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
The Rational and SpiritualitySomething I Read #21 – C.K. Stead
Something I Read #20 – Carl JungSomething I Read #19 – Carl Jung


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Mind After Everything Has Happened" by Rowan Ricardo Phillips -- Poetry Daily, 9/25/13

from The Paris Review (fall 2013)
poem found here
 

first lines:
Perpetual peace. Perpetual light.
From a distance it all seems graffiti.

 

explorations in punctuation and ideation

This poem offers a couple points for exploration and questioning. I'll just take a couple, one at a time.

 
(1)

Have you ever written a poem like this, that is made of short (often verbless) phrases which you want to keep separated in equal measure? Have you ever given serious play to the possibilities? There are actually quite a few. Here, the decision was to go with periods. But, since the poem moves to full statements at the end, it might have been possible to use semi-colons. (I am going to resist changing any wording or lines.)

Perpetual peace; perpetual light;
From a distance it all seems graffiti;
Gold on gold; iridescent, torqued phosphors;
But still graffiti; someone's smear on space;
A name; a neighborhood; X; X was Here;
X in the House. A two-handed engine
Of aerosols hissing Thou Shalt Not Pass
On fiery ground. A shot-down Aurora

I stop it there because that's the first of the long statements, and the shift to a period seems justified. You have to recognize, however, that when the poem shifts to fuller statements separated by periods, it creates a difference between the weight of the elements of the first part of the poem and those of the latter. I wonder if it works to greater success killing the first letter capitals?

Monday, September 23, 2013

"How to Make Love in the Garden of Good and Evil" by Lo Kwa Mei-en -- Verse Daily, 9/18/2013

from Ninth Letter (Spring/Summer 2013)
poem found here
 

first lines:
Your nimbus is pouring. Your halo shows off from under my dress,
         bird of light. Unwit cage. In a beginning there was a fruit & a noose

 

asking why? and not just what?

-- footnote on source added 9/23/2013
-- editing and some small rewriting done 1/15/2014

I came upon the "Hand in Hand" little "writer's advice" curiosity from Wofford College during one of my tumblr respites. Most of the hands I find to be little more than bumper sticker writer-theology, though a couple have strength beyond their brevity. One that pops up more than once -- something also that is frequently heard said by peddlers of writing advice -- is the "Read Everything" exhortation.

Yet, it can be argued that there is no quicker sign of a shallow writer than that they "read everything."

When Wallace Stevens was asked what he thought about Ezra Pound (and, if I remember it correctly, the same here is for Ezra Pound when asked about Wallace Stevens -- I believe I have the ordering right), he answered that he did not read Ezra Pound's works. And when asked why, he answered that he did not have the time. Which was not an underhanded slur, but a statement of truth: to successfully read either of their works takes time and effort. And both were unwilling to read shallowly works that merited reading deeply. (Keep in mind, by the time of this asking, both writers had a large body of work.) (I am trying to track down the source of that story.[FN])

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I found it. It is from page 1 of Marjorie Perloff's The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition. She tells it -- with much more detail -- from the side of Pound being asked to speak about Stevens by William Carlos Williams.
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Read, yes. Read a lot, yes. But read "everything"? No.

Monday, September 16, 2013

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture of Poetry in the U.S. -- Part IV

The final part of the essay. In one way, a Defense of Poetry. In another, an Offense of Poetry. Either way, it is very much a statement of belief for both myself and the project that is this blog.

With this post, the entire essay can now be found on the website, here (including the pdf).

 
Here is the jump table for the previous parts, as they appear on this blog:

  • Part I. Introduction: That which Should be Assumed
  • Part II. Emotionality, Authority, and Morality
  • Part III. The Poem and the Replies: Structure and Ideation

The full essay is also on my Hatters Cabinet site, here.


 

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture
of Poetry in the U.S.

Part IV. Summation, Conclusion, and the Inevitable J'accuse

Yes, the saying that "99% of anything is crap" is a touch hyperbolic in the use of the word "crap": there is in every society some degree of quality control, and so most of the 99% would actually lie within the mediocre rather than the god-awful. (Though, mediocre is a relative term -- something directly to my point.) It is nonetheless worth the while keeping the phrase to heart lest you forget and you the words "J.J. Abrams" and "auteur" in the same sentence.

Let's take as a for instance Major League Baseball. It might not seem to apply to MLB that "99% of anything is crap" -- presumably meaning 99% of all Major League baseball players are crap. It does, however, but you need to expand the context to its fullest. Every Major League team has beneath it seven or eight or so minor league teams. (And below that there are the college teams, and then independent leagues, etc.) And while I would still not call those players crap, they are for the majority well set within the mediocre, or even the sub-par, when they are compared to the players of the major league. Like an iceberg, Major League Baseball is but the more visible top ninth of a much larger mass.

