Tuesday, January 11, 2005

the perfections of new forms as additions to nature

From Silliman's entry for today:
I suspect that now we are moving into a space even within the traditions that trace their heritage back to the New American poetries & to the Pound-Williams-Stein-Zukofsky tradition before that are themselves evolving into different traditions that go well beyond merely sometimes contentious literary tendencies. They are (we are) gradually transforming into multiple genres of verse.

I am not sure about all of the attacks heaped on Silliman. I do read quite a bit in blogland and have noticed that for every Silliman opinion there is, at least, ten vicious retorts.

I wonder, though, about the who involved in who is actively recording the transformation(s). If it isn't all simply a line of flight for each new poem, each new poem now changing the nature of verse, recognized or not for its flight, then the who recording the appearance of perfections--Silliman's use of Williams from Spring and All--deserves the most critically trained eye. The who recording the transformation are the men, and sometimes women, who are always already changed. They are not the ones actively perfecting new forms. They are always on the outside looking in. And this must be a painful fact of aging. But coming to terms with it must become an acceptable term for dying well. (I am speaking of the place in the public sphere not of physically passing; although, we are all aware that the two are unfortunately linked. I do write this politely as I feel the loss personally when a meaningful author for my development passes away.)

Because we live in a culture that praises great men, and sometimes women, we live in a culture super-focused on the past. We are haunted by Pound more than shaped by him. The regret for a hoped-for past that is now lost becomes attempts to locate what once was in what now is. And for this, Williams' desire for any new moment (and his confession that he didn't think we were possible of it,) any additions to nature, is often purposefully overlooked as a result of the return of the repressed--something from the past erupting in the present in the form of a misguided critique of an other--or as a result of the narcissism in nostalgia for the past--another form of the return, an irruption rather than eruption.

If Silliman is right that "they are (we are) gradually transforming into multiple genres of verse," then the transformation needs nourishment and Care. What I read, especially in blogland, is mostly attacks and condemnation on the one hand and severe self-adulation on the other. How do "the additions to nature" stand a chance in the shadows of the giants of the past tossing about in their sick beds and the critics of the present shitting on every attempt to revel in the new? (As to the latter, see anything Joan Houlihan writes.)

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