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Author Topic: Judging Poetry and Integrity  (Read 69880 times)
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Monday Love
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« Reply #75 on: January 05, 2007, 04:50:41 PM »

Adam,

Philosophy is more important than poetry.  Poetry without philosophy is quite empty.  Empty poetry (which has no philosophy) is the essence of that 'workshop poetry' that so many of us hate, because it's written by people who go 'into poetry' the way people might go 'into computers or go 'into woodworking.'  One doesn't just decide to write poetry.  One needs to have a philosophical temperament.   This is not to say that a person who has a philosophical temperament will always be a great poet, but a great poet will not happen without a philosophical temperament.

It is apparent to me--and should be so to everyone--that poetry is philosophical rhetoric which is tweaked into music (whether it is the music of 'verse' or just the music of 'prose strangeness') and so how can there be poetry at all without the philosophical rhetoric, without the philosophical speech in the first place?

Plato did not argue with Homer's poetry, but with the effect of Homer's poetry.  Aesthetics itself is the result of competing philosophies.   It is the nature of philosophy to care about the effect poetry has on others.  Poetry cares only about itself--this is what makes it poetry.  Philosophy cares about poetry.  So one can see by this that philosophy is superior, and that philosophy always subsumes poetry.  The best poetry is always philosophy, but philosophy never has to be poetry.

I think you can agree with this.  What I think you are objecting to is fancy-pants "theory."   This is something quite different.  This you have every right to regard with suspicion.  

This passage from the Chomsky you linked to illustrates the problem:

"Take, say, talk radio. I'm on a fair amount, and it's usually pretty easy to guess from accents, etc., what kind of audience it is. I've repeatedly found that when the audience is mostly poor and less educated, I can skip lots of the background and "frame of reference" issues because it's already obvious and taken for granted by everyone, and can proceed to matters that occupy all of us. With more educated audiences, that's much harder; it's necessary to disentangle lots of ideological constructions."

The more 'educated' the audience, the more 'ideological entanglement' there is likely to be.   Philosophy allows the 'educated' to 'proceed to matters that occupy all of us' rather than follow false trails of obscure and vague and self-serving rhetoric.   Philosophy is the ally of simple common sense and democracy, the detector of falsehood, and the inspiration of poetry itself.

By calling attention to the institutional reality of poetry today, Foetry.com is serving a useful function, a philosophical function.  I just read an essay by Peter Gizzi, who studied Jack Spicer under Robert Creeley--who studied under Ezra  Pound, (you may remember when Creeley came onto Foetry.com and complained of its role) and Gizzi's essay was full of that fatuous sort of rhetoric we get from po-biz all the time.  The topic was "Inside/Outside the Academy" and unbelievably, Gizzi, who is well ensconced in the academy, made the remarkable claim that we are all inside the academy.  He even quotes Chomsky in support of his argument: "the American language is a dialect which owns an army and a navy."  We are all implicated.   This is not philosophy.  This is trickery.  He quotes a lot of folks; one really gets the idea he's not speaking on his own at all.  He reads, but obviously doesn't think.   But he makes the claim that even when he was working at a waiter before entering graduate school, that he was always in the academy.  The bottom line is that Gizzi completely avoids the question--are you inside the academy or outside the academy?-- with 'learned' rhetoric.   This is sophistry; it is neither poetry nor philosophy.  It doesn't matter how many times you quote Wallace Stevens or speak of how we are 'inside language.'  

You can find the Gizzi piece at modern-review.com/archives if you are interested.

Monday
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Bugzita
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« Reply #76 on: January 05, 2007, 07:58:34 PM »

Expat's Poem:

Quote
APOLOGIA PRO VITA AUTISTICA

Is it to wash or pray we find
ourselves upon our knees
mute before this stain?

These empty hands speak hours
of doing other things and then
something not so nice besides.

Palm to palm they claim
each other's ears even when
there's nothing left to say.