What is important is to recognize that Major League Baseball has a vested interest in bringing the best players to the top: it is, bluntly, to their financial gain.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture of Poetry in the U.S. -- Part III.2

This is the second half of Part III of the essay. The first half (with introductory comments) is here.

In Part II I give links to a small number of pages that are set up as support to the essay (including links to the poem as it stands on Verse Daily and the original post). Here they are again:


Here are the links to the other pages as posted on this site:

  • Part I. Introduction: That which Should be Assumed
  • Part II. Emotionality, Authority, and Morality
  • Part III. The Poem and the Replies: Structure and Ideation
  • Part IV. Summation, Conclusion, and the Inevitable J'accuse

The full essay is also on my Hatters Cabinet site, here.


 

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture
of Poetry in the U.S.

Part III. The Poem and the Replies: Structure and Ideation (2d Half)

"If you had bothered to think about the poem": it is not a passing phrase. It is establishing the poem within the idea of intellectuality -- a positive trait for a poem in any context. It is echoed in the next sentence: "rather than simply being a poem about death": there is a greater reading, a more subtle reading, a more profound reading than what I have seen myself. Which is to say from within the authority structures of the nomos of poetry, than what I am capable of seeing myself -- which is not merely a slur.[FN1] The statement is effort to establishing the quality of the poem, and is performed in the standard way: the Replies as a whole are just such performance: the poem’s quality is established in that an authority (the poet, who is also a professor of literature) is speaking the poem as quality, and the attacks upon that quality are dismissed through the diminishment of the authority and presence of the questioner. This is quality throughout any nomic culture: quality and importance exists wholly within the ascription of that character to a text by authorities: quality -- just as with meaning -- is performed. The text need only support through shallow reading that ascription. All that is needed after that is for that quality to be performed by someone else: which establishes the meaning as truth within the nomos. The Review of Books says a book is important; the readers accept the truth of the statement and reiterate it through their own words or wallets, and the book is, thus, important. “Spook House” is a smart poem. Its meaning is about “trauma and uncertainty.” All I needed to do is “think about the poem” and I would have seen it.[FN2]

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[FN1] The granting of the ability to see the correct meaning points back to Part II: only a person of accepted authority has the ability to see the correct meaning. Everyone else accepts the meaning in a pedagogical disposition.
 
[FN] This is something you can watch happen at poetry readings.
********************

Except, can the poem really sustain that reading?

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture of Poetry in the U.S. -- Part III.1

This is Part III of the essay. Here, things get much more directed toward the poem itself. Also, the essay turns more directly toward the normal subject of this blog: the writing of poetry. Within Part III, this will be primarily how pop poetry is written, and, equally importantly, is read. This essay is, after all, about the U.S. poetry culture as a culture of pop poetry. But to me this section is not terribly unlike a normal post here: only much longer, and a bit more academic.

Because this part is centered upon analysis of the poem itself and of the "meaning" of the poem, it is more grounded than the previous two parts. Unfortunately, because I don't want to continually repeat what I previously said, there is to me the sensation of moving a touch too quickly at times. But, I don't think it too serious a flaw.

Part III ended up very long, so I decided to split it in two. But in that there is no firm breaking point near the middle, I'm posting the two parts back to back, split at what is merely a convenient spot. It ended up a curious debate with myself in what order to post them -- one of the intriguiging aspects of things like blogs and tumblr is that the order of the posting is the opposite of the order of the reading. I decided in keeping the already established order, so that the "next" buttons follow through.

To be clear, there may be a pause but there is no true section break at the end of this post -- the train of thought continues directely into the next post. To note, with the posting of Part III here, Part II is now up on the website.

 

In Part II I gave links to a small number of pages that are set up as support to the essay (including links to the poem as it stands on Verse Daily and the original post). Here they are again:

Hopefully you find this interesting not only as a discussion about pop poetry, but also as an exploration of writing poetry. Section IV will bring this all firmly into that latter idea.


Here are the other parts are posted on this site:

  • Part I. Introduction: That which Should be Assumed
  • Part II. Emotionality, Authority, and Morality
  • Part III. The Poem and the Replies: Structure and Ideation
  • Part IV. Summation, Conclusion, and the Inevitable J'accuse

The full essay is also on my Hatters Cabinet site, here.


 

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture
of Poetry in the U.S.

Part III. The Poem and the Replies: Structure and Ideation (1st Half)

 

Before continuing, I want to give a moment to the poem itself, to set up what follows. A little effort here might save much effort later.

