Wednesday, June 16, 2004

rant response

Josh quickly addressed my concerns, quite respectfully; yet I didn't make myself clear on one issue.

Josh remarks:
  • One thing I can't sufficiently address is the "something" that was given to Richard (and by implication me) "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." I take this something to be publication? Publication of a book? What exactly is the nature of the limited "resources"?

Maybe you'll be able to after the following.

When I mention something given to Richard and you, I am not concerned with the book. In fact, I don't see the book as given. The book is manufactured and not, as I am well aware of, always an accurate facsimile of the writing itself--esp in verse, the lines must at times be altered for the book. Just as the writing itself is never accurately portrayed through the performance of the act of writing.

I am more concerned with the thing you didn't respond to, namely the conflation of the act of writing with writing itself. The act of writing calls for an author to say, "I wrote it all by myself," like the old Dr Seuss byline "I read it all by myself." Such a response is the dumb response, in the sense that it is without quality and speaks literally of nothing. When I met Aaron McCollough in Shanna Compton's apartment in Brooklyn, NY, after a long evening, he gave me a copy of his book. That is a form of the given, just as Shanna's hospitality is a form of the given. In the sense that the book or the hospitality is there to give. If I give a student an 'A' who only earned a 'B' because I feel like it, that is a form of the given. In the sense that the grade is there to be given. What Richard was given has nothing to do with the given aspects of his writing itself, rather it is his work to align the product with opportunity to publish that could possibly be given to him but only always on somebody else's behalf. Relative similarity between the perceived shrinking poetry market and the shrinking number of agents for prose authors...all writers who wish to publish sell not only their writing but themselves.

By resources I mean editors, readers, time: like the title of my 'zine, positions. The number of positions is limited and which position is available is never a choice made by a person, entity, or thing that fills it; rather, a position is filled by a person, entity, or thing on behalf of a requst from another already filled position. By filled position I mean a position taken or assumed through any number of given qualities and quantities. Resources are limited. So are positions. So are readings.

Apparently, Josh, you don't buy that reading knowledge should be tied to the quantity one reads. I agree. However, if you choose readings by their quality, by their use, then you are inherently limiting their practical use as worthwhile readings to your position somewhere for a given duration of time. For example, a class you teach. You pick the texts. Sixteen or ten weeks later that qualification becomes moot on an important level. Just as only a limited fortunate AND worthy number of authors are published due to economics, a limited number of readings can be accomplished due to time.

So, we argue about how to have a worthwhile and beneficial, possibly pleasurable, conversation about theory and reading and writing. Yet, we do not do much to change the function of how we make available participation. Everyday folks feel this squeeze and don't read further, canon or Canon notwithstanding.

I agree wih you that I left out from my equation the living in relative poverty. But I purposefully left it out; I find such inclusion a mark of privilege. I live in a West Denver neighborhood called Barnum. The majority of my neighbors are Mexican or Central American immigrants. Even the folks in my community who refer to themselve publicly as "Hispanics" distinguish themselves from most of my neighbors. At this time, these folks have no choice but to live in poverty. They must and they endure that must. I choose it. And for me to claim poverty as a value-marker for my vocation is truly disgusting. I know it's a strong word, Josh, and I mean it not to reflect on your opinion or your character. But I am just about ready to explode at the University of Denver--except for a few, the majority of my fellow writers embrace their poverty as if it were given to them and is undesirable while at the same time use it as a necessary element to the equation of being who they can only hope to become. In other words, they are romanticly oppressed yet need not struggle to be relieved from their oppression. This is problematic: writing is work, is labor. But we have to, in addition, earn a living. No other choice. It isn't a factor in the equation expect as a constant that must be applied on both sides and as such, as a marker of privilege not oppression, it can be canceled out. But the claim: "I am poor doing this!" That is a sign of privilege, a sign too often self-sewn onto the clothes and bike bags of scholarly, white men and women.

I have experienced a tug to write and teach since I was a tiny kid--and I was a runt--who spent most of his days in the halls and getting whipped at Cooper Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like a pulling I felt it then and now: a true vocation. Only lately have I learned a bit of humility that goes like this: The vocation may be a given, but nothing else is deserved. In other words, I have chosen to be not-rich and to be always-learning because I am answering a call that is a liberation from the demands of materialist existence. I cannot turn around and use it as a tool for sympathy or as an excuse for privilege.

Reading, then. What to read? I read when I was a kid, New American Poetry by accident. I connected with it. Who know how or why? Who cares. But who should I read now? I seem to recall learning more browsing and interacting with what was there, not considering the social politics of how it got there to be read. Most of graduate school is about legitimizing "How IT got here and What should keep IT around." I am more and more earnestly shying away from such nonsense.

Quite frankly, I get tired of sitting with my friends a listening to them argue about this name is better than that name because of this concept or that one. The ideas worth talking about involving writing itself are where it's at, not the useless chatter about the act of writing as we're allowed to read it. RESOURCES. It doesn't matter if everything written were able to be published: resources would still determine in what manner. In our market, publishing is not in any form connected to writing itself rather connected to the spectacle of the act of writing.

I can find a way to talk to any of my fellow human beings about any concept no matter how complex without referring to a book in which I can find the concept lilting in verse stupidly like the sunset bouncing on the horizon as it always does just before darkness falls.

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