Untitled

by luke

Canto I: el decanto canto
My love is a red, red cheek
estranged by my hand weakly
I'll be an old man in a purple
polo shirt trudging through trolley tracks
weighed down by imagination's surplus
like Atlas, not minding the
scarcity and worshipping the
orifice
of language.
The Perelman subsurd and ablime
haunt me like a Japanese ghost
mom returning for her baby.
Ohiogesaimas, honey.
Somtimes descending into passionate
depths cleanses-even purges.
I actually plan my daily catharses.
Just kidding. A release a day keeps
Quasimodo away. Gradually, gradually,
I meet Mr. Sandman.
Canto II: the return of eliot
Oh, art galleries and Prufrocks and
my love,
"Traumatically excstatic".
Eightmiddleschoolclassmateshavekids.
"I'm gonna get dat bitch and
screw her 'till her eyes pop out."
My love appreciates fineries.
I just sit in a drug like stupor
affecting deep thought.
Sometimes philosophy is reserved
for teaspoons.
"Whachyu lookin' at Willis?"
Call in the pest control.
Ania has lice. David's asleep.
You whisper I'm T.S. Eliot
I say I'm not the only one.
I hate poetry snobs who
are all exhaust and no
combustion.
Canto III: on the road
at a trucker diner with two
orphanly gas pumps and a cloudy
fingerprinted counter.
I award her an Oscar, a Tony,
and maybe a Rose.
The apocalypse of desire,
symbolized by Willliams'
red wheelbarrow, rises to the pinnacle
of borgeois radical moderation.
Street lights at night
adorn the black splatches of shadow,
The outline of a black house against
a navy sky glowing pink on the horizon--
generic language and images
on a Spring day after a
Quarter Pounder (tm) with cheese
lazily resting a pounding-mallet head on
the Jamaican ocean blue love seat
imagining victims of megalomania--
maybe dentists make decent
conversation topics in the topology of
American culture-
is transportation culture:
Whole novels are polished on wheels.
Make friends on Greyhound.
I write in transit:
a trolley, a car, a bus.
Materialist whirlpools of objects.
The passion, the passion.
High school truism:
Human life is inhumane,
Pointed pencil is
poised for meaning,
Literary theory reduces to buzzwords.
A streetlight stands guard to the drum rolls
of my car radio. Industrial music
complements the
post-industrial surroundings.
Canto IV: musings of music
A purple haze
while I kiss the sky
Slackers have no doubt
using obscure words,
wet luscious words, mindyou,
like the Nevermind baby's.
Parts add up to something
greater, right Lucyfer?
I require a Warrant from John Lennon
Maybe they'll make this poem
into a made for TV movie,
based on a true story, not fiction,
Hokey.
Canto V: the end
I'm waiting for armageddon
under the freeway
Some clown is staring at me
Cause:Effect::Barnum:Bailey
bleep bleep bleep
goes the hospital's helipad
those two shining creeping
headlight eyes like from Lost_Highway
I see the city at night-
the skyline, the christmas light
buildings, the local watering hole,
the wandering drifter with diaper rash, the strewn trash.
Dump, dump, my little tangerine
will dump me,
How's your fuse, dove?
Wanna light?
Camel lights are best.
Life doesn't get any better under I-76 at night.
Every neuron stands at
attention.
My world fits into that
mesmerizing red light under the helipad.

Coda

I pledge my allegiance
to CVS and the superstores of
America for which it stands,
united, under God, by the mergers
of the eighties.


From: Shawn Walker 
Precedence: bulk

Hello.  Thanks for the poem, Luke.  I'd still love to read any thoughts
poets have about why you write what you are writing -- intentions, goals,
aims, etc.  Not that one should need them to read or understand the
poems, but while we're discussing the process of writing them...

So here are some scattered reflections on bits and pieces --

> My love is a red, red cheek
> estranged by my hand weakly

Ooooh, what's going on here?  A red cheek estranged by a hand sounds like
a slap, which is a curiously strong image amid the echo of 
arch-romanticism.  

> I'll be an old man in a purple

The resignation and inevitability in these next few lines really
constrasts the hope and will in the title 'When I am an Old Woman, I Will
Wear Purple'.  Where does this take us?

