Conceptualism... blah two

It's fun to think about poetry, which presents a lot of mysteries, conundrums.  It's fun to talk about it.  But making it is something else.  The activity of making poems resists theoretical frames & boxes.  Take, for example, the postmodern thesis that the lyric Subject is an illusion, a mirage of false consciousness driven by repressed class-historical-material forces, or by a mis-perception of the de-centered insubstantiality of the Real.  Yet, au contraire, what the actual labor of making poems reveals to the maker, is that the poem is the outcome of a personal struggle with an unaccountable something or someone other than the "lyric I".  And the very process of dialectical making - this struggle - tends to carve both poet and "other" into high relief - to bring on a greater intensity of conscious presence or being.  The process itself becomes primary : a process which involves the shedding or transformation of abstract preconceptions of every kind.

Poetry is conceptual by the very nature of its medium, language - so the phrase "conceptual poetry" is redundant.   But the "concepts" in poetry are secondary.  The primary power of poetry resides in names : the originary soundings of enunciation, evocation, expression.  The words, that is, the beginning and end of the poem, do not "represent" things : they establish things.   The dualisms of mind and body, thought and action, spirit and matter are transmuted within a sort of explanatory harmonics : earth is (figuratively speaking) transported to heaven.  Prose and poetry, innocence and experience, are not divided, but implicated with each other, woven together in unbreakable knots.

There are a lot of anti-poetic forces at work within American Poetryland.  There have been for a while.  Groups with agendas to promote at the expense of actual poetry.  But poetry is a stubborn, resistant, ineradicable thicket of laborious making.  It will not be undone by superficial theoretical make-overs.  Notions like the "obsolescent lyric Subject" are glib reductions from a much more complex actuality.  Strong poetry actually builds on the "I" of the solitary lyric - branches out from this seed into more expansive forms - dialogue, satire, narrative, epic, drama...  The whole ancient "wheel of Virgil" (eclogue/georgic/epic) still awaits contemporary fulfillments.

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