Butterfly in spider's web,
unentangle wings in time
to flutter off to dress in red
instead of spun in fine silk
Beating wings against restraints,
a butterfly cannot cry out.
It cannot tear, it cannot tear
by moisture nor by force without.
In summary, a butterfly
flaps and does, or does not
what i would most like to reflect on here is the effect of the poem over the readers' voice (my voice at the very least). i'm a strong advocate of reading poetry aloud (i am not always able to as i read poetry in public places, and unless i already know the poem is worthy of a non-poetry-seeking crowd, i am keen to keep it to myself). what this poem does to the voice is exemplary.
read it out loud (particularly the second one in the series), doesn't matter where you are, it's short and the people who stare at you would have been staring anyway, it's just now you notice them.
it's fast isn't it?
try again, try to read it slow... you sound just like william shatner (love the man, but not what i want to sound like while i'm reading poetry about butterflies).
the power a poet has with words is demonstrated unquestionably when there is a mandatory way to read it as in the case of netsky[aka reid] here, OR in the case of, say wcw's red wheel barrow, in which there is no definitive means for reading the poem out loud.
the poet, as in both examples, has the utmost power--either to demand or confound--the poet makes the reaction.
what that does in regards to the content is give it weight. in wcw's poem, the rockwellian image of a chicken and wheel barrow is ... imagine an illiterate farmer from the early 1900's, he's stumbling for the right word, he's not using fancy fillers--his vernacular is cloudy and often times leaves space for interpretation. netsky's poem, however, is quick, paced with a slight touch of frantic. the butterfly is restrained and doing anything it can--not being able to cry out or tear, it flaps and flutters to no end. feel this as you read the piece out, it's there.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
there's this awesome video, though i'm not sure of the publication details or where even to begin finding it, though i believe it's called "so much depends", wherein dozens of people are approached on the street and asked to read these mere 16 words and out of all who were asked, hardly any one read it the same as any other. it was outstanding. the idea of a poem that is, in this regard, unreadable is astounding.
now how do i apply Charles Olson's Projective Verse to these examples i've dealt?
so you know, i am writing these thoughts as they come and as a reread Olson's poetics statement. it's been just over a year since i scribbled in the margins of this particular essay (i tend to do this in order to understand better the arguments being made, if you were to read my copy of the book you'd find constant questions in gray pencil swirling around the page, antagonizing the text), so excuse me if i double back on myself now and a again. i thought, anyway, that it would be a bit more interesting for you to read how i develope arguments and a lot more fun for me in not having to labor over a standard and well-composed essay.
back to that question: how do i apply...? it's easy enough in regards of williams, as mr olson lists him as a counter-example to the antithesis of projective verse (therefore, lists him as an example of projective verse). olson begins his argument by defining the Non-Projective:
(or what a French critic calls "closed" verse, that verse which print bred and which is pretty much what we have had in English & American, and have still got, despite the work of Pound & Williams...)
so my thoughts begin, and i write in the margin: "part of what this is about is the creation of such unread ability?" is projective verse, then, in some part founded on the grounds of zukofsky's labor ethics? is it, in some way, taking steps off of marxism? [afterthought: I really ought to explain myself here; perhaps in another email… zuckofsky is an entirely different puzzle to be solved, perhaps later] what i mean is, i think that olson uses williams as an example of open verse as an opposition to this "closed" verse. williams, as i described previously, challenges all readers to create their own way of reading any given poem [hence the labor and marxism referral], in particular a red wheel barrow. part of what is meant, then, by projective is perhaps projecting some level of responsibility onto the reader. this is not definite, but an interesting idea, no?
lingering on the word projective i think it is important to address the three terms olson begins his poetics with and they are:
projectile: n 1)A fired, thrown, or otherwise propelled object, such as a bullet, having no capacity for self-propulsion. 2) A self-propelled missile, such as a rocket. adj 1) Capable of being impelled or hurled forward. 2) Driving forward; impelling a projective force. 3) Zoology. Capable of being thrust outward; protrusive.
percussive: adj Of, relating to, or characterized by percussion. [percussion: n 1) The striking together of two bodies, especially when noise is produced. 2) The sound, vibration, or shock caused by the striking together of two bodies. 3) The act of detonating a percussion cap in a firearm. 4) A method of medical diagnosis in which various areas of the body, especially the chest, back, and abdomen, are tapped to determine by resonance the condition of internal organs.5) pertaining to music, you can check dictionary.com if you really feel the need.]