> like Atlas, not minding the

Okay, not an original criticism, but I'm a big fan of circling every
'like' in a poem with red ink and forcing oneself to justify its
existence in the poem.

> scarcity and worshipping the
> orifice
> of language.

'Orifice' is such a striking word.  The similarly striking gesture of
placing it on its own line, thus calling even more attention to it, makes
it almost stumble over itself.  I think I'd find it much more strongly
used if posed casually.  And what do we do with its clinical connotations? 

> The Perelman subsurd and ablime
> haunt me like a Japanese ghost
> mom returning for her baby.
> Ohiogesaimas, honey.

Funny that you should throw in some Japanese here because the 'subsurd'
and the 'ablime' feel just about as foreign without explanation.  How does
your personal history (the morning of your discovery of these words?)
coincide with public history, the moment (and ongoing moments) of this
poem's being read?  Say more.  Wake us up, too.  I want to feel just as
familiar as 'honey'.

> I actually plan my daily catharses.
> Just kidding. A release a day keeps

Why kidding?  Again, say more?  What does it mean to plan your daily
catharses -- if that were a possibility and not just a joke?

> Eightmiddleschoolclassmateshavekids. 

These formal gestures in the middle of such a lyric poem are sometimes
quite striking.  Why this?  It feels as if you're somewhat shy about
saying it at all.  The cramped letters seem a bit like a box, a fortress
you're daring the reader to penetrate.  Why that feel here?  Interesting.

> You whisper I'm T.S. Eliot
> I say I'm not the only one.

This moment of self-consciousness is a relief, since the literary
allusions are beginning to have a bit of the feel of the cramped
letters.  What walls are they giving you, and how are you decorating the
interior?  This, though, feels a bit vulnerable, which is good.

> generic language and images
> on a Spring day after a
> Quarter Pounder (tm) with cheese

This passage has a similar feel to the above.

> I write in transit:
> a trolley, a car, a bus.

How do you feel your literary heritage here?

> Dump, dump, my little tangerine
> will dump me,

I like moments like this, which feel fun and original -- odd and familiar
at the same time.

The most puzzling questions for me about this poem have to do with its
sense of literary tradition, about which it seems alternately heavy and
blase.  It seems to rely heavily on thoughts and influences of previous
writers but is also highly suspicious of doing so.  And all this mixed in
with the lurking love narrative.  What is the relationship between the
relationships?  How vulnerable are we going to admit ourselves to be?
What are we going to own up to, what are we going to disown before it
disowns us?  I'm not going to try to do a sum-up reading because others
on the list are much better than I am, and we all have our ways of 
offering our ways.