Sway back and forth, clap,
tap a blade of grass and turn
cartwheels down the stairs

and drill that time and time
can spin, shake, tilt & wring
a certain starry whiteness in.



Mmmmm...Christopher, IMHO, I agree with Monday Love: this qualifies as a wowzer poem (and, believe me, I don't usually get all excited about most poems I read, even ones that I use in class).

I feel this poem; it makes me want to weep, but I'm not quite sure why yet, but that's okay. This poem is NOT obscure, but it holds some tantalizing mysteries.

My Latin's a little rusty, but I do believe the title means "Apology for an (the?) Austere Life," or something close to that.

I'm not going to "interpret" this poem; I just want to say that its terse vivid images have cut through this reader. The speaker seems to take his monastic life seriously, and yet he doesn't seem to be able to achieve the perfection he so desires. He still has a need to do cartwheels down the stairs (what an image!), just like a child in the prime of life--not a likely image for a pious monk. Well, I suppose that is a sort of interpretation, but that's all I'll say because I could be WAYYYY off, which is always a danger when one puts a poem out there.

Oddly enough, this poem doesn't quite fit the "exhibitionistic" mold, though the cartwheeling down the stairs is a startling image, juxtaposed with the language of piety: "wash," "pray," "stain," "whiteness," etc.

I have an idea about this stanza:

Quote
These empty hands speak hours
of doing other things and then
something not so nice besides.


But I could be way off; my Catholic upbringing (what a pain!) often gets in the way of a real world life.

Christopher, I'm in the middle working on my syllabus for spring, and I'd love to add this poem to it. Would that be okay? I would pair it with "Touch Me."

There's no law that says I have to use an anthology poem, and, certainly, my students could benefit from reading a poem that doesn't have an academic history.

I have to say that Levine exhibited good taste in selecting this poem for his blog.

Bugz
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ennifer Semple Siegel

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« Reply #77 on: January 05, 2007, 10:29:50 PM »

Dear Jennifer,
   Thank you so much for understanding this poem—that means far more to me than that you should just like it!

   And yes, I would be very pleased for you to include it in your syllabus—and alongside "Touch Me" should do well, because both poems are by old men who still value passion.

   I’ve noticed that you quite often doubt your own judgements about a poem, and worry that you may be seeing something that was never intended by the poet. But the truth of the matter is that a poem which arises in time (lots of it, I mean!) and is the product of ruthless self-examination step by step (as opposed to what  APOLOGIA calls "something not so nice beside" and which your Catholic up-bringing prepares you so well to understand -- a few days ago in a moment of inspiration I called it  "masturbatory participation mystique!")—a poem that arises in this slow, conscientious way will almost certainly say far more than the poet himself or herself knows. Indeed,  when you read APOLOGIA in your own way, Jennifer, your observations can lead to a deeper understanding for me, the poet, too--and did.

   You’re a good teacher I’m sure, because you can say to your students "I’m not sure," or even better, "I don’t know." A hierophant teacher like Jorie Graham might say that too, but only for effect—humility always looks good! But by definition the Hierophant knows what the Neophyte doesn’t know,  of course, and holds all the keys to the Mysteries! (Got it?)

   That extends the "esoteric" metaphor I used a little way back, which may or may not speak to you personally. It’s just a metaphor, of course, but it’s a good one for those who do in fact refuse to take solace "in being one with anyone/or silver dove or dawn,"  images which derive from occultism.

   You just need a little help with the title, at least as a teacher you do. The poem itself doesn’t need any help, I hope.

Many great thinkers have written spiritual autobiographies called "Apologia Pro Vita Sua." "Apologia" means a defense of as much as an apology for, and "pro vita sua"= one's own life. With a Catholic upbringing you would find John Henry Newman’s "Apologia Pro Vita Sua" particularly relevant, the Oxford Cardinal!

