Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I want to interview you, QUESTION 1

Blog crowd-source interview, question one. (All questions taken from Chicago Review A.R. Ammons special feature, a 1973 interview with Ammons conducted by Jed Rasula and Mike Erwin that I linked to the other day).

Please answer. As I was reading this interview, I was thinking that 1973 and 2013 are two distant shores. The things Rasula and Erwin were interested in are not the sorts of things we ask each other much anymore. The answers Ammons gave were not the sorts of answers I expect people would give now. So help me out. I want to know. Be anonymous, if you want.


How much need is there in poetry, and in your poetry in particular, for an archetypal sensibility--an ability to make generalizations about experience?


At 1/08/2013 5:02 PM, Blogger truebeliever said...

There is something to be said for poetry that reveals an individual, personal experience, and I enjoy traveling to such distant shores. There is more to be said for poetry that speaks or envisions a universal, or perhaps common, experience. The individual, personal experience speaks more closely to those who speak of a "personal experience of God"; it seems to me to resonate such individuality.
For myself, the poetry I have loved and read regularly invites me to connect my own experience with that of the poet. I don't know if that would be a universal experience, but the best poetry (for me) invites me to a shared experience, one that doesn't shut one out as belonging only to the poet, but welcomes me in to a community of experience.
But I am old; my annual rings border the years between the interview which is your source of questions and today. Perhaps my responses are dismiss-able due to age. That would make me wonder if there could ever be a poetry for the ages.

At 1/08/2013 5:29 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A huge need, thanks for asking, John. Much of my poetry documents the dead, the severely, early, often dismissed dead. I'm talking cruel fags in pick-up joints and brothels, whose experiences (at the level of the concrete) don't replicate our own, usually. But whose experiences (at the abstract) tap into those savoring, needy-most parts of ourselves -- the nostrils, to cull up one example -- that deserve memorializing. One of my aims -- my only aim? Lordy, someone douse her! -- is to abstract enough from the concretized so that a stranger might say, Sure, I'd've picked him up at a bar, too, some lonely night. (The privileged needn't feel this compulsion.)

At 1/08/2013 5:36 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

These "dismissed dead" then function as archetypes? Does this put a pressure on the inclusion of what might be the more autobiographical aspects of the poem?

At 1/08/2013 6:02 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

Are archetypes really "generalizations"? To deeply engage them--to penetrate deeply into and through them--is to discover deeply subjective and personal and therefore extremely varied from person to person associations, narratives, memories, meditations, and the like. The interviewer equates "archetype" with "generalized experience," which is a very surface read of the term and what it means. But I'm an unabashed Jungian, a not very popular stance these days.

Generalizing experience seems to yield really horrible poems, in my reading and writing experience.

Engaging archetypal presences, whether classic (Greek myth) to personal (lemme tell ya about Jack Lion), on the other hand: it's invaluable to my compositional process. Is there a *need* for such engagement "in poetry"? Uh...I think there's a lot of different kinds of medicine in the medicine cabinet for ails ya.

At 1/08/2013 6:04 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

for *what* ails ya (sorry)

At 1/08/2013 6:08 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

How much need is there in poetry, and in your poetry in particular, for an archetypal sensibility--an ability to make generalizations about experience?

This is my response to the question posed above:


When once the changing world we understood,
whose laws we knew were permanent and clear,
when once distinct the shades of bad and good
and fear was all we thought we had to fear,

when once a narrow path before us lay,
straight and unobstructed by illusion,
when once our destination was plain as day
and we were never troubled by confusion,

it was then that we were young and then we knew
a simple world observed with simple eyes,
but as we lived and learned and older grew,
the less we understood and so grew wise.

For wisdom is no more than finding true
that, after all, we never had a clue.

Copyright 2005 - Evolving: Poems1965-2005, Gary B. Fitzgerald
Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

At 1/08/2013 6:16 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Dana, so it's more of "one of the options" than strictly necessary?

I'm not very good on the idea of archetypes, but aren't they mostly a character for enlarged experience? Or is that too simple, the metaphorical reading?

At 1/08/2013 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's curious that this blog assigned me the "mom de plume" of True Believer. I do not/did not choose that handle. In fact I don't know what it means.

At 1/08/2013 6:48 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It wasn't me, I promise. I would never assume someone's belief status. There was a good band by that name once, though, if that's any consolation.

At 1/08/2013 6:50 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

We're in an age of Vast Poetic Option (this seems to make some people nervous, apparently) (cf Glutsters)

I could talk all day about archetypes, John.

But the generalized experience thing, that's the real point of the interviewer's question. I find myself more interested in plumbing the question than answering it. Whatever does he *mean*??? Is this the 70's version of ye old "accessiblity" bete noir afflicting some of us these days? I'm interested in the question as a historical "tell"

At 1/08/2013 6:57 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

The whole interview is like that. I'm hoping that people keep answering the questions. I like how the obsessions of one age sound through the next.

You're right. I imagine a version of this in 40 years where people look at the "Accessibility" issue and feel that rush of distance.

At 1/08/2013 8:50 PM, Blogger DLev said...

It seems like there's a perennial anxiety about mattering

At 1/08/2013 8:53 PM, Blogger DLev said...

Dlev aka "Dana"

At 1/09/2013 5:39 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

What mad Nijinsky wrote about DLev is true of the normal heart.

At 1/09/2013 7:05 AM, Blogger DLev said...

Word, David Grove.

