Monday, June 21, 2010

The (In)compleat Disconsolate

1: Aram Saroyan:

As one who once considered himself in the vanguard of writing as writing, it is difficult for me to describe my feelings when confronted by a new generation of writers who are dedicated not to an exploration of any particular literary dimension I can identify beyond a snotty tone of voice. I know this isn't something I ever had in mind.

Beyond that, there are a number of other identifiable trends, which I would characterize briefly as: 1) Poems that prove how smart I am; 2) Poems that prove what a master of rhetoric I am; 3) Poems that prove I am a dope addict; and 4) Poems that just generally prove how hard I am to understand in any way...

I am a writer because I desire to communicate with my fellow man and woman and child and writing is one avenue open to me to do this. As I experience more of life, my respect for it grows, and it is impossible for me to regard it, and anyone else in it, as the subject or object of any kind of literary exercise. It is an experience that is bigger and more profound that any telling turn of phrase or immaculate run-on sentence. It is quite simply real. Not brilliant, not arcane, not sarcastic - but alive, and in just being alive more meaning than we could ever hope to fathom. The most we could hope for, I believe, is an honest and sincere accounting of our experiences as members of this miracle of being alive in time.

-- ca. 1974

(via Don Share)


2:  Anis Shivani in HuffPo on the Best American Poetry:

What I'd like to focus on is the aesthetic that seems strewn all over this particular anthology: poetry as a mechanical art. Walter Benjamin talked about the lost aura of the work of art in an age of mechanical reproduction. What we have here is poetry that is so seeped in the mechanics of mechanical reproduction that it seems to be looking beyond its status as a work of art, and reaching toward something of populist gnosis. It is poetry as facsimile, poetry as self-imitation, poetry as garbage in, garbage out. If there's one impulse defining this grab-bag of remainders and leftovers, it's that poetry is a robotic enterprise turned in on itself, self-sufficiently generating new items from within its own production sphere. Poetry is presented as working best when it shows least reliance on looking outside itself to be shocked, surprised, horrified at what it finds. Everything in this anthology is self-contained, sealed off, hermetically profuse.


3: Robert Hass on Yu Jian and Xi Chuan and poetry in China:

Over the years I’d attended a few international literary gatherings at which Chinese poets had read their work. In those years, in the 1980s and 1990s, you did not, in the first place, know whether the poets you were hearing were the actual poets, given the People’s Republic’s tight control of its public culture, but you did know that, if they were the actual poets, they were nevertheless writing in some utterly opaque code. Poets from around the world—from Vietnam and the Netherlands and Brazil and Canada, quite different from one another, coming from quite distinct literary traditions—were part of the same conversation. They were trying to invent in language, trying to say what life was like for them, to bear witness to it, to find fresh ways of embodying the experiences of thinking and feeling and living among others. That was what I was suddenly hearing in Beijing—that familiar, exhilarating sound, not so much of poetry, but of the power of the project of poetry. It felt like something very alive and new was stirring in China.

4: Geoffrey Hill, recently anointed Oxford Professor of Poetry, in 'Triumph of Love' (extracts here):


Obnoxious means, far back within itself,   
easily wounded. But vulnerable, proud   
anger is, I find, a related self
of covetousness. I came late
to seeing that. Actually, I had to be
shown it. What I saw was rough, and still   
pains me. Perhaps it should pain me more.   
Pride is our crux: be angry, but not proud   
where that means vainglorious. Take Leopardi’s   
words or—to be accurate—BV’s English   
cast of them: when he found Tasso’s poor   
scratch of a memorial barely showing
among the cold slabs of defunct pomp. It   
seemed a sad and angry consolation.
So—Croker, MacSikker, O’Shem—I ask you:   
what are poems for? They are to console us
with their own gift, which is like perfect pitch.   
Let us commit that to our dust. What
ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad   
and angry consolation. What is   
the poem? What figures? Say,   
a sad and angry consolation. That’s   
beautiful. Once more? A sad and angry   

1 comment:

Banno said...

I really enjoyed this. After a long gap, I've started filming again. And wondering what it is I really want to say. And how hard it is not to get self-obsessed, or rather film-obsessed once the camera is on, and neglecting the subject, forgetting that they are as much part of the same life as you.