Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Aubergine layout is complete. But we probably won't be able to print it out and do all the necessary folding, stapling, and mailing until after Thanksgiving.

Questions for Mike Snider:
1) Do you sincerely believe that if we all wrote poetry that rhymes or otherwise follows traditional forms and carefully avoided philosophical or "theory" references in favor of carefully unmediated-seeming narratives about daily life that poetry would become a popular art again?

2) Do you really see groups of friends who read and champion each other's work as nothing but a drag on originality and/or popularity? What's wrong with poetry as a means toward friendship?

3) Who said poetry was a guttering flame? Not me. Poetry feels more intense and more relevant and more necessary to me than ever. And I continue firmly to believe that what feels necessary to me is bound to be necessary to other people. I refuse to sacrifice the intensity of language set free from superficial intention for a wider audience that would be correspondingly diffuse in their attachment.
A further thought: isn't it possible to view the split between more "popular" poets (Collins, Tate, Olds, et al) and the "larger and even more peculiar group" (in which Mike is presumably including me) as being a split between a kind of "nativist" writing that celebrates the self and its bounds (support our troops!), creating space for that self through a kind of "soft" negative capability (the mild, quietistic bemusement that suffuses up through the last lines of one of their poems)—and a more "cosmopolitan" writing that interrogates the privileges offered to the self by the available rhetoric (you're either with us or against us) and chooses a "hard" negative capability that challenges both writer and reader to give up ground, to feel themselves regarded by the inassimilable otherness of the difficult poem?

All just a roundabout way of saying that I value difficulty in poetry. There, I said it. I can enjoy the easy stuff, the entertaining stuff, but the poetry that sustains me also challenges me, provokes me, fills me with wonder, or even makes me a little nauseous. What drives me crazy about poetic populism is that it asks us to set a low ceiling on our ambitions, to give up the dream of being apprehended at our most complex and contradictory. It asks me to devote my talent to discovering what's already known, to repeating the available wisdom—"what often was thought, but never so well expressed." That bores me. I work from expression to thought and not the other way around when I write poetry. I'm mining a basic human capacity, the deep vein of lapsus linguae. The obscurity and unpopularity of this art is only to be lamented by my ego, which demands accolades, reinforcement, tubs of money. But the me myself, whose bounds are never clear, is deeply satisfied (though not contented) by this writing—never separable, of course, from my reading. I have hundreds of companions in poetry, dead and alive—what more can I ask from this vale of fucking tears.

The love of the masses can't feed the actual heart. Just ask Elvis.

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