Notes Toward & So On (3)
& so on we go... as remarked in previous, on first glance talking about "image" & "symbol" seems rather anachronistic. The forthright Josh Corey, responding to these notes, suggested there might be something less than socially-engaged in such focus. He admits to an early interest in the image, which has shifted over to "melopeia" & "logopeia".
On could argue, however, that after the disjunctions of postmodernism, a project to reinvigorate the poetic symbol might be a worthwhile effort. Pound's distinction of phano-, melo-, and logopoeia, furthermore, can be seen as a typical 20th-century reductive dissection. The resonant image/symbol presupposes a synthesis of sound, vision and meaning. Taking a cue from Coleridge, Eliot, & many others, we can say that poetry's basic, characteristic mode is one which fuses the sensuous image with intelligible meaning by means of compelling sound.
I don't quite understand the assertion that such a focus would be somehow a-social or disengaged. I also admire Kristen Prevallet's explorations of "documentary poetics"; poetry can absorb and turn to good effect all kinds of reportage and political-historical material. I have no particular how-to lessons - at least not right now - on the various technical aspects of shaping a poetic image. All I will say at this point is that I'm interested in the notion of aesthetic-logical unity or wholeness of presentation. (There was a book review in Sunday's NYTBR of a book titled - I think - A Different Physics, on trends toward investigating synthetic or holistic phenomena, rather than always taking apart the engine - murdering to dissect.)
I think Josh's reservations - perhaps related to John Latta's comment yesterday about the "earnest burden'd academosphere" - has to do with a fear of critical distancing from the new, post NY School, post-Langpo group-scene poetry environment. Archimedes said that with a lever on the moon, he could move the earth. Poets are justly nervous about critical levers & leverage in general (it's so often misguided, stifling, & wrong-headed).
But perhaps we need some critical distance from the society poetry of today - & I mean society poetry on every brow-level, and in every scene setting. Writing itself is a lever, a tool for distancing, for questioning social assumptions. Perhaps a focus on the effective, resonant, parabolic symbol would enable some poets to identify their proper sphere, synthesizing both social engagement and aesthetic commitment (autonomy). If we begin to approach poems with disinterested critical method - as a resonant artifacts which speak to us as meaningful wholes - we might discover how poems can engage the larger problems of the world, and pass beyond those familiar barriers, which so often render it marginal, minor & ineffectual.
Recently, the so-called "post-avant" generations have been grouped either as leaning toward the NY School, or the Language Poets : toward talky, self-deprecating, slangy "presence", charm, joie-de-vivre, authenticity, on the one hand, or toward politically-saturated, engaged, ironic, intellectual, aesthetically-revolutionary, experimental, on the other.
I would suggest that the very phenomena of social grouping by way of such vague generic qualities represents a critical blind spot : a fogginess about the symbolic, representative, intelligible-emotive powers and processes of poetic language itself, and about the means and ends of poems as distinct aesthetic wholes.