"Autistica" is something else entirely, and should be a shock--like the pinball/washing machine imagery at the end. I worked for some years in a school for autistic children and adults, and came away with the realization that we are all autistic to some extent, that indeed we all have to struggle out of the cocoon of autism to become human, yet we have to recover the innocence of it to be whole (look into that/challenge that, please--it's an outrageous assertion!).
 
I once saw an autistic boy do cartwheels down the stairs with a bottle of milk in his mouth.

What do you do, Jennifer?

Christopher



P.S. What does IMHO mean? I'm sure that really dates me, but there we are.
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Christopher Woodman
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« Reply #78 on: January 06, 2007, 03:30:15 AM »

Christopher,

Thanks for the permission for giving me permission to use your poem. You know, I had thought about the autistic angle of the poem, but I couldn't quite fit it in with the rest of the poem. Now I see it is connected with the cartwheeling down the stairs.

Fascinating poem, small but dense and yet not heavy.

I will return to this discussion tomorrow--not thinking too clearly. I actually logged back on to check for sp*m...

Quote
I once saw an autistic boy do cartwheels down the stairs with a bottle of milk in his mouth.


Wow! That must have been a spectacular stunt! I can see that kid spinning down the steps, looking like turning spokes on a wheel, milking splashing everywhere. Let me guess: the bottle didn't break.

Quote
What do you do, Jennifer?


Literally or figuratively?

I teach (part time), I write prose (just finished a memoir about my relationship with the 1960's, drugs, and a mental institution in Cherokee, Iowa). I have a book of short stories, self-published, out there somewhere in Amazonland. I'm a grandmother (which, of course, makes me a mother). I'm married--second time, 22 1/2 years (first time 10 years). I'm still friends with my first husband.

I, too, wrote a poem about aging, but I won't post it here. But if you google "Psychedelic Bingo" and my name, you might find an old draft floating around on the web.

Tomorrow, I can PM a recent draft to you (if I can find the file). It's nowhere near the quality of your and Kunitz's poem, but it IS heartfelt and does, on a smaller scale, represent one aspect of the 60's generation.

Time for bed.

Best, Bugz
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ennifer Semple Siegel

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« Reply #79 on: January 06, 2007, 03:59:13 AM »

Quote from: "Bugzita"


Quote
What do you do, Jennifer?


Literally or figuratively?



I meant figuratively, and was just about to edit my post to make that clearer. I meant, what do you do if not cartwheels down the stairs?

And the bottle didn't break, and the boy did it almost everyday. He also knew the license plate number of every bus he had seen in his life.  Also of every person he knew who drove a car.

On the other hand he didn't know the names of anyone.

But the poem isn't about that boy at all, Jennifer--that's just annecdotal fun. I liked just as much what you said about the cartwheels before you knew about the boy or about autism. Do keep in touch with that--and don't tell your students about the boy either, or at least not until they've taken the poem (and that image) wherever they want to.

I'd love to say more but I feel I've already done enough damage to the integrity of the poem, as if it were about autism or something!

I liked the literal response as well--thanks for that.

Christopher
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Christopher Woodman
Bugzita
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« Reply #80 on: January 06, 2007, 01:30:14 PM »

I just knew that bottle didn't break  :lol:

Bugz
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ennifer Semple Siegel

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Poet K
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« Reply #81 on: January 06, 2007, 02:55:14 PM »

Quote from: "Expatriate Poet"
What does IMHO mean? I'm sure that really dates me, but there we are.


In My Humble Opinion
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Expatriate Poet
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« Reply #82 on: January 07, 2007, 04:48:11 AM »

Quote from: "Expatriate Poet"
Dear Jennifer,

We all have to struggle out of the cocoon of autism to become human, yet we have to recover the innocence of it to be whole (look into that/challenge that, please--it's an outrageous assertion!).

Christopher


Dear Jennifer again,

I perhaps editted this remark into my post after you wrote your response to Apologia Pro Vita Autistica--so I want to be sure you get a chance to see it.

If the poem were just built around that boy, who provides, of course, only one of a multitude of images in the poem, or if it were just about autism, for example, then why write the poem?

