Saturday, October 21, 2006

Now that's what I call Poetry!

k: first and foremost ((((ashraf))))
of course you didn't come across too strong, nor too anything. that's the first email you've sent me that had entirely to do with poetry in ages. i'm dancing right now.

i am starting to feel the season settle in on me. it's not that i dislike summer so much as i prefer all the other seasons so much more. especially the fall. the leaves are turning beautiful colors... the orange reminds me of that sweater you wore the sunday ryan and i went home, that first time we met.

poetry becomes more potent this time of year too... more... betterer. yep. more betterer.

down to pleasure and pains then... is it horrible that i'm glad you don't like lyn? i don't mean to dislike her so much... but... uhg.

as for hardy... the more i read, and i think i said this, the more i enjoy the little boy writes bad poetry nature of his work, particularly in this chapbook. i am easily susceptible, too, to boys who fawn over girls.

in regards to the language, to the punctuation, to the art. i'm with you, but i'm also opposed...

okay today in my "language and its use" class we talked in response to a chapter in a book about language and ebonics, about slang and dialects essentially. the chapter was called "leave your language alone" and he argues that certain prescriptive grammar rules are nonsensical, outdated and we should use the turns of phrase that come more naturally. example, he argues that we should drop "whom" and the notion of "split infinitives".
my question is basically "where does it end?" and this is a standpoint that i don't take alone. my twin, Kate, and i are both grammarians and sticklers. i even brought up the notion of labour=value (yay marxism) and waving around my new (*glee*) copy of Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing i asked, if we don't learn the rules before we start bending them... if we only write how we speak, then what gives this value? we would lose the art of writing. how depressing.

so on the one hand, yeah. people take language, especially written, for granted. poets do. we, and i mean that in a broad general scope, abuse our language. the "th" habit is in a way an abomination.

but i draw a very fine line.

and this is where the "confused" part comes in.
there is a place for experimenting with language and the way the words look on the page, the aesthetic.
but if it goes too far, as in lyn's case, it becomes unreadable.

so yeah, i'm all for a little tossing, but don't throw the rule book out the window. as much as i like gertrude stein, the woman should not have been allowed to write prose.

i know i could go into this further. but i want to take some time to share some undeniably good poetry with you...

kate and i went on a date today. we got panini's and went to barnes & noble. i ran into leonard cohen's newest collection of poems and ended up buying it and a collection of poems by billy corgan of smashing pumpkins and zwan fame (i haven't read any of it yet, except for the one poem that convinced me to give him a chance).

and so i spent an hour or so before my class reading some of his poems and wrote the poem that i just posted on my blog...
though, it's not anything particularly special... i like the way leonard gets me thinking about poetry. he's the closest i come to appreciating song-writing.

so a poem by leonard, my beloved 70 year old canadian gold...

i want to share a longer one with you... because so far i enjoyed it the most... so here it goes


better than darkness
is fake darkness
which swindles you
into necking with
someone's antique

better than banks
are false banks
where you change
all your
rough money
into legal tender

better than coffee
is blue coffee
which you drink
in your last bath
or something waiting
for your
to be dismantled

better than poetry
is my poetry
to everything
that is beautiful and
dignified, but is
neither of these itself

better than wild
is secretly wild
when I am in
the darkness of
a parking space
with a new snake

better than art
is repulsive art
which demonstrates
than scriptures
the tiny measure
of your improvement

better than
is darkless
which is inkier, vaster
more profound
eerily refrigerated
filled with caves
and blinding tunnels
in which
beckoning dead relatives
and other religions

better than love
is wuve
which is more refined
tiny serene people
with huge genitalia
but lighter than
comfortably installed
on an eyelash of mist
and living
ever after
cooking, gardening
and raising kids

than my mother
is your mother
who is still alive
while mine
not alive
but what am I saying!
forgive me mother

better than me
are you
kinder than me
are you
sweeter smarter faster
you you
prettier than me
stronger than me
lonelier than me

want to get
to know you
better and better.

