Reading more in Lee Smolin's book (Trouble with Physics). Vast (not quite infinite) expense of intellect and academic resources on sometimes fantastic & surreal by-roads of (mostly unverifiable) string theory.

Can one make a very stretched analogy to the realm of American poetry? Experimental tests and logical rigor might be compared with the poet's effort to find an authentic rhetoric (or is that a double oxymoron? "all poets are liars...").

Formerly paraphrased as the now muchly-derided "finding your voice".

Just as string theory blithely proposed multiple dimensions, with only the most tenuous connection to testable reality, so postmodern poetry dismissed voice, levels of diction, all the problems of rhetorical address... since these elements are seen as epiphenomena of "personality" or "the author" or "individualism"...

- and so the unreadable productions pile up, in the departmental building just down the street from the one with the untestable physics theories. Vanity Babel.

(I admit I couldn't get past the first 4-5 lines of Jorie Graham's poem in this week's New Yorker. So it's not fair to judge, but I'm going to anyway... it struck me as hair-raisingly pretentious. The voice of some fantastic Poetry Establishment - which, having invested everything in a mandarin, hyper-refined stylistics, has no funds left for this problem of rhetorical address - the physics of making statements having some faint relation to ordinary speech among theoretical "equals". I know there is a complementary - and equally large - problem with "popular" styles : but I'm more put off by what you might call "establishment exceptionalism". In this sense, Ron Silliman, for example, is a spokeperson for the status quo. Shadow-boxing with mediocre traditionalist poetry is a way of angling for special credit : because this deep problem of rhetorical address - voice, style - is the intractable, unavoidable challenge for every poet.)

(p.s. but I will go back & read the Graham poem all the way through. I might change my mind.)

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