Would like to clear out the cobwebs, the lumber here. (Often feel mildly rebuked by John Latta : ie. today's "the temptations of earnestness".)


"Critical faculty". Fair judgement. I'm not referring to people (individuals), but to an aspect of how we play at art & poetry.

We take a liking to a poem or an artwork. Then we recognize weaknesses, limitations - but we still like it. It's that initial response which forms the basis for mutuality & camaraderie among artists : we like the same things. & there's a (limited) objectivity about the process.

The point is that this is a critical activity, not a "creative" one. "Being poets together" is not a good enough reason to be together. But liking (some of) the same things - even if we disagree about some other things - this is a firm basis, at least in the art sphere.


The tumult of the years since 1907. The gale-force winds : modernization, technology, ideology, politics, war. & we've had so many explainers & culture-critics since then that we sometimes forget that art & poetry offer a continual opportunity to re-evaluate, re-organize, rethink everything.

This is the creative process itself, the source of originality. We forget how personal it is : it's a matter of the artist picking & choosing what's important - whether in subject-matter or style. The explainers love to identify trends & social determinations, while downplaying this essential matter of aesthetic choice.


There are the experimental conceptualists. For them poetry is a kind of discourse, a means of social role-playing or commentary. Then there are the poetry-krafftwerkers, the pedagogical creative writing technicians. For them poetry is a literary craft - a product one can learn to produce.

The former lean too far toward abstraction and concept; the latter lean too far toward the minutiae of literary-rhetorical technique.

Both concept & technique are obviously major elements of poetry, but to over-emphasize them is to smother the thing itself.

Let's say : poetry is an imaginative medium, a channel for particular forms of beauty-&-truth. It's a medium : an activity with archaic affiliations to both music and painting. Think of it as an ongoing stream, with certain qualities and aspects which have not changed since 500 BC or earlier.

I emphasize medium in order to try to differentiate my way of seeing things from both the kraftwerkers & the aesthetic ideologists. A complex artistic medium is not the same thing as the postmoderns' version of language as materialist silly putty. Nor is it the bread & butter of the industrial kraftwerkers : it is, rather, personal : suffused through & through with the artist's deeply conceptual allegiances and choices. This creative - pre-compositional - process of formulating such choices and allegiances is what gives birth to art which actually means something to us, moves us. An inner necessity.

(Osip Mandelstam, in his "Conversation about Dante", referred to this primordial process as the "poetic impulse". In fact Mandelstam asserted that the poetic process was a matter of entwining two different strands : the impulse and the verbal medium. This sounds simplistic only if one forgets Mandelstam's exalted, intuitive, philological sensitivity to the verbal-poetic medium - for him, a perennial, archaic, complex, autonomous activity/reality, suffused with cultural mana.)

No comments: