Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bitch slapping talent

I agree that talent that does not "risk" something in the expression --the poet , above all else to be interesting and intriguing to a inquiring reader, must have the nerve to risk failure and have, as well, a casual attitude to the possibility that he or she might wind up being embarrassed--gives us mere professionalism. 

But too often the creed is risk for its own sake with a contemptuous dismissal of the idea of "talent" as being a cruel hoax perpetrated by a long running gang of conservative, homophobic, racist, anti-woman punks; I understand and generally agree with the critique, but somewhere along the lines what used to be considered "risk taking" turned into another gathering of stylistics which has woefully influenced a couple of generations of writers.

I seem to remember that genuine risk takers , whether Burroughs, Artaud, Beckett, Joyce,Ginsberg, Stein, Joyce, had solid foundations in tradition ; they had a knowledge of what they were transgressing, taking apart and reassembling. They had that thing one calls "an ear" for the language they loved enough to master as writers and loved enough to goad it to forms that sharpened our collective wits with it in mind to see the world in new ways and so change it to something closer to truth. Criticism, of course, judges how well these writers and others succeed or lapse in the long run of their careers. History is not always kind: Kerouac was tone deaf, puffed up and pretentious in his rants, Ginsberg when from being genuinely inspired by visions and the legacy of Blake and Whitman and the Bible and became, in time, a mere self-chronicler, while Burrough's perversions, distortions, realignments and genre-jumping fictions remain lively, fresh, funny and sinister, the definition of the Edge so many of us want to flirt with.

My point is that talent and risk, ie , experimentation, need to be reconnected in a meaningful way that can , perhaps, spare us from another generation of too -easily published poets who seem little more than children banging on pianos that have had the keys removed.