Poetry & Depth & Poetry & Meaning
I don’t care much for this and I argue with myself, thinking again about workshops . . .
Workshops tend to want to force us into a conversation of “meaning,” when really I think “meaning” is a much less interesting conversation than many others. Tone. Sure, and other things like landscape and reach and other metaphors for what it is we do. But by far the most important conversation is the conversation of “depth.”
There are a lot of poems out there that seem to me to be gestures without a motivation. But that could just be me. Maybe they have depth and I’m just missing it in the gesture of the poem going by. And this falls apart without examples and I don’t feel like examples today. Keep it abstract, and no one needs to feel implicated . . .
And what do I mean by “gesture” and “motivation” anyway, when so much of what I advocate in art is the gesture (even the hollow gesture of the act of gesturing), as well as the absence of motivation, as it becomes, instead of a motivation, a presence?
For me, the above poem that is not there is pretending to have depth. Or maybe that is its goal, to become emblematic of the pretence of depth in art? And perhaps most poems of any age have this belated quality anyway, so I shouldn’t worry.
The most fraught discussion we have these days in poetry is depth—as all is depth and depth is only perceived depth. And such conversations sound like the privileging of stances. It’s just one tick away from a conversation of “Poetic Value.” Depth is really only a cliché away, or a cliché in waiting. As depth is a construct of the resonances that definitions make, “Love is the answer,” right?
And the post-pomo stance would say to include the cliché then, as all codes are codes and equally available. I want to go along, I really do. But such things so often don’t sound very interesting in their examples, I’m finding.
But often the flat surface is depth, right?, as depth in art is the distance the receiver travels toward and away from—with—the art. And all the depth of meaning a writer might contain, or to prepare the art for containing, is not depth at all if the receiver does not move with that depth. I think of artwork as a baton that is passed, not a train one boards. The artwork is given over, and the receiver of the art must then do something. But what?
Such conversations tend toward aphasia without examples. And the gestures of any single instance of a poem can be reduced to the gestures of its enactment, and then become hollow for any replaced gesture: