Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

★★ The Latest Posts on Hatter's Adversaria
Something I Read #17 – D.S. SavageDelillo's Underworld – a Review/Response
Visual Labyrinths in Body DoubleSomething I Read #16 – David Perkins

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Time For a Pause


six months in: a need to step back, and Robinson Jeffers


I've made brief mention previously on how I've been having difficulty posting to this blog. Yes, the disruptions in my routines these last weeks have had no small effect. But, really, the core of it is that far too many irons were being set into the fire and far too few were being taken out and put to bed. Which is very often a sign that there is an iron that is not in the fire that should be: in this case, a major project that his been sitting in the prep station for months now. And I have a strong feeling my unconscious has rather gotten fed up with waiting on me and has brought about this psychical log jam to force the issue.

So, even though I have been giving time to trying to put to bed the smaller projects (the stack of books next to the bed has decreased significantly), it's time to face facts and dedicate myself to the work necessary to the major project. (Actually, there are two, but one is more for fun so it's a "major side project" in truth.) Once I that going (and eliminate a few more of the minor irons) I'll start back up on my smaller projects, like this blog, and the essay on pop-poetics. (Actually, it is my intent to get that essay done sooner than later: it has become a focus of contemplation, and the notes are now stacking up far beyond any possible pragmatic use.) Also, possibly, I am considering explore expanding the purview of the blog to include things I've been reading. (Though, without changing the general format. But I'm not sure on this.)

So, give me some time to bring get my desk in order, and I'll be back. I've a pile of things to write about, both for here and for my main site. (I'll probably drop a post here and there, but don't expect my past level of output at least until I get through this period of unavoidable external distruptions.)


To give you something to think about: I've been looking back at Robinson Jeffers's work, which, if you've never encountered it, is a must. He is, arguably, the greatest narrative poet (non-comedic) of the last century. And, as with all really strong poets, he had a firm grip on his aesthetic philosophy. (Take a look at his poems "Aesthetics" and "The Beauty of Things" for a view, and his introduction to his 1938 "Selected" for a prose discussion. The 1938 can be found on the Internet Archive, here.) The mythic aspect of his subject matter is, for me, key to much of it, if you can understand how that mythic aspect functions with his aesthetics of the physical.

But he is very worth examining also for his poetics, particularly with his long poems, which use line length as means of controlling the tempo of the reading. (I can't say I've seen the like elsewhere -- someone else might have examples.) Very worth reading -- not only to ponder, but also because it is quite an experience.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Yellow Goblins" by Fanny Howe -- Poetry Daily, 7/22/2013

from Poetry (July/August 2013)
poem found here

first lines:
Yellow goblins
and a god I can swallow:


the phantasy of the aesthetic

I rather get a little deeper into the ideas of the aesthetic and the nomic, here. Of course, in its brevity, I can only go so far. So do not read this as definitive statements. As with everything on this site, my aim is to generate ideas not through definition but through discourse. As such, engage what follows -- excusing what verbal inadequacies that might exist -- on your own terms, in your own way. I will surely return to them.

"What a strange little poem."

That is rather my go-to phrase in response to a poem that sparks my aesthetic sense: how strange. Of course, my use of the word strange, there, is rather idiomatic. In that context, the word is me speaking the presence of the aesthetic quality of whatever work I am reading. To understand it, you cannot simplify the idea by correlating it to the presence of such as "yellow goblins" within the text. Strange does not mean "imaginative" in the more common sense. Nor does it mean "non-quotidian" -- at least not in the sense that such might prohibit a work set in a commonplace reality from the aesthetic.

However, it does mean "non-quotidian" in another sense, that having to do with the difference between the aesthetic and the nomic modes of language and thought. The nomic aspect of our psyches is that part of us that is concerned with the truth-nature of reality. It is that aspect of our mind that is communal, that creates language as efficient means of communication, and thus "meaning" in the practical (which can be read "positivist") sense. As such, our nomic selves is that part of us concerned with establishing a defined and meaningful world -- and, most importantly, maintaining that world against all reminders that "truth" as a quality is always, in the end, but conventional in nature. Such is the game of the nomic: it exists such that we can have a stable understanding of what reality is, and understanding that is common to our cultural groups. To maintain that stable notion of reality it must hide from our cultural selves the the utter reality that all truth is convention, must assure us that truth really is "truthful" -- when, all about us, the aesthetic nature of the cosmos is constantly pointing out to us the opposite.

So there is a very real sense that the aesthetic is "strange" in the manner of being non-quotidian: the aesthetic is not "of" the world-as-truth. It is not "of" the truthful.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Mimesis" by Fady Joudah -- Poetry Daily, 7/14/2013

from Alight (Copper Canyon Press)
poem found here

first lines:
My daughter
                    wouldn't hurt a spider


awwww, out of the mouth of poetastry, the relationship of mimetic representation and convention
– minor editing, Feb. 6, 2015


My immediate response to reading this poem . . . .

Ok, wait. First, there was the immediate response of those first three lines of this poem, which are terrifically bad – but absolutely conventional! – poetry. But, then, my immediate response to completing the poem was experiencing the pain of hearing someone folk-singing "The Riddle Song," followed by experiencing the joy of envisioning Bluto smashing that singer's guitar against the wall.

