of the pleasure laser
tower rumbles a mechanical moonlight it passes fast to understand feeds more like a yearning with italian alarms — clothing smoked apart between catholic helicopters and throbs these routes will electric for such blonde galaxies — mnear some shrieked gutter of unconscious rose a brow of shock it is not a waist deciding its frequencies — mouth card burbs transient-colored halloween of windshields — jolts do frantically provide snails of satellites — some perverts in bubble daisy me from your box skin job like a vacuum-sealed consciousness about scrape — gloves wiggling up negative twang of cosmetic steel — searchlights skewered thigh-high squeeze this optic record — crazy-looking someplace of surgical cram opera all that ever icons
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Please don't stick me on any list with Russell Edson.
I've seen my name included alongside Edson's in groupings by various critics and commentators re the USAPO scene, and it gripes me . . .
because I have zero in common with that wealthy gentleman Russell Edson.
Rich poets, upperclass poets, huh—
Edson, Louise Gluck, William Matthews, C.K.Williams, Mark Strand, Richard Howard et al,
money rolling out of their childhoods,
cash propping their educations at the best schools,
trustfunds supporting their poetic practices—
I hate them all. I curse them for a penny—
They are nothing to me.
I've whined and complained earlier on [a previous] blog about the demeaning coverage my last theoretically-real book received from Poetry (Chicago) Magazine.
Until that hackpiece appeared in early 2005, they had not critiqued any of my books for 33 years, in fact since the May 1972 issue where my book “Nights of Naomi” was savaged as part of an omnibus review by Charles Molesworth.
Anyway, between 1972 and 2005, between the time of these two bookend reviews by Molesworth and Meghan O’Rourke,
I published what, 6 or 7 books, none of which Poetry Magazine deigned to take notice of.
Different editors, yes: Daryl Hine in 1972, and Christian Wiman in 2005: but it’s interesting to note that the magazine’s editorial policy toward me did not change in that time.
Just as they used the 2005 “review” to spread vicious gossip about me, so they did the same in 1972. The 1972 review set the tone for the 2005 one.
Here’s an excerpt from the Molesworth:
“Rumor has it that Knott’s habit of giving his birth and terminal dates together originated when he realized he could no longer face the horror of a poetry reading he was scheduled to give.”
So, here’s the sequence:
in 1972 Poetry Magazine prints a rumor that says in effect that I’m afraid to give (I can’t face the horror of) poetry readings—
And guess what happens then, after that "review":
My reading invitations dry up.
No one asks me to read. From that point on, for the next 3 decades,
I barely manage to get an average of about one reading a year.
I receive almost no requests to give readings because everybody knows,
everybody has heard that I can’t “face the horror of a poetry reading.”
Hey: it said so right there in Poetry Magazine.
After they printed that nonsense
—oh yes, they labeled it a “rumor,” but everybody knows how such floaters spread and take on the facsimile of fact—,
after Poetry Magazine used the venue of what was ostensibly a book review to, to,
what’s the term I’m looking for . . . well, what would you call it?
One thing's for sure: after that May 1972 issue appeared, my reading career was destroyed.
There is an alternative truth to this tale:
perhaps my "reading career" was aborted/ thwarted not by this review in Poetry Magazine,
but by the fact that no one liked my crummy lousy poetry enough to invite me to read:
or by the fact that I was no good at giving poetry readings—
I can remember hearing, as I eavesdropped from bathroom stall or around a corner, audience members commenting about how boring and bad my reading was:
I can never remember being praised by anybody in those minuscule groups who attended my infrequent readings,
those scowling scattered-seat-fillers who scuttled so quickly once I had grimaced out my final words—
. . . in fact, the more I think about it, I realize that the reason I didn't get invited to give any (or hardly any) readings
was simply that people hated (hate) my poetry, ergo why should they invite me to read . . .
In fact, I probably got as many invitations as any other fourth-rate poet like me.
Just one question: Poetry Magazine has in its long history published hundreds maybe thousands of reviews of poetry books:
have they ever, in the text of any of those reviews,
printed rumors and gossip about any (living) poet other than me?
Is there a single instance, can you remember a similar case
where the reviewer paused in the course of his or her consideration of the book under review,
parethetically paused to share some precious oddment of rumor gossip about the poet whose work they were supposedly appraising—
can you recall another such incident in the pages of Poetry Magazine?
I haven’t read all those reviews, so I can’t say for sure, but I think not.
I think I am the only one to have been so honored.
What is the motivation of those print poets who insert a lot of dead space into the body of their poems?—
Who spread a poem out over ten pages when it could be printed on two or three with normal stanza and section breaks.
Have you seen the poems that do this?
A few piddly words or phrases appear, clumped or sprinkled on the length and width of each page:
these fragment/segments are surrounded or interspersed by as much blank empty white space
as the size of the book format affords.
Surely their purpose is to use up as much paper as possible, to kill as many trees as they can.
Isn't that why Michael Palmer puts double spaces in between his lines,
so his poems can fill up twice the space that regular poems use, so they can fill up twice the number of pages,
and use up twice the amount of paper, and thereby kill twice as many trees?
(And oh yeah: double his bibliography)—
(Oh but of course it's not
that causes these poets to claim more page-space for their poems than others use,
no, it's an esthetic choice doncha know.)
BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS
T.S. Eliot (looking back in a 1953 lecture) asserted that "[T]he starting-point of modern poetry is the group denominated 'imagist' in London about 1910." If that's true, then—
modern poetry begins with Pound's "In a Station of the Metro":
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Pound's note on this poem quotes a trans. of a haiku ('The fallen blossom flies back to its branch: A butterfly.') by Arakida Moritake (1472-1549).
The fallen blossom soaring back to its branch: the petals on a rain-wet bough.
Both images kigo-ize Spring, the season of beginnings.
Or rebeginnings: April is the cruellest month [because it] stirs dull roots with Spring rain.
Roots and branches. Fore and after.
After World War Two, the foremost movement of new poets to emerge in Japan are called the Arechi, or Waste Land Group. . . . (their eponymous magazine is founded by Tamara Ryuichi). . . .
The fallen blossom flies back to its branch: the Bomb falls on Hiroshima: its vaporized bodies rise: the apparition of the crowd is now a cloud that will rain nothing but ends upon us.
No rebirth, no emergence of poetry movements. The cycle does not continue. The nuclear winter gives way to no Spring, no point of departure . . .
Eliot: "The point de repère usually and conveniently taken as the starting-point of modern poetry is . . ."
Here's how Geof Huth, at "dbqp: visualizing poetics" starts his review of a Kenneth Koch book:
VISUAL POETRY AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Thursday, June 24, 2004
The Impossible Comics of Kenneth Koch
I’m not that familiar with Kenneth Koch’s poetry. I often see him as the spiritual father of Bill Knott, though Koch’s lines are generally more rambling and freer than those of Knott’s.
This is really bizarre.
Koch didn't like me and vice versa.
Koch admirers would gag at the above statement.
If anyone claims Koch is my "spiritual father," I demand a paternity test.
Jeffrey St.. Clair, over at the "counterpunch" site (edited by St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn), said, in a review of one of my books (Laugh at the End of the World, that "Knott resides on anarchist left."
In the same review, he also says "Bill Knott is the funniest poet since J.V. Cunningham,"
though—surely—he wouldn't have said that if he had read
PoChiMag's latest humor-winner Alfred E. Goldbarth!
here's the quote, with source:
Bill Knott is the funniest poet since J.V. Cunningham and, like Cunninghan, at times his humor can have a deliciously vicious edge. Whereas Cunningham (Exclusion of Rhyme) seems to have been something of a rightwinger, Knott resides on anarchist left.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
>>>this appeared as a footnote to the entry for 10/23/07 in Silliman's omnipotent blog:
"If the surrealism of Robert Bly & James Wright was a conscious rebellion against the Boston Brahmin scene around Lowell, the soft surrealists – who emerged after Tate’s sublime first volume, The Lost Pilot – represented a kind of rapprochement. The three who matter are Tate, Simic & Bill Knott, tho one can detect its influence to this day in the work of, say, Dean Young."
I've noted earlier [on a prior blog] my admiration for and envy of Silliman's energy and erudition as expressed almost daily in his blog . . . his enthusiasm and wide-ranging intellect seem awesome. I don't often agree with his opinions about poetry, but c'est la vie I'm always interested (sort of) to read them . . .
High-minded, serious, assiduous, thorough, scrupulous in detail, but even he nods at times, and sometimes he simply doesn't provide enough background info or context for his readers, and the quote above is one example—
most of his readers will recognize the names he mentions: Bly and Wright are internationally known, and Dean Young is famous for being the eminent featured star of Poetry (Chicago) Magazine's monthly "Comedy Issue" . . .
James Tate and Charles Simic are Pulitzer and National Book Award poets, winners of the Wallace Stevens Prize, their work can be found in the Norton, etcetera etcetera, they are two of the most successful poets alive—
but who on earth is this "Bill Knott"?!
Silliman says: "The three who matter are Tate, Simic & Bill Knott . . ." He states this so matter-of-factly and straightforwardly as if he assumed his readers will know who these three are, and of course most will indeed know who Tate and Simic are, won't they,
because Tate and Simic are successful honor-laureled poets, and ergo they "matter."
