Friday, February 03, 2006

Essence? (responding to the projective essay)

a: Katy, we'll be going to New York for a couple of days, and I won't have Internet access. I just wanted to quickly (as unfair as it is) write you about my reaction to your essay/article. First off, it revealed to me our very different background to poetry. I frankly never thought that poetry could be this "technical" or "intellectual". And when I say I never thought it could be this intellectual, I don't mean that it is a stupid endeavor. On the contrary, I think I already expressed to you my opinion that a good poet has to be a very smart one. What I mean, however, is that I have always held (and perhaps still do) the probably antiquated notion that poetry is more of an immediate (mostly emotional?) reaction, that it is not so belabored. I realize how farsically close that notion is to that of muses, but perhaps I hold to it still because, as you know, poetry for me was/is an escape from the belabored highly technical and intellectualized domain of my profession, architecture. I have always relished that in it: that it is "honest", "immediate", almost "spontaneous". And that is why perhaps I felt a strong feeling of resentment towards the ideas presented in your essay (that and the fact that I highly resent anything I can't wrap my head around!). I just fear that when one thinks so hard of poetry, one chances losing its essence in the argument. And while architecture can stand losing its essence (because it is afterall such a banal and pragmatic one, that of shelter), I fear that poetry is mostly in its essence, that summing up of life in the twist of a phrase. I hope I haven't offended you; I certainly don't intend to do so. But that is perhaps why I insist on the content of poetry. That is not to discount the form, but that is to relegate it to secondary. I would love to hear your reaction to this, and to whatever thoughts you have about the blog. And I actually think this disparity in our background is actually good for the discourse, as it tends to ground each of us, reminds us of the "other" vast world of poetry we each bring to the table.

k: i agree with you on several points. the most important one though, is the differing backgrounds between you and me. though... i think everyone starts writing poetry for the same reason, in the beginning. the reason i wrote my first poem was because i was inspired. actually, this may sound a bit silly, but i was inspired by luaren hill's performance on the grammy's, i don't remember the year, but i remember the performance. and after dwelling on it, i ended at these words "sun or star, near or far" and a poem was born. okay, cliché. but for a 14 year old, i'd say my first poem was a success.
for me though, poetry goes way beyond that moment, that initial, spontaneous, glorious moment of revelation. poetry is an instant, and a good poem retains that instant with clarity, with confidence, with emotion, with life, with essence, with energy.
which brings us to this essence you uncovered in your reply...
reread just this paragraph:
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?
olson says that poetry "must, at all points, be a high energy-construct...". poetry is energy-construct. what does that mean? poetry is energy in a constructed form. poetry is energy. through and through. olson adds that poetry must also exert energy for the reader's sake, otherwise we would all write poetry and never read it.
so, on some level, olson and i are in agreement with you.

another point of agreement is on the importance of content, though i'm contradicting myself here a bit, aren't it? yes, i might sacrifice grammar and even an idea to the sound of a line... the pull down at the corner of a bedspread could as easily read, she pulled down the corner of a bedspread, but it just doesn't sound the part. i'm sure there are far better examples out of even just that poem, but i'm not bothered, because i think you get what i mean. and this is a very important point for all poets, whether we/they recognize it or not. poetry is what it is because it does not hesitate to sacrifice the norm, the banal, the plain and ugly of every day, for the sake of a lovely sound.

however, there is this vast difference between the way i treat poetry once beyond the point of, or should i say the moment of, creation and the way you treat poetry... which is this fear or losing something, losing that moment. like i said before, a good poem in my opinion is one that retains that moment no matter how much scrutiny, diagnosis or dissection.
for you, and you've hinted towards this before if not explicitly saying so, poetry is more of a religious or spiritual text. for you poetry is not something one need question.
for me, poetry is a puzzle. i want to solve the puzzle, and to take it apart piece by piece to understand and learn how it was put together. though i believe this is only so because i disassociate the act of writing and the act of reading poetry from one another. i never question a poem as it is being composed, most especially when the poem comes from a point of inspiration, a muse.
i don't fear the lose of anything when i break a poem into it's tiniest pieces because i have confidence in the poems that i pull apart. in fact, for me, i often find more to appreciate in the poem once i've uncovered it's inner workings. i guess i feel about poems the way some people might feel about cars or computers... once you know how they run it just makes more sense, and it gets more exciting, you can do more then. to this, though, i'll be honest, i have a hard time picking apart my own poems because i know where the bits are from and how they were put together and i can't pretend not to.

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