-Mt Baldy,
i enjoy it for the ending, but also, for all the moments that collate into some sort of love throughout.
of course, too, with a collection... after a while the persona and the charater builds and capsizes and takes over until you're swimming in the spirit of that poet. it's a beautiful experience... it's been too long since i let myself fall into a poet's lap like that, and i love it.

ah the fall, and love and leonard.

and poetry. i'm just reveling right now.

thank you for this.

a: So, we just finished one of our monthly office lunches. I ingest way worse things here, at this office, than anything that Wojtek would ever let me get away with at home. The lunches they order are just horrendously bad for you, and for some reason they always tend to include pork, which I am not a big fan of (remnants of my upbringing). And to top it off, was this presentation about a church project at our other office that (d)evolved into a talk about what church each person goes to. So now, not only do I have a nasty heartburn brewing in my pits, but I also feel--not for the first time--like an alien. I tell you this so you can appreciate what a blessing I found your e-mail to be after all that. With its opening talk of the comforts of the fall, to the poetics discussion (that I also missed dearly), to the gorgeous Leonard poem... thank you!

I certainly understand what you mean by that part you called "confusing" (and which I don't find confusing at all). I am certainly not for a stickler attitude when it comes to grammar; by Arlene's standards, I take quite a bit of liberty with that. So yes, I am for some reform, or rule bending; and the question that you raise, "So where do we draw the line?" is a very good one. But the fact that it is a difficult question to articulate an answer for does not mean that we should forget about drawing the line, or not even consider moving it in the first place. And I think a similar situation exists in many other matters where "drawing the line" is difficult to articulate. Ethical matters are one great example, and that's why we have the law, and that's why the law is so complicated, and why there are people whose job it is to interpret that language drawing the line and who get paid obscenely for it. Yes, the law doesn't always overlap with ethics (the "line"), and that is why it is constantly revised. But the whole fuss doesn't mean that we don't need the law.

Similarly, I just think it is a better use of time and effort--to borrow your excellent reference to the Marxian idea of effort equals value--to have that go into the content of the poetry rather than its form. I am certainly not the first to articulate that argument, and I am sure there must be a name for this position somewhere where it is better articulated. In any case, I think the wonderful poem you sent me makes all these points more eloquently. (By the way, did I ever tell you I recently bought the soundtrack to that Cohen movie we saw from iTunes; it is much better to listen to than watch!) I think this poem has a much better example of a mature eroticism that I much prefer to Hardy's, and I love how for Cohen there is no affect to the dividing of the stanzas, how the stanzas follow the idea, they stop where you expect them to stop, without artifice, because they don't need it. They are perfectly capable to stand well on their own, in their simplicity, in the brazen symmetry of the ideas (because it does not fear coming so close to the cliche), and in their immediacy and accessibility. (I loved that part "better than my mother / is your mother / who is still alive / while mine is not alive / but what am I saying! / forgive me mother"!) By the way, what did you think of that Carolyne Forche poem I sent you?

the lyn and hardy story

(part 1)
k: i attached hardy f's chapbook to this email for you. i like hardy. i can't quite put my finger on why, but i do. just read the first poem (dear sigmund) and see what you think. i think it's horribly romantic and beautiful in a perverted man-boy sort of way. it brings us back to all that conversation about sex and poetry and straight men writing sexy poetry. honestly, i'm not sure if any of the 3 males on wet poems are straight, but i suspect at the very least c.s. is on account of the content of his poetry. without a doubt though, hardy is writing sexy testosterone driven poetry. it's refreshing i guess. and the more i read from this school of blogging canadians the more i enjoy the style and "th" instead of "the" sort of idiosyncratic moments.

