Wednesday, June 16, 2004

my morning rant in lieu of coffee, thanks jc

I'd like to know why Josh Corey finds it appalling that so many people do not read beyond the canon. I am not curious because I disagree with his response.

My first response, in the mid-nineties was to shun my fellow students who looked no further than the prescribed book.
My second response, when I began at University of Denver, was to criticize their professors, who are often more interested in their own longevity to admit the ever-increasing outwardly-expanding concentric network of possible readings is worth attempting to read at all.

My current response is to find the response not-reading-beyond-the-usual-suspects an apt response, a practical one, rather than a normal or infuriating one. Josh, you and Greenfield & Co, for example, happened to become--as in becoming--situated in a time and place that has ended up benefiting the best of you wonderfully. If you had become situated in a place other than where you were, with or without your hard work and great talent, you may not have achieved anything beyond a degree.

Richard and I are currently debating this--and it isn't a nice argument either. He wholeheartedly believes that it is solely his hard work that got him where he is at. I argue that it is his hard work plus talent and then an unreliable other variable. It would look like this: (HW+T)UV=result. You see, I hope, that the closer the unknown variable gets to zero, the less the result. I insist that contradictions in such an elitist notion--I succeed alone--erupt into the writerly community by the time a writer settles down and teaches (I know, just one of many typical ways for a writer to make a scholarly living.)

We never have nor never will be published solely on our own merits. I think this goes without saying. That is: unless we, each of us, as writers, subsume publishing itself into writing itself. Not the act of writing, but writing itself. In other words, Richard's comments, that the writer is successful because of his own work and nothing much else, would make sense if writing itself came into being only after the unspecified duration of any act of writing were marked by the beginning of writing a document and capstoned by a public display within the market as a text for sale sold or not. This is strictly not the case.

What does this have to do with bemoaning the reading habits of fellow writers and scholars? Richard's comments are well-intended: he worked hard to get where he is at. The problem is that so many of his contemporaries have worked as hard to get where he is at. For example, me. Unpublished, but there next to him. I ask myself, in front of him during our debates, "Is it because my work isn't the quality of yours that DU brought me to work together with you and that your book being published is a sign of whose work is worth more to us and others?" Richard, offended, offers, "No." "Of course, not," I say. We are not brought together because of the act of writing but because of our relationship to the phenomenon of writing itself.

Still, smart ass and elitist snobs wander academic halls giving smug speeches about who is worth reading. "Have you read...?" "Have you met...?" "So and so is editing...?" It is to the point that when guests come to our school, some of them will mention that they ran into a student in Denver who gave them a copy of a book from which they borrowed a title but won't mention the University itself, or the students with whom they spent time. Writer-students, we all are aren't we, still enjoy pissing contests, forming exclusive groups they call communities. But healthy communities are not, in fact, populated by self-same entities. Competition is great, but when it arrives at the cost of original social difference exchanged for feigned popular similarity, as I will continue to argue, it is no wonder students do not bother to read outside the boundaries.

Something was given to Richard not given to others and that something which many may deserve is only available to a few, not because of talent but because of resources. And we depend on writers absolutely and willingly denying this fact. And when we focus young students' attentions--the BAs, the MFAs, even some younger PhD candidates--on "the prize", knowing full-well that the majority of them will not achieve its reward, only a certain kind of writer will be read in the present. According to this dilemma, we should be able to map the kind of writer who will be read in the future, as well. Hence, boring arguments about the relevance of Fence. Nevermind, all the work--the actual labor--that goes into putting together a journal compounded by the actual labor that goes into writing a poem or story, we are supposed to care about who cares about the project in its abstract Value to a community nobody really belongs to.

We have purposefully conflated the fascination and possible celebrity that comes with the act of writing, a category that is strictly spectacular because it includes a writer's lifestyle outside of the writing itself. We have confused the act of writing with writing itself.

I am depressed I have little time to read as much as I want. But I have life to live and writing to be. Publishing, which is the market phenomenon that makes the act of writing a public spectacle, has almost nothing to do with writing itself. (Other than my marketability at MLA.)

I find nothing wrong with the student who is perfectly satisfied with reading and loving no poet beyond let's say Ginsburg or Lowell, just to pick randomly--somebody he or she was allowed to read in high school and as an undergraduate. If folks are reading poetry, then they read poetry, just like I do.

And this isn't a populist notion. This is a purposeful and necessary giving-up of the nominal. The reaction, sometimes abject, from literate scholars of disgust concerning the reading habits of others is a sign of their own lack of knowledge but their sincere desire for more

Pound is ultimately meaningless outside of a lustrum--the classroom or library or quiet studio--unless Pound is involved, folded in, to the writing itself that we do. To simply apply Pound as an ingredient in prosody or other theory is to beg for his use-value, which is concrete, to be exchanged for his abstract value and that is quite frankly disposable because it has nothing to do with him or the his writing rather his Value is all wrapped up in the inferences imposed upon his corpus Pound, his texts, made by readers. Pound and Olson...there's a relationship! I can point to it. I can take it or leave it. It's there in Olson's poetry and letters. Not for me but with me and then possibly through me. Not suggesting anything need be done about it at all.

The idea that I should read anywhere or anything, outside or inside of something, is ludicrous.

But we know how folks get published. And so the reading inside a specific tradition and not outside of it is a healthy abject response to a maturity with its apotheosis brings knowledge that "I am not going to be permitted to go much further so I'll stay right here for now."

You see them
I do
Standing still everywhere hoping
not doing

I am running to teach right now. Am reminded of Stevens's reminding us of the essential gaudiness of poetry and how most of our contemporaries are so concerned with the reality of language, attempting to strip the gaudy from gaudiness. Am reminded of Creeley's "So There", to do it while we can
let's do it
let's have fun

and I am wearing
red shoes

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