Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Possibilities of A Postmodernism


"What we get is, in Van Bastelaere’s words, ‘parts of a whole that is missing’: there is no whole encompassing the elements of the poem, not even on the abstract level of a thematic synthesis. The postmodern poem, described by Mary Ann Caws as a ‘frame without a center’,40 debunks the idea that there exists something like a totality: the ‘worlds’ it evokes are, in the words of Brian McHale, ‘fragmentary, discontinuous, flipping back and forth between literal and figurative’"


"The postmodern poem is, as Brian McHale writes, an ‘echo chamber in which discourses resound and mingle’ so confusingly that the reader is unable ‘to assimilate them to any single unitary or speaking-position’.46 He must then also renounce the idea that something like ‘the author’ is still present somewhere in the text as a central consciousness: Where the modernist still attempted to confront the fragmented chaos of reality by assuming a ‘subject of signification’, the postmodern poet gives up on the whole idea of an intentional subject."


"There is no such thing as a source from which elements are derived, as now everything is derivative. Postmodern intertextuality then deliberately misleads its reader."


"The postmodern poem is the exact opposite of whatever presents itself as something perfect, as having a divine – because perfect and more than human – status, as it was earlier only found in nature. By being emphatically unnatural it opposes an artistic ideal that has been dominant sincethe romantics introduced the organic conception of art. The postmodernist will have nothing of such poetical pretension, and therefore presents his poem as im-perfect, in-complete: the loose ends are not to be read as imperfections that have been overlooked, but are essential in a poem that wants to express distrust of the totalizing claim of closed unity."


"The core of the problem of intuition is the unsolvable conflict between reason and feeling: is the poem the product of rational calculation (as is suggested in some of Krol’s poems) or has it been inspired from up above (which would make the role of intuition decisive, as the same Krol suggested when he announced his turn to an ‘anti-rational’ style, because he had allegedly ‘thought trough’ the whole process of rational thinking)? As ever, the issue cannot be reduced to an alleged choice by the postmodern poet for one or the other option. Reason and intuition, spirit and body – both extremes are being problematized and are presented in postmodern discourse less as opposite poles than as each other’s radicalization."


"It should be clear that the postmodern poet’s reconsideration of poetical autonomy is never tempted to simply opt for a poetics that has historically always opposed this autonomy. For reasons already mentioned when we discussed the problem of identity, he refuses a form of poetry in which the poetical subject expresses its deepest feelings or, from some burning desire to oppose injustice, furiously attacks reality. His attempt at immersion in reality relates in a complicated way to the remoteness of modern(ist) poetry. He does not accept the idea that the finished poem has completely emancipated itself from its author, but at the same time he radicalizes the epistemological doubt that brought the modernists to that idea: where the modernists at times already did not dare to claim full responsibility for the finished poem, the postmodernists positively deny the possibility of any such control over language."


"In an age that has renounced all Grand Narratives, and that refuses to believe in any legitimizing foundation for human existence, the choice for an ethical subject for poetry is far from obvious. Still, some poets return to moral matters – questions concerning literature (‘this is how poetry ought to be written’) and questions concerning moral life – even when they are aware of the impossibility or inadvisability of any thinking in terms of good and evil. Their problem is that of morality.
The poet who rejects the ‘anything goes’, who opposes the idea that there are ‘no traffic signs, no prohibitions and no rules’, does see certain norms, which clears the way for a new poetic engagement with morality. The postmodern poet wants to show how everything is determined by hidden and/or unconscious norms. But the fact that he sees these norms does not entails that he also welcomes, or even designs them. He does not prescribe any morality, but rather reminds himself and his reader that, after the demise of all shared meaning structures, each individual has to assume his own moral responsibility, a responsibility that brings new uncertainties."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Flarf Vs Conceptual; The Undercurrents of Accessibility

Anyway, my point is this: I feel, within my poetic soul, a great conflict between the knowledge that poetry must change and grow and adapt over time, and my feeling that the path(s) poetry has taken have served only as roads away from the public. And, given where poetry is (still a burning question, I’d think, though I’ll take this “debate” between Flarf and conceptual poetry as a starting point), I am unsure as to how (if at all) the two (theat is, the continued evolution of poetry & the public consciousness) can be reconciled.

Some do so in terms that enable them to reach broader audiences, but others don’t avail themselves of that choice, taking what I might call the Stein / Zukofsky / Beckett / Joyce / Watten road instead. The idea that one road (the Creeley / Grahn et al road) is morally superior to the Stein et al road is, I think, defensible only – and I do mean only – if you think that the population of the US, and the other English-speaking countries, is so deeply, even permanently damaged that a truly literate art of language can never fully exist. That’s a possibility, but I’m much more of an optimist than that.

One is reminded of an old tree that was struck by lightening in the distant past. One side is somewhat scant of growth with few branches, the other is much bushier but seems to have a lot of dead branches.

There has, and one hopes there will always continue to be a popular poetry, designed and for the most written for the masses. I need not detail its bastardisation in western culture, it's usurpation by the mass media, etc.
Its existence I believe is predicated more on entertainment than education,--education being a by-product rather than a primary facet for its existence. It has, only recently diverged into the more esoteric path which we are now obliged to confront. My own inclination would put the separation at the Elizabethan period, or the Renaissance in other parts of Europe. Mr. Silliman pushes it back somewhat to the Troubadours. One might even make a case for the Romans and the Greeks having such a dichotomy between the popular & the elitist. (hate that word, indicates an exclusionary element, which is not an accurate representation of the reach of the Art).