(part 2)
k: i need to go on a bit of a rant... and you're the only person worthy/willing to hear it...

lyn hejinian.

her name is not only hard to spell, but i've given the woman so many chances that i frankly can't stand her. by "her" i mean her poetry and the persona, real or not, behind the poetry.


that's her my life blog. now, my life was a collection of poems she wrote when she was about 30 i think... there were 30 poems (prose poetry). each page was meant to represent a year of her life. an autobiography through prose poetry. it was an experiment.

unfortunately, lyn is one of those experimental poets who's far to concerned with the process to give any thought or care to the finished product.

i tried to enjoy some of her other writing. in fact, i really love the cover of the other book of hers that i bought... but my goodness, it's awful. unreadable. really.

so i just found her blog through various articles i've been reading. i started out at c.s.'s blog and let myself get side tracked all over the place until i ended up reading some of lyn's most recent work.

now, the blogging format lends itself rather well to her experiment. instead of a year now she writes something each day. and at least i don't have to pay to read it, but... ashraf... it's still awful!!!!!

she doesn't even use a question mark at the end of question... it's nearly infuriating that someone so, i guess, respected and established could be so rubbish.

this is just my opinion of course, and you're allowed to like her all you want. she just drives me mad!

breath. okay. thank you for listening ^_^ you're the bestest

a: Sorry for the delay; I decided I need to read what you were talking about (both hardy f's chapbook & Lyn Hejinian's Life) before I reply. So I did. Now, I can understand where your rant against Lyn's Life is coming from, but in the same light I cannot understand your fondness of hardy's chapbook. I thought they were both more or less equally obnoxious. Sure, hardy's stuff is much better formatted (and I think he is a much better photographer and designer than poet), so I had my hopes up from just skimming through it before I started reading. But he certainly has even more annoying ticks than Lyn (such as "th", the unclosed parenthesis, etc.), and I thought, even aside from that, his writing is worse. Perhaps the only poem that I kinda liked was "on campus (broken arms", but even that was almost cringey. See, Lyn's writing is at most irrelevant, bla, whatever (and I am judging only by the entries on the main page of that blog; I am not familiar with her other writing, and I am surprised that she has any kind of acclaim--though I really shouldn't be, given the state of poetry these days); but I found hardy's writing to be positively annoying, irksome, and not in a good way. It's like (untalented) teenage boy writing, and frankly dear, I didn't find it sexy at all. I think it takes much more than splashing "cunt" on one's title page and "stick it in my ass" to be sexy--those I like to keep to my porn, which does it much better. And all that formatting "inventiveness" just pisses the heck out of me! Since when is poetry about punctuation? I thought it was about words and what they mean. And what good is dropping the e in the? Why do we have to reinvent the formatting of the language? I think it's there to aid the meaning and emotional message of the words, not to be a presence in itself. Have we already exhausted language's capacities otherwise? I don't think so; I think people are just lazy and untalented and the bars have been set low, way too low now, that we have this hodge-podge of lots of crap being written and no one reading, for good reason. Honestly, if it weren't that I got hardy's PDF from you, I wouldn't have finished it. Sorry to be fuming at the mouth like that, but I get worked up because I care and I mourn the loss of "standards". Maybe that's a good thing in one way (we probably wouldn't have heard some of the best voices of the past century otherwise), but I think it would also be dishonest to not acknowledge the immense drawback of it. I frankly didn't know that there is such a thing as "process poetry", and I have to say I am not glad to have found out it exists. I can definitely see where it comes from, its heritage in the visual arts especially (though I think Jackson Pollock is one of the worst things to have happened to the arts), but I think it works better in the visual arts, which tend to be more emotive. One big difference, I think, is the dictionary: there are dictionaries for language that establish the meaning of words more or less consistently; but there aren't dictionaries for the arts--there are dictionaries for the languages of the arts, the words used to describe them. So, I think with writing one is playing with the finite, in the sense of using existing blocks, like Legos, to transcend the finiteness, to convey ideas. But part of the challenge is that limitation.

I don't know, maybe I am just old-fashioned when it comes to poetry and writing. And I'm certainly not very au-currant. Besides, I don't think my opinions are prevalent amongst those that matter. But I think that is part of the problem of the decline of "the arts", that by adopting such non-sense for the heck of it, they have engendered their own irrelevance. They lost the point of writing at all; it becomes an experiment for the heck of the experiment--which is irrelevant.

I'm sorry if I came on too strong; I hope I haven't offended you. We certainly don't have to agree, but I'd love to know what you think.