Friday, July 22, 2005

Mostly dazzled by the display of careful thought and erudition shown over questions of canon-making by Kasey and Jordan. I too am attracted to "hot eclecticism," though as a concept it sounds like an attempt to provide Jamesonian postmodern pastiche with something resembling a motivation, or at least meditation on motivation. Sincerity could be one such but I'm not sure italics and exclamation points are sufficient; I suspect any sort of New Sincerity will require both innovations in form and some conversation about its intended social space if it's going to succeed. Possibly related: I find I have a difficult time reading Spanish and Latin American poetry in translation, even that of the greats: Lorca, Vallejo, Neruda, etc. I just have tremendous resistance to how thick they lay on the duende: they're chockablock with exclamation points (though in Spanish they're much cooler looking) and operatic emotions that I can't help but want to read as camp. Opening at random the Copper Canyon edition of Vallejo's >Black Hearlds, I find this stanza, the opening to "Oracion del camino" ("Prayer of the Road"):
    I don't even know whom this bitterness is for!
O Sun, you who are dying, you take and hang
my bohemian pain on your chest
like a bloody Christ.
            The valley is bitter gold;
            and the journey is sad, long.
Now I know this may come off as a giant display of cultural insensitivity, but I just have a tough time taking this as straight as I think it's intended. I had the same trouble reading Baudelaire until I studied him and his era fairly closely, and did my best to read him in my pidgin French. This speaks to the general trouble I have with translated poetry, which is similar to the problem created by anthologies that provide insufficient context or argument for its selections: just because the words have been rendered into English doesn't mean I know how to read it. I have to know a little something about a poem's environment, what it's reacting to, what preceded it, what it's contemporaries are like, to really get a grip on it. UNLESS the poem bears a resemblance, in translation, to poems in English whose traditions or "embedments" I already have a handle on—though such resemblances are likely to be misleading. (This is all apart from the question of language: even if I understood Spanish I would still need some kind of introduction or education to fully "get" a Spanish poet's milieu: the difference between langue and parole, mayhap.) As it happens, the Vallejo poems in this volume that I can have some immediate appreciation for are laden with irony, though less glidingly than the imaginary normative post-avant poem the New Sincerists are reacting against. I love another first stanza from the book, this from the poem "El palco estrecho" ("The Narrow Theater Box"):
    Closer, come closer. I feel great.
It rains; and that's a cruel limitation.
Advance, advance the cue.
In three short lines there's a lot of dark wit, like a marriage between Frank O'Hara and Edgar Allan Poe. Anyway, my point is that any American poet who wants to create a readerly context in which we can take their emotionality "straight" has their work cut out for them. Only a semi-organized movement has any chance of pulling it off. Of course you could bypass poetry's normative audience and go straight to "the people" who fully expect sincere emotion to be the alpha and omega of a given poem, and many do. But most of the satisfactions I take from poetry (reading it and writing it) depend on the pressure it puts on me to expand my verbal and mental resources: an emotional response (or a Poundian "image," an emotional and intellectual complex) will spur me to make use of those resources but what they unfold will hopefully extend beyond sincere expression into an aesthetic experience of some kind. If you as a poet or reader are also interested in those experiences, you may have to admit to yourself that "sincerity" must always be a means to or component of something larger that may also need to incorporate stances and images that create interesting friction when rubbed up against the demands of expression. This is all getting a little abstract and analogical, so I'll stop.

Up until two AM last night reading Harry Potter 5: those books are as addictive as they say. A pleasurable return, as the Sunday NYTBR puts it, to "a half-remembered state of childhood rapture," devouring and being devoured by a completely imagined otherworld. An experience that seems to be necessary to my well-being, and which thankfully has numerous avenues, from D&D to poetry.


TWPAdmin said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a marriage quote
. It pretty much covers marriage quote
related stuff. It's full of resources and articles. Come and check it out if you get time :-)

nicholas said...

Hey, you have a great blog here!

I have a cds improvement self site/blog. It pretty much covers ##KEYWORD## related stuff.

Popular Posts