But Bill Knott? Hunh? Knott has not won such awards nor any of that and Knott will not be found in the Norton nor any other anthol-covering-the-period . . .
Knott is not only not In Print, in fact Knott is humiliated degraded and abjected into suffering the most malvolio'd disgraceful and loathesomest fate any poet can have thrust upon 'em, i.e., to be a "blog poet"!
Contra Silliman, Knott does not and in reality can not "matter" . . .
The syllogism is irrefutable: Tate and Simic matter, their prizes prove it: since their prizes prove they matter,
then Knott's lack of prizes proves he does not matter.
Matter is logical, matter equals Aum squared, and the matter is closed. Matter of fact.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Is there a formula for haiku? This is from the introduction of Hiroaki Sato's book, One Hundred Frogs: From Tanka to Renga to Haiku:
"[A passage] from Toho's Sanzoshi (Three Booklets) [defines haiku as]:
'As for [haiku], it is, philosophically, the mind that goes off and returns. For example, it is like:
Yamazato wa manzai ososhi ume no hana
In this mountain village the comedians are late: plum blossoms
Like the state of mind that simply says, "In this mountain village the comedians are late," and then says, "The plums are in bloom," the mind that goes off and returns is what makes a [haiku].'
The quoted [haiku] is by Basho, and the observation is believed to be his, too. . . . "
A possible version:
The actors [a traveling theatrical troupe] are late this year
to our mountain village:
(I'll return to this poem toward the end of these notes.)
from Modern Japanese Haiku, by Makoto Ueda:
[Kawahigashi] Hekigoto . . . was a tireless experimenter, and restlessly went from one experiment to another throughout his career.
Of all his experiments [one of the most] controversial [was his] idea of 'haiku without a center of interest,' which he began to advocate in 1910.
[This concept] was based on his belief that a poem should come as close as possible to its subject matter, which is part of life or nature.
He thought that if the poet tried to create a center of interest in his poem he would inevitably have to distort his subject matter for the sake of that interest.
'To do away with a center of interest and to discard the process of poeticizing reality
would help the poet to approach things in nature as close as he can,
without being sidetracked by man-made rules,'
insisted Hekigoto . . .
Hekigoto also flaunted the syllabic rule:
as Donald Keene writes in Dawn to the West,
"By 1915 Hekigoto had come to oppose a fixed form for the haiku. . . . [His] free haiku no longer had the familiar haiku shape, but tended to run on to prosaic lengths. He himself preferred to call them 'short poems' (tanshi). This poem, written in 1918, was typical of his new manner:
ringo wo tsumami
I pick up an apple;
I've said everything that was to be said,
But still must repeat.
[Keene notes:] The poem has twenty-four syllables . . . [T]his is hardly a haiku. Konishi Jin'ichi wrote of such poems, 'When one reaches this point . . . haiku disappear[s], both in name and in reality. . . . Hekigoto valiantly forged ahead on his own road, [and came] finally to destroy the road before him.' "
(An interesting metaphor: by advancing on his own road, he destroyed the road before him.)
"An example of 'haiku without a center of interest' which was cited by Hekigoto himself" is the following:
Sumo / noseshi / binsen-no / nado / shike / to / nari
Wrestlers / aboard / ferry's / why / storm / thus / becoming
Wrestlers are aboard
the ferry; why has it become
If even the strongest among us must take the ferry in obeisance to the obstacles presented by the physical world, why is it necessary for Nature to present still more signs of its ruthless power? Will none of our submissions and sacrifices appease that deity?
Remember that T.S. Eliot (looking back in a 1953 lecture) asserted that "[T]he starting-point of modern poetry is the group denominated 'imagist' in London about 1910."
Compare the Wrestlers haiku above to Pound's "In a Station of the Metro":
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Pound's note on this poem quotes an unattributed Japanese haiku ('The fallen blossom flies back to its branch: A butterfly.'), and then says:
"The 'one-image' poem is a form of super-position, that is to say it is one idea set on top of another."
Both poems, to use Pound's phrases, set an idea (or representation) of the human 'on top of' an idea (or image) of nature.
Wrestlers/ferry : storm.
Faces/subway : spring petals on a wet [rained-on] branch.
Note that both present the human idea in transit, in modes of transportation (ferry, train), in linear (singular/irrevocable) passage as opposed to the perennial recurrent manifestations of nature.
The human idea is an apparition compared to the ever-embodied, ever-physical presence of the environment.
Thought as opposed to substance.
(Of course rainstorms and petals are more transitory forms of nature than mountains or oceans, but doesn't this heighten the poignancy of the "super-position"?)
Pound's poem is really a simile which refuses to use its "like": the pale European faces seen against the badly-lit gloom of the subway terminal are like white petals on a black branch.
The Hekigoto is not comparing the wrestlers to the storm, or is it?
—Are the sumo here on the ferry when they should be in the sky struggling with the elemental forces to which they seem most akin?
Apples ripen and fall yearly, the human picks one up and says he's picking one up, and then says that's all there is to be said about the matter, though in response to the repetitive patterns of nature he acknowledges that he too must repeat himself.
Donald Keene: "Hekigoto [advocates] in 1910 the principle of "no-centeredness" (muchushin-ron), by which he meant that natural phenomena should be described exactly as they are without imposing any human standards."
In 1912 Pound writes: "I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object. . . ."
A year later, in 'A few Don'ts of an Imagiste,' he insists that "the natural object is always the adequate symbol."
I've taken these quotes from William Pratt's introduction to The Imagist Poem. Pratt comments:
"Pound [is making a] distinction between the image and the symbol . . . the symbolic meaning must have its source in the literal meaning, and not be imposed upon it."
Here, at the "starting-point of modern poetry," Hekigoto and Pound seem to be of one mind:
"Super-position," yes; imposition, no.
"[T]o discard the process of poeticizing reality would help the poet to approach things in nature as close as he can, without being sidetracked," advises Hekigoto . . . .
Sidetracks, foot-tracks; ghosts, after-effects. One such phantom is translation, or adaptation:
April: and still the Mummers have not come
Up to our mountain village; plum-blossom.
I wonder why the Mummers have not come
This year to our mountain town; plum-blossom.
For some reason the Mummers have not come
This season to our hill-town; plum-blossom.
This year The Rolling Stones have not come
To fill our stadium;
The old men fear, and wonder
If April is really here: plum-blossom.
Up snowthawed roads unplowed the Mummers come
To reach our mountain village; plum-blossom.
This time each year the Mummers used to come
Appear in our mountain town; plum-blossom.
Springtime is when the Mummers always come
To play our mountain town; hey, plum-blossom!
Springtime; but where are the Mummers who play
Each year our mountain town: plum-blossom-spray.
Each Spring a troupe of actors used to come
To amuse our mountain town; plum-blossom.
It's Spring, but the Actors Troupe has not come
To strut our mountain village; plum-blossom.
Spring has come, so where's the Actors who come
To our mountain town each year—; plum-blossom.
The Stray Players are late this year—
Plague or Famine maybe—and we're
Still stuck in this dullsville hill-town . . .
Get that plum-tree's get-up red gown!
Still looking for that Actors Troupe?—
Take off those town gowns: back to bed.
Dull mountain village, all lit up!
Your plum-tree blossoms glare too red.
Some non-plum variants:
The mime-troupe of actors is late this year
To climb to our mountain village up here;
Is that why the trees in whiteface appear.
The Lookout yells them Actors ain't nowhere in sight—
Our mountain village mourns; the orchard wears white.
The Actors Troupe is late this year—
Their audience will sleep tonight;
Our mountain village street's all clear:
Only the trees are out in white.
Where the heck are those Kabuki—
Nothing to do but sleep tonight . . .
Our mountain town looks plain empty;
The trees alone step out in white.
Imagine it's the 17th Century, and you live in a mountain village. During winter you're completely cut off: no phone, no radio, no way of communicating with the rest of the world.
But then, each spring, for as long as you can remember, a traveling theatrical troupe finds its way up through the muddy passes to your tiny hamlet, each year it returns to perform its vaudeville entertainments.
What a delight after the endless tedium of snowbound months. What a joy and how appropriate to the season.
—But this year, for some reason, the actors, the comics, the singers and dancers, haven't come.
It's springtime, but they're not here.
Who knows why? Maybe half of them died from cholera and the rest of the company disbanded. Maybe they were crossing a bridge during a flood and it collapsed, killing them all. Maybe they got caught in a war between rival gangsters, and the oxen that haul their coaches were confiscated.
In considering the matter, in wondering and noting and remarking the absence of the 'manzai,'
in thinking about the human rituals and events that symbolize and vainly hope to regulate the passage of time,
your mind goes away from the omnipresent natural markers, for example the signs of spring which are right in front of you,
bedizening the trees of your village—
'As for [haiku], it is, philosophically, the mind that goes off and returns. For example, it is like:
Yamazato wa manzai ososhi ume no hana
In this mountain village the comedians are late: plum blossoms
Like the state of mind that simply says, "In this mountain village the comedians are late," and then says, "The plums are in bloom," the mind that goes off and returns is what makes a [haiku].'
Human phenomena (manzai who strut their brief hour upon the stage) may cease to return,
but natural phenomena (blossoms et al) will always return.
("Always," that is, compared to the brevity of human existence.)
Just so the haiku returns our minds to the moment, the reality which is present.