Predicating that separation then upon the entertainment value on the one hand, and the investigation of the great ideas on the other, Mr. Silliman refers to a " truly literate art of language" it seems evident to me that the latter could never aspire to a mass audience given a narrower and narrower beam of focus; although the tree opens to more and more branches; the area of expertise and interest shrinks. It is as Matthew hopes above, an evolutionary specialisation exclusionary only in that its practitioners become smaller in number. In that sense, there is no "True Path", no right way, no Truth, outside of Plato's which we may aspire to yet never apprehend. Even Physics assures us that there is always a further point in the universe; how then can we hope for a conjunction between thought and language?

As to greater access and broader audiences, the advent of the Web may, indeed, must increase the questors; yet on the other hand the very precarious state of civilisation itselfs precludes any false hope from arising. A more fitting subject I suppose for another investigation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin (1937-2008)

"I’m a modern man, a man for the millennium. Digital and smoke free. A diversified multi-cultural, post-modern deconstruction that is anatomically and ecologically incorrect. I’ve been up linked and downloaded, I’ve been inputted and outsourced, I know the upside of downsizing, I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a high-tech low-life. A cutting edge, state-of-the-art bi-coastal multi-tasker and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond!

I’m new wave, but I’m old school and my inner child is outward bound. I’m a hot-wired, heat seeking, warm-hearted cool customer, voice activated and bio-degradable. I interface with my database, my database is in cyberspace, so I’m interactive, I’m hyperactive and from time to time I’m radioactive.

Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve, ridin the wave, dodgin the bullet and pushin the envelope. I’m on-point, on-task, on-message and off drugs. I’ve got no need for coke and speed. I've got no urge to binge and purge. I’m in-the-moment, on-the-edge, over-the-top and under-the-radar. A high-concept, low-profile, medium-range ballistic missionary. A street-wise smart bomb. A top-gun bottom feeder. I wear power ties, I tell power lies, I take power naps and run victory laps. I’m a totally ongoing big-foot, slam-dunk, rainmaker with a pro-active outreach. A raging workaholic. A working rageaholic. Out of rehab and in denial!
I’ve got a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a personal assistant and a personal agenda. You can’t shut me up. You can’t dumb me down because I’m tireless and I’m wireless, I’m an alpha male on beta-blockers.

I’m a non-believer and an over-achiever, laid-back but fashion-forward. Up-front, down-home, low-rent, high-maintenance. Super-sized, long-lasting, high-definition, fast-acting, oven-ready and built-to-last! I’m a hands-on, foot-loose, knee-jerk head case pretty maturely post-traumatic and I’ve got a love-child that sends me hate mail.

But, I’m feeling, I’m caring, I’m healing, I’m sharing-- a supportive, bonding, nurturing primary care-giver. My output is down, but my income is up. I took a short position on the long bond and my revenue stream has its own cash-flow. I read junk mail, I eat junk food, I buy junk bonds and I watch trash sports! I’m gender specific, capital intensive, user-friendly and lactose intolerant.

I like rough sex. I like tough love. I use the “F” word in my emails and the software on my hard-drive is hardcore--no soft porn.

I bought a microwave at a mini-mall; I bought a mini-van at a mega-store. I eat fast-food in the slow lane. I’m toll-free, bite-sized, ready-to-wear and I come in all sizes. A fully-equipped, factory-authorized, hospital-tested, clinically-proven, scientifically- formulated medical miracle. I’ve been pre-wash, pre-cooked, pre-heated, pre-screened, pre-approved, pre-packaged, post-dated, freeze-dried, double-wrapped, vacuum-packed and, I have an unlimited broadband capacity.

I’m a rude dude, but I’m the real deal. Lean and mean! Cocked, locked and ready-to-rock. Rough, tough and hard to bluff. I take it slow, I go with the flow, I ride with the tide. I’ve got glide in my stride. Drivin and movin, sailin and spinin, jiving and groovin, wailin and winnin. I don’t snooze, so I don’t lose. I keep the pedal to the metal and the rubber on the road. I party hearty and lunch time is crunch time. I’m hangin in, there ain’t no doubt and I’m hangin tough, over and out!"

~George Carlin, a comedic genius and poet extraodinaire

Poetry, scavanged from a list of things.

po·et·ry -tr)
1. The art or work of a poet.
a. Poems regarded as forming a division of literature.
b. The poetic works of a given author, group, nation, or kind.
3. A piece of literature written in meter; verse.
4. Prose that resembles a poem in some respect, as in form or sound.
5. The essence or characteristic quality of a poem.
6. A quality that suggests poetry, as in grace, beauty, or harmony: the poetry of the dancer's movements.
Middle English poetrie, from Old French, from Medieval Latin
Poetry (from the "Greek+language" "ποίησις", poiesis, a "making" or "creating") is a form of "art" in which "language" is used for its "aesthetics" and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its ostensible "meaning+(linguistics)". Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in "poetic+drama", "hymn" or "lyrics".


Writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through its meaning, sound, and rhythm. It may be distinguished from "prose" by its compression, frequent use of conventions of "metre" and "rhyme", use of the line as a formal unit, heightened vocabulary, and freedom of syntax. Its emotional content is expressed through a variety of techniques, from direct description to symbolism, including the use of "metaphor" and "simile".
"White+Goddess" the goddess of ancient fertility and the moon whose worship is claimed by Robert Graves to be the origin of poetry. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1087]

The Polish historian of aesthetics, Władysław Tatarkiewicz, in a paper on "The Concept of Poetry," traces the evolution of what is in fact two "concepts" of poetry. Tatarkiewicz points out that the term is applied to two distinct things that, as the poet "Paul Valary" observes, "at a certain point find union. Poetry [...] is an art based on language. But poetry also has a more general meaning [...] that is difficult to define because it is less determinate: poetry expresses a certain "mind"." .

""/poetry" \l "endnote_Concept13"