Thursday, December 09, 2004


Well, yesterday's post is thought-gathering. I am not at all sure that I am content with any of the claims made. As I stated in that post, I am merely attempting to get the chatter going again, and to figure out what I want to address at all. Since September, my life has been a mind-numbing series of activities and now I can get back to business.

Laura wants to know more about what I think about Craft and Expression. I will try to get some of it out below.

--As far as the craft of literary art is concerned, I do know one thing: Craft isn't simply in the doing or producing. The writerly craft is not in-vent-ing. I heard an author on a local college station last night. She encourages writers to feel free to write the biggest lie and to fill that lie with as much truth as possible. Unfortunately, I find that folks consider writing to be fiction and fiction to mean a lie. Fiction is not lying, it is recollection.

Her idea is writing as a hoax, a grift, a spectacle--not the document that is produced but writing itself. Writerly craft is form-ing something out of something not Creating something out of nothing. This much I know.

From Nick Piombino's Theoretical Objects (Green Integer 34):

"Fourth Silent Manifesto (01/01/01)":
I the person had so much to say, while the author only wished silence.

So much to say about the spectacle of everyday life. But that saying is spectacle, is information, not Craft. I think of Kenneth Goldsmith's Fidget. His is a record, a kind of document, and even his document of his every (almost) movement is a kind of recollection. Is it possible to mute the immutable?--in order to get to the form of thought.
I the person had problems like anybody else--sick of paying bills, tired of pains in the feet, no time to read and more importantly no time to think, eating too much and worrying too much...
while I the author has different problems like what are my themes, is death for real, what is the nature of time, are my characters in conflict, do my sentences get to the point, am I boring, am I popular, is my book a good read...

The "I" is a singular identity, and this identity while similar in attitude approaches each task differently. That which is crafted is real and formed from some thing already there. The appearance of what is crafted is itself phenomenological in nature. That which is written is not only revealed to readers but first to an author. Craft is visible, and Piombino's authorial concerns about being popular, about an agent lying, about conflict and time, are each human concerns that develop out of real interaction in the present tense. "The author has problems..." I, the person like every other person, is invisible not because of identity, but because of difference. Thinking of any kind requires a withdrawal from the subject matter at hand. This is a private experience for the author; for the person it is public and does obliterate the self as a unique individual. I among so many others exactly like me (like-ness) who look and feel nothing like me. Oblivion and historicized: past tense: "I the person had problems." This is an immanently present past.

Craft is presence. Craft forms. Craft is silent. Authors write to present; people talk past one another.

From "Automatic Manifesto #5":
Nothing more bitter or hard to taste than a new poem. Yet poets live in the delirium of new poems. The intoxication of the new consists, in part, of its role of proferring evidence of aliveness of the form and the experiential actualities of the present.

Piombino's claim about form reminds me of Hazlitt on Gusto. It is a romantic claim. The new proves itself in the present. Craft is (or should be) so intoxicating. My comments about prosody--Much easier to count through a poem than to imbibe in or with it. My question has always been "What is the poem for?" or "What is a poet?" I often treated the two questions as if they sought the same answer. Not anymore. The action in Craft permits the present eruption of form--in other words, two events occur for a poem to become a poem, no matter what we think a proper poem is, no matter what form we champion.
Human work consists of learning to remember. But first we must learn to allow that all of us--and everything--exists at the same time.
The poem asks: where is the poem? Where is the poetry located? The poet first identifies a significant event amounting to an obsession. Is a truth to be found here? Yes, because this is what the surroundings themselves consist of.

So, two events occur for the poem to be a poem: 1) An allowance/acceptance (I suppose one might repress this) of contemporaneity which in turn permits substance and revelation an invitation; and 2) A recognition of consistency where the poem is located.

Craft, then, is a means to unrestrict and unrepress the time being for the sake of the Craft itself.

