Thursday, March 17, 2005

Working sporadically on Kiosk/Stylus. I'd like to make a chapbook of it when I'm done. Gonna get some feedback from a few folks I'll be seeing in and around the AWP conference at the end of the month. I should be writing my paper that I'm going to present. The major distinction I want to draw, I think, is between nature as it's deployed in Romantic writing (that is, the Wordsworthian encounter with nature in service to the poet's subjectivity), which is still the most common strategy, versus the nature in what I'm calling avant-garde or on alternate days postmodern pastoral, which decenters the poet in the service of some sort of critique or imaginative gesture that presents the sensual impact of the natural object. For example, hearing Anne Carson about Francis Bacon persuades me that a project like Zukofsky's 80 Flowers is intended to present the reader with the nerve sensation of the flower in question without bothering to represent that flower. The poet's "I" never appears, and the artifice of the presentation (5 words per line, 8 lines each) is an attempt to metonymically preserve the flower in its flowerness. Zukofsky does not, unfortunately for me, rise to the challenge of rewriting Wordsworth's "The Daffodils", but compare that poem with another, humbler flower of Zukofsky's:

No blanch witloof handbound dry
heart to racks a comb
lion's-teeth thistlehead golden-hair earth nail
flower-clock up-by-pace dandle lion won't
dwarf lamb closes night season
its long year dumble-dor bumbles
cure wine blowball black fall's-berry
madding sun mixen seeded rebus
I couldn't guess what this "means," but I am ravished by the language presented to me as a flower: that is, as natural beauty, purposive without purpose, eluding proposition and concept while yet failing to be actually meaningless (for example there's a riff on the famous Bible verse with "dandle lion won't / dwarf lamb"). To assert the "naturalness" of language is perhaps no less Romantic than Wordsworth's affirmation that his heart "dances with the daffodils," but it's Romantic on another plane entirely, affirming not the glory of Zukofsky's subjectivity but the glory of sheer communicativity. At the same time it matters that these are flowers and not, say, automobiles (though it's an intriguing thought).

Maybe I should just read some blog entries aloud at the panel. Anyway, that's where my mind is wandering this evening. I'm late for a Soon meeting now.

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