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Author Topic: Judging Poetry and Integrity  (Read 71065 times)
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poetastin
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« Reply #90 on: January 12, 2007, 06:09:39 PM »

Quote from: "Monday Love"
Heresy!  

Is that how they talk in the Creative Writing World?

No wonder things are f*cked.



I provoke, I provoke!

But seriously, I'm the Establishment now, because it feels like philosophy, as it's studied here, has left me behind? I'm telling you, non-teleologic folk are a scared minority, even in academia! And what's left for us, after the handful of existentialists? You start to feel like this guy:

 :axe:

Alls I'm saying is: I could ask what's the best book of poetry written in the last decade...and then a passionate debate might ensue. Or something would ensue. Then I might say, what's the best work of philosophy in the last decade? And we'd hear crickets.

Another bad taste in my mouth: the philosopher as poet and novelist. Like Camus and Sartre: guys that were genuinely interesting, until they wrecked it with their 'novels'. What a didactic mess! No plot, no character, no exploration... just a rote 'dramafication' of their essays. Like somebody transcribed an Antonioni film.  :vom: Like the kind of book Dick Cheney would write.*

I am putting together an '07 book list, if anyone would like to steer me in the right philosophical direction...










*But not Cheney's wife. Apparently, she's more into the lesbian cowgirls...  :shock:
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Monday Love
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« Reply #91 on: January 14, 2007, 03:59:11 PM »

Quote from: "poetastin"
Quote from: "Monday Love"
Heresy!  

Is that how they talk in the Creative Writing World?

No wonder things are f*cked.



I provoke, I provoke!

But seriously, I'm the Establishment now, because it feels like philosophy, as it's studied here, has left me behind? I'm telling you, non-teleologic folk are a scared minority, even in academia! And what's left for us, after the handful of existentialists? You start to feel like this guy:

 :axe:

Alls I'm saying is: I could ask what's the best book of poetry written in the last decade...and then a passionate debate might ensue. Or something would ensue. Then I might say, what's the best work of philosophy in the last decade? And we'd hear crickets.

Another bad taste in my mouth: the philosopher as poet and novelist. Like Camus and Sartre: guys that were genuinely interesting, until they wrecked it with their 'novels'. What a didactic mess! No plot, no character, no exploration... just a rote 'dramafication' of their essays. Like somebody transcribed an Antonioni film.  :vom: Like the kind of book Dick Cheney would write.*

I am putting together an '07 book list, if anyone would like to steer me in the right philosophical direction...










*But not Cheney's wife. Apparently, she's more into the lesbian cowgirls...  :shock:



I would not defend philosophy by appealing to topical interest.  The lady deserves better than that.
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poetastin
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« Reply #92 on: January 15, 2007, 12:41:10 AM »

I'm afraid you'll need some sort of emoticon to back that up...
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Monday Love
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« Reply #93 on: January 15, 2007, 09:34:28 AM »

Quote from: "poetastin"
I'm afraid you'll need some sort of emoticon to back that up...


 :roll:   look this one eyes heaven
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adamhardin
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« Reply #94 on: January 17, 2007, 01:38:37 PM »

Let me try to go a little deeper into the difference or assumed difference between Philosophy and Poetry, and why one is not primary over the other.

       Let me first speculate on what I think is aesthetics. Good Philosophy like good poetry is genuinely difficult, and I have beaten this horse, but I thought of something to add to this that connects genuine difficulty and aesthetics.

      Both fake and genuine difficulty resist the intelligence as Stevens suggested(of poetry), but it is the genuine difficulty that allows for a revealing, the instance when reading when the difficulty and confusion is overcome, and there is that sharp brightness in that the poem has revealed part of itself, and its opens itself up, but usually not fully. So one returns again to the poem and starts in looking for that wonderful mental happiness of the poem revealing more of itself to you. This is what I think lies at the heart of aesthetics. Resistance followed by the brightness of understanding, but never all of it. There must remain always something that is never revealed to draw back the reader. The poem never reaches a purely crystal state.  

   In contrast, the not-genuinely difficult never provides the reader with the light, the revealing of itself. The not-genuinely difficult poem caves in itself in a sort of randomness. The reader can construct connections, but in doing so, there is no revealing. The poem may be technically well thought out and executed, and the poem may reveal after some difficulty itself to the reader, but for some reason it reveals itself as a puzzle that has been deciphered, and then lays there exposed as some sort of analytic construct. It dies out of the same analytic technique that wrote it. Or if it is just randomness, it just dies as a seemingly purely arbitrary arrangement of words.

