Saturday, March 13, 2004

Mike Snider on Ron Silliman's Poetry Test:

For almost everyone, a poem in a textbook or a magazine or an anthology or a website is naked. The normal encounter with a poem is what Ron tried to approximate with his experiment. And though readers of his blog are likely to have more sophisticated tools for recognizing poetic strategies, those of us who care about ionic minors or the referentiality of language also encounter a new poet or a new style in this same way—we use our hard-won tools, of course, but only what is in the bare poem can teach us whether to seek out or to avoid others of its kind.

Greg Perry supports the Snider-take.


I wonder about the value and purpose of such statements about the other readers of poetry. The uneducated masses who approach a poem "naked". Talking of readers not schooled in poetics and their potential reading experiences is at best guess-work and at worst a fetish exercise creating an object-place for an ideal class of people who do not exist in relation to a group of poetry-folk who supposedly do.

I often write poetry naked but I do not read naked poetry.

Any reader knows a poem is a poem by sight (site, too, nowadays) regardless of his or her ability to call the thing a poem. All readers approach the project of reading a poem with a perspective on poetry that is in some manner educated and experienced.

I'll quote Drew Gardner again, from March 10: "Poetry has the capacity to deal with the nonevents of life in a way that other art forms couldn't possibly manage."

If so, poetry is not ordinary; it should always be unique and engaged in some manner. One aspect of the unique relationship of poetry to art and community is that it isn't capable of being normalized. I am thinking back to what I wrote re: Catherine Daly's Course Descriptions recently. I don't see good writing as necessarily resistance because I see resistance as a vascilating between active and passive states of being in the world. I see poetry as always actively being with, not in, the world--as a differentiating mechanism at its most minimal and as a means to socio-politically dominating languages and discourses. Whether a poem or poetics emerges as eruption or irruption, that emergence is active going-over or going-under; such active writing does not betray a resistance.

Poetry does, nevertheless, resist the nominal, the banal, no matter what the writer intends. A banal event so once named "banal" itself becomes a spectacle; hence, shrugs off its banality in one extraordinary gesture of being named or naming itself.

Everyone confesses in poetry. "Subject is different than object" is the formula or the feul or the rule, the propaganda.

By the way, what are these "hard-won tools" that "we" bring to the "bare" poem that Snider mentions? Did I miss the handing out of the kits? Also: Doesn't the statement imply that poems aren't bare? I am thinking of the hint of excavation in approaching or reading a poem that in Snider's mention of tools. The old way of approaching a poem as if it did in fact have a singular meaning, like the soon to be old joke about there ever having been a search for the singular modernity.

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