Shawn 


From: Luke Szyrmer Precedence: bulk Shawn Walker wrote: > Hello. Thanks for the poem, Luke. I'd still love to read any thoughts > poets have about why you write what you are writing -- intentions, goals, > aims, etc. Not that one should need them to read or understand the > poems, but while we're discussing the process of writing them... To reply to your first post on this topic, useful poetry sounds like an oxymoron to me. Getting utilitarian with your muse, I see. I would think most poets have a social agenda that they fulfill, even if that process occurs subliminally. I generally write only if I have something interesting to say, i.e. some kind of observation that can be distilled into a sexy thesis. I might start without one, but before I'm done the first draft I usually know what it'll be about. Then it's a question of editing content in and fluff out. Yet these observations are closet truisms, it seems. Your comments are extremely helpful. I'd prefer to let your questions from the following section hang and accumulate, until others have a chance to critique the poem.
I don't think I'm an advocate of 'useful poetry' because 'useful' is so shifty from one time or one person to the next. Also, I want to allow for a certain usefulness to apparently only the poet (while maintaining questions about how even this extends to others when the poetry becomes public). Mostly, I am very interested in writing which is the product of conscious intentions, whatever they may be. > I would think > most poets have a social agenda that they fulfill, > even if that process occurs subliminally. Right. I don't find anything wrong with those subliminal processes. I would like to see more poets conscious of their social agenda in their everyday lives. Because the subliminal innovation always occurs one step beyond what's happening on the surface/foundation, if we clearly define (or attempt to articulate) our foundations, I can only imagine the subsequent poetry to be that much more meaningful. > I generally write only if I have something > interesting to say, i.e. some kind of observation > that can be distilled into a sexy thesis. Right again. But what makes something 'interesting to say'? Is poetry like watching tele -- are we supposed to be distracted by words for a few moments or hours? Okay, so it's supposed to make us 'think'? Why? How? To what end? About what? I'm just trying to wrap my mind around the nature and purpose of Interesting. Shawn
From: mmagee@dept.english.upenn.edu (Michael Magee) Shawn & Luke sd: > To reply to your first post on this topic, useful > poetry sounds like an oxymoron to me. Getting > utilitarian with your muse, I see. I don't think I'm an advocate of 'useful poetry' because 'useful' is so shifty from one time or one person to the next. Also, I want to allow for a certain usefulness to apparently only the poet (while maintaining questions about how even this extends to others when the poetry becomes public). Mostly, I am very interested in writing which is the product of conscious intentions, whatever they may be." I *am* an advocate for useful poetry: as Charles Olson sd, "USE USE USE...there it is, brothers, for use" (I of course add sisters). Language, as Kenneth Burke says, is symbolic action, and since belief systems are symbolic systems lanaguge *acts* to affect & change them. Is poetry a useful intervention in this regard? Your goddam right it is (man am I feeling feisty this morning, & only 10 minutes till class...). So that's me mornin's 2 sense. Your's in usage, -m.
From: Luke Szyrmer Shawn Walker wrote: > I don't think I'm an advocate of 'useful poetry' because 'useful' is so > shifty from one time or one person to the next. Also, I want to allow for > a certain usefulness to apparently only the poet (while maintaining > questions about how even this extends to others when the poetry becomes > public). Mostly, I am very interested in writing which is the product of > conscious intentions, whatever they may be. So you are talking about the therapeutic value of poetry, using poetry as a form of self examination? > > I would think > > most poets have a social agenda that they fulfill, > > even if that process occurs subliminally. > > Right. I don't find anything wrong with those subliminal processes. Neither do I. They often generate extra multiplicity of meaning, and serve many other 'useful' purposes. > I > would like to see more poets conscious of their social agenda in their > everyday lives. Because the subliminal innovation always occurs one step > beyond what's happening on the surface/foundation, if we clearly define > (or attempt to articulate) our foundations, I can only imagine the > subsequent poetry to be that much more meaningful. Often this articulation has come in the form of some kind of statement or manifesto about poetry, particularly over the last fifty years, which I'm sure you know. At the core of such a statement is a definition of poetry in some form. Try answering the superficially simple question 'What is poetry?'