THE EXPOSITION OF MARION THE LIBRARIAN (copyrighted. any abuse, misuse, refuse, or booze in relation to the following will be prosecuted to the full extent of the public stocks in the public square of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.)
A schtick is not a poetics.
This brief declarative sentence appeared, without further explanation, on the Bemsha Swing blog of poet, scholar, translator, jazz drummer, & inhabitant of Kansas, Jonathan Mayhew, yesterday.
This gnomic admonition cries out for interpretation and analysis. As author of the phd. dissertation "Genesis and Pratfall : the Poetics of Schtick in the Infernal Landscapes of Milton's Paradise Lost" (Harvard Univ., 1986), and presently municipal Librarian of River City, Iowa, I feel appropriately situated for such an endeavor.
We have learned, since the advent of historical-material-nosediggin methodologies, to approach text in context. Paradise Lost was not composed in a vacuum: it was orated verbally by one John Milton, specific middle-class London person, to his three specific daughters, Hepzibah, Pepzibah & Zepzibah, on a specific day, in a specific week, in a specific room, of a specific house, in a specific England - about none of which specifics, unfortunately, we have any specific information. Fortunately, however, we know much more about the schtick-poetics contextual nexus in question.
We understand that the issue taken up at Bemsha Swing has nothing to do with the poetics of schtick (the techniques, methodologies, and philosophies of composition of the specific types of tomfoolery, trickery, "routines" and impersonations, folded under the umbrella (the trick umbrella) of "schtick". Rather, Governor Mayhew is voicing a limit-rubric, a critique, a boundary-value, with respect to the philosophy of poetic composition. General Mayhew is asserting that schtick as we know it is an insufficient basis for a true praxis-oriented poetics.
There. We feel better now.
Now I would like to turn to a brief remark made by Lieutenant Mayhew in the Comment Box of a post yesterday at HG Poetics. Here Officer Mayhew states: "Take away Chaplin's pliant cane and hat, and he'd still be Chaplin." This little offhand remark actually drills toward the nub of the ambiguities swirling around schtick-poetics. Just as Chaplin does not exist, in any actual Chaplin mode we know of, without the totality of his performative acts - in fact, without his acts, Chaplin probably goes by a given name different from "Chaplin"! - just as Chaplin-&-his-schtick present a symbiosis of Person-In-Action or an apotheosis-disappearance of Person-Into-Creative-Act : so the Poet, and The-Poet-as-we-Knoet, is indivisible from the performative acts by which he-she embodies creative vocation.
Thus a poetics of Impersonation, of Echo & Mimicry, is none other than the biological imperative, encapsulated in the dance of the Bower-Bird of Tango-Nika, or the chortlings of the Chortle-Bird of Irkutzk; and the boingy schtick of Chaplin is no different from the squiggly phallic-Hermetic Stick of the Lame Oedip-Orpho-Burpic Shaman of the wilds of Northern Cressida, in Thessaly, O Child of Dionysos!!!
Now as Kernel Bramhall pointed out, a poet's (as opposed to a critic's, or a boll weevil's) poetics follows, rather than precedes, the work itself. A poetics is an armature, an adjunct, a trace, an emulsion, an extra walnut. As such, a poetics can indeed fold itself recursively (see my study, Nonlinear Dynamic Systems and Time Travels with Loch Nessie in the Poetry of Robbie Burns) back into the poetry itself, and in so doing, that is, in folding back into itself, folding, as I say, fold upon fold, so to speak, back, itself into, poetry, poetry can, fold, folding, folded, make creative use of poetics; but this granular-recursive aspect should not be understood in any other than a quarky way, that is, as a part, not a whole, of the performative array or implosion known as poetic crystallization. (For more information, fold here and throw yourself into River City! If you've got the moxie to step outside of Grand Fenwick for once in your lazy lives, laddies!)