Saturday, November 17, 2007

From "Lines out of Space"


how was your day?

now darker I wrote this later
[leave space up top for cataphoric reiteration] such is the gamble
throw what if the saying of it can’t fill this obscure whiteness? inexhaustible streaming whose source whomsoever stakes a claim mist shrouds the brow call it a hill if you will but brow still stands black birds peck roads this was, at the finish, what we all agreed on having seen if it was made up I didn’t make it up but I made you up
one animal’s sharp cry “ ” somehow delimits this shapeless grey occasioning of the passable irrevocable day so they say anyway best thing is to deny having anything to do with it that way your arse is covered either way if anyone asks thrown down the paged reconstruction hollow soled boots on the wooden platform everything is meaningful in that it happened now much lighter I wrote this earlier real writers probably feel the tool-heft asks “do you know the name of these flowers?” furrowed is a word, double letter score the pattern that is made by your current of associations less a way of thinking than mental disappropriation it was an effect I went looking for actively back there first light on honey soft nearly time to put the dinner on somewhere an owl not invisible only held from view by its will if the phone rings tell them I’ll call them back let me pick up where you left off I say “think the
unthinkable, because it’s unthinkable not
“to try”

Teaching Experimental Postmodern Poetics

While is is fairly easy to the my students to understand that postmodern poetry is a form of critique of normative poetic strategies of the 20th century, often I find that, in an odd way, they don't necessarily see such strategies as normative. They are not normal for them in that way that for most normal people poetry is totally abnormal. I am them left with the need to teach them what normal is so they can see why Ashbery is not normal. Anyway, here is one way I do it. I usually illustrate first with a poem by Heaney, "Digging" "Death of a Naturalist" something horribly late-Romantic. Then get them to read some O'Hara and Ashbery. It always works.
Normative poetry is called variously traditional, realist, late-Romantic, free-verse or voice poetics

Elements of The traditional poem:
Titular Law: the title announces the meaning
Formal regularity and coherence
Thematic coherence
Significant Lineation (rhyme or strong enjambment)
Coherence (narrative, logic, syllogism, end lines)
Move from the particular to universal: e.g. Heaney’s “Digging” from digging to creativity as such
Finitude: poems ends significantly

Within which one finds such things as:
Metaphor
Referential certainty
Transparency
Absorption
Expressiveness
Voice
Depth
Subjective certainty
Humanism

Origins:
Romanticism: recollection in tranquillity, alienated poet, wanders in a landscape, encounters an event, recalls it later, poetry forms bridge between the event as such and wider significance for all (to see into the life of things) [cf. Daffodils]

Free Verse Poetics: spontaneity, open form, apparently artless, reliance on the voice as authentic, tends to ‘lineated prose’, seems to renounce constraint in favour of expression (no ideas but in things vs confessionalism)

Modernism: the eternally transient, poeticisation of the word, new-realism, disjuncture as realism, myth, objective correlative, imagism

Cultural Presuppositions about poetry:
Prosody is dead
Motivation is essential
Organic form is still the ideal
Poetry versus prose, that these are somehow now mutually exclusive
Poetry Makes nothing happen
Poetry performs the truth that philosophy seeks re: singularity of being
Every word counts

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bernstein, "The Klupzy Girl"


This crib is based on my lecture and seminar notes for teaching this poen to students who have little or no experience of experimental poetry

Like in Koch’s “A Time Zone” poem seems to take place on a bus as poet travels to Boston,probably from New York (3 hour journey)

Opening 20 or so lines are a series of statements to do with modes of expression: poetry, parables, deciphering, protest, alibis, telepathy, epistles, phrasemongering, evocation, explanations, glossing

Self-referentiality: regularly calls attention to the experience of reading the poem or poetry itself: poetry is like a swoon, his parables, not gymnastic: pyrotechnic, perfume scented, enacting, thoughtlessly, glossings of reality seemed like stretching it to cover ground

Techniques: lineation at odds with sentences, gaps between sentences result not in narrative or cohesion but confusion, cohesion instead comes from association, repetition, randomness and self-referentiality; good deal of caesura use or interruptions within the lines

Cohesion versus disjuncture, poetry and prose: Next long section juxtaposes a coherent narrative of someone leaving work with 20 or so profoundly fragmented, disjunctive phrases. Here incoherence now exists in the sentence not between them.

Materiality of the Signifier: next section deals with the material conditions of poetry production: to stroll on the beach is to be in the company of a wage-earner, to command a view of it from a vantage point, ruthlessness, when you stop acting in good faith. Here traditional poetic tropes (beaches and mountains) are inscribed in financial or power structures

Back to work: It seems the person leaving work may have been fired due to these mysterious calls!

Civilisation: towards the poem’s end the poet considers the relation between civilazation and barbarism.

Bus crash: Car smashed into; camera stolen; get off in Boston and everything seems to go crazy
Final 7 lines: inconclusive and suggestive, like only half of each line is present: “Fog commends in discourse” takes us back to the swoon or fog of consciousness