Sunday, October 03, 2004

Constellations, part one: The Spur, The Map, Three Points

To Jay and Thomas and Laura and Nick and all others reading along,

I have gone obsessed or simply mad about this all and it has really become a constellation for me which I feel I must map; not that it's a bad thing, misleading me into nothing useful--it is all useful--but I am supposed to be working on two reviews (which I need to get to) and am mired in Phenomenology and Theology: Husserl and Heidegger, Otto and Breton, and others to come all before Thanksgiving. My last class, and then the dissertation, which this all works within so...

The experience is of convergence FOR ME, as Wittgenstein would insist. But also FOR ALL as we have progressed in certain particulars beyond what has already been said along similar lines concerning the possible poetics in the Tractatus. In the days to come I will post, for example, from Charles Altieri, Marjorie Perloff, Bin Ramke: all who address the Tractatus in their work.


Robert Creeley read at the University of Denver last night. I am humbled frankly; he has the quality of an individual thinking about being-at-work and death. The latter in itself is engaging. His discussion of ethics was moving. His conversation was frank and welcome. But he was not well received. I must admit that when I read Creeley first years ago I heard in his work and WCWilliam's too the possibility for my writing. I am probably sensitive in this matter, therefore, but I have spent the entire day reflecting and reading. I have decided the following is just.

I am becoming less inclined to find my colleagues' company as writers desireable. Does this happen when study becomes significant rather than merely instrumental? My learning is useful to me in a way that it cannot possibly be for others, yet I need friendship. I see this as part of the overall problem we have been addressing. What is it with language and thought--the speech act and the image--my experience and your version? I yearn for social contact but despise the affected posture of many young writers. The fashion of the whole thing; the desire to spit on everything writing does for the spirit. And I will get to spirit below and in the days to come. It seems I am surrounded by a few writers, who like myself hide away in their homes seeking and dozens for whom the new banana republic styles and purposefully messed up hair--but they are all so scrubbed clean--are as significant as the lines they type on the page. This complaint may sound bitter, therefore, common. But they know not of what they write. And I am not supposed to address that fact in workshop and at public events. The sighs during Creeley's performance--oh, I have heard these sighs before, well, at every guest performance--during his more sentimental moments last night, the large slouch that is silently heard throughout a room--really, AFFECTATION at its worst--were embarrassing. For Creeley, I am sure he could care less. But for me, I sat behind my classmates, writers of my generation--if there is such a thing...what's the use.

The issue is the spirit. Formality was once a problem, but it has been overcome and only the talentless artist relies on a recollection of formal shape to craft each piece of writing. Fear of the loss of formality has many formalists looking back for a time when form wasn't a problem for itself as a formalist practice. The destructive spirit in writing is useful when used appropriately. This is where ethics comes in to play. What is the point of workshop, for example, when a writer can simply find a line or two to critique in the other's work, according to ANY practice and achieve a further sense of private fulfillment in knowing the self as only the self can approach itself? In other words, when can we pick up the pieces and move forward together to discuss use and spirit in writing prose and verse? When can we realize that we are not alone regardless of private experience and the limits that Subjects present reliability of intepretation.

Creeley is no longer hip; I learned this last night. I learned it from him. His awareness of his project left us in the audience behind. In this manner we all follow him. I admire this human quality--I mean, to keep us on the Wittgenstein track, I admire this hovering that I see in him and wish to attain.

Now. Wittgenstein addresses the problems with such limits. Does anyone see what I am getting at? My field of sight privatized itself last night in an instructive manner. A manner that much of Creeley's verse actually handles, I think. That sort of "So There" quality, how does it go, Let's do it, while we can, let's have fun. A yearning for community and through that yearning a purposeful--and by this I mean active--exploration of spirit: the spirit of private experience in culture and the spirit of the poet seeing the world privately. An experience that is at once closed to public sharing, for lack of a better word--maybe utterance would fit--but open to understanding--what Heidegger might refer to as The Same.

I might be babbling and poorly introducing my thoughts. Give me enough rope to...Whatever YOU think blame my classmates. Ha! They roll in their Master's shit.


I'll map my constellation through the reading I have completed since last I wrote. And I intend this to develop as an exploration; do not expect linearity. Expect transversal moves. In a day or so, I will publish a bibliogrpahy of what I have re-read over the last two weeks. I expect to get to each text in some manner eventually.

I will number my points. But they should be a set of points with no particular order for you or me, and therefore, the first is not primary. We merely begin here today. Others will surely bubble up in primacy as I go under to get over. And any order only hearkens disorder.


Creeley writes to Olson on 5/18/50:
Prose: I cd quote you this for example from a rejection slip. 'Shows brilliance in many passages but does not have the formality of art...' That wd be the Tiger's Eye. It gives the game away, I.e., no one willing to risk INformal art these days, except yrs truly, and I am conducting a nation-wide search. Etc. INformal: on the 'anti-etc.' What is meant: no one willing to do more than fill forms, which they don't, god knows, even have a grip on. Take it: as it might bear: it has pained me to see the passage of the method of Dostoyevsky into the hands of Leslie Fiedler. I don't think he wd have wanted it anyway. ... Of course, in the popular head, imperfectly filled, now, with echoes of Rimbaud, even, they wd miss the simple sense of that 'disordering' of the senses, or, later, wd miss the what the Dr. calls the necessity of destruction: that we have to tear down, destroy, even before we have any idea as to what might go up to replace, etc. (but never replace, etc.)