& prospective: adj 1) Likely or expected to happen. 2) Likely to become or be: prospective clients.
just with these three words there seems to be an epic amount of thought on olson's part and as many obstacles in the path of the reader's understanding of those thoughts. the way i amalgamate these three terms is by studying them as the definition of projective: projective (in poetry) is the form in which the poet projects a particular or prospective percussive verse on the reader. the reader, then, is assigned the duty of reading the presented text in such a way that the poet demands. (this is justified by olson himself later: "verse... [must] put into itself certain laws and possibilities of the breath, of the breathing..."
this takes us back to labor (as an arguments about the relationship between poet and audience). olson doesn't take this stance in his essay, but i'm eager to address it myself. the poems above, the one by reid (particularly the second) and red wheel barrow, exemplify two ends of the projective spectrum. one is a locked in position; the reader must read this poem in this way. the second is a locked out position; the reader must define his own way of understanding how to voice this piece. both the lock in and the lock out depend on the ability of the reader to some extent.
let me see if i can find any justification within olson's text (and excuse me here if i derail, like i said, i'm working this out as a read through olson's essay).
i believe, after only reading a line or two, now, that olson veers heavily on the side of the "locked out" position of projective as i interpreted it. he writes, as a prelude to some explanation and expansion on the matter: "OPEN, or what can also be called COMPOSITION BY FEILD, as opposed to the inherited line, stanza, over-all form, what is the ‘old’ base of the non-projective". (i know it feels a bit chunky out of context, but to be truthful, it reads a bit chunky in context). basically what he's describing here--and why i feel he must be leaning more towards the idea of a lock out--is poetry beyond structure (there are examples of this on the Jubilat page, for example: http://www.jubilat.org/n9/smith.html ) (john ashbury dabbles in this in his collection The Tennis Court Oaths). somehow olson intends, i hope, to merge a very visually-forward concept of poetry with a very audio-forward concept of speaking poetry.
it would appear olson does address the role of the reader, but only as receiver. he goes beyond what my poetics addressed (more like he glosses over the issue of the poem itself and focuses on the energy (or light source)). the only thing he says about the poem itself is that it "must, at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge". this is pretty straight forward. olson the approaches this need as a problem for the poet. he asks how is the poet to accomplish this, particularly in FIELD COMPOSITION as opposed to the ruled and regulated closed form poetry? i read this as, how does the poet hold onto the reader, how does the poet keep the reader from getting lost?
he then discusses the poem itself: FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT. (this, he discloses, is a phrase coined by Robert Creeley, which olson borrows to force his point forward; to project.) this is spot on what i was getting at in my post-reply to reid's poems in comparison to wcw's red wheel barrow. do you see it? the form, the language, the speed, it is all connected, in the end, to the content. the poem is, and ought to be, an entity wholly unified in all of it's elements. (this is something that i try, always, to accomplish; though am not sure how successful or unsuccessful i am.)
but without spending very much time with the product he clears a place on the table for process (modernists, and more so postmodernists, over use the importance of process by placing it above the final product in most circumstances, this has not completely carried through to our generation, i feel, as so many young poets while still holding the process of their creation quite high, present the product as a declaration of itself and not of the process--there is a current effort to mask process (though not through any shame) in order to allow the product to glow.)
i must say, though, for a poet composing in a time of specific movements, his ideas on process seem to me to be rather universal. his main commentary is surrounded around this quote from yet another one of his inspirations, Edward Dahlberg: "one perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception."
the way olson expands on this quote is too good not to be read: "...is a matter of, at all points (even, I should say, of our management of daily reality as of the daily work) get on with it, keep moving, keep in, speed, the nerves, their speed, the perceptions, theirs, the acts, the split second acts, the whole business, keep it moving as fast as you can, citizen. And if you also set up as a poet, USE USE USE the process at all points, in any given poem always, always one perception must must must MOVE, INSTANTER, ON ANOTHER! So there we are, fast, there’s the dogma."
so the way not to lose your readership is to work with such speed as to create a path in which no one could possibly lose sight of it? perhaps. i think reid does this; however, he does not use this "field composition". so how would one use open visual verse to create a locked in speaking verse? williams doesn't do this. (though that is to no fault, for his red wheel barrow's form and lack of this path is part of what compliments its content). what poem does this then? as i made passing reference to john ashbury's The Tennis Court Oaths, our beloved John does this. the poems force the reader to follow along. and the perfect example of this is in Me wtih Animal Towering by Albert Mobilio:
i know i haven’t made very many conclusions. instead there are all these thoughts floating above our heads, but maybe you can use my lingering thoughts as strings to tie ideas up in, or to attach your own loose ends to…