       When you study Philosophy, Heidegger,for example and especially, there is a tremendous initial difficulty that may seem as though Heidegger is a bullshit artist with his gerunding. His dwelling, building, destining, may seem just a brilliant parody of Philosophy itself. But after the initial difficulty, you can enter his world, and there is an opening up  and revealing of what he writes because he is genuinely difficult and strikingly original.

     In reading Heidegger you get the same sort of resistance followed by brightness that you do in reading poetry. So is that the aesthetic value of Philosophy and Poetry, as this intellectual fix of struggling with the text, and then breaking through, and feeling happy/power when confusion is overcome? So are we no better than crack addicts?  

     I want to say that part of the value with both poetry and philosophy lies in that we take something away, and are wiser and understand our culture more, and the world more for having read what we read. But I think that each poet and philosopher has nothing to say about the world, but has much to say about their perspective of the world.

     Both give us the feeling of gaining new knowledge. But I think this intellectual power and the gaining of new knowledge whether emotive or analytic is purely illusory. The knowledge whether revealed through poetry  or philosophy is frankly arbitrary.

     I wonder what an MFA prof would say if I argued that a good poem worked like crack and its value was not in what knowledge we gain from it but just a good intellectual high? Pure pleasure. But the pleasure can only comes as a package deal with the pain of difficulty and confusion.    

      I don't think Harold Bloom would express it in the same way, but why does he love to read? Because it is the only activity that gives him/can give an intellectual high, and greatly complex works like Hamlet and Ullysses are able to challenge his brain, and after some struggle reveal themselves to him. Harold Bloom is an addict. Why does he constantly talk and think about Falstaff in the same way that an addict is constantly thinking about scoring their next fix? He is an addict.
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« Reply #95 on: January 18, 2007, 11:40:05 PM »

Quote from: "Monday Love"

 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.


Quote from: "adamhardin"

      Both fake and genuine difficulty resist the intelligence as Stevens suggested(of poetry), but it is the genuine difficulty that allows for a revealing, the instance when reading when the difficulty and confusion is overcome, and there is that sharp brightness in that the poem has revealed part of itself, and its opens itself up, but usually not fully. So one returns again to the poem and starts in looking for that wonderful mental happiness of the poem revealing more of itself to you. This is what I think lies at the heart of aesthetics. Resistance followed by the brightness of understanding, but never all of it. There must remain always something that is never revealed to draw back the reader.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
I wonder what an MFA prof would say if I argued that a good poem worked like crack and its value was not in what knowledge we gain from it but just a good intellectual high? Pure pleasure.



[delete]
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Christopher Woodman
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« Reply #96 on: January 19, 2007, 09:16:45 PM »

A bit of a backtrack here.

I just rediscovered why I teach Kunitz' "Touch Me" to undergrads. As I was getting ready for the semester, I ran across this poem written by one of my freshmen in Intro to Lit (Spring 2006):

Whiten the Earth, by Ashton Paul.

I had posted it (with her permission) on my blog. She, too, writes about loss of youth and yearning (albeit a shorter span of time, but, still a loss). So "Touch Me" IS a good springboard poem. As I recall, Ashton wrote this as a journal poem, which means it was likely a first draft.

Bugzita
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ennifer Semple Siegel

One must always question wrongheaded conventional wisdom.
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« Reply #97 on: January 19, 2007, 11:54:25 PM »

Quote from: "Bugzita"
A bit of a backtrack here.

Not such a backtrack at all, Jennifer--certainly a shorter span of time, but the differences among human beings are so infinitesimally small, aren't they? Indeed, even the distinquishing features of our faces are important only to those who care to look. So the GIs in France found it difficult to tell one 'Kraut' from another, and in Vietnam the similarity of 'Gook' faces chilled our soldier's blood--which helped in the killing, of course (no blame, no blame, no blame, those poor young men.  And the mud was just growing another person's rice too, in Vietnam, somebody with an unforgettable nose and memorable eyes and particularly distinctive black, black hair!).

So too in poetry--the distinquishing features between the yearning of a young woman missing the physical sensations of winter and of an old man the physical sensations of sexual passion. Worlds apart, yes, yet so similar!

And the differences between the details of a poem by a master poet and another by a debutante are so slight as well, like the difference between a bunch of flowers arranged by an 80 year old Ikebana master and another by you or I. Indeed, I think you might set that as a challenge to your students, Jennifer. How can you tell that "Whiten the Earth" is by a young amateur and the other by a consumate professional? The actual words, I mean, because that's where the depth lies, and nowhere else.

One suggestion by me: the master would surely not have instructed the reader at the end,  "remind me of youth!" A last image would have done that without any need for the stage direction--"whiten the earth,/....................................... So get your students all to write an alternative line (give them a whole week to wrestle with the task--then vote for the winner--then discuss why you chose what you did.)

I feel sure the winner will be the sensitive student who has the courage to say, "No, I don't want another image at all. Just "whiten the earth"--as last line and as title! That's best for me!"

Like my poem ends with some scattered pomegranate seeds and not with superfluous words of philosophy, what's more of wisdom!

(And that's where we're at on this thread too, isn't it? So you haven't backtracked us at all!)

Thanks, Christopher
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Christopher Woodman
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« Reply #98 on: January 20, 2007, 02:27:24 AM »

Thanks, Christopher.

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon: often, the poetry (and other work) that my beginning literature students write is often more interesting and vital than what my creative writing students do.

I think, perhaps, there are three reasons/theories for this seemingly arse backwards reality:

1. The lit students have something to write about; reading literature gets the creative juices going. The creative writing students do not seem to want to springboard from good literature. They just want to dive in and write about.......themselves.

2. The lit students are not under pressure to revise, and they are not graded on so-called "perfection." They just write.

3. The creative writing students are too worried about their grade.

Don't get me wrong; I have posted some good CW work on my blog, and I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful writers over the years from my creative writing classes.

At first, it was just so surprising to see the lit students, many of whom weren't even English or writing majors, blossom creatively.

By the way, I have added "Apologia Pro Vita Austitica" to my syllabus (Week 5). I was wondering: could you PM me a short bio? No need to get overly personal--just a writer's bio. I like to place a piece in context with the writer's life, even when there's no overt connection between work and poet.

In case you're curious, my syllabus is online:

www.JenniferSiegel.com

There you'll see a link for LIT160 Syllabus.

In my information section, I sound like an old strict school teacher--a necessary pre-emptive move, I'm afraid, although this semester's group seems quite together and pleasant.  

Best, Jennifer
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ennifer Semple Siegel

One must always question wrongheaded conventional wisdom.
adamhardin
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« Reply #99 on: January 22, 2007, 01:24:23 PM »

I greatly enjoyed Christopher's poem. He has that true genius ability with language. There is a real linguistic violence there that marks genius. When I read him, I felt the cohesiveness of his vision, as though those lines came from him, and were not constructed.  

Here is another point to make with language in that you will find a great many Academics poets have a large vocabulary, and use it in their poems, but when I read their poetry it seems as though those words and especially foreign words were inserted into the poem. Ashbery can be a good poet, but he is guilty of this many times.

Ashton's poem to me is flat because of its limited use of language. There is no linguistic violence. He wants us to share in his philosophical thought. The poem is limp. Ashton like any poet needs time to develop(though this seems to be truncated and molested by the workshop) so you don't say Ashton will never be a good poet, you just wait until he matures.

I have beaten that horse, but that is a horse you can't beat enough: too many workshop poets are told they are good when they have years or a decade or more of development left. They essentially stop halfway in their journey(because their peers/teachers have stopped half-way).
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« Reply #100 on: January 23, 2007, 01:33:43 AM »

Quote from: "adamhardin"
Too many workshop poets are told they are good when they have years or a decade or more of development left. They essentially stop halfway in their journey(because their peers/teachers have stopped half-way).

Or a prize, a big one, what about that, Adamhardin? Can it too arrest the development of a poet by coming too early and/or easily?

Let me say this.  If it's a legitimate selection, based exclusively on the quality of the poetry, it's sound, it's sense, it's magic, it's transforming effect on the reader, then the poet gets a great big green light to go on developing. But if it's awarded to return a favor, or even worse to make a particular writing program look better, or get more grant money, whatever, then it's going to be one big red blot for that poor poet, like the pool of blood that marks the spot of his or her motorcycle accident--and no helmet either!

