Monday, December 06, 2004

Aubergine went to the printer this morning. Contributors will have copies in their hot little hands in plenty of time for the holidays. If you'd like to own a piece of literary history—only 50 copies to be printed!—send me an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the three bucks.

David Leftwich of Eclectic Refrigerator, chimes in on the organic vs. inorganic question and gives me a chance to clarify a few things. Obviously there is nothing more or less organic, or more or less artificial, than a Richard Wilbur or Keats poem vis-a-vis a poem by Charles Bernstein. My understanding of Bürger is that "organic" primarily refers not to the degree of artificiality of a work, but to the fact that the work's elements refer primarily to itself and only secondarily to exterior contexts (whether those be the facts of its production or the work's subject matter). The nonorganic works elements retain some of their independence—which does not mean, I think, that these elements could necessarily stand on their own as artworks, only that they primarily refer to some external reality (again, the facts of production or subject matter) and only secondarily do they make a contribution to the integrity of the artwork they belong to. One thing this shows is that organic-nonorganic is more of a continuum than a dichotomy; if Bruce Andrews represents extreme nonorganicity and Robert Pinsky extreme organicity (a discursive poem such as he likes to write requires that every piece serve the overall argument), then I would put someone like Rae Armantrout to Andrews' right and someone like the later Kenneth Koch (of New Addresses, say) a fair bit to Pinsky's left.

But David has brought up a difficulty with the use of language like organic/nonorganic, and I wish I could see Bürger's text in German to know exactly what words he was using. Since "organic" does suggest the natural, I imagine Bürger means that to refer not to such an artworks' actually being more natural, but only to such a work's attempt to simulate harmony between the human being and nature—again, "The man-made organic work of art that pretends to be like nature projects an image of the reconciliation of man and nature" (78). I suppose it is largely through the force of tradition that patently artificial forms like the sonnet can come to appear (have a semblance, Schein) "natural." Also, the attitude of the author has a lot to do with it, I think: the ethos of making the poem look easy, effortless, never letting them see you sweat—the labor of concealing labor—is necessary to the organic poem, while the nonorganic poem writer must "show their work." So intent is a question, as perhaps is reception; to your average high school student a Shakespeare sonnet must look very nonorganic indeed. I need to think some more about this, because it again raises the gap between intention and work, into which questions of sociality and the cultural field tend to rush.

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