Friday, August 15, 2008

Poetry as on ramp

There's some chatter one hears that poetry is the safe space of ethical consistency and spiritual balance, something to be desired, attained, sought after. Poetry as some ideal garden to get to. Hardly the case, I think; literature is littered with geniuses who's best writing couldn't cure them of their demon summoning ills; they continued to be bedeviled.


Poetry is something to escape through, a tunnel from one place to another. Thinking that poetry is that place itself, the Lacanian "real" that is lost to all of us, is like stopping in the middle of the stairs as an end in itself. You get nowhere that's useful, unless you're sitting next to someone who thinks talking about stairs and their various qualities suffices for a day's subject matter.

The place to where poetry allows us to escape, however, has no geographic location an is namelesss; it is something akin to a heightened sense of extraordiarily weird life will seem if one insists on locating safe havens and resting places for the troubled , contradiction grasping intellect. Poetry is more process than psychic space or state; it's a rigor that enables you to come up against things, in themselves, that will not yield their essences and remain sane as you look for the parking space, fix lunch, return phone calls, check your bank balances. It keeps moving forward without thinking of straight lines.

UpdateSkyplumber ,in the comments, asks the pertinent question as to whether what I've said here might be construed as a arguement in favor of dismantling Fine Arts Programs. Geeze, I hope not.I suppose one can usurp my argument (a gripe , actually) to launch a campaign against fine arts in general in favor of some nativist tradition they would concoct. But that's not the aim, and those who would use anything I've said here for their agenda would have to go to cartoonish levels of distortion.

I aim not like John Dewy who regarded aesthetics more as "experience" a common person can learn to have rather than an end product. I believe in final art objects , "products" to risk the vulgarity. One needs, I think, something from which to start their processing. I just buy the idea that poetry, in itself, as collection of problematic writings trying to accommodate a corkscrewing reality, provides anything of an ideal realm where we get a hint of perfections and harmonies only God can know. The notion interests me not a bit, and the insistence that poets and their writings remain a priesthood deciphering invisible orders of things and offering up obscurantist clues creates a muddled thinking.

Poetry is not theology; I think more along the lines that poem is result of some period of intense inquiry on a set of experiences and conflicting ideas about them. The poem, though, isn't the end of it, in my view. The real success of a poem lies elsewhere, in the readers, among whom a writer would hope their work starts a conversation among voices that otherwise never have listened to one another.





5 comments:

  1. Ted,
    interested in what you're saying, but can't the lack of 'productiveness' you are ascribing to poetry proper be used to justify eliminating arts programs in general?

    As in, if there's no product, only process, one's work lacks dimension and therefore cannot be sold or traded. Which means, it would be worthless in terms of its value in our materialist society

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  2. I suppose one can usurp my argument (a gripe , actually) to launch a campaign against fine arts in general in favor of some nativist tradition they would concoct. But that's not the aim, and those who would use anything I've said here for their agenda would have to go to cartoonish levels of distortion.

    I aim not like John Dewy who regarded aesthetics more as "experience" a common person can learn to have rather than an end product. I believe in final art objects , "products" to risk the vulgarity. One needs, I think, something from which to start their processing. I just buy the idea that poetry, in itself, as collection of problematic writings trying to accommodate a corkscrewing reality, provides anything of an ideal realm where we get a hint of perfections and harmonies only God can know. The notion interests me not a bit, and the insistence that poets and their writings remain a priesthood deciphering invisible orders of things and offering up obscurantist clues creates a muddled thinking.

    Poetry is not theology; I think more along the lines that poem is result of some period of intense inquiry on a set of experiences and conflicting ideas about them. The poem, though, isn't the end of it, in my view. The real success of a poem lies elsewhere, in the readers, among whom a writer would hope their work starts a conversation among voices that otherwise never have listened to one another.

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  3. I like the view that poetry can be a rigor, but I thought I read in your original post some kind of an echo of an anti-elitism that one usually hears from a right-wing interest.

    I think we should embrace/investigate whatever mysteries we find, especially if the mystery is a school of art. A guy like Andy Warhol can take a film of the empire state building and its obvious that we're looking at the building, the mystery is in well, why did he do it? What's the significance of the building to us?

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  4. My concern is that I don't think art should be something one "escapes into" as an end itself; the right wing would just love it if would be progressives sought some pyschic space where they could pitch their tent, as that would be an admission that the good fight is not worth the risk. I think aesthetic experience can avail us of ways of appreciating the world and might well help the individual and society at large to think of ways of transforming from undiluted profit motive. Marcuse argues as
    much in "The Aesthetic Dimension".

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  5. I agree with your gesture, some detail got me hung up initially I reckon

    We could imagine that the entire internet is a psychic space where tents have been pitched in order to avoid certain battles, battle-zones, but lo and behold the battle follows us out here, does it not. Or as Philip Dick declared 'the Empire never Ended'

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Say something clear and smart.Lets have a discussion.