I take "Spook House" to be fairly stereotypical, contemporary poem; it finds its identity quite comfortably among the greater mass of poetry seen today. Though, it is larger than your average fare (51 lines). It is written, as are most contemporary poems, as sentences broken up into lines. Even as prose the sentences are not terribly interesting: the only real wordplay in the poem occurs at the end of the first stanza, with the mirrors; there is no rhyme or metrical attention; aurally and semantically it is at best non-descript. In fact, when written out as prose (which can be seen here), issues are readily appear, as with the opening lines:

The first I heard of Dante was at the county fair when I was ten, Dante's Inferno slashed in red on a black [. . .]

The visual "slashed" clashes with the aural "heard," and the use of the comma does not make for a smooth read. This is probably apparent to most attentive ears even when read as lines, but is more apparent when put as a sentence.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture of Poetry in the U.S. -- Part II

This is Part II of IV of the "#Poppoetry" essay. (Though probably of five posts, as Part III is long, and I will probably split it in two.)

This essay ended up having a much more academic tone than is normal for this blog -- as might have been expected. Though there has been a couple such long excursions prior here, this is a thing I would normally not post to this blog (and would instead to my other blog, if not directly to the Hatters Cabinet site). Obviously, it is here because it is directly tied to the blog. And, by midway through Part III it will have returned greatly to the main project here: talking about writing poetry.

However, I admit it is a more difficult read than you will normally find here, especially in that there was no intent for the Intro to do any of the heavy lifting: the explaining, the explicating. That starts here, in Part II. But even then, by choice I will not go specifically into defining the nomic (the social modality of our being) and the aesthetic (the individual modality of our being) beyond letting the ideas develop through the essay. In part, the essay is long enough as it is without that added labor. But also because in the end those ideas can not be defined in short form: in fact, the very nature of the ideas are they they are most readily explained by simply presenting them and letting the ideas build upon themselves. Especially in a format like this -- the written word -- where there can be no step by step "ok, did you get that? can we move on or are there questions?" (Not to say I'm not open to responding to such questions.)

In truth, the more you understand the ideas abou the nomic and the aesthetic, the more you recognize that they are very "big" ideas, and are not at all easily condensible into simple description. They have to be developed simply by talking about them and letting the ideas build on their own. I would argue they require turning away from the discussion to watch and experience the ideas as they play out in society and the world. (Thus my hoped for rhetoric and style for this blog.)

Indeed, across the blog thus far I have only slowly offered bit and piece explanations of the nomic and the aesthetic. However, on my site there is a short text titled "A Basic Statement on the Aesthetic" (here) that might give some small aid. Also, there is in another longer essay of mine, "Noble Blasphemy," also on my site, a more direct discussion of the nomic. It can be found on this page, if you scroll down to the paragraph that begins "That it offends the grammatical aspect of being." (Here is a direct link to the paragraph.)


This part of the essay links to other files which I have set up to aid in the reading. In that the essay itself will find final, official home on my site, Hatter's Cabinet of Curiosities, I have put those files up there. (In fact, Part I has already been put up on the site.)


Finally, I want to take a moment to remind readers of the premise of this essay: the culture of poetry in the U.S. is a convention driven, nomic culture, not at all unlike pop music -- thus my title, #poppoetry. Only, this essay is not argument to that end, but demonstration of what is the expected case with any established culture. I wrote this essay because the events having to do with my post on the poem "Spook House" give demonstration to that greatly nomic culture. Part II, here, begins the direct examination of that performance.


For reference, here are the links to the other parts of the essay as posted on this blog.
  • Part I. Introduction: That which Should be Assumed
  • Part III. The Poem and the Replies: Structure and Ideation
  • Part IV. Summation, Conclusion, and the Inevitable J'accuse

The full essay is also on my Hatters Cabinet site, here.


 

#Poppoetry: The Unsurprising Culture
of Poetry in the U.S.

II. Emotionality, Authority, and Morality

 

The post that began all this was posted on May 18, 2013, on my Poetry Daily Critique blog. The post was an exploratory look at structure and ideation using the poem "Spook House" by Benjamin Myers as subject matter. "Spook House" had appeared on the Verse Daily site three days prior. Myers is a professor of literature at Oklahoma Baptist University. Outside his academic work, he has published two volumes of poetry, one of which won the Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry. I assume he also teaches creative writing. (To my knowledge I had never before heard of Benjamin Myers or read any of his poetry.[FN])

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[FN] Which I say only because I believe in maintaining transparency. Outside of that, it means nothing that I had never heard of Myers previously.
********************

Myers's first reply to my post came a month later, on June 25, and the exchange between us lasted but a couple of days. There was an audience to the exchange (which I know both by the blog's statistics and Myers's own comments); I think it is safe to assume that that audience consisted primarily of students. Which is important, as it establishes that Myers was performing for an audience not in the sense of an entertainer but in the sense of a person publically defending their work and station. It also gives no small energy to the idea that Myers was performing a nomos.