What is important about any good poem is that it is so much larger than its parts--and so often says just the opposite of what its parts might say if they were integrated into a prose argument or assertion!

Christopher
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Christopher Woodman
Bugzita
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« Reply #83 on: January 07, 2007, 05:14:46 PM »

You're right, Christopher.

I posted that before you posted your explanation.

Cheers!
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ennifer Semple Siegel

One must always question wrongheaded conventional wisdom.
adamhardin
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« Reply #84 on: January 11, 2007, 01:58:56 PM »

I have studied Philosophy for two years now as I finish up my Bachelors at the age of thirty(this is my fourth University I have attended and second from which I will not be expelled), and go to Law school. It is now in my last semester I am getting introduced to the Contemporary Continentalists(Derrida and Lacan and Foucalt), which means basically German and mostly French with a few Italians. I like Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Kant who has become one of the easier philosophers to understand because of his strongly logical and less metaphorical mind

    If you know something about Academic Philosophy there is a divide between the Analytics who think of Philosophy as a linguistic tool for analyzing language statements on the very small level, and the continentals which represent how most people think of Philosophy as grand narratives that take on big human issues. In the United States, graduate programs in Philosophy are dominated by the analytics who consider the continentals closer to literary theory than the linguistic science they think philosophy should be. Of course, many philosophers including some analytics see analytic philosphy as dead in that it is not the analytic tool it claims to be, but nothing more than continental philosophy on the very small level.

    The heart of Continental Philosophy in the world is France, namely the Ecole Normale Superior where the wannabe cultists come to study under the current Mystics in hopes of launching their own cult of the unreadable on the back of their predecessor. Then after adopting a persona, in the case of Derrida that white mohawkish hair, pretty bright young things can follow them around, and ask them about their writing that while is not coherent, does a good job like Finnegan's Wake of generating ideas in their young minds.

    I did an independent study in Analytic Philosophy writing a short but substantial thesis on Fitch's Paradox in which fitch shows through modal logic that the concepts of truth and knowledge are co-extensive, meaning that they dissolve into each other, and therefore, talking about them the way analytics do is meaningless because there is no real logical distinction between the two. Analytics want to save truth and knowledge as concepts so they abandon in this case classical logic, and use intuitionist logic which stops Fitch's deduction from reaching that unfortunate conclusion.

I found it funny the way when a logical deduction reaches a conclusion that Analytics do not want to accept, they throw out logic, or amend it so that their belief essentially is preserved. That is what I learned from my Analytic project. That lesson saved me from going into a grad program because I can not be dishonest in that way. Lie to myself that my "work" is real when it amounts to rhetorical belief.  

      In the end, I see dishonesty and bs on both side of the Philosophical divide. Welcome to the humanities.
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poetastin
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« Reply #85 on: January 12, 2007, 04:23:15 AM »

I guess I'm just not seeing how philosophy matters more than poetry these days...

For me, philosophy classes seem like interesting history lessons, nothing more. Other than "the philosophy of science", what's still relevant? I mean, assuming you don't buy into a teleological universe, and, like most French intellectuals, don't salivate over the Frenchies popularized by young US academics, what's left? Aristotle's thoughts on drama, maybe some Ayn Rand? And Rand was practically a Republican! Boo!

Kierkegaard had a cool and sexy name, and it is interesting, seeing how far he bends to make sense of God's will, etc., but ultimately, who cares... You could read a Karl Popper book and be done with philosophy in an evening or two. Can we say the same of poetry?
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Monday Love
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« Reply #86 on: January 12, 2007, 11:44:51 AM »

Quote from: "poetastin"
I guess I'm just not seeing how philosophy matters more than poetry these days...

For me, philosophy classes seem like interesting history lessons, nothing more. Other than "the philosophy of science", what's still relevant? I mean, assuming you don't buy into a teleological universe, and, like most French intellectuals, don't salivate over the Frenchies popularized by young US academics, what's left? Aristotle's thoughts on drama, maybe some Ayn Rand? And Rand was practically a Republican! Boo!

Kierkegaard had a cool and sexy name, and it is interesting, seeing how far he bends to make sense of God's will, etc., but ultimately, who cares... You could read a Karl Popper book and be done with philosophy in an evening or two. Can we say the same of poetry?


"You could read a Karl Popper book and be done with philosophy in an evening or two."

Heresy!  

Is that how they talk in the Creative Writing World?

No wonder things are f*cked.
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adamhardin
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« Reply #87 on: January 12, 2007, 01:36:33 PM »

This is a quote by Rorty:

    All I am saying is that analytic philosophy has become, whether it likes it or not, the same sort of discipline as we find in the other "humanities" departments--departments where pretensions to "rigor" and to "scientific" status are less evident. The normal form of life in the humanities is the same as that in the arts and in belles-lettres; a genius does something new and interesting and persuasive, and his or her admirers begin to form a school or movement.

-------------------------------------------

     Likewise, I think Professional Poetry has some pretensions to Philosophic rigor.

   If someone asked me what is Philosophy, I would say that Philosophy is language. I do not want to sound disrespectful to Jung, but the truth about Jung is that he has cool metaphors, and this is why he endures. To his credit, he is no less a genius than Dickinson. You can make the distinction between poetry and psychology/philosophy as different modes of writing.

    But as a writer, I just want to emphasize that the writer is their own authority. Literature is language. Literature grounds itself, and all a writer can do is to compare themselves with Shakespeare and others.

    We need this freedom again. It has been taken away to some extent by all the talking about writing that the Professionals do. But what am I doing now? Like most other writers, I hate the act of writing, talking about it is so much more relaxing.

------------------

Also, if you know me, you know I worship Harold Bloom. I am not sure whether or not the allegations made against him are true. But you have to have some fun with the guy. A genius of his magnitude has got to have some slight perversions.
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Monday Love
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« Reply #88 on: January 12, 2007, 03:10:34 PM »

Quote from: "adamhardin"
This is a quote by Rorty:

    All I am saying is that analytic philosophy has become, whether it likes it or not, the same sort of discipline as we find in the other "humanities" departments--departments where pretensions to "rigor" and to "scientific" status are less evident. The normal form of life in the humanities is the same as that in the arts and in belles-lettres; a genius does something new and interesting and persuasive, and his or her admirers begin to form a school or movement.

-------------------------------------------

     Likewise, I think Professional Poetry has some pretensions to Philosophic rigor.

   If someone asked me what is Philosophy, I would say that Philosophy is language. I do not want to sound disrespectful to Jung, but the truth about Jung is that he has cool metaphors, and this is why he endures. To his credit, he is no less a genius than Dickinson. You can make the distinction between poetry and psychology/philosophy as different modes of writing.

    But as a writer, I just want to emphasize that the writer is their own authority. Literature is language. Literature grounds itself, and all a writer can do is to compare themselves with Shakespeare and others.

    We need this freedom again. It has been taken away to some extent by all the talking about writing that the Professionals do. But what am I doing now? Like most other writers, I hate the act of writing, talking about it is so much more relaxing.

------------------

Also, if you know me, you know I worship Harold Bloom. I am not sure whether or not the allegations made against him are true. But you have to have some fun with the guy. A genius of his magnitude has got to have some slight perversions.


I suspect Naomi's charges are true, just because of the bottle of Amontillado she mentioned--the drink that was to aid the seduction.  Bloom was researching Poe at the time, and Bloom does seem to have a rather twisted obsession with Poe's lurid, dark side.  That was a very telling detail, the Amontillado.
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Monday Love
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« Reply #89 on: January 12, 2007, 03:27:24 PM »

Speaking of Bloom, his student Camille Paglia is wonderful at nailing academia to the wall.  She gets very enthusiastic about this kind of stuff. I wish she would weigh in on foetry.
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