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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot (or, at least, the first stanza thereof)

The Waste Land can be found pretty much everywhere online; Bartleby tends to be very good with formatting

the importance of knowledge to creating

This post has been added to the Hatter's Cabinet site via its Best of the Poetry Daily Critique page

Fired off a couple of posts rapid fire here. I wanted to get this one off before started on a essay project which might take some time.


I had an interesting thing happen this last Sunday. My daughter (who is 6) made mention of the cup and balls trick (without really knowing what it was), so I showed her Ricky Jay's performance of it on youtube (here). She found it an amazing feat of magic. (She knows it's a trick, but was dumbfounded by it.) So I also showed her a video of Ricky Jay demonstrating card control (this one). It flew right over her head. She did not at all understand what he was doing nor could she see the "magic tricks" he was performing.

The reason why is that she knows very little about cards. So the fact that he is shuffling away and yet the aces are magically right side up in the middle of the deck was beyond her. It was, very simply, an issue of knowledge: she did now that that would not normally happen. She did not know enough to see the event so she was blind to the event.

This is actually demonstration of a very important idea about the arts: to be able to see what an artist is doing you have to have knowledge about the medium. To say it another way: sophisticated artists/writers/musicians are creating for other sophisticated artists/writers/musicians, because those people are the people who will be able to perceive what they are doing in their respective mediums.

Another example: Martin Scorcese's version of Cape Fear.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"One Little Good Thing About it" by Patricia Smith -- Poetry Daily, March 26, 2014

from Southern Indiana Review (Fall 2013)
poem found here

First lines:
We wanted shredded silk on our job-greased heads, poised
to be dramatically kinked by several versions of migration


shifts in subject (with a footnote on rhythm)

---- minor change, March 27, 2014

There's a couple points to bring up with this poem. For one, up until the end of the poem it mostly holds a six beat accentual meter. When that meter falls apart (mostly at line 11, "Across town . . .") it feels like, to me, the poem is losing control.[FN] I'm not at all sure what "migration ghost" means, and really can't make anything of how "migration ghost" could kink. (If "migration ghost" does have a direct meaning, I'd love it if someone let me in on what it is.) (Just to say, I like "rippling rivers on each foot," so it's not that I'm opposed to that more surreal imagery.)

[FN] It is not sufficient to say "I wasn't paying attention to rhythm; it was an accidental thing." You should always be paying attention to rhythm — that is what it is to have a poetic ear. A sophisticated reader will be paying attention to rhythms so as to enjoy the sound of the text. And when you set up a rhythm — whether intentionally or by accident — and then suddenly ignore it, it will either sound jarring, clumsy, or like a failure of attention. Which ever the result, it sounds sloppy. Also, "paying attention to rhythm" does not mean you have to be writing in meter: free verse still has its rhythms.

"We yearned beauteous" -- a wonderful sentence, perfectly set up by the sentence before, perfecting establishing a forced point from out which the next sentence can flow in a (slightly) new direction. Both rhythmically and ideationally the defining sentence of the poem, against which everything else is set, even "us soldiers in Chicago's war." (Though, for me the "red wounding" line is too heavy handed, even too cliche an appeal, and clashes with what was before then a more subtle presentation.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Congenital" by Amy McCann -- Verse Daily, March 12, 2014

from West Branch (Fall 2013)
poem found here

First lines:
Inside every heart
slumps the same


exploring structure


An interesting poem here, worth exploring.

And since I'm thinking structure, I have the sudden thought to stop and look at that sentence what I just typed. Not everyone may have thought about why that sentence uses a comma. The reason is because it is a list of adjectives: the poem is (1) here and (2) worth exploring. This may be pointing out the obvious but it is worth the pointing out so as to take it to the next step. A less sophisticated writer sees the need for the comma because of the rules of grammar -- or, more likely, an intuitive understanding that a comma is used in such sentences. But a more sophisticated writer does not look at the comma, but looks at the underlying relationship of words: it is a phrase that links two adjectival phrases to one noun. What is the difference? The first is technical mimicry; the second is seeing the medium.

But back to the poem.

