Thursday, April 15, 2004
Problems for poetics (3)
On the first problem towards a third:
If the first problem for poetics is that the intellectual is conventional, I should qualify what I mean by intellectual. All intellectual projects or products are not conventional. The everyday being of the intellectual in culture is conventional. In other words, "the intellectual" is a fashion after a manner of being--a fashion that is always changing style regardless of it conservative faith in traditional tastes. Individuals, hence, assume the appearance of "the intellectual" in public if they can wear the fashion properly. The conventional intellectual is a personality in the market; it is the kind of intellect that speaks publicly in place of all intellectuals. This manner of public speaking is one of many different manners of doing intellectual work publicly.
A difference between saying and doing needs consideration. (Wittgenstein, Austin, Cavell, Putnam, Marion, Heidegger, Husserl, Hegel, Marx.) The intellectual is conventional in its spectacular presentation of knowing without understanding. The intellectual is conventional in its libraries. (Libraries once were, and still are in many societies, spectacles of power and privilege. Americans take it for granted that one can walk into a library and look at a book. I still remember the hoops I jumped through to get my British Library card.) The intellectual is conventional in its ability to produce knowledge upon demand. The intellectual is conventional in its complete disregard for the here and now for a complete reliance upon history as having an always already sensible order. The conventional intellect is an index.
Intellectual saying is conventional, then, because it merely differentiates the visible differences between any given subject and object for any given time within a given history of such comparisons.
In contrast, Intellectual doing is unconcerned with the spectacle of production in the marketplace of the public sphere and merely does its work recognized or not. Understanding, then, is located in each particular moment and in each particular statement rather than as information gatherable from a more or less than accessible archive.
Let a statement = a line or series of lines
A phenomenology for doing
poetry visibly that cares not
for production of the visible,
though its work is always public.
What of poetics? One problem for poetics is: the intellectual is conventional.
...I am moving towards the third problem as the third problem confronts me;
tomorrow it will be a different problem but still as the third problem...
On the second problem in spite of the first:
If the second problem for poetics is learning to tranquilly tarry alongside, I need to qualify tarrying.
Tarrying relates to the chore of doing poetics and should not be confused with doing poetry, which regardless of how one beholds things in the world is not produced as a kind of tarrying alongside. Tarrying alongside is theoretical looking. It runs after, though not necessarily behind, poetry. The Heideggerian "alongside" is significant. I would be wrong to assign the position of the poet and poetics to a particular subject at a particular time. (A few who blur distinctions for us: from my current readings: Fanny Howe, Susan Howe, Augustine, Holderlin, Nick Piombino, Bin Ramke, Cole Swenson, Leslie Scalapino, Lyn Hejinian.) Assigning tags to specific individuals that accompany their names is market mistake and only useful for the professionals; represents a necessary and naive position for vocational reassurance that always only occurs in comparison. Young writers do this, are encouraged to do this: "I write in the high modern tradition and focuse particularly on Pound. I study psychoanalytic and postmodern theory. I like Rothko." Perform a litany; compare the litany to your peers' litanies; differentiate enough to be just so similar yet jsut so different; publish or perish. Folks need to reassert and assess their positions relative to one another in public every day. Such reassurance cultivates the safety of the public sphere and maintains the ideological illusion of homogeneity.
Nevertheless, such statements are spectacles and conventional and do not say anything meaningful about the doing of poetry and poetics. Such a disjunction explains the bilious responses to crony-ism found in blogs and sites like Foetry. Really, it serves nobody to justify nepotism. We rely on patronage and community as a rule in order to maintain community resources. To deny folks access to explicitly care for their colleagues is to deny the self in many ways. The real source of angst that Foetry excellently displays is typically left unexplored. I find it enough to say: It is hard to publish, I keep receiving rejections, I continue to write, someone will get in touch with me eventually, then I will publish. What is the point of wasting any further energy on the market? The work we do is not umbilically tied to a market. (Though, as I argued yesterday on the Buffalo Poetics listserv, our work is a form of social recompense. I will post my post here at Dagzine above this one.)
I am exploring here, playfully and seriously. I want to complicate my statements:
Problems with my problems:
1. The second problem must be articulated in spite of the first, as I state above, because the second problem implies that poetry is not conventional.
2. In spite of myself, I find that poetry is not intellectual because it is not conventional. Maybe this appears to be a snag. However, if doing poetry is not concerned with its public being as an intellectual pursuit and instead is concerned with the task at hand only and what is ready to hand for that task, then poetry cannot have as its goal the claim to being intellectual. This does not limit disussion about poetry to "poetry is poetry." Rather, to be concerned with anything other than the project that poetry pro-jects is a move towards a production of a spectacular image that always approaches the look of poetry but never necessarily grasps it.
3. Am I getting lost in doing poetry, or am I attempting to trace a particular archived form of poetry? Ron, this gives a whole 'nother meaning to Pound's famous insistence that Eliot remove the footnotes to "The Wasteland." Also provides a fresh way to consider Stein's and Olson's work, maybe even Williams'.
4. I may be working towards a substantial claim that poetry is not intellectual; I have yet to address how poetry is not poetics. Many can easily hear without disagreement that doing poetics is not doing poetry. Poets especially dig this idea: Move on theorists to your own territory, you don't really do THE work. However, this slights the theoretical looking that poetics does for poetry itself. If the poetry is not intellectual as it is a self-involved moment publicly displayed and often monumentalized, then poetics is a culturally involved moment outwardly directed about the poetic product. Such a symbiotic relationship between poetry and poetics allows the work to be done in spite of the deep and unexplored relationship/debt both vocations owe culture (the public sphere.) One produces the other without a cultivation of the other's production.
5. Certainly, I am starting from an ideal position. I accept such a critique. I cannot begin with the REAL. the ideal provides an empty space within which to begin building a structure that can be examined, destructured, restructured--filled. Like an etch-a-sketch for theory. Regardless, I have noticed that those authors who write both poetry and poetics, those who attempt to complete both projects at the same time (i.e., Hejinian's Happily & Howe's Tis of Thee,) their lines are burdened with the anxiety of completing such a task.
6. Problems, then, seems to be most visible in texts that claim to not only BE poetry but BE a looking a poetry at the same time.
7. If theoretical looking is a tranquil tarrying alongside and poetry is an all-involved doing poetry, then poetic projects that examine the poem and the process at the same time are necessarily self-opposed. I see in Eliot's poetry, in M Moore's too, this anxiety.
8. Try looking at yourself in a dream; try making the invisible visible.
9. And don't get the idea, folks, that I am arguing for a return to a romantic idealism for crafting poems--coleridge and wordsworth and keats and so on--some kind of ideal absorption--the elgin...While I wouldn't mind such a self-indulgent excess right now, o possible patrons, I do think the important work in poetry is being accomplished within work that challenges textual-spatial borders.
the third problem for poetics seems clear:
poetry is not intellectual.
Problems for poetics
1. the intellectual is conventional
2. theoretical looking is a tranquil tarrying alongside
3. poetry is not intellectual