I'm an old man, out of the loop entirely--so critics of this site can't say my remarks are just sour grapes. Look, I've been submitting books to contests for 12 years, 100s of submissions I mean, and hardly ever received even a reply what's more an award. On the other hand, I freely admit that had I been in some nefarious loop even as little as 3 years ago, and received a prize I didn't really deserve, then I too would have been arrested in my development, because the loneliness of this particular long distance runner has made it possible for me to write a poem like "Old Foreplay for Young Women Including Men." Because it took me all of those 12 years to get there with it, struggling, struggling, struggling. The poem was much less "violent," to use Adamhardin's wonderful word, even 2 years ago, and had Jorie selected me when I was young enough to have been in her workshop, what is more elsewhere with her, I would never have become the poet that I'm only now at last becoming!

Thank you so much, Adamhardin--and to all of you who make this site possible. It's a huge contribution to American Letters, you know!

Christopher
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Christopher Woodman
poetastin
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« Reply #101 on: January 23, 2007, 10:25:24 AM »

Adam Hardin!

Is this linguistic violence part of an established critical terminology? If not, I think you should amplify and run with it.

Preferably here.

 :tonqe:
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« Reply #102 on: January 24, 2007, 01:49:13 AM »

Quote from: "poetastin"
Adam Hardin!

Is this linguistic violence part of an established critical terminology? If not, I think you should amplify and run with it.

Preferably here.

 :tonqe:

You mean to add to the Establishment, Poetastin? I would think keeping your eye on the ball, in this case a very interesting and unexpected critical adjective, would be more to the point, and I agree, "preferably here" too!

What did Adam see in this particular poem that he liked well enough to call "violent," an observation that even got a nod from the author?

Honestly, let's not add another item to the imaginary wardrobe!

Christopher
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Christopher Woodman
adamhardin
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« Reply #103 on: January 24, 2007, 01:16:12 PM »

That is the interesting thing is there is an official terminology for speaking about poetry, but that terminology itself limits you in how you might express what a poem said to you.  

I speculate that young poets brought up in the workshop concentrate so much on mastering that terminology or techniques and the latest hip phrase like "white space" that they end up limiting themselves as poets. A insidious sort of limiting is rewarding those who write similar poems as those in power with prizes. In falling into the fold, you die as a poet. It has gone from being a poet to belonging to a school of poetry.    

Christopher's price may be a lack of recognition, but far far worse is recognition, and a real lack of talent. But it is never too late for a new poet or novelist to be discovered. Damn unfortunate it is that sometimes you gotta die first.

A sad thought is that we do not know how many geniuses we have lost. If you consider the circumstances of Dickinson and Kafka, in a different world, Lavinia and Max Brod respectively just stuffed their work away or burned it (Franz Kafka requested this of Brod).

Higginson first discovered Dickinson and knew she had talent, only he wanted her to embark on making her verse closer to the contemporary verse of her day, and she quickly and smartly lost interest.
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« Reply #104 on: January 24, 2007, 10:38:34 PM »

Dear Adam.
a.) I'm not dying--despite all appearances and/or what my birth certificate says. Or at least I don't think I am.

b.) I never said I was a misunderstood or ignored genius. What I said was that had I been 'discovered' even just a few years ago my development might well have been arrested by a confirmation I didn't yet deserve. Indeed, sometimes suffering really can be good for you, and in my case my 'lack of advancement' has truly given me the time I needed to grow properly as a poet. The fact that I started at 50 is my own fault, and nobody else's--yet had I started at 20, let's say, I'd only be 37 now. (Every now and then I wish my religion didn't forbid the use of emoticoms!)

c.) I've used the "eye on the ball" image a number of times on this site, and I keep thinking about it with regard both to writing poetry and to talking about it. The fact is that if you think about your swing, in golf, tennis or bed, you're going to miss the only thing that's worth hitting in any of those games. Golf books don't make Tiger Woods, nor sex manuals lovers--and particularly not, in the latter case, meaningful relationships. If poetry is about being a stud, what's more an onanist, then I don't want to have anything to do with it. If it's about relationships then it's worth dying for!

So back to the ball, I'd say.

And take note, in his earlier post just above Adam talked not just about "violence" but about "cohesiveness," Poetastin--odd bed-fellows, like the lovers in the poem he was responding to as well. So have a look at the poem again, then ask yourself more questions about what we're talking about.

Because that's why it was posted, not to get off on all alone!

Christopher
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Christopher Woodman
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