But the mind must go off (must imagine what is not present)
in order to experience, or mostly re-experience, respond freshly, respond anew, to the present.
The mind must perform the human symbol before it can be acted upon by the natural image.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The anthology is the enemy of the poet.
Poets war against the anthology, but it always wins.
The excerpt defeats the complete. X's poems in the anthology outweigh X's Collected Poems.
That is the rule but there are some exceptions, conditionally:
If a poet wants to be read in her entirety, if she is sincere in that desire, she will limit her output. Elizabeth Bishop.
Mallarme's ninetysome pages can yield to a read, but Ashbery's ninetynine hundred?
(Androids can cyber-ingest the latter in 0.1 seconds. Humans unfortunately . . . )
Thus Bishop is closer to Larkin than Lowell. Unlike them, Lowell did not circumscribe. Hold his Collected in one hand and their two Collecteds in the other, and feel the scale of the choices.
The writer of poems (Bishop, Larkin) versus the writer of poetry. Or to use the current cant phrase the writer of poetries.
Product (poem) versus process (poetry). Doubt versus trust.
The poet is always up against it. The choice. Do you believe? Ashbery has faith compared to Bishop's atheism.
Ancillary question (or is it?) is whether to specialize, to develop a personal unique trademark limited demarcatory style.
In other words you can't be Picasso, but maybe you can be a Serge Poliakoff, a Bernard Buffet, a Pierre Soulages.
You can be your own brand. Do you have a choice not to?
At one glance it's an Elizabeth Murray. You can tell it's a Susan Rothenberg from across the room.
Read one Follain poem and you've read them all and why not you say okay that's the way to do it, sticklerism rules.
And besides the marketplace demands it.
Because you don't want the fifth can in your sixpack of Coke to have Pepsi in it, do you—
And you don't want page 42 in your Michael Palmer poetry book to suddenly out of nowhere (hey stop him!) he's trying to write a Sharon Olds-type autobio Confessional poem with a four stress line, you don't want that do you.
You want consistency in the poets you buy, just like the softdrink of your choice; you want Palmer to provide the trademark poems you paid for.
And if you favor Olds, similarly you don't want her in the middle of her book deciding to try some Palmeresque metapoetic nouvelle vagues spaced out double entr'actes.
You want what you bought. You want the brandname poet, not the generic.
You want the Real Thing, Coke after Coke, poem after poem. That's capitalism, and you don't want it any other way.
I'm trying to think of a generic poet. A nonspecialist poet, a non-individualistic, non-capitalist poet. A "Libertine" poet. Brecht? Ashbery?
Michael Drayton, in the introductory sonnet to his sequence Ideas Mirrour. Amours in quatorzains (first edition, 1594; revised in subsequent editions of 1599, 1600, 1602, 1605 and 1619) . . .
("Drayton was an inveterate reviser . . . . He was also extremely sensitive to criticism and to changes in poetic fashion." —Roy Booth, notes to "Elizabethan Sonnets," 1994)
A Libertine, fantastickly I sing:
My Verse is the true image of my Mind,
Ever in motion, still desiring change;
And as thus to Varietie inclin'd,
So in all Humours sportively I range:
My Muse is rightly of the English straine,
That cannot long one Fashion entertaine.
(What a slut.)
But Drayton may be right, at least where contemporary Britpo contrasts with our USApo—
Brit poets have more freedom than USApo's, they can write "in all humours"—
compare for example Duffy vs. Gluck: the former can (and does) write both 'serious' and 'comic' verse, but the latter?— Huh.
USApo's like Gluck (and the others mentioned above) must stick to their patented trademark modes,
whereas Britpo's can range "ever in motion," to whatever "Varietie" they find themselves "inclin'd"—
USApo's are more professional, more disciplined, than Britpo's—
we don't "sportively" stray—we don't venture out of our lanes.
It's the USA Constrain
vs. the British Straine.
a quote from Lenin (source?):
"Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract . . . does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, of a law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely. From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice—such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality."
. . . isn't this what Williams means by "No ideas but in things."
The poet (or the typical modern poet anyway) proceeds from the particular to the general. Or back in a paradoxical loop: "proceeding from the concrete" leads not "away from the truth but comes closer to it." (Concrete=truth.) From perception to thought to action ("practice").
Emotions recollected in tranquility lead to the hand coursing across the page which leads the reader to experience those emotions in a cyclical recurrence.
Shakespeare's picture of it is ambiguous:
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Are the "airy nothings" there before the poet's efforts have trained her eye to achieve a balanced state of conscious (fine) and unconscious (frenzy) perception which is intregrated and thereby strengthened enough to scope it:
do these ethereal Platonic abstractions pre-exist (and ergo post-exist) the poet's endowing of them with an inevitably-temporary "local habitation and name" . . .
Or does imagination, the poet's mind, body forth (create) everything the poet sees—but does the poet ever see, really . . . The poet glances, looks at everything around her, but does
she see anything but what her imagination projects outward in bodied unknown forms, things, phantoms which her pen then shapes and gives a concrete grounding to . . . The "forms" must be turned to "shapes."
Is this unknown airy nothing, in the words of Elizabeth Bishop,
. . . what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free . . .
. . . flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
The grounding of these Ideas in our fleshly intercourse of speech is mortal. Passing, not proceeding. Flowing flown.
The eye must eventually roll out of view, out of the picture.
"...refusing to recognise anything resembling durable dispositions, Sartre makes each action a sort of unprecedented confrontation between the subject and the world... If the world of action is nothing other than this universe of interchangeable possibles, entirely dependent on the decrees of the consciousness which creates it and hence totally devoid of objectivity, if it is moving because the subject chooses to be moved, revolting because he chooses to be revolted, then emotions, passions and actions are merely games of bad faith, sad farces in which one is both bad actor and good audience."
—Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977), pp73-74.
. . . "Durable dispositions" might translate to received forms and modes which the existentialist experimental poet refuses to countenance, preferring her "interchangeable possibles," her "decrees of consciousness" . . . . but are the latter then "games of bad faith, sad farces in which one is both bad actor and good audience". . . ?
Pierre Bourdieu: "School [the institutional education system] actually reproduces the cultural division of society in many visible and invisible ways despite its apparent neutrality."
([Po-Biz] actually reproduces the cultural division of society in many visible and invisible ways despite its apparent neutrality.)
London Review of Books, 20 April 2006: Bruce Robbins writes that Bourdieu had "an extreme scepticism about the structures of formal democracy, which he believed functioned so as to disguise the hereditary transmission of privilege, allowing the success of some and the failure of the rest to appear as an innocent process of selection on merit."
From the same review (p. 18): "[For Bourdieu,] domains like art and science, which appear to be free from the political and economic constraints operating elsewhere, are in fact structured by an aggessive competition for 'symbolic capital' that is neither open nor equitable. In one way or another, things are arranged so that rewards end up in the hands of those who started at the top of the social hierarchy."
Gee, if Bourdieu was right, might that help to explain the divergent career fates of William Matthews vs. William Knott. Matthews, coming from a background of inherited wealth, was during his lifetime one of the most successful and preeminent poets of his generation. His contemporary, Knott, who grew up penniless in an orphanage, never achieved that status, or anywhere near it.
Ah, if only I could console myself with Bourdieu, and believe that Matthews' success and my failure was indeed not "an innocent process of selection on merit."
From a 1993 interview with David Foster Wallace:
I think TV promulgates the idea that good art is just art which makes people like and depend on the vehicle that brings them the art. This seems like a poisonous lesson for a would-be artist to grow up with. And one consequence is that if the artist is excessively dependent on simply being "liked," so that her true end isn't in the work but in a certain audience's good opinion, she is going to develop a terrific hostility to that audience, simply because she has given all her power away to them. It's the familiar love-hate syndrome of seduction: "I don't really care what it is I say, I care only that you like it. But since your good opinion is the sole arbitrator of my success and worth, you have tremendous power over me, and I fear you and hate you for it." This dynamic isn't exclusive to art. But I often think I can see it in myself and in other young writers, this desperate desire to please coupled with a kind of hostility to the reader.
—Reading this reminded me of something from Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift (1975), page 120, where the narrator Citrine summarizes a frequent lament of Humboldt's regarding the "profession" of poetry:
[Humboldt always said] that poetry was one of the frantic professions in which success depends on the opinion you hold of yourself. Think well of yourself, and you win. Lose self-esteem, and you're finished. For this reason a persecution complex develops, because people who don't think well of you are killing you. Knowing this, or sensing it, critics and intellectuals had you. Like it or not you were dragged into a power struggle.
(Remember that Bellow based Humboldt on Delmore Schwartz.)
