Tuesday, March 28, 2006


JH: How does a work persuade a reader that it is worthy of attention, or persuade canon-makers that it is worthy of survival (continued attention)? There is the attention of time, straightening out allusions and meaning-tangles one by one, and there is the attention of focus, the reader getting the impression that the history of the language (or indeed, language itself) through the spectacles (as in glasses, a reader-sized window) of the poem. The poem as strata, and the poem as indivisible surface. Do you think that texts that are more obviously experimental in appearance fall into the second category (indivisible surface)? Which is not to say there cannot be commentary on such poems, but that the loose threads they present for unraveling are fewer in number and/or can unravel only so far, without straightening out the entire poem. Some ways of straightening out: partial paraphrase (into prose -- isn't this what all criticism sets out to do, to make parts of the poem into prose? Many lines in poems could be prose - do the surrounding poetic lines lend poetry to those prosaic lines - is the reader considered a prosaic text that the poem wishes to lend poetry to? What is ever completely poem?), how a poem moves within itself (motifs, structure, etc), and how a poem sheds light on the mystery of poetry or goes toward pulling out just a little more a thread in a particular fabric of literary history. But such unraveling, it seems to me, is always alongside the poem itself, hoping prose will lend its clarity to poetic lines - a collusion between the explicating lines of the commentary (which is the complete text of the commentary, aside from any lines quoted from the poem) and the more prosaic lines in the poem.
AHB: You open a lot of door and windows here. I shall riff along as the feeling strikes me. A poem like Shelley's Mask of Anarchy” (I hope I'm thinking of the right poem), isn't hard to get. It is a passionate political poem full of Shelley's utopian hope for revolution. Really, it is the passion of the poem that makes it great (I mean, I think it is a great). One doesn't doubt that Shelley was an armchair revolutionary, and poetically speaking, the poem is an anthem. Zukofsky's A is highly charged politically, but here you'd speak more of its indivisible surfaces. I think the reader is a prosaic text that the poem wishes to lend poetry to. My first interest in poetry began in 10th grade when an English teacher proposed this question to the class: what is poetry? The class answers centered on rhyme and other superficialities, and a general view of poetry's irrelevancy. The ensuing class discussion gave us a view of a subject much vaster and potentially more interesting than anything we'd assumed previously. Tho I didn't start writing poetry till the next year, it did intrigue me that poetry was not limited to what high school English had determined it to be. Theory and criticism are components in the reading of poetry, along with imaginative flights. I mean, one utilizes both sides of the brain. I balance more heavily to the right--at times it is a labour for me to take logical steps—but I do read criticism and theory. I don't write reviews but occasionally on my blog I will write enthusiams for things I've read. Such being part of the job, so to speak. I know you read widely, I mean you've mentioned the Swedish playwright whose name has totally vanished from my grey cells, and astrology and round about. When you read that nameless Swedish playwright, or astrology texts, are you anywhere near the region of poetry?is here a clear boundary? I ask because the lines are blurring for me.


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