Let's start with lines. The lines here read mostly as two beat accentual meter (two stresses per line, number of syllables irrelevant). That is, up until the last stanza which is three beats per line. Though, there are a couple of lines that do not quite work, as in the eighth stanza:

inflames the slack-winged
birds, our half-mast
tails slapping the base

The issue arises in that the natural reading of the second line is "BIRDS, our HALF-mast."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"A poem should not mean but be." -- Archibald MacLeish

post title is from "Ars Poetica"
originally from Streets in the Moon (1926), also found here among other places

Bocola on Modernism and the "primitive," and Cassirer on theoretical and mythical thinking

– minor editing/formatting Jan. 28, 2015
This post has been added to the Hatter's Cabinet site via its Best of the Poetry Daily Critique page


Yes, I post immediately behind my note on my absence, but I told you I had a couple things on the burner. And, yes, I realize my last handful of posts seem to be as often about theory or criticism than looking at specific poems. But, as I said a few posts back, I had a feeling I would be branching out from the original paradigm, and I think it is rather more fruitful to go where I am thinking than to force my thinking to go somewhere else.

The aim of this post is to present two interweaving ideas from two texts without adding too much commentary beyond the ideas being presented. The first is more demonstrative, the second wholly theoretic. I just want to lay them out for you and let you address them – and their interaction – as you will. Both concern the aesthetic. Both also concern art and language.

The first is a moment from Sandro Bocola's The Art of Modernism (Prestel 1999), which is to me the best survey of Modernism in the plastic arts that I have yet to come across: not so much in its inclusiveness but in its exploration of what was/is Modernism, and in turn what is a period of art, and in turn (though less to the fore) what is art. It succeeds greatly because it lets the artwork, and the social and intellectual currents influencing the art world, speak the nature of Modernism. That is, it is descriptive, not prescriptive exploration.[FN]

[FN] For example, even though much of Bocola's discussion comes out of the ideas of the psychologist Heinz Kohut, the use of Kohut does not act to define Modernism. It is but a tool through which the currents of Modernism can be described.

As I said, an excellent read, though if I may one critique of The Art of Modernism, it is that Bocola understates the importance of the occult in Modernism (and the period leading up to Modernism): taking that word "occult" in its most expansive, to include not merely spiritualist (to wit) explorations, but what underlay the popularity of the occult in art and society from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries: a spiritual engagement with the cosmos and, ultimately, with the unconscious self.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Note on My Absence

so a link about AWP


It's been nearly a month since my last post. Looking back, I find it amazing I got as many posts out in January as I did. Let's just say the months of December through February were not memorable.

Though, to be honest, I haven't seen a poem in a couple weeks that I've wanted to write on. (I don't look at every one, though.) So maybe also a bit of a drought in the prompts department as well. (This might be the little nudge that pushes me outside the original parameters of the blog.)

I have a couple of posts on draft, though. And life seems to be finding some stability. So hopefully I'll be back with some regularity to soon.

Until then, I thought I might drop this essay pointed out to me by an internet friend: "Thoughts for AWP Week: Glut in Creative Writing is Reverse Side of Drought in Humanities" by Anis Shivani, recently posted on The Nervous Breakdown site.

I have never heard of AWP spoken of in positive terms by a voice for which I have any respect. It is, as I said elsewhere, only ever been described as a bloated and rather grotesque game of Commercial Pursuit. But what makes this a particularly brilliant presentation is its spot on critique of Creative Writing in academia: one that simply and precisely pointing out the 900 lb gorilla that MFA culture swears doesn't exist.

Yes, you can find defenses of AWP, like this one by Aaron Gilbreath. Notice, however, how Gilbreath essentially is saying "go to the conference, but not actually for the conference." (I find the cult jokes in the article ironically humorous -- and not in the irony Gilbreath intended.)

So, my advice for today, read the Shivani with the mentality of "what to learn from this," not the mentality of "this is crap! AWP's great!" It is nigh clinical in its vivisection of MFA culture. (However brief the presentation.) Read it from this angle: "Assume everything is on the nose. What is that revealing about Creative Writing in the U.S.?" (Which is actually a very good method for any non-lunatic fringe criticism.) A final hint to reading it: it offends you, the problem is not with Shivani. It offends you because the hit was palpable.