. Your answer pretty much determines what you write and how you write it. > Right again. But what makes something 'interesting to say'? Is poetry > like watching tele -- are we supposed to be distracted by words for a few > moments or hours? No. Personally I leave Entertainment with a capital 'E' to Hollywood. > Okay, so it's supposed to make us 'think'? Why? How? > To what end? About what? I'm just trying to wrap my mind around the > nature and purpose of Interesting. Again, I think that the nature of interesting depends on your answers to the fundamental questions about the amorphous blob of words know as poetry. Your answers can change from poem to poem, with each poem being a different take on poetry. Lyricism for example depends on finding deviated language. In that case, poetry is loosely defined as a "linguisitic deviation"* from the language being written in. That way what is expressed sounds fresh and vivid to the uninitiated ear, and ideally even the initiated. Another take on 'interesting' is people. Poetry is thought candy for humanists. Poetry is read to learn about people-interoirs and exteriors, specific and generalized, thoughts and feelings, cultures and realities, protocols and ironies, you name it. In this sense poetry is "useful" in the sense of Mike's quote. One vivid illustration of this proposition is the role of poetry in the tired movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. Is your schoolwork on a related topic, or are you just exploring for your own benefit? -Luke * I read that somewhere, but I can't remember the source.
From: mmagee@dept.english.upenn.edu (Michael Magee) Precedence: bulk from Luke: "Another take on 'interesting' is people. Poetry is thought candy for humanists. Poetry is read to learn about people-interoirs and exteriors, specific and generalized, thoughts and feelings, cultures and realities, protocols and ironies, you name it. In this sense poetry is "useful" in the sense of Mike's quote. One vivid illustration of this proposition is the role of poetry in the tired movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. Is your schoolwork on a related topic, or are you just exploring for your own benefit?" Couldn't tell if this last question was directed toward me or Shawn but figured I'd answer anyway - yeah, my work walks around this issue of the "usefulness" of language. "thought candy for humanists" seems to me a particularly negative way to think of such use, was that your intent? I'm as skeptical as the next person about run-of-the-mill humanism, though I am interested in a particular strain of the humanist philosophic tradition, Pragmatism. I'd count Olson & Burke, who I named in my last post, among this group. They differ from humanists largely in their definition of "human-ness" a category which they would see as much more complex, multi-faceted and contingent, fragmented. As such, *use* and usefulness, being hyuman categories, become equally complicated and contingent. They would also put a premium on the idea of language as defining medium of both identity and social relations, in such a way that the poet is seen as actively mediating *and* mediated *by* social forces. Olson has a great line which just occurred to me, in the Maximus poems: "An American is a complex of occassions." Anyway, not sure where I'm going with this now accept to say that, in so far as a poem is an intervention into the language, it matters, its "useful", and its social, and its lovely. -m.
From: Shawn Walker Thanks to Mike for your first and second posts, pointing out to me that I didn't exactly know what I was talking about. (That was sincere.) The point was, I just wanted to start talking about it in terms of our own poetry and how people on this list are thinking about what/how they are doing. > from Luke: > > Is your schoolwork on a related topic, or are you > just exploring for your own benefit?" If the question is for me -- obviously, I don't have enough schoolwork -- here I am back on this list! When I copied some of Waldrop's ILS lecture for one of the first seminars, someone was actually *offended* at my attempt to introduce theory to class discussions -- which didn't turn out so bad because it forced me to think about how I could bring up some of the discussions I wanted to have through my own poetry. (For those of you who don't know, I'm doing an MA in Creative Writing at an English University.) > "usefulness" of language. "thought candy for humanists" seems to me a > particularly negative way to think of such use, was that your intent? I would agree. 'Candy' seems dangerously close to 'Entertainment with a capital E,' only with different (?) consumers in mind. > post, among this group. They differ from humanists largely in their > definition of "human-ness" a category which they would see as much more > complex, multi-faceted and contingent, fragmented. As such, *use* and > usefulness, being hyuman categories, become equally complicated and > contingent. This is close to what I was trying to get out by trying to find a terribly long way around the subject to get vaguely close to discussing it. > They would also put a premium on the idea of language as > defining medium of both identity and social relations, in such a way that > the poet is seen as actively mediating *and* mediated *by* social forces. So would I -- how do the poets on this list see themselves as 'actively mediating *and* mediated *by* social forces'? > in so far as a poem is an intervention into the language and how far and in what senses are our poems interventions in the language? That's all ... just endless questions... Shawn