At 1/09/2013 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Stumpo:

At heart, I'm a structuralist, so I lean towards archetypes pretty often. I'm most interested in the unexpected ones, though. My most recent chapbook (though the really good one, El Océano y la Serpiente / The Ocean and the Serpent, is being reprinted in a new edition, so keep your eye out for that) is an example. Crystal Boson and I each wrote a series of poems based on the Icarus myth. Mine are wide-ranging in style and subject matter - Icarus standing on the roof of the school, Icarus as an embryo, Icarus as a carny, Icarus as a docent, Icarus interviewing Orville Wright - but every single poem comes back to the rise and fall. Every one of them, no matter how short.

At 1/09/2013 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Stumpo:

I dare not address the need for this in poetry at large.

At 1/09/2013 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Austin Speaker:

I like working with archetypes in poetry. Cowboys, astronauts. They have these expected narrative glazes that are wonderful to disturb with strangeness and unexpected tone. But I guess that doesn't really mean generalizations about experience. I don't so much like to do that. Every now and then I find myself doing it and I feel skeptical of myself.

At 1/09/2013 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marcus Bales:

"How much need is there in poetry, and in your poetry in particular, for an archetypal sensibility--an ability to make generalizations about experience?" Because poetry is such deliberately abbreviated and intensified language, or purports to be, common referents can't be done without. There's little discursive room in poetry to create well-rounded characters, other than the narrator and then only by implication and inference. People writing poetry are in the business of archetypal sensibility or they're really doing something else: and they're often doing something else, usually, writing prose and pretending it's poetry.

At 1/09/2013 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris Hosea:

When you feel like throwing a generalization in there, to mix things up, bore the reader, or because it sounds good, sometimes it works.

At 1/09/2013 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debra Monroe:

OK, I'm not a poet but archetypes are dismantled by their context. Every image has archetypal associations but surrounding images undo these, or can.

At 1/09/2013 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Stumpo:

I'm going to let Marcus carry his own argument as far as poseurs, but I like his note about the need to condense as much as needed (NOT as much as possible) into as little space as possible. I'd say the reverse is just as interesting, taking an image/archetype we think we know, something so common as to possibly be cliche, and "exploding" it, as a friend puts it.

Also, I probably have some OCD to go along with a few other mental disorders. I get stuck in patterns and try to exhaust them. Not that that helps with your analysis of poetry writ large.

At 1/09/2013 11:10 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Debra, could the converse then also be true?

At 1/09/2013 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debra Monroe:

Yes, but that's a cliche, or bad writing. Nietzsche said art should" forge together alien and separate the familiar." Cleanth Brooks said context will load or even warp a conventional image with supplemental meaning. Kenneth Burke said that putting antithetical images together is "planned incongruity" and is the only route to new meaning.

At 1/09/2013 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Odom:

I'm with Debra, if I understand her right. Every word is an abstraction we share; a kind of archetype. Thus, we have an agreed meaning for the word 'tree' and our experience of a thirty year old, silver, plastic christmas tree found still decorated with 70's ornaments in the basement of a condemned and burning building, contorts and confirms our contract. In the same way, the hero's quest is an archetypal story informed and altered, and altered as information, by the new mother after a C-section, still heavily drugged, who leaves her hospital bed to find to which ward her baby was taken. This constant battle between abstraction and detail makes for much of the surprise and fascination in Poetry. I don't believe it is our only tool, but working with archetypes is much of what the poet does.

At 1/09/2013 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Odom:

Oh, and...as one who works with and around forms in the same way I work with meaning and instance, archetype and individual, I'd say form should be discovered, not prescribed.

At 1/09/2013 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debra Monroe:

Form is an archetype too, and if it's used well it's used partially, or incongruously amalgamated to seemingly incongruous other forms. Nothing is new. But there are new combinations: of forms, of images, of details. In answer to your question, every word is familiar, yes. We don't make up new, incommumicable words. Every form is deeply familiar too and, if used successfully, brand new at the same time. In a new context or new rendering, a deeply familiar word or image or form is made defamiliar. Do you have some private connotations for "archetype" I don't?

At 1/09/2013 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Stumpo:

Something I think poetry is valuable for, not the only means of doing this but possibly the most attuned to linguistic play, is exploring the difference between archetype and stereotype. The latter can become the former, much to the detriment of the group being mis(represented). Poetry, aware of re slipperiness of language, can be ideal for untangling.

At 1/09/2013 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doug Ison:

huge need for poetry; and I suspect archetypes are highly variable from person to pernon....everything we do, including poetry is derived from ours.

At 1/09/2013 11:15 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

(The above Anon comments are taken from the facebook thread on this question with permission.)

At 1/10/2013 7:56 PM, Blogger underbelly said...

I'm interested in the idea of generalizations, and the occasional actual generalization, as long as they don't stray two far from my grounding (or ungrounding) sketpicism toward the possibility of true or relevant generalizations. Take away the skepticism and the geeralization loses dimension, becomes twaddle.

At 1/11/2013 8:33 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Jung drives me nuts.

At 1/11/2013 8:36 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Interesting how differently I would read your comment if we were in England.

At 1/11/2013 12:07 PM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

Pirate reels into a bar with a ship's wheel stuck to his fly. Bartender says, "What's the wheel for?" Pirate says, "Arrrr, it's driving me nuts!"

Or maybe it's a mandala.

At 1/11/2013 1:55 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Jung's steerin' me gonads!

At 1/11/2013 1:59 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Forever Jung.

At 1/16/2013 6:30 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

This need is essential, in the sense that absolute freedom of expression is essential. If the poem calls for this, I see no reason not to indulge it.

I think the gesture, the feeling that this poem is maybe generalizing some experience (though what this archetype or generalization is may be unclear) shows up fairly often when I write.


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