Waldman introduces the text with a call for a "poetics of engagement." I would like to hear what you think of such intermingling: mainly, Would we really want to toss poets from the republic?
Let's see: Waldman asks a question pre-wrapped in an implied "NO", a presupposed answer implied only when such a question is asked. Typically, the poet who asks and implies does nothing much to approach a pleasing answer for herself or her readers. I like that approach: it invites liberatory and transgressive pedagogical practice. In such an environment the teacher can give up authority and work with students.
Yet, I think the anthology is not as open to interpretation as first might appear. The book is meant to teach transgression and invite disobedience. I dig it; I'm down with it. But the kids will ask, "What for?" Remember that Thoreau questioned what a person in Maine might have to say at all to a person in Texas via a critique of the telegraph. If we follow Thoreau, he is travels globally only through Nature and remains steadfastly and wholeheartedly self-determined Local. Such a personality presents problems for the practice of civil disobedience. Furthermore, in Colorado, (where we have just recently tossed pig David Horowitz and his Academic Bill of Rights crap, back to California) the use of a book that suggests the need for political action in any form is seen as an attack not on oppressive ideological structures but directly at the body of each individual student: this comes with sometimes horrifying and spectacular results. I have just about had it with far-right nuts in my classroom. These folks figure out who you are ("you" being known "liberal" or "elite", thanks Scarborough Country, teachers) and enroll in your class simply to raise hell for four weeks before dropping out.
I find the anthology intriguing so far. Though, as can be expected, it is a bit Naropa-centric.
I do believe I will find trouble understanding a poetics the base of which depends upon its own effect-ive rejection in order to have a cause for becoming engaging.
Has anyone used it in their classroom yet? --very interested in the results.
But the poetics: if we must use our workshops and writing to engage political discourse, in order to practice one form of civil disobedience, then what about the poetry itself? Is poetry cause and politics effect, thereby language of such discourse a poetics? Is politics cause and poetics effect, thereby language of such discourse poetry itself? Is poetics cause and poetry effect, thereby language of such discourse a politic? There are other variations: Is politics cause and poetry effect, thereby language about such discourse a poetics? Language, in this sense, a human tool limited by its own semantics and syntax, its own vocabulary and relevance, its own pragmatic structures, all of its arbitrariness, a tool used to limit, to conform any given content to any apparently necessary systems of belief, to produce poetry, politics, poetics. In each relationship, limitations develop based in the presupposed effect. Prose and poetry written with the product in mind before being produced unwrites itself in each instance because the beginning of the project is the end necessarily. The only thing that matters is the artist's position or perspective; in other words, the form. And we know many artists, typically those who never make it beyond the local, so in-debt to a loved form, who produce the same work in-the-style-of-its-prototype over and over: artists who never will mature because of their debts. Must Ted Berrigan always be that Ted Berrigan?
Where does doing poetry fit in if we fit it in regardless?
The following comes in spite of my belief that art is political--always. But that is really only an admission that the political is never always a conscious investment. I find the spectacle of political activism a corrupting element in art. Art as activism is most visciously colonial--its work has as its first goal to colonize space whether that space exists on a stage, in a gallery, on a sheet of paper, etc. I have had to keep my political activism separate from my writing because the two compete for my time, the one madly jealous of the other at work. When we read Olson's Maximus, for example, I see this happening: the battle between his poetry and his politics. Just try reading the two at the same time. And one isn't foreground to the other's background, the two compete. Fortunately (in my opinion,) the poetry succeeds where the politics fail and the politics succeed where the poetry is weak. Doesn't always work out that way: see Pound's Cantos, often a jumbled mess of personality and politics and poetics and poetry itself, all at war, up-front, at once. I am not for a moment giving Pound's Cantos a knock. I just think the beauty in his work is its utter failure to succeed and thereby providing us, his readers, with a visual map of himself as author and cultural capital--getting way ahead of myself, though.
Back to topic: ...we often operate in modes where politics is nothing more than effect or language speaking. The American-abject response to democracy failing isn't revolutionary violence or psychic plague, it is apathy. Abject response #1: My opinion doesn't matter. And this is just as much a leftwing problem (if not moreso) than for anyone else. In those cases where poetry is political--if it ever is--we simply relegate political action to a form of public address that, as far as I am concerned, is always the first method to weaken political resolve.
These are simply riffs spit out over coffee as I procrastinate my way through comps study. I am interested in your opinions here...by no means am I resolved.