From: Shawn Walker > So you are talking about the therapeutic value of > poetry, using poetry as a form of self > examination? No! Please no! Anything but this! I take back everything! > Often this articulation has come in the form of > some kind of statement or manifesto about poetry, > particularly over the last fifty years, which I'm > sure you know. At the core of such a statement is > a definition of poetry in some form. Try answering > the superficially simple question 'What is > poetry?'. Your answer pretty much determines what > you write and how you write it. I agree. I advocate manifestos of all shapes and sizes on a daily basis, and constant definings of poetry. > language being written in. That way what is > expressed sounds fresh and vivid to the > uninitiated ear, and ideally even the initiated. Where we have an 'uninitiated ear,' we have the potential for a basis for hearing which is perpetually fresh and vivid. Poetry is read to UNlearn (about) people. Shawn
From: Luke Szyrmer Shawn Walker wrote: > > Thanks to Mike for your first and second posts, pointing out to me that I > didn't exactly know what I was talking about. (That was sincere.) The > point was, I just wanted to start talking about it in terms of our own > poetry and how people on this list are thinking about what/how they are > doing. I like the way this discussing is going. Both of your posts were insightful and helpful. > > Is your schoolwork on a related topic, or are you > > just exploring for your own benefit?" > If the question is for me -- obviously, I don't have enough schoolwork-- > here I am back on this list! When I copied some of Waldrop's ILS lecture > for one of the first seminars, someone was actually *offended* at my > attempt to introduce theory to class discussions -- which didn't turn out > so bad because it forced me to think about how I could bring up some of > the discussions I wanted to have through my own poetry. (For those of you > who don't know, I'm doing an MA in Creative Writing at an English > University.) I didn't know it was in creative writing. I was actually asking in order to gague how precise or formal I should be with language and referencing quotes. I guess I wanted know how "professional", academically speaking, I should attempt to be, in order to make this discussion useful to you, Shawn and Mike. > > "usefulness" of language. "thought candy for humanists" seems to me a > > particularly negative way to think of such use, was that your intent? > I would agree. 'Candy' seems dangerously close to 'Entertainment with a > capital E,' only with different (?) consumers in mind. The intent was neither negative nor positive. The way I was looking at poetry exclusive of the concerns of other humanistic approaches to people, society and culture. I was trying to encapsulate Sir Phillip Sidney's approach in his Defense of Poesy, in a few words, throwing in some basic identity theory, if you can even call it that. I tried to define poetry by what it's not. If you try to isolate the 'purpose' of each discipline, none of the others are used for decorative value, i.e. a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Arguably metaphor, which is to some extent a defining characteristic of poetry, is so common to other literary forms, that it ceases to be a useful distinction. Metaphor is poetry's epistomelogical device and its contribution to the humanities. Because other forms of literature developed from poetry, it is hard to distinguish between genre llnes, especially when poetic language and use of metaphor is bastardized as a signal of 'literariness' in other genres. > > post, among this group. They differ from humanists largely in their > > definition of "human-ness" a category which they would see as much more > > complex, multi-faceted and contingent, fragmented. As such, *use* and > > usefulness, being human categories, become equally complicated and > > contingent. I understand your Pragmatist take, Mike. I think the danger in taking this approach is that it discounts the importance of figuring out how and why things work, even if there are no practical gains from such theoretical speculation. Generally speaking, by complicating your model, it becomes more realistic telling you about how things are outside of the realm of theory, but the complications obscure the fundamental relationships which the model is supposed to reveal. I realize that I'm using model in a very vague cross disciplinary way here, which makes it more difficult to understand what I'm trying to say. > > They would also put a premium on the idea of language as > > defining medium of both identity and social relations, in such a way that > > the poet is seen as actively mediating *and* mediated *by* social forces. > > So would I -- how do the poets on this list see themselves as 'actively > mediating *and* mediated *by* social forces'? This is politics again, i.e. convincing people of your POV. This question seems to be the outgrowth of the hackneyed debate about whether langauge defines reality, or reality, language. > and how far and in what senses are our poems interventions in the language? Our poems latch on and attach meanings wherever they can. By sharing poetry, we begin to share thoughts and ideas, which increases similarities among us. > That's all ... just endless questions... They're good ones. I hope mine are as useful as yours were to me. -Luke
