Thursday, October 07, 2004

Henry, I am pulling your comments from an older post up onto the stage, because I like your worry, and I couldn't find out if you had a blog where I could leave a reply. Eventually, the older threads of this discussion are going to be sucked into my archives inthe sidebar. I don't know how many folks actually dig in there...

Henry writes:
Enjoying this discussion, thank you, even though much of it is over my head. I guess my comment is a cautionary one. In trying to articulate the character of poetry's picture-logic - how it manages to present something real or coherent or telling - there's a danger of imposing some kind of determinism. For me what primarily differentiates poetry from science & philosophy is its contingent quality - something you touched on in comments about the writer/reader relationship, but I think it needs to be underlined. Poetry (or creativity in general) occupies a contingent Now which escapes ordinary notions of causality. Ironically, this activity may present the most accurate "picture" of reality.
I think Henry's concern about determining the beheld is proper. I am more inclined to discuss the object of poetry as revealed much in the way Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet address it. What I behold in the world, in nature, is approach by me in many ways. Regardless, the phenomenon must give itself up to show itself. Like the loon in my discussion of below, the poetic object calls out to announce itself. We may not hear it, we may not hear it at the right time, we may mistake it for something else, etc., but we certainly do not determine it. We can attempt to over-see it, but that will come out in the wash.

I haven't read Glazov-Corrigan's Mandlestam's Poetics. I understand the urge to write a humanist poetics, one that addresses a poetics for the human encounter. I just don't think such worries are important for the poet--they are fine ones to have--but I think they are much more vital to the critic who uses them. We find ourselves in poetry. We aren't necessarily working anything out. Maybe we are simply there, enjoying the difference between subject (of the world) and object (of the word) through revelation. I don't know.

1 comment:

Thomas Basbøll said...

I'm in agreement with most of this. Except that I think the experience of contingency applies no less in science and philosophy than it does in poetry. Everybody is just trying move a little bit of the world around on a shifting background intergalactic noise. Politicians, too.

Also, I think the impulse explains THAT there is poetry but not HOW it works (why it is good), and I think Gary's passivity is drawing attention to itself here again. "Maybe we are simply there, enjoying the difference. . ."? A poem comes from the effort to get the words right.


subject (of history)
and object (in the world)
through experimentation with
(observation and arrangement of)

I know.

If I'm not mistaken, the trouble here begins by assuming that poetry has the unique role (as the avatar of "creativity in general") of breaking with "ordinary notions of causality". In fact, any utterance must, in order to be meaningful or articulate, effect such breaks, which serve as the joints of the articulation (of the thought, the fact, the act, the feeling). And any project, including poetry, is bound to the limits imposed by ordinariness of the causal order: that part of experience where determism seems to apply only too well. The word "poetry" does not magically transport us beyond the horizon. There is no escape.

I just reread my first sentence, and I stand by it. I think I'm really probably just picking nits here.