It is the case that the majority of contemporary writers do not know about that which they write. For some FORM is the solution to an inability to deal with their own self-cultivated ignorance. A strict reliance on form exhibits artisanship, practice, supposedly virtue and spirit, and allows a writer to leave standing all Order. Such writers are the least offensive, b/c we can neither blame nor forgive them. It is suggested that language means something only after it is mastered and the market does reward such mastery. At least these writers are active participants in their culture; they are aware of some demand. On the other hand, the most offensive writers passively produce "experimental" texts that neither approach the theory which their work attempts to sound like nor make the sort of attempts at the new that experimentalists are supposed to be tempted by. These are, what I call, Affected Authors. They not only miss their opportunity as Creely puts it, they seem to purposefully avoid opportunity altogether.

Three years ago I called this anti-intellectualism. Now, I call it what it is: cowardice.

I am interested in the possible poetics that Wittgenstein's work maps not b/c he explicitly worked out a Poetics, like say Charles Bernstein attempts, but b/c I am interested in what I see there.

Am I justified in cutting and pasting into my constellation that which "I see there" to fill a void that has been left there after the destruction of Order? To begin: I answer with a quote from Wittgenstein himself, for I don't know where my map is leading me yet. In Culture and Value, W writes: "I once said, perhaps rightly: The earlier culture will become a heap of rubble and finally a heap of ashes, but spirits wil hover over the ashes" (3e). Isn't it strange, this occurrence of my colon and then his--how the two work to refine my view and his through conjunction? I write W writes who says he once said, perhaps rightly. This colon-ization is exactly the problem W announces in his recollection. What does it mean to share an experience? What does it mean to have my experiment as a writer? Especially, since when I say it belongs to me, I really insist that it belongs ONLY to me in some metaphysical manner that is tough to examine.


Later W confesses: "It is a great temptation to try to make the spirit explicit" (8e).


Well. This is all a bit Nietzschean. In Beyond Good and Evil N discusses the possible arrival--he is hopeful--of "new philosophers" who will be experimenters or attempters, who will be tempted to experiment (the play on the German Versuch, Section 42). Whereas I hear literary artists claim W did not address a poetics, I am tempted to see in statements as the one above (1A) a desire for the company of New Philosophers. And whereas poetry is not philosophy, each practice in fact intersects and within each intersection is a transversion of the other's purpose through which the poet becomes philosopher and the philosopher becomes poet--and by poet I do intend all literary artists. All of this may be momentary and shifting; nevertheless, it describes a basic state of permanent transition in our new poetics. There simply is no solid ground upon which A Philosopher or A Poet stands. Everything is always possible.

The use of theory but the rejection of getting a grip on it, as Creeley laments (Point 1), is a problem because it is an implicit refusal to experiment but an immature demand to hide in experimental language, to play with it and themselves. In other words, such writers play with language and have nothing to do with thought...

Maybe, I am trying to equate thought and spirit? Possibly I desire an authentic use of language--the USE would accept tradition for what it is and anticipate participation in a community spirit itself shapes; and through the authentic use of language, spirit could then become manifest and simply destroy FORM for itself and work from itself with others. The formality of public discourse that claims for itself democratic rhetoric and the like but actually hides behind it in hopes of addressing its audience in an authoritarian manner...back to the colons...maybe something to work on with Woolf someday, and the Modernist Naming Game...but colonization as a tool for inserting the self into conversation so as to participate or as a tool to force oneself into a position of author-ity. Again, our poetics converges with ethics here.

Need any of this be said?


Dante opens his La Vita Nuova:
In the book of my memory, after the first pages, which are almost blank, there is a section headed 'Incipit vita nova.' Beneath this heading I find the words which it is my intention to copy into this smaller book, or if not all, at least their meaning.

Isn't Dante's first book, a book of his memory, the destruction of all that came before it? It must be so. He shows us a book not filled with Master's ink but a book with its earliest pages mostly blank. Dante's use of the phrase "vita nova" that troubles translators. Its meaning is uncertain--like FORM is uncertain, we might add. Nevertheless, the Latin "novus" means not only "new" but "first," "inexperienced" as in novice, but also "wonderful" or "marvellous" or "unheard of" like Dante himself at the time of this book. Dante clears himself space, makes room for himself at the table. And he doesn't formalize IT, he constructs it from the rubble of what has been made. And his book is written as an argument supporting the slight (radical, really) revisions he makes to the verse forms he implements in the narrative--poems and arguments--to tell us of his obsession with Beatrice. He is the spirit hovering over the ashes of tradition, yet he depends on the formal community. He needs to be recognized. His text serves two functions, some might say, one opposed to the other. But some would be wrong, I think.

I have mapped out three points and will continue to work into my constellation the ideas we have worked on since 9/17. All additions are welcome. I must say, I cannot wait to address the issue of the mystical and Laura's concerns. I will begin getting hyperlinks published in this account. I just don't have the time tonight. Back to reading.


Laura Carter said...


Thanks for being so honest. Your writing program sounds "hipper" than mine but not much different in *fundamental* (if I may use that way) ways.

I spent Saturday evening at a literary function that was, well, OK literari-wise, & more of a success on a social level. My truest, bestest memory is of sitting in the back of the party with my friend Corey talking about Robert Creeley.

He is infinitely hip. But to bring him in (& other poets who are concerned with real issues, I think) automatically affiliates a writer with certain values, which is *dangerous*!

A smarmy famous poet-man told me last Wednesday night that *These men are dangerous*. (the Black Mountains) Hence: why am I in school?

I can't wait for your talk about Wittgenstein & poetry. I don't have the experience with him that you have, but I'm working on him & am finding a wealth of good paradigm-shifting happening. I like his paradigm better than the ones I've been handed, so to speak.

Keep it up, be brave,

with hope,

Laura ;)

Laura Carter said...

Change: if I may use that way to if I may use that word. Though way has a charm of its own.

Nada said...

How can anyone produce a text "passively"? Isn't all writing an act of will, even so-called "automatic writing"?