Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Ron's post today on the publication history of Jennifer Moxley has me reflecting on my own publication history-in-progress. There is a very real sense in which my first book has never been published: that was the manuscript called News of the Blazing World, which eventually ballooned into two manuscripts: Selah and The Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Oklahoma feels in some ways more like a first book than Selah does, largely because it contains some of the oldest poems I still consider worthwhile, and also because it's more of a collection while I think of Selah as something of a concept album. (I loved the whole, er, concept of concept albums when I was a teenager: such supergroup albums as Jethro Tull's Aqualung and Thick as a Brick, The Who's Tommy and Quadrophenia, Queen's A Night at the Opera, and even Styx's Kilroy Was Here (remember "Mr. Roboto"?) had at as much influence on my early poetic ambitions as The Waste Land did.) In the meantime I've gone and published my third book, Fourier Series, as my second, and am peddling my fourth book, Severance Songs, as my third. Confused? All right, leaving "Blazing World" out of it, here are the collected books of Joshua Corey in their ideal order of publication:
1) The Nature Theater of Oklahoma
2) Selah
3) Fourier Series
4) Severance Songs
5) work-in-progress...
I worry that Nature Theater will be at a disdvantage as my third or fourth book, as it's likely to be. It's a strong collection, I believe (I've published two-thirds of the poems in magazines), but it's definitely a mode I'm moving further and further away from. Though I may be a poor judge of this sort of thing: writers are sometimes the last to know about their own quirks and consistencies. Maybe when all four books are out I will look at Amazon's concordance feature and discover they all have the same favorite words.

Some more thoughts on Coolidge and difficulty, extracted from an e-mail I wrote in answer to one from Simon DeDeo. The sheer mass of text Coolidge has produced inspires some of the vertigo I associate with the mathematical sublime, and a number of modernists and postmodernists have applied this strategy, simply overwhelming us with the size of their texts: Stein comes to mind, as does the Joyce of Finnegans Wake, and more recent oddities like Bruce Andrews, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Silliman himself (I find any single page of Tjanting mesmerizing but multiple pages numb me out). A Kantian speculation: perhaps most people experience only the unpleasure of the decentered ego when they encounter this sort of work and don't stay with it long enough for the triumphant recuperation of reason to take place? A perhaps more straightforward analysis of the pleasures of difficulty than the one I've tried to provide.

Freedom vs. wholeness: Here's the key passage from Baker:
Thus modern culture, in the wake of romanticism, has been signfiicantly shaped by a tension between the ideal of "radical freedom" and the ideal of "expressive integrity," a longing for creative independence and a longing for existential wholeness, a Kantian emphasis on individual self-legislation and a Hegelian emphasis on social reconciliation, or, as I occasionally characterized this tension in my discussion of Wordsworth in chapter 1, a search for creative departure and a search for relational embeddedness. Wordsworth's poetry, indeed, is emblematic in the way it hovers in the midst of these larger cultural tensions. Yet many modern poetries, in particular those I've characterized as passages of the extravagant [the poets Bob discusses in detail are Wordsworth, Rimbaud, Dickinson, and Mallarme], while they bear a utopian valence pointing toward a horizon of restored psychic and social wholeness, initially manifest, in their metamorphic crossing of common boundaries, a movement of imaginative freedom. Therein lies a source of their great power and of many of their predicaments. (274)
Bob goes on to characterize Breton as being primarily oriented toward Freedom while Eliot is primarily oriented toward Wholeness—though no doubt you could find residues of the other half of the dichotomy in each of their poetries. So what I'm curious about right now is the possibility of a return (the fundamental nostalgic gesture) that is a spiral instead of a circle, that takes on the energy of outward in order to build a home. It's my theory that postmodern pastoral, starting with Pound, tries to accomplish this, negating technological totalities and spiraling back toward nature as a starting point for something new. And I'm now starting to conceive of a post-postmodern pastoral which actually builds or discovers or recovers something, as opposed to merely tarrying with the negative. Johnson's ARK-itecture may be the key example of this new kind of writing, I don't
know yet—I do know he goes beyond Pound, whose equivoval triumph as a poet is the unmaking of his own Fascist idyll.

No comments:

Popular Posts