Monday, December 21, 2009

creatively unoriginal

—is Lowell’s “Imitations” a model for the cre­atively uno­rig­i­nal era some perloffs and profs are hail­ing the advent of . . .

if all verse con­sists of vari­ant recom­bi­na­tions of past verse, as the first pla­gia­rist Orpheus liked to claim, then

aren’t Lowell’s bril­liant recon­fig­u­ra­tions of Leop­ardi et al

to be espe­cially admired and emulated—

but can anybody/everybody follow his exam­ple with equal success—

or is it Lowell’s unique expertise/craft/handling that makes these trans­la­tions so brilliant—?

(con­cep­tion or exe­cu­tion? con­tent or form? Koons or Hock­ney?)

you can’t down­load his tal­ents, or at least not yet—

as brilliant young poet and critic Michael Rob­bins observes of Lowell: “he could sculpt a stanza with a pre­ci­sion of tone, dic­tion, imagery, sound, & meter. . . ”

maybe stanza-​sculpting soft­ware will per­form that task for poets in the near future?

let the app do the cot­tage indus­trial dirty­work of composition—

com­put­ers can already prob­a­bly write more skil­fully than most poets . . .


Thursday, December 17, 2009

geeze wheeze

. . . the disputations of eras—

often when we older poets look at the verse of those younger we're befuddled or hostile—

on those rare occasions a young poet asks me to write a blurb, it puzzles me why: why would they want the approbation of someone my age: really?

(it may be cynical, but I can't believe they honestly want my approval in any case—)

It's not just that I don't have the energy or time to "keep up" with their work: it's that if I were their age I wouldn't care what that 70-year-old fade
what'shisKnott thinks,

so if I wouldn't care, why should I?

(Hey, yo-po, if I like your stuff, that should warn you there must be something wrong with it—)

The merciful dispensations of time allow us oldsters to be placated and distracted somewhat when considering the horrible fact of our oh so imminent demise, by looking at the young and gloating to ourselves, Well I certainly wouldn't want to be in their shoes! I'm glad I'm not like them! etc.

A poem about it from a couple years ago:


Envying young poets the rage
You wish you could reverse your night
And blaze out born on every page
As old as them, as debut-bright.

Child of that prodigal spotlight
Whose wattage now is theirs to wage—
What gold star rite you wish you might
Raise revised to its first prize stage.

But listen to my wizened sage:
He claims there's one disadvantage
Should time renew you neophyte—

There'd be one catch you'd hate, one spite:
Remember if you were their age
You'd have to write the way they write.

Obviously the young differentiate themselves from their predecessors in order to further their own development and sense of worth,

but might their rebellions or deviations also be motivated by kindness and pity for those of us who must soon die—

by unselfishly choosing to alienate and outrage us,

they help us dose our daily dread: how palliative the muttering placebo of contrastation with, and ritual protestation at,

their wrongness—

but do we appreciate how compassionate this errancy may be?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

maybe book after a no way book

I'm trying to edit together a book of my poems "for young readers", which I'm hoping to complete, but—

it's proceeding from a collection of "whimsical" poems which I was unable to collate or cohere—

something of my confusion regarding the latter can be seen in the "afterword" I wrote for it:

Backass Note

My whimsical poems are for the most part conceptual rather than linguistic. . . I'm too inhibited and puritanical to indulge in sound for sound's sake. I admire those who can write nonsense verse, but that whole wibblety wobblety world of wordplay is beyond me. . . (Roger McGough for one can do both the sound and the sense equally brilliantly; I envy his genius.) Puns, if they occur, are usuallly derived from metaphor rather than sound-association; indeed, I am usually surprised when people point out a "pun" in one of my poems, because I rarely intend them; they're mostly inadvertant. I make a conscious effort to work from the synonym: my thesaurus is always at hand. For me the content comes first; plot is always uppermost in my thoughts: though after that's set, formal concerns of style or sound-patterns may evolve in a further elaboration.

What do I mean by whimsical? Is it a category separate from others, a genre? Its subject matter is often trivial: kites, balloons, umbrellas, barbershops or hair in general, honeymoons and drinking fountains. And maybe the whimsical poem never tries to be funny (!), it's too complacent for that. Halfway between a-mused and be-mused. Smug-like, it doesn't care. It doesn't show off with insouciance and lyrical dandyisms (for the most part). Indeed, it often has an air of earnestness, though towards what end is not always evident. It thrives on its arbitrariness, but it does seem to have a purpose in mind. It doesn't want to be ironic or satiric, I think. But even if I have somewhat successfully defined the whimsical poem here, have I managed to (ever) actually write one?