Monday, June 06, 2005

Dalliances with Zizek and Badiou have returned me to The Extravagant. A marvelous map of quests for radical freedom in different eras of Romanticism and Modernism that ends with some almost casually brilliant descriptions of our own period. For now I'd just like to share with you a footnote: what follows is a quotation taken from Marcel Raymond's De Baudelaire au surrealisme, of which Baker writes, "It is of interest that many passages in Raymond's discussion could, with minor shifts in vocabulary, serve as sound commentaries on the disjunctive-digressive poetries of the last thirty years or so in both France and the United States":
The power of this sort of poetry is not objectively demonstrable and reveals itself only to experience, that is, to individual experience. Doubtless the same can be said of any true poetry, but the engagement demanded of the reader in this case is of a particular sort: it demands that the reader yield himself to the impressions of a sensibility that is exceptionally plastic and entirely impregnated by the atmosphere of a specific age. There is nothing in this akin to the labor of gradual penetration demanded by an oeuvre like that of Mallarme; the poetry of Jacob, of Cocteau, often of Apollinaire, and of many of those who have followed them, works or fails to work; it does not enclose (in any strict sense) a secret and so cannot be characterized as hermetic; it intends to be loved by virtue of a flash of lightning; and the risk to which it exposes itself—as the passing of a few years makes clear—is that of no longer finding in the future the conditions necessary for the transmission of the electricity with which it is charged. Its best chance is to find a reader endowed with a "sense of mystery" (as Cocteau says) similar to that of the poet himself.
How powerfully this resonates with my experience of reading New York School poetry and many contemporary New York-Boston poets, especially that crucial energy of the contemporary that seems bracing and necessary as air, even as it tosses away poetry's traditional bid to be "a moment's monument." And that sense of discovering a poet with a compatible "sense of mystery," and the desire to inculcate a similar sense in many more readers than currently cultivate such (and the uncertain means by which to do this). Not least a confirmation of my growing sense of the peculiar importance of Apollinaire to our fracturing suburban moment, and the importance of "Zone" to my own attempt to recover the spirit of the urban—that is, concentrated difference—in "Kiosk/Stylus." Crucial stuff that only glancingly touches on Baker's great theme, which is the increasing difficulty of the extravagant venture into the unknown given the tightening grip of commodity capitalism, which has colonized or rendered unrecognizable all the old "outsides": the unconscious, nature, bohemia. Do we need a new outside or can the old ones be somehow freed for human use again?

Not quite finished with the book; maybe Bob will answer all these questions. I'll let you know.

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