I love the style at the smoky loge.

Still, I find myself harboring reservations (do you take reservations?).

Something is wrong with the sour & stale critiques of the previous century. The oppositions underlined by Adorno, ornamented by Rasula - the notion that writing (poetry) stands opposed to exchange, the merely political notion of "canon" as elitism and exclusion - something missing here. & what's missing leads inexorably to JL's closing fantasies of an autotelic/invisible victim-poetics (the writer above the filling station).

Sure, there are truths in all this... but I say something's missing, something's left out...

First of all, the exchange binary. Works of art, poems, are BOTH inalienable labor and forms of exchange. They are exchanges of aesthetic-intellectual values. Of beauty, if you will - which cannot be divorced from ethics (ie. there is something you could call "moral beauty" : the just equilibrium of a humane civilization, the life-force, manifested in liberation from various forms of oppression).

The sullen hopelessness of much 20th-cent. critique is, of course, based on a sense of outraged moral value; the irony, parody, and refusals of the artists often draw from, rhyme with, or contribute to, the general intellectual critique. The trouble is, without hope, critique because an end in itself, becomes autotelic : and it then reads art in the mirror of its own refusals. Thus Adorno simply juxtaposes art and (commodity) exchange. But if art is also exchange, then the modernist claim of pure autonomy is not strictly true : intellectual/aesthetic exchange runs parallel in some way to general economic exchange.

Rasula's strictures against Western "canon" build on the same set of alienation-formulas. But to reduce canonization to a sociological mechanism actually deforms the role of artists themselves. My readings in Russian lit history bring this home very clearly. The artists themselves nurture and create the canons, not some theoretical pyramid of hierarchical society. Read Wachtel's book, noted here earlier, and watch how 200 years of Russian poetic tradition draws consciously on its own "canonical" roots. Listen to Brodsky:

"When I left school, when my friends quit work or college and started in on poetics, the people we read - and we read a lot - we chose by instinct, by intuition. We had no feeling that we were continuing any sort of tradition, or that we had any mentors or spiritual fathers, or anything like that. We were, if not the black sheep of the family, then orphans. And it is a marvelous thing when an orphan begins to sing in his father's voice."


No comments: