2.27.2009

Speech, Gesture, Situation

Pretty eloquent statement by poet/critic Martin Earl, over at Harriet blog, which seems to have some affinities with Plumbline concerns. The problem he mentions at the end, about how the art of poetry survives in a "post-literate" world, is interesting, & seems related to something I've been (vaguely) pondering about lately, from a slightly different angle (may try to elaborate on this further later) -

that is, I've started to wonder about the "figure" or "gesture" a poem or poet makes - the implied or unspoken situation, setting, or framework within which the poems (as texts) exist. The context within which we actually enjoy, appreciate, or understand particular poems.

Have been thinking about this, actually, in relation to an unpublished manuscript I have, which combines a (semi)fictional memoir with a group of poems. & also in connection with Gabriel Gudding's book, Rhode Island Notebook, which, it seems to me, is a piece of writing nested in an extremely dramatic kind of personal gesture (autobiographical, documentary, & theatrical - ie. the actual writing of it while driving alone, cross-country - at the wheel of his car).

Underlying poetry-making is a powerful drive to communicate. But these days, machines can communicate; language is depersonalized. The "Romantic" foregrounding of the Poet and the poet's personality started to go out of fashion in the late 19th century, & the trend intensified, coming to a kind of climax in late-20th-cent. postmodern philosophy (deconstruction, etc.) & related poetry movements (Language Poetry, etc.).

Not sure how this relates, as yet, to particular "Plumbline" concerns. Except one could look at these issues through some kind of lens drawn from rhetoric. There have been investigations (starting with ancient philosophers & literary theorists) into the relation between a speaker's "ethos", and the persuasive force of a speech-act. "Your word is your bond"; "talk the talk, walk the walk" : that kind of thing. So in terms of poetry : can we discern some kind of "balancing act" between the poet's personal testimony - the witness of individual experience - and the poem itself as an independent, free-standing literary text (or work of art)?

How large a factor, in the persuasive power & effect of poetry, lies with the context, the atmosphere, the "unwritten" dramatic gestures which frame the text itself?

Does the dramatic gesture a poet makes, with & around the actual poems, have some bearing on the issues Earl raises (post-literacy, marginalization of poetry, etc.)? & how does this relate to a previous topic raised here (& yet to be explored further) - ie., what, today, is the nature/value of dramatic poetry & verse drama per se?

(some more personal thoughts on this over at my own blog today)

3 comments:

Joseph Duemer said...

So: How is the nexus of the poet's cultural and social and personal location embodied (or gestured) in the text of the poem? Does it have anything to do with how the poet turns? "She taught me turn and counterturn and stand ... I nibbled meekly from the proffered hand..." [Roethke, quoted from memory].

Henry Gould said...

Joe, I don't have an answer yet, but thanks for bringing my overly-oscillating gabble back into plumb. Maybe Matthew, Michael or Peter will have a better idea along these lines. Or other commenters out there.

Henry Gould said...

... but maybe it could be connected in an interesting way with something you mentioned in comment to Michael's post on The Turn - about language's final incommensurabiility with the Real, it's continual circling approach.

If poetry is to some degree grounded, authenticated, in the Personal - and yet if there's this countering movement of the poet, an attempt to transcend solipsism & merely private subjectivity - maybe the poem could be thought of as a kind of turned, rounded, sculptural-3-dimensional object - the "spin" which is the outcome of this dual motion (personal testament - impersonal, communal statement)...

- sorry for all the coninuing overcast Aesthetic weather!