Friday, January 21, 2005

Falling from A to F.

Mike Snider comments: I disparage poetry written in the language of a coterie, including today's academic coteries.

Ok, Mike, before my ramble: At what place and at what time was there ever an active poetic discourse that lacked coterie, and therefore the language of coterie, hence academic coterie--I am assuming such scholarship must be the indoctrination.

A. Are you a conservative pundit trapped in the body of a bearded poet guy?

B. Language of a coterie? You surely do not mean "language"; you mean confidence, jargon maybe, discourse, the rhetoric colleagues share' possibly, you disaparage the notion of a public sphere for it appears that you see only a possibility for the public sphere. You do seem to run into the whole very American, the many and the one problem; and you seem uncomfortable with the result. You want the one way--surely this is signified in your attacks on anything you fail to comprehend. And since what is scarce in the market is what you demand, and what you find distasteful is in surplus, well you find yourself with quite a lot to say when addressing "language", the language of poets.

C. Language of coterie? And if so, then how could you disparage it? You couldn't speak it or use it as an outsider without becoming an insider first. And, Mike, you wouldn't intentionally disparage yourself. You wouldn't pose merely to pursue ad hominen critique? I mean nobody listens to those outcast by the coterie. Have you been fired? Were you thrown off the island. Or does it just feel that way? Don't you think we should have a reality show for struggling poets? American Poet. No, it would be pathetic. What it boils down to is that we can take Shelley or Coleridge or Keats or Robinson or Carson or Hejinian or Howe, either Howe, and we could see similarities in their work as poets if and only if we understand Form and Voice in verse. When we leave the surface of prosodic labor alone and look to what poetry projects and ob-jects, then we hear what is there to be seen no matter what else can be said about structure. (I am not saying there aren't pretenders, mimics, frauds, hooligans, or no-talents out here. I am recognizing that Mike's criticisms are typically laid at the feet of the modestly successful non-traditional, for lack of a better generalization, poets.)

D. I am not even responding to the notion that Robinson is a bad poet. Who says? Is that a point worth making? Can you tell me what is "bad" in her writing without referring to your personal taste. That would be outside of the oh so buttoned-tight Snider Coterie? I make use of Mary Robinson's poetry regardless of my taste for it likeness to my poet-ideal. Some poems more than others. Most of her poetry doesn't mean a thing to me. But I was able to take her poems "The Poet's Garret" and "The Camp" and teach myself something about how fancy is useful in verse--useful in a manner that is often overlooked in a rigid Romantic discourse too typically marked by an imposed masculinist ideological appratus for restraining and utilizing the imagination and faculty of sight. I wrote an essay which I will be presenting at conference this Spring on what I call the "poetry of fancy-at-work." I juxtapose her use of fancy with Wordsworth's critique in his Preface. A simple concept, but practical I think.

E. I need not waste my time wondering whether or not Robinson is good. I can come to terms with a few accurate reasons she is marginalized as a poet--all of which have nothing to do with talent--and use those terms to grow as an author. Such participatory discourse is much more liberating and democratic than your trumped-up charges concerning an "academic coterie."

You disparage the clique and its grip on language that only it gets, or its grip that reduces a concept to a facile joke. Yet, your posts about aesthetics and poetics are all about carving the fat, chucking the public and its academy, for your very narrow vision of a discourse in poetics. Your vision cultivates a rigidly defined coterie.

F. Btw, though many post-avant cum language cum experimental cum whomever you are thinking of (though many of these folks are severe and vocal critics and many are very powerful presences in the poetics community,) what exactly is it about them that makes their group--if one exists--a coterie? And what is wrong with an author knowing with whom she is associated and then cultivating the relationship should it work?

Allow me room here to reflect a bit more.

1. Your critique vilifies the coterie--any coterie that uses a language of coterie including but not limited to an academic coterie. A coterie is a small group of friends or associates. It seems a poor word to represent your intent. Maybe clique is pejorative enough for you. As in only those friends who we assume are also associated in some public way use language, if not in a wholly new manner, at least in a way that alienates all other speakers and writers.

2. But that is the point of association in public discourse: to go out and find community members who understand Form and are working and walking along similar paths, already, before you find or found them. They help you direct your voice, hone it, utilize it, hear it.

2.a. The use of coterie referring to a club has been obsolete for centuries. The prevalent use has everything to do with distinguishing a group of associates from others--other individuals and other groups similar or not. In the OED, in definition 2b the word clique is used.

3. A clique, though, is a "narrow coterie." I think this is an important distinction. First, when we get a more accurate word into your claims, then a proper tone is produced. Yours sounds spiteful and angry. How come?

4. What space should we allow a group of poets, self-associated though they may be, to work on their revising of the poetic craft? The more narrow the coterie the possibly more ludicrous, insidious, or obscene its actions may become, and the more like a clique the group in fact is. A coterie is an association that works in public at distinguishing itself through publicizing in some ways its differences--for poets these differences are works. A clique is a strictly exclusive group of people who leave the public out and tend to work in coded or secretive ways. At any rate, the product from a clique is always reactive if it is made public.

5. What other options do we have for associating with our fellow writers? Are we to have one magnanimous yet un-named entity that/who allows all discourse about poetics enough space so every poet can participate freely in discourse about poetry and the work created within this public sphere valued using a rigid yet pragmatic metrical structure. Bring in the poem. "Does it adhere to the old ways?" "Yes, it seems so." "Pass!" Or "No, it appears to be forming its own language within a narrow coterie!" "Fail."

6. I laugh.

7. It is maniacal but that is a result of 1)lack of sleep and 2) your insistence that you are right simply because you understand how to count and troubled yourself to memorize the traditional verse forms.

8. And a dog begins barking in the alley as the alarm clock rings in my dream and I look into a mirror and into your eyes.

9. And you're simply stoned. Go figure. And I am unraveling a bit and winding down. Pardon the errors in syntax.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From JSR . . .

Gee, weren't you a little hard on the guy?

I think what you said about the whole discussion being rather ad hominem to begin with sums it up. I like poetry that comes from a social community of writers . . . if it's good. (Such as Ginsberg's.) I like it just as well if it comes from a solitary individual, and is good. (Such as Poe or Whitman's.) Arguing about the methodology by which a poet works (whether social or solitary) is basically a topic for biography and not literature.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I had to look up "coterie" in the American Heritage.)