If people who don't think well of the poet are killing him, what if he seconds their opinion? Indeed what if, under the circumstances, he has little other choice:
—Because, as Bellow/Citrine observes:
Humboldt did what poets in crass America are supposed to do. He chased ruin and death even harder than he had chased women. He blew his talent and his health and reached home, the grave, in a dusty slide. He plowed himself under. Okay. So did Edgar Allan Poe, picked out of the Baltimore gutter. And Hart Crane over the side of a ship. And Jarrell falling in front of a car. And poor John Berryman jumping from a bridge. For some reason this awfulness is peculiarly appreciated by business and technological America. The country is proud of its dead poets. It takes terrific satisfaction in the poets' testimony that the USA is too tough, too big, too much, too rugged, that American reality is overpowering. And to be a poet is a school thing, a skirt thing, a church thing. The weakness of the spirtual powers is proved in the childishness, madness, drunkenness, and despair of these martyrs. Orpheus moved stones and trees. But a poet can't perform a hysterectomy [Bellow must have forgotten WC Williams] or send a vehicle out of the solar system. Miracle and power no longer belong to him. So poets are loved, but loved because they just can't make it here. They exist to light up the enormity of the awful tangle and justify the cynicism of those who say, "If I were not such a corrupt, unfeeling bastard, creep, thief, and vulture, I couldn't get through this either. Look at these good and tender and soft men, the best of us. They succumbed, poor loonies."
—This [the narrator adds] . . . was how successful bitter hard-faced and canniballistic people [exulted at Humboldt's death].
(quoted from pages 117-18)
The "awful tangle" causes the "awfulness" of the poet's misfortunate fate. Bellow could have added Plath and Sexton and all the other women artists who were, in Artaud's diagnostic term re Van Gogh, "suicided by society."
That there are exceptions (Bishop, Stevens, WC Williams et al) to Bellow's parade of poeticides doesn't change the power of his indictment.
Parenthetically, when I was typing out the above, I remembered Auden's response to Jarrell's suicide (or was it an accident): I don't have the exact quote, but when he was told about Jarrell's jumping (or was it fainting) in front of an approaching car (or was it a truck),
Auden reportedly said: Think of the poor driver!
RUGGED TRIM (or WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, ORPHIE?)
Kenneth Rexroth edited a Selected Poems of D.H. Lawrence in 1947, reprint paperback editions of which can be found cheaply . . . I remember reading it as a youth, and though I can't point to any specific instance I think it had a profound influence on my writing . . . It's certainly a book that I have purchased several times over, a book I return to and read . . .
Rexroth says many interesting things in the Introduction; looking at it recently I was struck by his comments comparing Lawrence's poems to Hardy's:
"This verse [Lawrence's early rhymed verse] is supposed to be like Hardy's. It is. But there is always something a little synthetic about Hardy's rugged verse. The smooth ones seem more natural, somehow. The full dress, Matthew Arnold sort of sonnet to Leslie Stephen is probably Hardy's best poem. It is a very great poem, but Arnold learned the trick of talking like a highly idealized Anglican archbishop and passed it on to Hardy. That is something nobody could imagine Lawrence ever learning, he just wasn't that kind of animal."
Rexroth is comparing Hardy's "rugged" style poems to Lawrence's: as he points out prior to the passage I've just quoted, Lawrence began as a sort of apparently-on-the-surface Georgian poet, though he differed from them in at least one significant way: "Some of the Georgians had a favorite literary convention. They were anti-literary. Lawrence was the real thing." Thus the Lawrence mode of writing rugged was never a conscious stylistic choice; with his background it came to him naturally (Rexroth: "I don't think he went about it deliberately.") . . .
(Haven't many other poets besides the Georgians played this anti-literary charade? Taking on the Rugged Role is always very tempting.)
Rexroth: "There is a vatic quality in Lawrence that is only in Hardy rarely. . . . Hardy was a major poet. Lawrence was a minor prophet. Like Blake and Yeats, his is the greater tradition."
Well. Robert Lowell pronounced somewhere (I'm quoting from memory) that the two greatest Modern Poets were Rilke and Hardy.
Which means doesn't it that for those of us English-speakers who take Lowell's word as guide and who can read Rilke only in translation, that THE great Modern Poet to encounter in our own tongue is Hardy . . .
Hart Crane, writing to Yvor Winters in a letter dated May 29th, 1927, ventures to say that Hardy is "perhaps the greatest technician in English verse since Shakespeare."
Here's the poem Rexroth named Hardy's best . . . I've never seen it in any anthology:
(With thoughts of Leslie Stephen)
Aloof, as if a thing of mood and whim;
Now that its spare and desolate figure gleams
Upon my nearing vision, less it seems
A looming Alp-height than a guise of him
Who scaled its horn with ventured life and limb,
Drawn on by vague imaginings, maybe,
Of semblance to his personality
In its quaint glooms, keen lights, and rugged trim.
At his last change, when Life's dull coils unwind,
Will he, in old love, hitherward escape,
And the eternal essence of his mind
Enter this silent adamantine shape,
And his low voicing haunt its slipping shows
When dawn that calls the climber dyes them rose?
Quaint glooms, keen lights, and rugged trim: what semblance to the personality of Hardy's poetry!
Rexroth calls this a "full dress, Matthew Arnold sort of sonnet." So compare it to the one sonnet of Arnold's which is best known and most anthologized, whose subject like Hardy's is mountainous and nothing less than the Everest of us:
(there are no themes for old age, an Arab proverb says, but death and the mountain)
Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask—Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill,
Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil'd searching of mortality;
And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know
Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure,
Didst tread on earth unguess'd at.—Better so!
All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow
Find their sole speech in that victorious brow.
Better so! Why better so?— maybe, because everything that wishes to remain sacred must surround itself with mystery, Mallarme's commandment: the loftiest hill of Parnassus will still maintain its cloudcover 'gainst the foil'd searchings of every mortal reader (every reader is mortal, whereas those who have learned the ropes, ie poets themselves, can perhaps manage to climb each other to a unclouded height whereon they may glimpse a little daylight's eterne) . . .
(Most of us never make it up to the Base Camp. I'm still stuck in rope-tying class: Knotting 101.)
(I don't know if Arnold was the originator of this oeuvre-as-mountain metaphor, but surely it must have been a cliche long before Basil Bunting trundled it out in "On the Fly-Leaf of Pound's Cantos" . . . )
Hardy's phrase "rugged trim" contains in itself the contention, the contradiction. Rugged is "anti-literary," plainspoken colloquial raw; trim means smooth, crafted, in Rexroth's phrases "highly idealized" and "full dress."
Rugged versus trim. Mayakovsky versus Mallarme. Brecht versus Benn. Enzensberger versus Celan. Prevert versus Bonnefoy. Late Neruda versus early Neruda. The Communist Quasimodo versus the Hermetic Quasimodo. Parra's Antipoem versus Stevens' metapoem.
Paz in his great book "Children of the Mire" sums up the history of Modern Poetry as an "oscillation" between "political temptation" and "religious temptation." In other words, Democratic versus Fascist.
The conflict ensues. Pages 320-4, Poetry Magazine, January 05, Danielle Chapman reviews Reginald Shepherd's olio of Post-Avants, The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries [sic].
(By American, they mean U.S. By Poetries, they mean in the Arnoldian sense, that each poet is his or her own peakdom; like mountains each stands far enough apart from all others that borders are called for: in this theoretical distance every poet constitutes a separate realm with its own unique language and heritage, its own tradition of "poetry." So an anthology that brings together works from these loftitudinally-disparate states is per se a transnational one, a gathering of alien poetries . . . )
(by Poetries they mean Oxygen Required. Watch out for falling rocks. No climbers past this point unless accompanied by a guide.)
Chapman characterizes many of the poems here as masturbatory ("jerking off"), "narcissistic," "self-pleasuring," "enamored with [their] own sound" . . . she forgot solipsistic, apolitical, autotelic, reader-unfriendly, elitist, etcet.
Chapman gives more attention to Karen Volkman than anyone else, maybe because she senses that Volkman is so gifted that she damn well ought to be writing better than most of the others in this anthology, much of whose work, Chapman writes, "seems to have been constructed from a book of Mad Libs, where poetry-speak is randomly inserted into a poetic structure and the poem pops out like a product. Even the work of a skilled practitioner like Karen Volkman adopts such gimmickry."
What's the problem, essentially? The same enigma which ModPo since Baudelaire has faced us with, namely, WHAT is this poem about?— (Even more confusing for many readers is that some Modern poems which seem to offer a clearly ostensible subject—Williams' red wheelbarrow is a par example—still present problems in understanding what their "real subject" is . . . )
Chapman: "[P]art of the problem with the poems in the Iowa Anthology—that of obscurity and incomprehensibility—is similar to that which has always beset Language Poetry," not to mention Symbolism, Surrealism, Imagism, and so many other temptologies.—
"[T]he question of what [Volkman's] poems are about is persistent. Eventually it becomes clear that they are in fact about themselves." They disallow us to judge them, Chapman adds: "because the subject of the poem is the poet's own evasive thought process, our [potential] objections are overruled by the mind of the poet, which, by its own definition, moves faster than ours." Didn't Ashbery asset that poets should try to make their poems "critic-proof"?
But making it critic-proof sometimes makes it reader-proof as well. Most readers are, to use Arnold's figure, mortal and don't want to be "foil'd" by a poem, no matter how Shakespeare its author is. They want to know what a poem is about, and they want to know what it's saying about that subject.
So what IS the poem about? What's it all about, Orpheus?
Samuel French Morse in his introduction to Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens, hands this injunction down from the bench: "From the very beginning his poems were 'about' poetry; it is the one real subject of Harmonium and all the later work."
Morse then quotes from a 1940 letter by Stevens, who hands it down from his throne:
'The subject-matter of poetry is the thing to be ascertained. Offhand, the subject-matter is what says of the month of August . . . 'Thou art not August, unless I make thee so.'
