Monday, March 13, 2006


JH: "The poem wants more than the next word, it wants the right word, because a poem is an organic thing" is an an excellent point. But even poems don't always get what they want. There have been poems that have inorganic words, lines, and/or passages shot through them (which brings to mind the previous mention of Poe's critique of long poems). Does insertion of language inorganic to the poem, lengthy or otherwise, have its own poetic purpose? Counterpoint, witting or unwitting? The poet may not have such counterpoint in mind, but it's hard to tell (even if the poet claims intent). Since, as we've mentioned, intent is hard to prove, perhaps this is where theory is useful (or necessary), a fiction referencing a real poem - more counterpoint. By "theory" I mean commentary, especially by someone other than the poet, after the fact. "Vision" could be defined as such theory a priori by the poem's poet. I do have vision, in this definition. I suppose most of my vision could easily be guessed from earlier answers - and questions - in this interview. I try to keep it updated (over blocks of years) and I do think that the Nature of the poem has its own ideas as how it should look (DNA: the poet as one parent, the impetus for the poem the other parent, with ancestry and chance combinations coming into play). Perhaps theory is a spur (whose?) to get a poem written, to provide impetus and process. Writing is a loss of self in order to let another self, the poem, come into the world. Is an ethics of poem preservation needed, a bill of rights for the poem? A poem has a shelf life different from a human, sometimes lasting a lot longer (millennia) sometimes a lot shorter (immediate destruction, by the poet or by misadventure). Are classic poems like famous historical personages? Both wind up being literary, with the poem speaking for itself beyond the earthly life of its author. What of lost poems - poems lost via critical and popular neglect? To want all poems preserved would be tantamount to wanting all people to be historical personages. And why not? But why can't it be (if it indeed is an impossibility)? Poems could be preserved via families (assuming the poet has a family) and local historical societies (assuming the poet does not move around so much as to be without this geographical family). That they are not, consistently, says something about the fear of literature, even by the most committed literary practitioners? What is good or bad when there is so much - and here I posit that a reader magically reads all the world's poetry in these hypothetical archives. Would so much classic poetry bring the sun too close to the earth (or vice-versa, I feel compelled to add)?

AHB: In a sense, we only need one poem, one work that is a world. Some writers proceed as if they felt their work demanded all your attention. James Joyce and Finnegan's Wake, for instance or Proust's A La Recherche. And sure, people read the Bible, or Quran, or Torah, as deep as they can get. But one can choose to read any work to the nth degree. You would then end up reading the history of language. The task is daunting, obviously. We all skim, because that sense of the task overwhelms, and besides we (writers) want to make our own work. There isn't any good and bad in the 'long run'. Aesthetics is a practical winnowing, as no one can read it all. The point is a search for meaning, tho meaning is way too loaded a word. The work of some writers is not relevant to me—maybe I just never came across it—and some is. Any writing could be relevant. I say all this while recognizing that some writers 'do it better' than others, a point that is perfectly arguable. Poems are lives just as people are. We live with some, we don't live with some. I suppose the classic poetry has survived the evolutionary shuffle, and can be snotty ass about that, but its survival owes to luck and happenstance. Theory seems descriptive to me, written after the fact. Perhaps some writers begin with theory and work out, but that don't work for me.


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