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.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

"Metzengerstein" by Edgar Allen Poe

Story found here


it takes two to tango


A quick post on something I caught last night while chilling with Poe. It is from a short story, yes, but the event applies across literature. The moment lies in this sentence:

Stupified with terror, the young nobleman tottered to the door.

Compare it to this construction:

Terrified, the young nobleman tottered to the door.

The difference between the two is that in the latter, the idea of terror is merely stated, while in the former, the idea of terror is given energy through effect. It may seem a very simple thing but it is actually an example of something central to literature: a direct statement is energically dead without a second idea with which to interact.

That said, we need to add one more construction:

Terrified, stupified, the young nobleman tottered to the door.

Is the "with" relationship necessary? I would say not necessary to the end of coupling the two ideas, but definitely to greater success. It is not that you are giving the reader guidance as to how to couple the ideas. You are, for sure. But what makes it better is that you creating a structure out of the two words rather than merely dropping them onto the page, leaving them there for the reader to find something with which to do with them.


Which, now that I write it, is a curious thing. I have been thinking recently about the difference between William S. Burroughs's cut-up, Nova Express Trilogy and works such as Lyn Heijinian's My Life, asking myself why I find the former so interesting and the latter so banal. And I am wondering if it has to do with that even though Burrough's cut-up is fragmented to the nth degree, books written with the intent of creating "novel[s] presented through a series of oblique references," there is still, within the texts as a whole, relationships being generated between the elements. But in My Life, the ideas presented are more like a jumbled, disorganized list.

I have been planning on rereading My Life (again), having recently reread Burroughs and large parts of Williams's Paterson (which is related, though it may not be clear why). Now I have an hypothesis to carry in to the book. I will let you know what I find.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Pelicans in December" by J. Allyn Rosser — Verse Daily, 9/13/2014

from Mimi's Trapeze (U of Pittsburgh Press)
poem found here

First lines:
One can't help admiring
their rickety grace


an exploration of poetic structure


Fortune smiled on me and gave me a poem right after my last post that might prove an interesting exploration of poetic structure and poetic ideation ("poetic" being in the sense put forward by the last number of posts, as opposed to "prosaic"; as "organic"; as aesthetic as opposed to nomic; as creative as opposed to representational).

What I want to do first is trim down the poem to its core structure, to the basic statement. For this poem is of the nature of something not infrequently seen in pop poetry: it consists of a core structure, one that is not terribly complex, which is flushed out (one might say "made poetic") through description or modification of the elements of that core structure.

When I pare away those modifications, I find three basic statements.

1. One can't help admiring [the pelicans'] grace and feathers.

2. They pass in silent pairs.

3.a. The wind tips them into a wobble,
3.b. like old couples arm in arm on icy sidewalks,
3.c. mildly surprised by how difficult it has become to stay dignified and keep moving.

Nothing should be surprising, there, structure-wise, since the poem is constructed of three sentences. What may be surprising, though, is the nature of those three sentences. The second is simple and straightforward. But the first presents what cannot avoid being called an odd pairing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Mariana" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Originally published 1830.
Poem found here

First lines:
With blackest moss the flower-pots
     Were thickly crusted, one and all;


poetic structure: aesthetic ideation vs. brute factuality


A Note before beginning: "Mariana" is a more difficult poem than one might think at first read. It is a dense poem, and attention to detail is important. Yet, it is very easy to get lost in the sound of the poem and lose that attention. So, before reading the below, I recommend giving the poem – if you are unfamiliar with it – more than a couple of reads.


Tennyson's "Mariana" is one of my all time favorite poems.[FN] In reading Tennyson criticism you will hear it said that it is one of his best; and you can occasionally hear it said that it is can be comfortably held among the best of English poetry, or at least Victorian poetry. I have had a print-out of it on my desk for a short while now, wanting to do a post, though not really sure how to approach the effort. It has been more than a couple of weeks since my last offering here, so I figure I will give this a go and post whatever results, whether it comes to complete fruition or not.

[FN] To note, Tennyson wrote a second poem on the same theme, "Mariana in the South." It is not as great a poem, which may be why Tennyson essentially rewrote it in the years after its first publication. Or perhaps the fact that Tennyson so greatly rewrote it speaks, in itself, that it is not so great a poem.

An opening note: it may seem as this progresses that I am veering away from my normal approach of exploring poetry from the viewpoint of the writer and moving toward a straight act of criticism. I definitely am doing the latter, but I am not in it abandoning the former. Yes, there is a gap between a critical exploration of a poem and the question "how do I learn to write like that?" That gap, though, is one that can only be bridged by the explorations and attemptings of the writer. The step I am (hopefully) providing may not be part of the actual stepping, but it is the revealing of a place to which to step. But, then, how is that any different than any other post here?