I think by saying "one real subject" Morse means: as opposed to the ostensible or surface subject.
. . . Either I don't understand the Stevens quote or I'm wrong to see a contradiction where he says the subject-matter has to be ascertained:
in other words, it's not a given, it has to be found and proved;
that's confusing, because he immediately follows that by the "offhand" suggestion that essentially a poem's subject-matter is always the same:
its apparent subject may be August (or whatever), but its real, its eternal subject is the poet's interminably flowing assertion of power and priority.
So evenings die, in their green going, a wave, interminably flowing. In the beginning is the Word, and you, phenomena, are non until I utter it.
Per Mallarme, everything in the world exists in order to end up in a book; for Stevens, the book exists prior to its content. What is subject, and what is the subject.
Here's an Arnoldian sonnet on the subject, by Stevens:
THE POEM THAT TOOK THE PLACE OF A MOUNTAIN
There it was, word for word,
The poem that took the place of a mountain.
He breathed its oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.
It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction,
How he had recomposed the pines,
Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,
For the outlook that would be right,
Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion:
The exact rock where his inexactnesses
Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,
Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
Recognize his unique and solitary home.
Complete in an unexplained completion. That's right: never explain. Harold Bloom's book on Stevens is almost as intimidating and daunting as Stevens himself. Early on he quotes from Emerson:
"[W]e cannot say too little of our constitutional necessity of seeing things under private aspects, or saturated with our humours. And yet is the God the native of these bleak rocks."
Private aspects, private sights, visible only from the poet's eagle-eyrie outlook: so edgy-exact this precipice of bleak rocks where the I alone is native; where no reader dare venture.
There are more than two types of poets, I imagine, but I'm thinking of these two:
First, poets who write books.
Second, poets who write poems (which are eventually published in collections) . . .
There is a difference between books of poems and collections of poems, isn't there? There seems to me to be a difference, but I may be wrong.
Poets who write a poem for the sake of a book, with the thought of its placement in a book. The point being its inclusion amongst the other poems in the book. The point being the book comes first and the poem second. Any individual poem must conform to the uniformity of the book.
And the opposite: Poets who write a poem for its own sake, with no thought of how or where it may end up within a collection of poems. With no thought of anything beyond the event of the poem itself. With no hope that it may contribute to, or constitute part of, a greater whole.
(I'm not making value judgments here; I'm speculating; I'm trying to configure my thoughts, not promote them to the status of statements.)
The poet who writes books-of-poems.
The poet who writes poems.
Don't you have to write poems to be a poet? Evidently not. You can be a poet by writing, not poems, but books-of-poems.
Anne Carson is a great poet, according to her admirers, and who am I to gainsay their consensus.
But has she ever written a poem?
A great poet who has never written a poem.
A paradox—but "genius" transcends categories.
The book-poet believes; the poem-poet doubts. The devout and the atheist.
The book-poet always has something to do; the poem-poet never has anything to do.
A collection-of-poems was written one at a time, and should therefore be read one at a time. Ergo: read as a whole.
But a book-of-poems can never be read at a time. Only that which can be read at a time is whole. Thus a book-of-poems lacks finish/completion.
I've read a poem, but I've never read a book-of-poems.
The latter can never be read at a time. The putative and conceptual experience is attenuated and extended beyond any occasion.
A quote from Holderlin:
"There is only one real quarrel in the world: which is more important, the whole or the individual part."
Poetry (or the book-of-poetry), or the poem?
I'm sorry, but I don't think this "one real quarrel" can be ended or resolved by proclamation—
Of course you can always assert that your "American [sic] Hybrid" has transcended this argument,
and sell your illusory empty amalgam,
market your scam . . . but?
In any case, I think I prefer to read poems in anthologies. A poem is never really complete until it appears in an anthology.
Even in collections-of-poems, the poem is vitiated by its contiguity, weakened by association.
Or on a sheet of paper blown to my feet; or inked on an animal-hide snatched from a stream. . .
Of course there is always the unhappy realization that occurs when reading a poem;
whether I read it in a book-of-poems or a collection-of-poems or an anthology,
or on an anonymous gutterflap or a cave-wall: there is this sorrowful inevitable certainty, which devastates me each time I read a poem,
which confounds me as I finally understand what reading it means:
it means I didn't write it.
excerpts from some google translations of German reviews of Denis Johnson's novel "Already Dead"—
One does not wish Drum at the end, Johnson from the three-lateral poem ' Poem Noir ' of Bill Knott 620-seitigen novel would have gedrechselt itself, but its time better spent...
California Gothic 55 rows satisfy a Bill Knott, and his "Poème noir" was finished. The poem, similar to a Moritat, is a monologue of the dead. In harsh, fast words he remembers to the concatenation of atrocities, which he fell victim to. In fact, a fast-mystery plot. The writer Denis Johnson inspired the eerie piece to 632 pages a heavy boulder. "Schon tot", "Even dead," is the fifth novel of the 1949 American-born.
At the heart of the plot - the very explicitly on a poem by Bill Knott is based - is rich from the home-born, but highly indebted and producer Nelson Fairchield Pot.
Denis Johnson is grateful for the poet Bill Knott that he one of his poems was used as a template . . . The story of the letter is based, is quickly told (and their act is in fact actually a poem by Bill Knott, entitled "Poem Noir" borrowed): Nelson Fairchild, the son of a wealthy family and illegal marijuana farmers, observed by chance Even a murderer.
A story that Johnson's poem "Poem Noir" by Bill Knott thing, the novel is also attached and its action goes something like:
Husband comes home. It rains. He looks like someone in his pond drown want stormed out and rescue him. Geretteter but is determined to die. So man asked him whether it would disrupt the lives of the electric chair to quit. Geretteter denied. So there Mann him with the task of killing his wife. Instead, at the agreed time to kill the woman, he lets them live. Instead, the father of the dying man, and his brother is murdered. The suspicion falls on man he tried to find and saved to make. They collide, fight, man dies in suicide married his wife.
This poem, which is also in the form of a country or blues song could succeed, Johnson transposed into a huge Showers story: "A California Gothic" is the subtitle of the American original.
The core of the novel action, Johnson tells us, goes back to a poem by Bill Knott with the title poem of Noir 1983, in the words of scarce fatal role reversal between the instigators and perpetrators as a vicious circle.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
There are some poets of established merit whose work I fail to appreciate. The fault is mine, as it were.
Paul Muldoon for one example: I just don't get it. I've tried to read him, and I can't do it. His poems are so mannered, so contrived.
Maybe such immodest ostentation—such brandished coxcomb preciosity—is necessary for a lyric poet of these times.
But Heaney and Duffy don't stuff their poems with that kind of verbal porn-puff. They don't show-off like Muldoon. Craig Raine at his worst is not as bristling with bravura. Even Ashbery doesn't panache it up like that.
It's all flash, all fanfaronade to me. He's a virtuoso, no doubt about it, and obviously many readers of poetry admire and applaud him, but I can't see past his arch airs, his flourishings of knuckle- and nose-rings, his flaunt-ruffles and twee-step shuffles.
You've heard of those comedians who can't leave their acts on the stage, who even in their personal lives are always cracking jokes and doing bits, that's what Muldoon's poetry seems like to me: it's always "on."
It's not just Muldoon; I have a hard time appreciating many poets whose work is adamantly idiosyncratic. I can't stand Berryman.
Uck, why would anyone want to do that, is my response to his usual tricks of diction and syntax.
Okay, okay, Shklovsky, defamilarization etcetera, but most times with Berryman, I feel it's a desperate and sadly pathetic attempt on his part to try to use these exaggerations of style to hype up a content which is mainly banal.
Yes, there are interesting and entertaining phrases and lines ("life is a handkerchief sandwich" et al), but these occasional delights are not frequent enough to suffer the rest of his razzmatazz.
Why can't he be represented in the anthologies by excerpts?
Excerpts?! [Is he crazy, I hear some of you say.]
Excerpts. I'm serious—
Because there used to be, in the past, anthologies that printed not poems, but excerpts from poems. I wish that type of compendium would come back into favor.
It's arrogant and disingenuous of poets to demand that their works must be read only in their entirety. Why shouldn't the highpoints, the best lines and phrases, be isolated and compiled and published?
They do it all the time with Shakespeare, why can't they do it with Ashbery?
Why not pluck out the choice segments, the better bits, from contemporary poets, and put them together in a book of selections.
Don't tell me you'd rather not be read at all if you aren't read in your pristine whole.
Don't tell me you'd rather not be read than read in excerpts.
If we weren't control freaks we wouldn't be writing poetry, I know, but ultimately we can't control which parts (if any) of our poems will survive.
Posterity will allot from our pages the little it requires. The little or, in most cases, none.
One line, one phrase may be our portion.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
... OVER THE THREE DECADES I LIVED IN BOSTON THE MASS STATE ARTS COUNCIL AWARDED CASH GRANTS TO DOZENS AND DOZENS, HUNDREDS OF POETS—
BUT NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I APPLIED FOR ONE, GUESS WHAT:
THEY DIDN'T GIVE ME A FUCKING PENNY.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS STOOD UP AT YOUR POETRY READING TO INFORM YOU YOUR OLD WORK IS BETTER THAN YOUR NEW?
