Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Then there's this quote from a letter of George Oppen to Serge Fauchereau in Michael Heller's book on the Objectivists:
The image for the sake of the poet, not for the sake of the reader. The image as a test of sincerity, as against: "the sun rose like a red-faced farmer leaning over a fence", which last is a picture intended for the delectation of the reader who may be imagined to admire the quaintness and ingenuity of the poet, but can scarcely have been a part of the poet's attempt to find himself in the world—unless perhaps to find himself as a charming conversationalist.
If we are still in the realm of lyric (Objectivist writing as a direct descendant of Imagism, itself intended as a break from the no-longer-functional undemocratic vistas offered by Victorian poetry's transcendental reflexes) then Oppen's caution refers to the "test of sincerity," the poet's full investment or venture of his or her subjectivity. "The poet's attempt to find himself in the world": in the world may be a refusal of transcendence, but the emphasis here is on finding, on making images that acurately render the individual's position re: the whole. This is not done dialectically but through sincerity. But who shall judge sincerity? And if there's a "you" over here and a "world" that you have to "find" yourself in, your position is transcendental, is it not? Perhaps the test of sincerity is the poet's willingness to renounce that transcendental locale the moment it is achieved.

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