Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

10/05/2004

Michael amongst the sharp comments left by many below: "there are times when i'm unsure whether an idea i have is really poetry or just a notion about poetry that would be better held by a fictitious poet in a madeup society in a story i need to write. i recommend, therefore, that aspiring writers begin by inventing MORE THAN ONE poet-avatar/poetic movement; & have them interact through mutually-incompatible aspects of their work..."

Brilliant turn of phrase, and it goes beyond, say, Marilyn Hacker writing the poetry bits in Delany's Fall of the Towers when they were still together, or the poems "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion" becoming source material of the eponymous novels by Dan Simmons. It pulls/tugs towards the habitation of mutually incompatible landscapes as well. And also dovetail with how madeup our own society at times seems. If one posits that speculative fiction is a form of prose poetry (at times, at least), then the allegory of geography is furthered--this would be a compelling model for exploring tectonics, continental drift, etc., of multiplicitous poetics.

I really think this could be a smart interface for drawing younger writers into interest in poetry. Is the "pure" workshop model one that has generational durability? What is it about the 60s to now (keeping in mind that it existed before; just picking some decades at random when it seemed to flourish) that makes this a useful form of pedagogy and communication?

Jonathan Lethem wrote this in this essay "The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction": "Tomorrow's readers, born in dystopian cities, educated on computers, and steeped in media recursions of SF iconography, won't notice if the novels they read are set in the future or the present. Savvy themselves, they won't care if certain characters babble technojargon and others don't. Some of those readers, though, will graduate from a craving for fictions that flatter and indulge their fantasies to that appetite for fictions that provoke, disturb, and complicate through a manipulation of those same narrative cravings."

Similarly, I think younger readers' BS detectors are pretty keen when it comes to poetry. Don't flatter them with assumptions about what "ease of use" is. This is crucial because we can't just immediately cede "innovative" poetic territory only to those able to afford liberal arts educations, and as a more particular subset have a preconceived notion of what poetic value involves, as a way to accumulate prestige. They are already on that poetry production track. This isn't a slam; hell, I was/am on that track for a long time. It's so tangled with that inner desparation to write. It being a profession. To profess that track. But I'm hopeful about the keenness of the poems that are yet to be written. Blogs have already come a long way in making more readily apparent the larger narratives about what has already happened in poetry, in all of its disjunctive panoplies. This cannot be underestimated; how many lurkers are out there reading the poetry and writing blogs and finding completely different lattitudes. And as a reader/writer myself, it's humbling and gratifying.
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Maybe it's because I'm from the Rust Belt, and my love of abandoned places has transfered to the online world. But I love abandoned or nearly abandoned MOOs and MUDs. Of which there are plenty in 2004. (Their bandwidth requirements, being so low, being text-only, mean that they tend to stick around on university servers and elsewhere)...Discarded objects like those in pompeii...empty gardens and common areas...scripts and flags triggered at your passing, and then settling back into silence, like a library book that gets checked out once every 20 years. These places haunt, but despite the fact that they're just code, they're not ephemeral; they're suffused with past conversations and avatars, effusive prose.

I've dabbled in object-oriented programming (TADS) for interactive fiction, so I'm not an expert by any, any means...but I keep going back to the compositional process, how you start with nothing (or maybe a template) and you let the syntax dictate the generative process; similar to the DIG function in MOOs, in that the rooms created are not rooms at all but rather tricks of perception.

Everything is a verb, everything is relation. There are no exits, no sinew, unless you build it in.

Syntax as spores.

So much of what's interesting in poetry lately has to do with hacking the language.

2 Comments:

At 10/16/2004 12:12:00 PM, Blogger michael said...

I think the term "Umbrist" is useful as a way of designating this sort of meta-poetics. (For those who need a definition, it might be: "the effort to overcome one's own natural voice".)

m.

 
At 10/18/2004 08:24:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Hi Michael, maybe I would tweak that definition to propose that any voice is one's own natural voice. But that's just me, ymmv.

 

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