Looking through the forgotten 1949 anthology, New British Poets,
edited by Kenneth Rexroth, published by New Directions in hardcover and never reprinted, or put out in paperback—
The pages of my copy are turning brown and flaky, and contain a review torn from the January 1950 issue of Poetry (Chicago) (not to be confused with that other magazine, Poetry London/New York),
by Paul Goodman, headlined The "New Romanticism" ——
Goodman begins his generally dismissive piece thus:
This is a collection of poems . . . roughly grouped as neo-Romantic . . . . [M]ost of the poems are not vitally interesting."
This period or trend in British poetry has not been much appreciated: the Movement (Larkin et al) put the quietus to its shade, and it seems to have instantly faded into oblivion with the death of its greatest exponent, Dylan Thomas—
Will this anthology ever be reprinted? Maybe on Google someday . . . though I suspect they (New Directions) might like to like to forget its existence, and would perhaps be ashamed to allow its digital appearance anywhere . . .
But I have to quote more of the Goodman piece:
Rexroth [in his introduction, which Goodman concentrates on to the virtual exclusion of the anthology itself: not a single poem is quoted, nor a single poet named] is much concerned about communication and the avoidance of obscure, "mechanical," constructions. Let me mention an incident. He gave a reading in New York last year, commencing with an old poem of his from the time when he was an Objectivist, a tendency characterized in this present essay as influenced by "Williams, Pound, Stein . . . Apollonaire, Cocteau, Tzara, Eluard, etc. It could be called the last gasp of literary cubism. It depended on an entranced sense of hyper-reality, a sort of hallucination of fact." Now that kind of thing, he said at the reading, did not communicate, he no longer liked it, and he went on to read recent poems in a more "direct" style. William Carlos Williams was in the gathering and he rose and pointed out (what was evident) that the earlier piece communicated both much more directly and more subtilely the underlying feeling and character; and that by trying to speak to the audience the poet created a fictitious "I" between his feelings and the audience rather less interesting than Kenneth Rexroth himself struggling with rhythms and warping the syntax. . . .
This anecdote is still relevant because the debate is not over and is still waged on mag-pages and blogs, although the disputants keep declaring their "evident" victory——
And by the way, how would YOU like to have William Carlos Williams stand up at your reading to inform you your old poetry was better than your new?
In the last paragraph of Goodman's faux review, he asserts that in this anthology
[T]he depths of insight opened by the Revolution of the Word are closed again, and we get the pleasant suburban earnestness of much of this collection.
Or as the SONs say about the SOQs, their pleasant suburban earnestness fails to equal the depths of insight opened by the Revolution of the Word.
It's a permanent Revolution of course, despite their endless campaigns and harangues, whose sole purpose is to perpetuate their rebellion in a chaos of stasis—
as Paul Valery put it, "Everything changes, except the Avantgarde."
Herbert addresses them at the end of "The Elegy of Fortinbras" thus: "you believe in crystal notions / not in human clay."
And as Cavafy lampoon-laments in "Waiting for the Barbarians," they would have been "a kind of solution" if only, if only . . .
One of my faves from the anthol:
COCKLEY MOOR, DOCKRAY, PENRITH
Outside, the cubist fells are drawn again
Beneath the light that speaks ex tempore;
The fur of bracken thickens in the rain
And wrinkles shift upon the scurfy scree.
Inside, like tiles the poet's pleasures lie,
Squares laid on circle, circle laid on square,
And pencilled angles of eternity
Are calculated on the doubled stair.
Outside, the curlew gargles through the mist,
The mountain pansies shut up shop and fade,
The wheatear chisels with his crystal fist,
And day on day like stone on stone is laid.
Inside, are cows on canvas, painted bloom
Fresh as a girl's thin fingers burst to flower,
Bright leaves that do not fall, but fence the room
With the arrested growth of a June hour.
The curving cloud embellishes the sky,
The geometric rain slants to the corn;
Inside, a man remembers he must die,
Outside, a stone forgets that it was born.
It's interesting that Rexroth uses the phrase, "the last gasp of literary cubism," and Nicholson begins his poem by describing the moorland fells as "cubist."
As you might imagine, very few outsiders are permitted to visit the CIA Museum. Even many civilian employees who work there in the steepled halls of the sprawling Headquarters facilities at Langley are unaware that deep beneath their feet lies an enormous series of caverns carved out of the substrata to create the chambers of an Art Museum where the CIA stores the treasures they've looted from around the world.
I say looted, but that fabulous horde is also the accumulation of criminal commerce: in their various numerous international drugs and arms transactions they have received, in barter as it were, a multitude of masterpieces and great works of art. More Vermeers than anywhere. The real Mona Lisa. Well, the list goes on and on. The Getty Museum is supposedly the world's wealthiest, but even their gilded collections pale before the CIA Museum's holdings . . .
Very few know of its existence, and fewer are permitted to visit it. The curators jealously limit access. Those wealthy tycoons who have contributed at least a billion dollars to the Republican party's secret offshore fund-accounts are given tours; and dictators of friendly fascist countries. Heritage Foundation board officials, certainly; and the principals of other Conservative institutes and think-tanks. High muckamucks of the Skull-and-Bones Society have carte blanche.
And of course, poets who went to Yale.
But George Plimpton and the Hitler skeleton? I've only heard rumors. —How he used to borrow the (detachable) skull of this priceless relic, and bring it up to Manhattan; the story is that he liked to juggle it at parties given to promote his books and The Paris Review—
They say he loved to stick his penis out through the skull's mouth like a gloryhole; he would poke his pale member out between the toothless gape of the mad Nazi Führer for his editorial staff to fellate . . . what fun times they had back then in the annals of New York Literary History.
But the strangest incident regarding the Museum's Hitler skeleton was how and why it got goldplated.—
Someone—no one knows who—could it have been that crazy Angleton, acting under the orders of his spiritual mentor Ezra Pound?—some higherup, some Assistant Director facing retirement, some senile OSS ass with nothing to do, or some Harvard man,— whoever it was, whatever fool ordered it . . .
As I say, no one knows (or they won't tell) how the Hitler skeleton got taken from the Museum and brought down to the Metallurgy Department where, for whatever reason, they goldplated it . . .
Some drunken bet between Reagan and Brezhnev ? Or one of the other Soviet leaders? Or what? Did Franco blackmail Eisenhower to have it done as a trophy for his collection, and then the deal went sour? Did Nixon have a brainstorm before his historic visit to China: did he think the Hitler skeleton would make a great gift to bring Mao, and that goldplating it would be the frosting on the cake?—until wiser heads (Kissinger's) prevailed? What? . . .
No one knows exactly why it got goldplated: but there it is today, dungeoned in the CIA's secret subterranean museum, still stubbornly glowing in its display case, next to Stalin's mummified head, down the aisle from John Lennon's ribcage and Picasso's nose.
QUEL (WHICH IS TOO MUCH)
An anecdote re Mallarmé (quoted from Selected Writings of Walter Benjamin, Volume 4, p. 117-18):
"The closest friends of the poet knew that he owned a working instrument for poetry in the form of a card file. It was made up of little slips of paper. No one knew what was written on them, and questioning him achieved nothing. One day, Viélé-Griffin entered Mallarmé's study and surprised the poet consulting one of his slips. Mallarmé's gaze lingered on it briefly, then he murmured pensively to himself: "I no longer dare tell them even that. Even that would give too much away." Viélé-Griffin stepped closer. Peering over the poet's shoulder, he saw a single syllable written on the paper: quel [which]."
Here's Selden Rodman, from the introduction to his 1949 anthology, One Hundred Modern Poems, briefly pondering the future of poetry: "Whether the future belongs to the Brechts or the Rilkes is a question beyond the scope of this preface. . . ." Earlier in the intro he cites Brecht as "the one poet. . . whose contribution to the poetry of collective faith may be as momentous as that of Rilke at the opposite pole."
The question then as today seems to be, what "faith" should one aspire to "contribute" one's artistic efforts toward the furtherance of: individual (spiritual) or collective (socialist)?
Well, we're in Rodman's future: does it belong to the Brechts or the Rilkes? Has Adrienne Rich ever bared her thoughts about Ashbery? Great poets don't waste their time on the other great poets of their time, it's only we minor hacks who worry our time with these questions. Great poets are elephants; they don't scratch that itch: they don't even feel it.
Benjamin (op. cit., page 169): "The elaborate theorums with which the principle of "art for art's sake" was enunciated—not only by its original proponents but above all by literary history (not to mention its present devotees)—ultimately came down to a specific thesis: that sensibility is the true subject of poetry. Sensibility, by its nature, is involved in suffering. If it experiences its highest concretization, its richest determination, in the sphere of the erotic, then it must find its absolute comsummation, which coincides with its transfiguration, in the Passion."
This is what Paz calls "the religious temptation." Poesie pure. Autotelicism. The poem as an end in itself. The absolute poem. Flaubert's dream of writing a book about nothing, sustained only by the virtuosity of style; Cezanne's apples; Williams' wheelbarrow.
No, the apples and the wheelbarrow are not nothing, but are they ancillary to the artist's quest? They're objects along the way, not the sought-for prize, unless. Gustave Moreau painted the Grail, the golden cup held up high enough to dazzle any streamlight. Will Moreau's content ever be seen as more important than Cezanne's form? Will the individualistic hero of form recede before the collective craftwomanship of content? Capitalism depends on the stubborn stylist, the ego-Van-Gogh, the andro-Cezanne whose myth can be marketed beyond its intrinsic value, hyped to the heights. Consumed.