From: Luke Szyrmer Precedence: bulk Shawn Walker wrote: > > > So you are talking about the therapeutic value of > > poetry, using poetry as a form of self > > examination? > > No! Please no! Anything but this! I take back everything! Srry. Cute retraction. Maybe I was being too reductive again. > > language being written in. That way what is > > expressed sounds fresh and vivid to the > > uninitiated ear, and ideally even the initiated. > > Where we have an 'uninitiated ear,' we have the potential for a basis for > hearing which is perpetually fresh and vivid. Forgive me but I don't understand what you are trying to say here. > Poetry is read to UNlearn > (about) people. Even though I think I understand what you're trying to say in the context of Mike's comments, it seems you've done a 180. On a certain level you are saying poetry is UNuseful.
From: Shawn Walker Me: (Poetry is meant to UNlearn (about) people.) Luke: Even though I think I understand what you're trying to say in the context of Mike's comments, it seems you've done a 180. On a certain level you are saying poetry is UNuseful. That's my problem with the word 'useful.' It depends on what you and/or I consider 'useful.' I think a lot of poetry confirms our preconceived ideas, delivers stereotypes, limits our ability to relate to people as individuals, and resonates with the assumptions which make our lives most comfortable and most irresponsible (by which I mean something like willingly unaware), all under the guise of 'teaching' us about People. I consider that to be not-useful. I want poetry to force me to admit what I don't understand and the possibilities of connection withing that mystery. > I understand your Pragmatist take, Mike. I think > the danger in taking this approach is that it > discounts the importance of figuring out how and > why things work, even if there are no practical > gains from such theoretical speculation. For some reason, 'figuring out how and why things work' sounds very practical to me, but perhaps I'm not completely understanding your critique of the Pragmatist model. > This is politics again, i.e. convincing people of > your POV. This question seems to be the outgrowth > of the hackneyed debate about whether langauge > defines reality, or reality, language. I don't think it is a simple case of 'convincing people of your POV.' I'd like to be a little more optomistic and think of poetry as opening up possibilities, new ways of (put your own sense-gerund here), without limiting perceivers to a certain conclusion or result (which is how I see politics working), which may end up to be a new form of control. Thanks, Shawn
From: mmagee@dept.english.upenn.edu (Michael Magee) Shawn and Luke's words: "> I understand your Pragmatist take, Mike. I think > the danger in taking this approach is that it > discounts the importance of figuring out how and > why things work, even if there are no practical > gains from such theoretical speculation. For some reason, 'figuring out how and why things work' sounds very practical to me, but perhaps I'm not completely understanding your critique of the Pragmatist model." Yeah, "figuring out how things work" is a kind of central metaphor behind most pragmatist discussions of poetry, language, rhetoric, etc. Someone like Richard Rorty spends alot of time disabusing his readers of the notion that language is representational; rather, says RR, its more like a set of tools - all you *can* do is try to describe "how and why (they) work," since *what* they mean is a somewhat bogus question. Like William James, Rorty considers this a pretty happy little dilemma - it frees the poet up to do a lot of work without quite the burden of explanation as it exists outside of the actual social nexus of communication. The nexus is complex enough, the pragmatist says, without adding the xtra headache of whether what you're saying is eternally true; better to focus on a different question: "what happens when I say it?" What happens to me & my speech, what happens to the speech of my community & other comunities in contact w/ it; or, more realistically, what *might* happen after the long process of circulation runs its course. What kind of work might a poem perform, taking for granted the many contingencies bond to divert or impede that performance. To some people this sounds just awful (Kristen G once sent me a post from a feminist listserv which described "Rorty's mind-numbing pragmatism"), but I think it poses some interesting possibilites for the poet: and Rorty is only the white-male-philosopher version of such a stance; similar positions with more interesting cultural specificity can be found in people like Ellison, Nate Mackey, Joan Retallack, Ann Lauterbach, many others. Of course the "work" metaphor is all over the New American Poetry scene. Ok, enough of me. -m.
From: Luke Szyrmer Now to take on mike's missive... > Yeah, "figuring out how things work" is a kind of central metaphor behind > most pragmatist discussions of poetry, language, rhetoric, etc. Someone > like Richard Rorty spends alot of time disabusing his readers of the > notion that language is representational; rather, says RR, its more like a > set of tools - all you *can* do is try to describe "how and why (they) > work," since *what* they mean is a somewhat bogus question. Like William > James, Rorty considers this a pretty happy little dilemma - it frees the > poet up to do a lot of work without quite the burden of explanation as it > exists outside of the actual social nexus of communication. I don't know what to think of the seperation of the "hows and whys" from the poem's meaning. Disuniting questions about function from the poem's meaning is counterintuitive to