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 28, 2015

The Intellect and the Internet

In this distribution of functions the scholar is the delegated intellect. In the right state he is Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or still worse, the parrot of other men's thinking.
— Emerson, "The American Scholar"

 

an FB comment

 

I have been the last couple of days pondering a passing comment on an FB post:

"The best hope for poetry may be the Internet, which can bring scattered people together from the far corners and create semi-coherent groups."

Once, the essentially optimistic part of my being would have agreed with the possibilities in the idea. However, I have in the last years come around to wholly disagree with the sentiment. For I remember a couple of decades back when the internet was still young being able to find discourse on literature that was intelligent both in the level of discourse and in the approach to the discourse itself. But over the years those sources of discourse have become harder and harder to find, primarily because of that fundamental nature of the internet: openness; the willingness to have and permission for everyone to participate. Indeed, the death of many of those sites and sources were caused by just that very openness. Over the years, it is not the above, wished for potential of the internet that has been observed. Rather, what has been demonstrated – and if we are honest with ourselves we should also say what should have been expected – is that the fundamental energies of the internet is toward the quashing of intellectual possibility by the overwhelming voices of populist participation.

Which is also to say: by anti-intellectual participation.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Song" by Laetitia Landon

poem found here
 

First lines:
Where, O! where’s the chain to fling,
One that will bind CUPID’s wing,

 

the question of merit

 

This was originally a bit from the graduate years, to which I've given some paring and reworking. While it uses Laetitia Landon as the immediate subject, the questions asked apply across literature, especially in today's literary culture, where the question of the literary merit of texts is generally ignored in favor of anything but. (Added also to the Cabinet, here.)

 

Consider this:

This is
a
poem.

By most general definitions it is. Yet, the damning question: To what end? Can it be analyzed literarily? A cursory consideration recognizes the irony of its self-identification, which in turn raises the textual question of the inherent qualities that would make the snippet the object it claims to be. The primary defining characteristic would the breaking of the sentence into lines. Can anything else be said? anything more formal in nature? The sentence, considered in prose form, is naturally split into two halves: the rhythmic, semiotic unit /This is/ and the article-noun unit /a poem/. The text as written, then, is made up of an opposition of one two-word line against two one-word lines, two lines dividing a natural semiotic unit. With the first line break occurring after the verb a tension is created in the reading: what is? this is what? The second line continues that suspense in that the indefinite article is given without its naturally following subject. That the word "poem" is given its own line – as opposed to the more conventional "This is / a poem." – gives explosiveness to the revelation of the referent of the opening pronoun, and emphasis to the irony created in the self-referentiality. Perhaps I exaggerate the effects of the formal properties of the text, but the properties themselves are present and, as, shown readily revealed through a rather basic, formal examination.

But let's return to questions. Is it a poem? Yes. It uses the prototypical poetic trope, the line break, in the creation of meaning and poetic effect. Next question: Does the text have value within the discourse of "poetry"? Its only significant value – if that itself is too strong a phrase – lies in pointing out potential results of certain poetic constructs (namely, the non-insertion of a line break between 'this' and 'is', and the insertion of a line break between 'a' and 'poem'). Is it worth studying? It has some small merit, if only in pointing out those considerations so that they may be understood by readers when encountered within more complex poetic constructs. Although, it doesn't merit much more time than that which has been spent in reading these two paragraphs. At most, it is demonstrative of certain effects possible in the medium of language, though beyond that pragmatic value, there is little more that can be said for the poem. Which leads to the final question: Is it a good poem? If we take good a broad sense, it can be said that the text is a successful poem in its clean use of poetic trope. So perhaps a better question is: Is it a meritable poem?