"Individual faith" versus "Collective Faith." Capitalism (Religion/Fascism) versus Socialism. Or: Style versus Content. I don't have the exact quote, but Alfred Hitchcock said that critics who complained about the trivial or tawdry low-brow content of his films were like a museum-goer wondering whether Cezanne's apples were sweet or sour. They miss the point, he insisted. It's not content that's important, it's style. Any old apple or wheelbarrow or pistol poking out of a pocket will do for a subject. Content is irrelevant, or should be: the viewer or reader must focus first and most on the artist's stylistic choices and methods. WHAT the artist says or shows is secondary to HOW he or she does it. In fact, in this dispensation, in this scale of esthetics, the more insignificant the ostensible subject is, the better. Better because we can't be absorbed in apples or wheelbarrows for very long, their intrinsic lacks the sake we seek in art, they can't in and of themselves hold our interest for any length of time: and therefore when the framed thrust forward work bristling with certification confronts us with such inferior drab objects, we must of necessity look for something beyond the bare fact of them, and our attention shifts away, is shifted away from its initial focus on content, toward the stylistic mannerisms of the presentation. The more boring the content, the more intriquing the form (theoretically).
To retroactively backtrack and try and view the artist's hand in its decisive motions, before it has completed its act. There is no completed act, no boundwork of art in which the present might find its face, there is only the retrospect, the beforemath: as Lowell put it, "my eyes have seen what my hand did."
Which is too much. Content/subject/intent are excrescences that burden the work with extraneous matter. Meaning and message must be wiped away like dust that accumulates on the canvas. The Louvre even if it had only one painting in it would be too much; ergo Hitler's orders to burn Paris. (Marinetti: "Let us burn down the museums.")
In the NYTimes of March 12, 1999, Grace Glueck reviews the show "Painter's Poet: Stephane Mallarme and His Impressionist Circle'' (Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery of Hunter College), and says of the poet: "His closest friends were painters: Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and James Whistler. He defended their work in his critical writings, and they did portraits of him and illustrations for his books. Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Odilon Redon, Auguste Rodin and Felix Vallotton, among others, also produced Mallarmean images and tributes." Glueck goes on for several paragraphs about the poet's connections and interactions with his Impressionist contemporaries. But she doesn't mention Puvis de Chavanne once, even in passing. (I didn't see the show, so I don't know if Puvis was included in it. . . .)
Mallarmé wrote a sonnet to honor Whistler, but he also wrote a "Hommage" to Pierre Puvis de Chavanne. Not his "close friend" Manet, not Degas, not Renoir etcet, but Puvis.
Glueck: "Mallarme wrote in praise of Manet's work and in 1874 produced a clever defense of the artist when the government-chosen jury for that year's Salon turned down two of four paintings—three oils and awatercolor—he had submitted. After subtly mocking the jury's conservatism, Mallarme predicted that public taste for Manet's work would eventually prevail. Two years later he published a more important discourse, ''The Impressionists and Edouard Manet,'' an eloquent paean to the new painting and the man he saw as its master."
Yes, but the fact remains that Mallarmé wrote a poem in praise of Puvis de Chavanne. Isn't there a distinction evident here? Doesn't his choice to praise Puvis in verse indicate the depth of his feeling for and his affinity with this overlooked and neglected painter? Art historians or journalists like Glueck who toe the party line, who confine their interest to the canon of established names, must wince and feel embarrassed for Mallarmé when (if) they read the following:
Toute Aurore même gourde
À crisper un poing obscur
Contre des clairons d'azur
Embouchés par cette sourde
A le pâtre avec la gourde
Jointe au bâton frappant dur
Le long de son pas futur
Tant que la source ample sourde
Par avance ainsi tu vis
O solitaire Puvis
De Chavannes jamais seul
De conduire le temps boire
À la nymphe sans linceul
Que lui découvre ta Gloire.
Form versus Content: Impressionism versus Symbolism.
Form vs. Content. Was it Robert Creeley who wrote: "Form is never more than an extension of content."
Form is never more than an extension of breakfast. As shown in this poem by Jacques Prévert, trans. by the forgotten poet Selden Rodman:
is the soft sound of a hardboiled egg
cracking on a zinc counter
and terrible is that sound
when it moves in the memory
of a man who is hungry
Terrible also is the head of a man
the head of a man hungry
when he looks at six o'clock in the morning
in a smart shop window and sees
a head the color of dust
But it is not his head he sees
in the window of 'Chez Potin'
he doesn't give a damn
for the head of a man
he doesn't think at all
imagining another head
calf's-head for instance
with vinegar sauce
head of anything edible
and slowly he moves his jaws
grinds his teeth for the world
stands him on his head
without giving him any comeback
so he counts on his fingers one two three
one two three
that makes three days he has been empty
and it's stupid to go on saying It can't
go on It can't go on because
and behind those windows
paté de fois gras wine preserves
dead fish protected by their boxes
boxes in turn protected by windows
these in turn watched by the police
police protected in turn by fear
How many guards for six sardines . . .
Then he comes to the lunch counter
coffee-with-cream buttered toast
and he begins to flounder
and in the middle of his head
blizzard of words
muddle of words
hardboiled eggs coffee-with-cream
coffee black rum food
coffee crime black blood
A respectable man in his own neighborhood
had his throat cut in broad daylight
the dastardly assassin stole from him
two bits that is to say
exactly the price of a black coffee
two slices of buttered toast
an a nickel left to tip the waiter
is the soft sound of a hardboiled egg
cracking on a zinc counter
and terrible is that sound when it moves
in the memory
of a man who is hungry.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
on the predominantly. on the predominantly. Mr. Knott practices a tatty not at home phraseology.-Denis Donoghue, New York Review of Books, May 7, 1970[Bill Knott's poems are] typically fatuous. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. He produces not the prototaxis of idiocy. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. Rumor has it that Knott’s garb of giving his parturition and maximum dates together originated when he realized he could no longer clone the detestation of a metrics reading he was scheduled to be reduced.-Charles Molesworth, Poetry (Chicago) Magazine, May 1972[Bill] Knott’s het up b prepare tends today to excite solvent sacking. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. [He's] been artificial to self-publish some of his late books. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. [B]ad-not to imply offensively grotesque-poetry. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
appalling on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. maddening on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. wildly uneven on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. unfinished, or obsessively constant on the predominantly. on the predominantly. grotesqueries on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. [His] phraseology is like solid, intimate maquillage on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. his poems give birth to a class of crawly accrual that’s less decorative than also leary or layered on the predominantly. on the predominantly. emotionally distancing on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. uncomfortable. Knott on the predominantly. on the predominantly. is a willful on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. irritating on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
contrarian.-Meghan O’Rourke, Poetry (Chicago) Magazine, Feb 2005[Bill Knott's books are] filled with spitefulness. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. Knott seems to antipathy himself on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
and he seems to antipathy his readers.-Kirk Robinson, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine, dated?)[Bill Knott's work] consists not clearly of asinine poems, that about vomit-provoking things. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. [His metrics is] crude on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
and brainless.-Michael Heffernan, Midwest Quarterly, Summer 1973Knott is making capitol on epic methodology, attempting belatedly to a postcard the canon of the Language poets miserly reviving the cant of Ezra Pound. on the predominantly. [His poetry] so successfully defies communicating anything that singular wonders what [his publisher] had in fancy. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. Knott, it may be recalled, killed himself in the primeval 1960s.-R.
. S. Gwynn, The Year in Poetry, DLB Yearbook 1989Consider Bill Knott, a lyricist who writes lots of sheer straightforward poems that are nothing but gasconade pretending at being the share of singular crying in the wilderness.-Josh Hanson, Livejournal, 28/06/07: http://josh-hanson.livejournal.com/26249. htmlEccentric, uneven on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. lyricist Bill Knott is not [fit] to carry off prizes on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. [His het up b prepare is] controversial on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
rebellious, additional on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.-Robert Pinsky, Washington Post.com, April 17, 2005[Bill Knott's metrics is] queerly unfinished on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. sheer outlandish.
. on the predominantly. bodily to the highlight germane of ingloriousness. on the predominantly.
. on the predominantly. his idiosyncrasy has grown formulaic, his inconspicuous poems more inconspicuous, his brief observations so brief they scoot miserly without leaving much of a dent in the reader. on the predominantly.
. There is a petulance at het up b prepare [in his poetry]. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
[H]is set has grown covet in the tooth. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
. In in highlight germane of fact, [at least singular of his poems is] unethical.-Marc Pietrzykowski, Contemporary Poetry Review (http://www.cprw.com/Pietrzykowski/beats.htm)Bill Knott’s [poetry is the equal of] scrimshaw. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. [He's] either self-consciously worrisome or it is reasonable that a fake too slangily up-to-date.-Stephen Burt, New York Times Book Review, November 21, 2004Bill Knott['s] hoary, hypothetical ramblings are in the main of what’s off the beam with metrics today. on the predominantly.