me. The "pretty little dilemma" releases you form the responsibility to think. You just need to collect information. Is this what you (as the pragamitist) call useful? Something that permits you to stop working and thinking? > The nexus is > complex enough, the pragmatist says, without adding the xtra headache of > whether what you're saying is eternally true; better to focus on a > different question: "what happens when I say it?" Eternal truths are bogus; but many states, truths, and laws exist in such a viscous form, that they seem eternal and universal to humans. "What happens when you say it" depends on what's inside it, content and structure. > What happens to me & my > speech, what happens to the speech of my community & other comunities in > contact w/ it; or, more realistically, what *might* happen after the long > process of circulation runs its course. What kind of work might a poem > perform, taking for granted the many contingencies bond to divert or > impede that performance. So you're claiming that Pragmatists focus on the poem's effect on its social context. You're comparing the poem to the joke as a narrative form. That's interesting, considering the your excellent turns of wit in much of your poetry. I'm trying to figure out what other potential effects a poem can have, but I can't think one off the top of my head that would introduce substantial change, at least psychologically. Maybe you can suggest something from your wide reading in this philosophical/philological tradition. I think you've already said something on this listserv about your concern that you are denigrating your poetry by your use of humor. If you stick to a Pragmatist definition of poetry, you aren't hurting your poetry. Your concern, then, arises from your perception of Pragmatism's shortcomings, does it not? I think you are looking to incorporate more definitions of poetry into your writing simultaneously, and that's probably a good way to go. Luke
From: Luke Szyrmer Shawn Walker wrote: > > Me: (Poetry is meant to UNlearn (about) people.) > > Luke: Even though I think I understand what you're trying to say in the > context of Mike's comments, it seems you've done a 180. On a certain level > you are saying poetry is UNuseful. > > That's my problem with the word 'useful.' It depends on what you and/or I > consider 'useful.' I think a lot of poetry confirms our preconceived > ideas, delivers stereotypes, limits our ability to relate to people as > individuals, and resonates with the assumptions which make our lives most > comfortable and most irresponsible (by which I mean something like > willingly unaware), all under the guise of 'teaching' us about People. > I consider that to be not-useful. I want poetry to force me to admit > what I don't understand and the possibilities of connection withing that > mystery. I understand your distinction about usefulness. I think discussions about definitions are quite worthwhile, because definitions lie at the base of any conceptual structure. You seem to deride the use of poetry as a prescriptive, and therefore limiting, device. Because it limits, it is therefore not useful. I think that if poetry is seen as descriptive, it is liberating. When you know what to expect, you can play around--with words, expectations, whatever. Usefulness, that way, helps create. It promotes progress, conceptually at least. As an aside: all stereotyping is generalizing, all generalizing is NOT stereotyping. Certain types of generalizing require a certain amount of intellectual rigor not found in stereotyping. > For some reason, 'figuring out how and why things work' sounds very > practical to me, but perhaps I'm not completely understanding your > critique of the Pragmatist model. "Figuring how and why things work" necessarily requires theory. Without theory, you are blindly proceeding through life, without a clue why things work. Without Newton's massive intellectual accomplishment of developing calculus, people could have continued living. Gravity and everything else worked without people's knowing why it worked. Yet once calculus was invented, it was such a significant advance, that it enabled people to see the same world completely differently. At the time it was invented, there was little use for it, and it merely described how things work (descriptive). As time went on, that very invention became essential to understanding a number of processes that were completely unrelated to its original application. Once all of this 'understanding' had occurred, people began to apply that knowledge. They created, they invented. At that point, the calculus left the realm of theory, and became useful. Newton even exerted influence on Blake. There's a book out that Dr. Stuart Curran was talking about that explores the physics of Blake. Outside the realm of poetry, calculus could be used to calculate population growth, interest rates, and for a number of other uses that lie well beyond high school mathematics. That is what I mean when I say useful theory. I don't consider the Pragmatist approach useful because it doesn't help discover underlying processes and relationships, and therefore doesn't help figure out how and why things work. I guess I'm taking a sociological view of poetry, not the standard Willism James psychological take on it, that Olson and company have extrapolated and detailed. The Pragmatist 'party line' seems to be a theoretical dead end. > I don't think it