Piombino also claims the reader can do nothing other than embrace or be embraced (Automatic Manifesto #8). I like this: the reader as a machine with an active and passive state: the reader, therefore, as always present and in perspective with a document. But the reader reads documents not authors. And we often ask "Who do you read?" It's a cop out, a move away from the responsibilities that come with the embrace. "What do you read?"--Well, this question requires a knowledgable answer, a solution that is neither correct nor incorrect rather experienced. Readers who read authors rather than works need not embrace any thing at all because authors are always absent. Narrative becomes a hindrance, Prosody a religion: Celebrity and Spectacle govern as we loook for the poet doing the new.

From Andrew Joron's Fathom (Black Square Press, 2003):
What good is poetry at a time like this? It feels right to ask this question, and at the same time to resist the range of predictable answers, such as: Poetry is useless, therein lies its freedom. Or, poetry has the power to expose ideology; gives a voice to that which has been denied a voice; serves as a call to action; consoles and counsels; keeps the spirit alive.

All of the above answers are true, yet somehow inadequate. This is because poetryy cannot be anything other than inadequate, even to itself. Where language fails, poetry begins. Poetry forces language to fail, to fall out of itself, to become something other than itself.

A kind of topological fold or failure (called a "catastrophe" in mathematics) precedes the emrgence--constitutes the emergency--of the New. If poetry "makes language new," then it must be defined as the translation of emergency.

If poetry is a force that language reckons with, an event that allows language to "fall out of itself," then poetic form may carry the potential to get at representing thought through language. Readers and Writers embrace a middle-Craft of reading through language--past the form of language--to get at the form of thought. We know this, I think, but we often refuse to cultivate the practice. Poetics typically dwells in either the celebrity of the new poet or the religion of prosodic occurences.

Poetry dwells outside--hides from in many circumstances--thought because it is rooted in the market. The recognition that "There is no market for (my) poetry" is the confession that "Poetry is located there." Language--as a form of positive communicative action--is market driven. Thought, its eruptions into the market, is always new, always redirects language, always emerges. Poetry, then, as on-going presence.

Craft, then, is the place where the ethics happens. Authors choose to revel in the spectacle of the market--writing about boredom, social policy, commercialism, celebrity, private experience(s)--which are many different forms of writing (hence not one choice, but many, and poetry as materialism.) Nevertheless, authors can choose (learn to choose) to remember. Recollection incorporates the new into lines that become disinterested in the self and experienced in the world. In this manner, Craft allows spectacle, which is meaningful and right hand of the market, to whither away, and the author to get to language and thought.


Laura Carter said...

Great---this helps a bit. Thanks for bringing all this in. I was paying close attention in my 20th-century class tonight (we're reading Anne Sexton) to how the folks giving a presentation of her life (and poetry---symbiotically, almost) tried to somehow use her awards, connections, etc. to deify her somehow as a "poetess." I have extreme difficulty with her because some of her actions were abominable, criminal even (she molested her own daughter!). But it helps to separate these things out. I don't like her work, and those who position her favorably in light of recognitions, affairs even, etc. ($400 a line by the New Yorker in the 50s---big bucks) strike me as glamorizing her in a way that she probably would've approved of. Which goes against your idea, I think, I presume perhaps?, that poet-as-figure is a bad way to approach it.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Thanks for these posts, Gary. As you know it's hard to get my mind around this sort of thing, but it gets me thinking and definitely, yes, relates. I don't quite follow you on the, as it were, manufacturing side of the business. It gets me thinking about troubadourial fabrication, which I'm all for, but you seem to have something against thinking of poetry as a "product", ware, commodity, etc. On the other hand, you also seem to accept it as part of the facticity of poetry. My question is whether one has to completely renounce production/market value, or whether the trick ain't to fold it, perhaps catastrophically, into beauty. Maybe that's what you're saying.

I'm also not sure that there's anything to be gained, whether poetically or critically, from thinking about connecting readers with writers. The work's ordinary being-there (before us: whether as work done, ready to be read, or work to do, i.e., to be written), strikes me as sufficient.

Looking forward to reading more.