Monday, March 30, 2009

Martha Ronk - On Poetic Composition

Martha Ronk
from “Poetics of Failure”

Below is a bit from Martha Ronk’s introduction to her work from Reginald Shepherd’s well-done and (in the face of the attention American Hybrid is getting) somewhat over-looked Lyric Postmodernisms. One of the elements I like is that not only are the selections from each poet generous, but each entry has an introduction written by the poet. I have great sympathy with Martha Ronk’s introduction, and as it incorporates shades (in the hue as well as ghostly sense) of Ron Silliman’s new sentence and Robert Bly’s leaping poetry, perhaps it is a specific example of what one might mean by hybridity:

* * *

In his book In Quest of the Ordinary, Stanley Cavell states, “The everyday is what we cannot but aspire to, since it appears to us as lost to us.” I have tried to create poems that read in a seemingly temperate and straight-forward manner, but that unsettle the reader by intense, shifting, or confused focus, by a swerve toward the unexpected even if highly recognizable. The “quotidian” seems somehow a possible counter to skepticism, a check on self-involvement and a refusal to admit that there is anything other to confront than oneself. Such poetry has the potential to map and blur the ground between self and world, past and present, local and abstract. It can reach for the uncanny, can approximate something both ordinary and utterly odd, in an alternation and oscillation that maintains both. This luminal space may appear, for example, in the area between two images such that the eye/mind moving from one distinct image to another finds itself in a transitional space that undoes, unhinges, opens, slips. I am perforce drawn to the visual. In Lee Friedlander’s book, Black/White/Objects, there are two juxtaposed photographs, one of a man of wood (a crucifix) and one of a man of air (a balloon manikin in a Macy’s parade). As one’s eyes cross back and forth from the image on the left to the image on the right, one’s mind flutters, not only seeing the two as one, not only overlapping them, but also not being able to do this. The operation fails and in this splendid moment of failure, tied by slender thread to success and the released spark of juxtaposition, I would hope to locate my work. . . . .

The restless question, “why,” stands for me at the center of poetics: questioning why things are as they are, why standardized versions dominate: insisting, suspending, moving into fluidity and failure. . . . .

My work exists in the interrogative mood, whether or not a question mark appears at the end of a line.


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