A Poetics: Notes Toward a Supreme Friction
Notes Toward a Supreme Friction
The only fact I see about contemporary American poetry is that it has no center.
That is the site of contention, as the myth of history demands.
Describe and discuss the current Official Verse Culture, using specific examples from the text. Is such a thing possible in 2007? Are we in a period of everything, all-at-once? If so, how long have we been in this period? Forever? 1911? 1949? 1968?
All poets are derivative poets. So? Isn’t it through appropriation and re-contextualization that “new” happens? Once we have read the poems we cannot unread them. It is the new context, and the addition of moods, that causes the new poetry to be indescribable through the old poetry. Which causes it to be re-described by the new poetry. Wallace Stevens is a very different poet after Ashbery than he was before. The 1976 Stevens is very different from the 1955 Stevens.
“Cause and effect” is less interesting, and less useful a proposition in describing what is the case, than is “chance.”
Life is highly ambiguous. Art that does not know this does not exist contemporaneously with life. The way the arbitrary is a kind of thinking. The way chance is a form of knowledge. A forming of knowledge. A way to a situation. If a poem yields itself to a rational reading, it isn’t a very successful poem.
The literary problem of the manifesto. The “Ars Poetica.” A poetics. To look at them for where they move toward and where they react against. And where they break down. It is the great mirror which shows something essential about living in the world, but cannot say what it is. Which is the whole point. Which is that it says nothing as it applies to nothing in particular.
That some things aren’t explainable. Art is an enactment of that economy.
Poets of differing moods live in different worlds, as they see through the lens of differing moods. So they, as anyone, will fundamentally misunderstand each other. But a misreading is still a reading.
What would the world be like if your conceptions of the world were the world? It would be like the world.
A poetics is like a theory of ethics, at some point it posits one “ought” to do something. Which is an empty assertion coming from a mood into a blank space. Being an absolute, it can have no factual basis, and therefore can not be posited logically.
New Criticism should have known better.
A poetics is therapy. It purports that through its enacting, thoughts are put in order in the poem, are at peace. Are a stable economy.
Habits of thinking interfere with the reception of art. Which is why new art is a shock. until the new art becomes the new habit of thinking. The world is the way we tend to think. Welcome to the new world, exclaims the new poem. For which we are packed or not packed.
It is the familiar that is the gravest danger to the poet. That some things are taken for granted, is why poems are necessary.
A poetics of a group tendency is half an artificial difference, and half an artificial unity.
A poetics becomes a lens that sits between the reader and the poem. It, in the end, only describes itself. It is the description of a process, not a product. A poetics is destroyed by examples.
The fact of grammar makes talk of differing poetics problematic.
Poetics cannot predict what will happen in the next poem, as what will occur is beyond a poetics, in the swirl of further texts. A poetics is only able to describe the site of a stance.
If a poetics were to be predictive, all poems would disappear.
A Poetics Addendum
Yes, but all things depend upon their staging. One can say all one wants to say about the production of a line, image, or poem, but one has no control over the site of reception. All poetics, therefore, are premature.
Thoughts are not in language form. So intentionality does not produce what the thinker was thinking, and having an idea for the poem is not something that the poem can accomplish. What a poet meant in writing a poem is interesting, but no more interesting, or helpful, than what a reader receives from the poem.
If the poem does not contradict itself, how can it be said to enact a reality? The fact of other people?
As the poem is languaged, it is a game. An imagined space, as in any use of language (at its base). But the poem heightens this as it purports to foreground its otherness, its distance from unconscious taken-for-granted language games where word and that to which it is agreed upon the word refers inhabit. In this way, poetry is a move into consciousness, in both world and world of language.
Meaning is not something that can be fixed in place, either denotation or connotation, as each new application re-contextualizes the space of language’s habitation.
As a writer of poems, you go on nerve, yes, but more, you go on continuing to go. In going, you find your way. Not by first planning the way. Art objects, on some level, are unplanable. They can be studied toward. Practiced for.
The practicality of the workshop system has me nervous. The word “practicality,” when it appears anywhere near art, has me nervous. Poems are not chairs.
The poem can neither be outside of language (really IN the world), nor remove itself from being tied to the mutually agreed upon referent. Those who step outside of this economy do not really step outside of this economy. The attempt only produces elegies of the poet’s inability to do so. Perhaps this is the hidden final subject of all poems.
Poetry is a family of cases: As poetry does not have uncoverable foundations (through causal investigation) or distinct borders, all poems bear family resemblances.
A poetics, then, to some degree, is nothing more than brand loyalty.
Causal explanations for things are of no help when dealing with art objects.
The meaning of the poem is a mood that is always immanent.
Poems are inventing time down a page.
Poems do not communicate, they haunt.
The poem is a site of something that was never there.
The way out of Modernism’s failure is a Modernist project.