Quieter than usual here in the library today. Raining outside.

I'm going to NYC tomorrow for a day or so. Hope to attend Segue reading at Bowery Poetry Club on Sat. (Meredith & Peter Quartermain)


We know about beauty in nature & art, somewhat. Shape, colors, sounds, proportion, elegance, truth, & so on.

A beautiful thing is in proportion to itself. It has limits - it has form, shape. Even though the prevalent approach, recently, has been to emphasize extensions, fragments, extras, border-crossings.

Poetry is the art of words. Strangely drawing a boundary around words (these usually useful packets of transmitted info). & so fostering a zone of magnetism, gravity, weight...

Melville was perhaps the last, maybe the only, American writer to work with genres the way ancient and renaissance writers did. Along with grammar and style, there were generic patterns and modes which demanded adaptation and fulfillment. The Confidence-Man is a tour-de-force of such generic techniques & parodies. Moby-Dick is a serious epic.

Once artistic literature was seen under the aegis of something called "the wheel of Virgil". Virgil set the pattern for authors : first lyric & elegiac short poems; then georgic/didactic discursive modes; then epic, the attempt to represent a cosmos, an encyclopedic totality.

Running the gauntlet of these difficult, high-mandarin disciplines, the poet approached "authority" - a role through which a social community (a nation, a people) found its values mirrored in literary art.

Dramatic poetry offered a different, sometimes rival path (the debate over the authority of Homeric epic vs. tragedy is very old).

Writing & poetry no longer seem to have much of this magic aura (at least in our part of the world). Maybe this is a good thing. But sometimes contemporary poets seem rather lost without these old trails.

Poetry is still "different", different from ordinary speech behavior - but not in the same ways. Reading & writing seem to have sort of blurred into the vast, vague category of "talk".

The old disciplines perhaps assisted writers in finding a certain useful remoteness from the ordinary day-to-day. Contemplative, productive space in which to articulate those deep connections, which they notice on the underside of every leaf.

(Now I'm reminded of Mark Scroggins' comments on differing British & American approaches to the "formalities" of art and ordinary speech.)

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