Writing a poem like this merits smashing the offending pencil. Publishing a poem like this merits smashing the poet's desk. That this poem exists in print makes me write down in my "books to buy" file on my phone, "Fady Joudah: don't even bother looking." This is the kind of poem that, if I heard it performed publically, would have me pantomiming blowing a gun barrel in attempt to trick those accompanying me into breaking the muting of their laughter.

This is an amazingly shallow, stunningly bad poem.

How, you ask? Wait for it:

She said that's how others
Become refugees isn't it?



It's not at all! It is completely different! And anybody who knows anything about anything would recognize that . . . . unless you accept what this poem requests of you: to descend to its level of intellectuality. This is a monstrously daft poem, begging you to turn your brain off and, when sign turns on above the stage, go "awwww, out of the mouth of babes." Well, you know, out of the mouth of babes is mostly silliness. Brief moments of humor. And that's the joke of the idea: that what the said babes are really saying is something very basic and obvious, and, once you step out of thinking at the level of the basic and obvious, something usually wrong.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Nimium Minus Solus Quam Solus" by Daryl Hine -- Poetry Daily, 7/6/2013

from A Reliquary and Other Poems (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
poem found here


The days were delightful and the hours were light,
Particularly when one was on one's own

I've been rather busy these days -- it's amazing how disruptive relatives can be (in all their varieties). The weather's also been a bit overhead. And, there's some other projects I'm needing to put away: like finishing reading Moby-Dick. So I'm going to be jumping back to a poem or two I passed by and still want to turn 'round and see again. For those of you anticipating the essay post on U.S. poetry culture, that project has suffered the most of the inconveniencing. But, soon enough it will come.


a bar for poetic ability?

There is much to be said for this poem, and I want to cover some points of it -- as is the norm, primarily in exploration. But the primary reason this poem has been in my head these last days is that it has been feeding energies brewing over the "Poetry Slam" essay (and the responses of myself and others), certain discussions, and questions of basic poetic competence. As such, directly or indirectly, the following points will be leading to this question: Is there a "bar" in poetry?

1 → Let's talk about the structure, and the use of a chorus -- here, having the fourth line of each stanza be (more or less) the same. Very under-used device, and not as easy a thing to use as you might think to pull off successfully. A chorus, by its repetition, creates a character of its own. But, for a successful poem, that character must yet be part of the character of the poem as a whole. It is very easy for there to be a kind of clash between the body of the stanzas and the chorus. The reason lies in that once the chorus is first written, the repetitions of the chorus write themselves. The poet errs when they then go about writing the non-chorus lines without integrating the repeated lines into the stanza (as though writing them, with each appearance, as though for the first time). That is to say, if a poet were writing a poem of the same form as this poem, they establish the choral line, and then go about writing lines 1-3, 5-7, 9-11, etc., when, what they need to be doing is to be still writing each stanza wholly: 1-4, 5-8, 9-12.

It's very easy to stop writing full stanzas and let the repeated lines wander off to do their own thing. Be careful of it. And notice how no such thing occurs here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Weight Gain" by Moira Egan -- Poetry Daily, 6/28/2013

from Hot Flash Sonnets (Passager Books)
poem found here

first lines:

Whose body is this, anyway? I glance
in Mirror, Mirror at these fleshly parts


the play between the poetic line and its internal structure

This poem was put up on Poetry Daily a week ago, but it's been in my head since. Or, at least, the thoughts this put into my head has been in my head since.

Specifically, it has had me thinking about the play between the line as an aural unit and the breaking up of that unit with internal punctuation. Even more specifically, how that breaking up affects the oral readings of the line, especially when the lines in the poem are regular and rhymed, as with here. How does breaking up the lines of a rhymed poem effect the rhymed sounds?

And so, this post, whose point is mostly to point out the issue, to give some demonstration to the elements involved, to bring it to mind that it does in fact have an effect. Or, perhaps I should say, will have an effect if poorly executed.

Now, in part, this poem is feeding into thoughts that have been playing in my mind from reading through Mary Kinzie's A Poet's Guide to Poetry -- which, admittedly, I am doing very slowly, picking it up only every once in a while. Though, I will say, this may be the first book on poetics written for a classroom that I would actually use in the classroom. Most others I have looked at either are far too dependent on the examples and far too weak in their discussion of poetics (as with Frances Mayes's The Discovery of Poetry), or bad to the point of misleading, or far too expensive (as with Helen Vendler's Poems • Poets • Poetry and Brooks and Warren's Understanding Poetry, which is still very worth the while but is absurdly priced).

In the opening chapters Kinzie talks about the identity of the poetic line, and the play between the "half-meaning" generated by a line and the whole meaning of the syntactic unit spanning beyone the line. But here, I'm looking primarily at rhyme and sound. I pulled out Millay's Collected Sonnets to look for examples of interrupted lines: if there is one thing Millay's sonnets are it is smooth in sound. I'll give you a couple moments -- but will have to give large-ish quotations so as to preserve the sound (and establish rhythms and rhymes in your head). These are from two different poems.