Thursday, December 23, 2004

Crawling on with Pound's weird apostrophes in Lustra—the many poems in which he addresses his own personified poems. Inching toward being able to make a plausible case for newness as nature (that is, an intellectual can make contact with nature by stripping away the concealments of the bourgeois "they"-world, which can be assisted by identification with the earthy subjectivity of the proletariat) as authenticity, before I turn it around and perform a critique of authenticity insofar as that's one of the values that led Pound so badly astray in his campaigns against usury and Jews in The Cantos. Then authenticity gets raised to the level of self-critique in the Pisans. I thnk that's how it's going to go.

G.C. Waldrep wrote to me last week about D&D; a former player himself, he wondered why we didn't turn to writing fiction given the narrative form of role-playing games. Here's how I responded:
The first answer that occurs to me is that the primary pleasure of RPGs is the sense of wonder, spontaneity, and immersion in a world, and I get more of that feeling from the experience of writing poems than fiction, which has all these encumbrances like plot. Writing a poem gets me closer to the originary experience of reading fantasy novels—the discovery of a dream-landscape where I felt I belonged—than reading such novels does now. Also, there's the sheer fussiness of D&D and its epigones—hit dice, THACO, alignments—and those constraints are perhaps akin to those we impose on ourselves in poems, the better to free the imagination. And the whole game happens in language—it's distinctly un-visual, except in the sense that radio is a visual medium—so maybe it's natural that my attention would be more captivated by the language's powers of transport
rather than any particular story. Also, the collectivity of gaming, which means that no one, not even the DM, has total control over what's going to happen, imitates the processes of the unconscious and surrender of intent that I find intrinsic to the best poetry.

The one thing poetry doesn't do as well as fiction in terms of recreating the D&D experience is probably characters (though tell that to Wordsworth)—though writing a poem from the perspective of a persona, explicit or not, serves a similar masking function. And there is the desire for epicness and scale which is hard to accomplish in a primarily lyric environment. Still, your question haunts me a little. I've sometimes thought that if I did return to writing fiction, it would have to be genre
fiction—a mystery, probably—because I'm not sure I possess the kind of insatiable curiosity about people needed to create a worthy realistic novel (one which does some serious cognitive mapping of a segment of our society) and even experimental novels demand many of the same chops. In a mystery there are conventions to play with and a stockpile of images, character-types, and dialogue to play with and try to make sing. Of course my biggest challenge in fiction has always been plot, I'm just terrible at it. Maybe if the language and characterzation were vivid enough, plot wouldn't matter so much. I've generally been more drawn to American hardboiled mysteries (whose plots are always cliched if not downright nonsensical or semi-irrelevant to the downright theological landscape of sin and glimpsed transcendence typical of such books) than the English drawing-room variety.
Finally, I want to note the good discussions of organic/nonorganic writing going on over at Out of the Woodwork and Cosmopoetica. I'll weigh in when I have the mental luxury of doing so.

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