is a simple case of 'convincing people of your POV.' > I'd like to be a little more optomistic and think of poetry as opening up > possibilities, new ways of (put your own sense-gerund here), without > limiting perceivers to a certain conclusion or result (which is how I see > politics working), which may end up to be a new form of control. I think we agree here, because I was raising similar issues with the prescriptive/descriptive distinction. You are defining a person's POV as polemic, not multifaceted. By imposing a POV on someone, you impose preferences on a number of issues, by describing what you perceive, hence increased (sense-gerund) results. I was referring to politics in the general sense, which I said before, and now I guess I've been more clear by what I mean by politics 'in general', namely the struggle of multifacted wills for what they perceive as favorable change according to their perceptions.
From: mmagee@dept.english.upenn.edu (Michael Magee) Precedence: bulk Luke sd: "I don't know what to think of the seperation of the "hows and whys" from the poem's meaning. Disuniting questions about function from the poem's meaning is counterintuitive to me. The "pretty little dilemma" releases you form the responsibility to think. You just need to collect information. Is this what you (as the pragamitist) call useful? Something that permits you to stop working and thinking?" No, no, youíve misrepresented me here: the pragmatist doesnít *separate* "hows and whys" *from* meaning, but *integrates* "hows and whys" *with* meaning. This is an absolutely central distinction, which accounts for, among other things, Creeleyís insistence on an integration of form and content, or rather, his insistence that form is *a kind of* content. Likewise theory is a kind of practice. I take your discussion of Newton to be precisely to the point: "Gravity and everything else worked without people's knowing why it worked. Yet once calculus was invented, it was such a significant advance, that *it enabled people to see the same world completely differently*. At the time it was invented, there was little use for it." "Enabling people to see the same world completely differently" is profoudly useful whatever the possibilites of scientific application happened to be at the time. Calculus changes our *vocabulary* almost immediately and as Rorty would say, "large scale change of belief is indistinguishable from large scale change in the meanings of oneís words." This is the principle reason John Dewey was interested in the physics of his day. He recognized that among the many things they were doing, a Heisenberg or an Einstein were creating a vocabulary: scientific shifts are largely linguistic shifts, an observation which Thomas Kuhn absorbs in theorizing about scientific paradigm shifts (Kuhn being an assiduous reader of Dewey). As I said, your Newton example is quite to the point, particularly as it involved Blake: did Blake use Newtonian calculus to invent a toater oven or something? Of course not; he used it to expand the possibilities of his own linguistic logic. The pragmatist doesnít collect information, she *employs* information, and in this way differs from the positivist, the utilitarian. Next: "So you're claiming that Pragmatists focus on the poem's effect on its social context. You're comparing the poem to the joke as a narrative form. That's interesting, considering the your excellent turns of wit in much of your poetry. I'm trying to figure out what other potential effects a poem can have, but I can't think one off the top of my head that would introduce substantial change, at least psychologically. Maybe you can suggest something from your wide reading in this philosophical/philological tradition." I sense a little condescension here, which I take in good humor, humor being the subject anyway. The joke is only one narrative form that might be considered as socially symbolic act. I take most humor theory, Bergson, Freud, et al, to be a bit of a bore and too narrow (and not that funny!). All writing is rhetorical, the joke being one kind of rhetoric: the combat myth, the dialogue, the "free-verse" poem, the colloquial speech of subcommunities, all of these represent vocabularies and grammars which the culture(s) absorbs or disavows in a series of complex negotiations. Lastly: "I think you've already said something on this listserv about your concern that you are denigrating your poetry by your use of humor. If you stick to a Pragmatist definition of poetry, you aren't hurting your poetry. Your concern, then, arises from your perception of Pragmatism's shortcomings, does it not? I think you are looking to incorporate more definitions of poetry into your writing simultaneously, and that's probably a good way to go." Glad to hear you feel Iím going in a good way, but no, my perceptions of pragmatismís shortcomings tend to be cultural: which is to say I disagree with some of the cultural conclusions someone like Rorty has drawn from pragmatist theory, say, about ethnic diversity. But as far as pragmatismís basic presumptions about language go, Iím pretty comfortable with them. And, no, I donít think Iím denigrating my poetry by using jokes, not at all. I just like to keep the question of what Iím accomplishing by using them an open question. This and my fear of becoming a one-trick pony keep me in a mode of more or less constant reevaluation. Thanks for the debate, Iím enjoying it. -m.