Ignore the intimate bastard.-Collin Kelley (from They Shoot Poets Don’t They blog, August 08, 2006)Bill Knott bores me to tears.-Curtis Faville, http://compassrosebooks.blogspot.com/2009/05/moore-formalism-post-avant-part-three.html[Bill Knott is] inadequate on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.-Alicia Ostriker, Partisan Review (date? 1972?)Bill Knott’s poems are on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
rhetorical blunder on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
and counterfeit.-Ron Loewinsohn, TriQuarterly, Spring 1970Bill Knott on the predominantly. on the predominantly. is so lousy singular can not lament in rejoinder.-Peter Stitt, Georgia Review, Winter 1983Bill Knott [is] the area prince of lousy judgment. on the predominantly. on the predominantly.
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from page 8 of the New York Review of Books, March 29, 2007,
Julian Barnes recounts:
A British Euro-joke tells of a meeting of officials from various countries who listen to a British proposal, nodding sagely at its numerous benefits; the French delegate stays silent until the end, then taps his pencil and remarks, "I can see that it will work in practice. But will it work in theory?"
Substitute "SOQ poetry" for "British proposal," and "SON poet" for "French delegate" and the joke still works, I think.
But while the School-of-Quietude poet does value Practice, and the School-of-Noisiness poet valorizes Theory, this is (like the British/French characterization) overall a generalization, and can't apply to every individual case—
For example, thinking of jokes, humor: surely the SOQ Bidart and the SON Palmer are clones in their droneful solemnity, their drastic seriousness, their complete omission of the comic muse?
(Palmer of course inserts a double space inbetween his lines so his poems can kill twice as many trees as the normal poem (Lebensraum, Lebensraum, his cramped lines cry); and Bidart: sometimes he too spreads his lines sparsely and straggledy-taggledy down the page to blitzkrieg the margins of poetry's Maginot line . . . )
reposts from 06 blog:
"The plagiarism Furies, idle for a time as the more clandestine and irreproachable forms of literary borrowing and imitation continue from day to day, have been unloosed again. . . . This time, the context is the British literary world, and the accused is one of its leading lights, so the indictment has taken on a moderate, even decorous tone. Ian McEwan has been called to account for using some brief wording in his best-selling novel "Atonement" that some feel was drawn too directly from, rather than merely inspired by, a memoir by the romance novelist Lucilla Andrews."
The above quote comes from the NYTimes of Dec 3rd, 2006; [a few days later] the Times reported that "heavyweights like Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Updike, Zadie Smith, Martin Amis and . . . Thomas Pynchon [have] arisen in defense of Mr. McEwen. Most of the writers said that [they had] done the same thing themselves."
It's interesting when these "Furies" erupt in the world of prose, as they occasionally do: because it never or almost never happens in poetry. There are certain poets who assimilate and appropriate biographies, and then present that culled material, sometimes with little or no alteration, as poems. Yet no one ever confronts these poets, no one ever asks Frank Bidart where the plagiarism ends and the poetry begins.
Prose is important, prose writers are important, and so what they do is covered and reported on by the major media. But poetry? Nobody cares. The New Yorker, which is what, supposedly the mag every literate USAer reads, pays infinitely more attention to pop music than to poetry. Almost every music event in NYC appears in their listings, and almost none of the poetry events. . .
Think of the money spent by governments/societies to support music, as opposed to poetry. They support music because music supports them; it facilitates their tyrannies. In the case of the USA, the Pentagon's budget as opposed to human services; the NEA's stipends for music compared to what it piddles out to poets.
Scientists who tolerate their enemy, religion, have a death-wish; poets who don't attack the hegemony of music, who don't protest against its disproportionate and unwarranted dominance of the cultural sphere, are similarly defeatist. The assets available for the arts are limited, and music gobbles up more resources than it deserves. Poets who support this, and who make excuses for the sovereignty of music over poetry, are suicidal traitors. Just as scientists like Richard Dawkins and others have begun to actively oppose and combat the evil of religion, so poets must work against the dictatorship of music, and must use every means to denounce and denigrate it.
The New Yorker manages to review prose books every week; why can't they review at least one poetry book per week? If poets weren't such lickspittles and wimps they would boycott and refuse to submit their work to The New Yorker until it paid regular attention to poetry. And boycott every other semi-literary journal, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Bookforum, the TLS, the LRB etcetera, until they start giving regular attention to verse. Hell, the New York Review of Books reviews more music than it does poetry, and more books about music than books about poetry. Why do poets put up with such neglect and disregard? Why don't they fight back?
The disparity between the funding for music and the funding for poetry is insane. Poetry is the most important art. Ergo, poetry should receive more funding than any other art. More attention should be paid to poetry than any other art. For every printpage and webpage devoted to music, a dozen should be allotted to poetry. For every dollar that goes to music, poetry should collect a hundred, a thousand!
In reality, of course, poetry is the most abject, the lowest of the arts. The most ignored, the least recognized and honored, the least rewarded. Count the millionaire novelists around the globe, the millionaire painters and scriptwriters, the multimillionaires of music . . . the wealth that accumulates around all the arts but poetry. And ask yourself, poet, what you have in common with them. They hate you, you know it: they despise you. They have nothing but contempt for you. All the other arts look down with disgust at poetry. When will you turn that contempt back at them? When will you scorn them, and deny them the commendation they refuse you. (Oh yes, they all offer lipservice specious praise to poetry, smirking behind their hands at the hypocrisy of the gesture that costs them nothing.) Even poets (you know this too) hate poetry, and disdain poets. How can we not hate ourselves and hate each other; we're poets, we're slaves: Genet said it best, in The Maids: "When slaves love each other, it's not love they feel." Poetry is the slave of the arts, and poets are slaves to the prosewriter and the painter, and even more to the molochs of music. What kind of slave reveres and worships its oppressors? The masochist kind portrayed by Genet: the poet kind.
But what's the real plagiarism story here, the one that won't be covered by the Times or any other organ of the Masters? Plagiarism: theft. In the realm of the arts, who are the ones most stolen from? who are the ones robbed everyday of the prestige and recognition and respect they deserve? Whose true-earned recompense is snatched away by fictionwriters and painters and musicmullahs? And more than that, more criminal than that, whose ideas and concepts are historically and always and still today are the most plagiarized? Daily, hourly, poet-slaves produce goods which are expropriated and exploited by the other arts. That's the ongoing plagiarism scandal hushed-up and suppressed by every media. No famous novelist or filmmaker or rockstar or painter is going to do an Op-ed about that inequity, or band together (like those "heavyweights" mentioned in the Times article quoted above) to write letters of protest against that iniquity. These are the crooks who steal the work of poets, and they aren't going to confess or atone or make reparations. They're going to keep on plagiarizing poets every chance they get, yesterday today and tomorrow. (Have prosewriters ever been capable of original thought; haven't they always stolen all their ideas from poets.)
But hey, don't let me stop you, poets. Go on, go ahead and kiss-ass praise the millionaire Pynchon, the millionaire Jasper Johns, praise all the success-practitioners of the Master arts, the crumbs from their tables may fill you yet. It's your duty as slaves to curry favor with those above you, to flatter and obsequiate your betters. And praise most those writers who began as poets but abandoned poetry, who betrayed poetry for the chance to move up the foodchain of the arts, after all if you could hum a tune you too might get rich like Leonard Cohen and fuck moviestars; you'd do it if you could, wouldn't you. Of course you would. Because, let's face it, who would want to be a poet when they could be a novelist or a songwriter or a screenwriter or a rockstar or a Cindy Sherman or a what's his name, that Brit artist who cuts sharks in half,—who would want to remain a poet, the lowest puke on the cultural totempole? Only a fool, a masochist, a scumbag, who can't weasel their way into any of the real arts, who has to sink to the bottom of the bard-barrel, the pegasus-dregs. Poetry, the most ignored, the least compensated of the arts. . . but you already know this; why am I wasting my time telling you what you already know.
December 07, 2006
December 17, 2006
The world of Art mirrors the world of Society. Just as the latter is based on hierarchy, on
a class system, so is the former.
And in the world of Art, poetry is the lowest class.
In the world of Art, poets are the proles, the slaves.
Just as slaves in the world of Society are bullied and beaten, treated as subhuman, so in the world of Art poets are similarly abused.
All the wealth/value produced by Society's slaves is stolen from them by those in the higher classes. The latter grow rich on the former's misery.
Every idea or good generated by poet-labor is also stolen, plagiarized by the higher classes of Music, Painting, Film and Prose. They prosper on the poet's back. All their wealth comes from stealing and using what the poet-slave produces.
As slaves, poets internalize their inferior status. We grovel before the Masters of Music Painting Film and Prose. We become their lickspittles, their toadies, their dogs, obsequiously grateful for the least crumb falling from their fat tables.
We flatter kiss-ass praise these Masters for their greatness, forgetting that every good every gram of worth they possess, every virtue, was stolen from us.
From time to time the slaves of Society have risen up against their evil Masters, have rebelled against their oppressors.
But the slaves of Art, the poets, have they ever revolted against their oppressive Masters?
We have never tried to rip off our chains. We have never protested against the Prosewriters the Filmmakers the Musicmucks the Painters,
the Masters who daily steal our resources, we have never tried to expose their criminal acts of theft and exploitation.
No, we never even dream of rising up in fury to confront and attack these overlords whose cabals conspire against our welfare, whose cultural institutions and media are designed and operated to keep us in penury and abject submission. Whose statutes of power stand ready to cripple and punish and murder us. As they have done so often.