2.16.2009

Random Thoughts & Two Poems

Some random thoughts:

1. The debate about Flarf is one that focuses on the question of whether Flarf is a technique or a form. Flarf itself is not an aesthetic; Flarf is the subject of aesthetic debate.

2. Plumbline poetry is not an intentionally written poem; it is not a technique or a form, but a classification. Plumbline poems preserve the poet's temporal experiences in such a way that the reader can intellectually and emotionally reconstruct the epiphanies the poet has encoded within the text based upon the contextual cultural knowledge encoded within the text.

3. The dramatic persona is a rhetorical construct. It is a situational meme addressing a particular message at a particular audience at a particular point in time. Thus, it is tied to the cultural moment in which it was created. The aesthetics of the poet and the techniques used to create the poem are not as important as the work itself as a language artifact which can transcend the cultural constraints of its creation.

4. Plumbline poetry is poetry concerned with the aesthetics of the poem itself, but plumbline poetry also rejects the notion of the "Affective Fallacy." Plumbline poems ignite a change, however slight, in the reader's perception of the world.

5. Language is an incomplete communication of image, and the closer a poem comes to reliance upon image as its main syncretic device, the better.

6. Two poems which exhibit these features, the first from "canon", the second not yet:

Richard Hugo's "Death of the Kapowsin Tavern"

Reb Livingston's "Finite and Fortnight"


7. Discuss amongst yourselves.

8 comments:

Henry Gould said...

I like #2, which is related to #5. They may be part of the more general idea of a "fit" between style and subject-matter.

The balance between the medium - language per se - and that "something" of which the words are only an index, a representation - that toward which they can only gesture. The borderline (plumbline?) where speech, paradoxically, goes mute, reaches its limit.

This is also maybe the "edge" toward which good poetry keeps straining. A dramatic image - all the words correlated to present a more vital, complex, trans-linguistic situation. Concrete, embodied. Poetry's "virtual reality".

J.H. Stotts said...

i think there's something corrosive about the culture of the 'image' we are trapped in, and something in poetry should act as counter to that--that is, i worry about #5, and want poetry to engage whatever it is that images are not capable of, and expand the imagination. vision and imagination, actually, are not good enough words for what i mean, because they lead into that same trap.
images seem auxiliary, like rhyme, meter; poetry's aim is ulterior.
i don't know, just my thoughts.

Matthew W. Schmeer said...

When I say image, I do not necessarily mean visual images. Certainly sound, smell, etc., figure in here.

In other words, plumbline poetry is sensory, but not necessarily >sensual. It should evoke a strong sensory reaction in the reader, it should provide unexpected stimuli.

Henry Gould said...

It's a very good point, J.H. Probably better to avoid reducing what we're talking about to a narrow set of "realistic" correspondences between the poem and actual experience.

As I see it, the idea of a "fit" or proportion between style & subject can happen in a great variety of different ways. Not only as a record, or chronicle, or photograph.

At the same time, I like Matthew's formulation : "Plumbline poems preserve the poet's temporal experiences in such a way that the reader can intellectually and emotionally reconstruct the epiphanies the poet has encoded within the text based upon the contextual cultural knowledge encoded within the text."

This is an example of a poetic "value" worth emphasizing, in a contemporary scene where poets often perform, speechify or string one-liners, rather than evoke, describe, or portray.

I think as this "school" evolves we're going to find more & more individual differences in approach (amongst ourselves). This is not a bad thing at all. (I think of the group of Russian Acmeists, for example - they were bound together by shared allegiances to certain concepts of poetry & tradition - but the way they each understood & applied these concepts displayed a lot of individual variety & idiosyncrasy.

J.H. Stotts said...

being where we are, i don't see how we can avoid conflict with the society of the spectacle, and how we've been damaged by our situation in it.
i think if there's a struggle we are fighting, historically, it might be against that. that spectacle is what comes to mind when i hear 'image.'

Joseph Duemer said...

Like Henry, I thought this statement of Matthew's captured something about our project:

"The balance between the medium - language per se - and that "something" of which the words are only an index, a representation - that toward which they can only gesture. The borderline (plumbline?) where speech, paradoxically, goes mute, reaches its limit."

I've long had the sense that language yearns toward the real without every being able to reach it. This is the paradox of representation, which some sorts of contemporary poetry collapse by focusing on the "materiality of language," turning out poems that aspire not to be representations but things in themselves. That's a move I tend not to trust even when it produces interesting results.

And when Henry first proposed the idea for this colloquy, the first notions that popped into my head had to do with defending a certain kind of realism in poetry. At the same time, I want to agree with J.H. Stotts' questioning of the image as a corrosive agent in culture. I'm wondering, though, if one of the functions of poetry might not be to rehabilitate the image. Just a thought.

Joseph Duemer said...

Side note: Matthew: I studied with Dick Hugo in the 1970s in Seattle, for just one school term, but it was an important experience for me. He was a dear man. There's a lovely special section in a recent Georgia Review devoted to Hugo, whose reputation I think might be poised for a comeback.

Henry Gould said...

Joseph :

"I've long had the sense that language yearns toward the real without every being able to reach it. This is the paradox of representation, which some sorts of contemporary poetry collapse by focusing on the "materiality of language," turning out poems that aspire not to be representations but things in themselves. That's a move I tend not to trust even when it produces interesting results. "

- Right! I'm with you there.