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
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Visual Labyrinths in Body DoubleSomething I Read #16 – David Perkins

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Grass at Wivenhoe Park

What with the Poetry Magazine series over, after that series of very long posts; what with the opening up of the variety of posts I put up here that had been going on previously; and what with me having some things to catch up on now that that last series is out of my head; I am going to permit some new rhythms on this blog, and post things for a while simply as they come to mind, not worrying about how in depth they run, or how astutely they present themselves or even how immediately or particularly they apply to verse. As well, after the bog of bad verse that was the terrain that series, I need to actually enjoy literature and language for a while.


a note on confidence

A little writing observation:

In a comment I wrote on a wandering Facebook thread I gave the sentence

"Related to that is when Constable painted grass that was lit by sunlight a yellow color."[FN]

First draft I wrote the sentence more condensedly:

"Related to that is when Constable painted grass lit by sunlight yellow."

It's a better sentence in my eyes; tighter, more controlled; exhibiting more control. Completely correct grammatically and syntactically. But there is that semantic wobbling in whether "lit by sunlight" belongs to "grass" or "yellow." (The wobbling is amplified by rhythms that want to push "lit my sunlight" away from green and toward yellow.) My interest, the question the sentence raised in my head, was in that semantic aspect: the balance that must be weighed is whether the degree of ambiguity created is too much to permit the much more interesting construction? (I am mostly but not completely ignoring that this was in a Facebook post and not a formal text.)

[FN] In transparency, to prevent accusations of shenanigans, the original sentence was actually, "Related to that is when the Impressionists in England [. . .]": a fact I knew immediately after hitting "Enter" to be incorrect. And as quickly I was off track down and correct the error. I could not find an exact reference, but am now 98% confident that the event of which I was thinking involved Constable's Wivenhoe Park. Though, that 2% is not rhetorical. If anybody has the reference for sure . . . .

Now, grammatically, the sentence as written, if the sentence could be assumed to be written by someone who knew how to wield their grammar with skill and grace, declares the modified noun to be "grass." If it were meant to modify "yellow" the modifying phrase could – and it might be argued should – have been written with hyphens: "lit-by-sunlight yellow."

A worthwhile point of grammar. But, it points to an even more interesting phenomenon, one I talk about not infrequently on this blog: confidence in the writer, or, more exactly, confidence in the text (and in the writer as generated by the text). If I had no confidence in the writer of such as the above, or, directly, if I did not think their writing was strong enough that they would know that the use of hyphens would clarify the situation, then I would be more likely to consider the phrase problematic and would advise against its use.

When a text is prone to clumsiness, a sophisticated reader is quite likely to read a cleverness as but one more clumsiness. If the text tells the reader that the writer is not clever enough to pull off such a thing, at best the event looks half-accidental – still not to the merit of the writer. To the other side, if the text as a whole gives the reader confidence as to the writer's technical abilities, the reader will be more likely to accept the phrase as a cleverness, as successful playing with writing.

In sum: Technical skill goes to far more than what you can do with language. It also goes to what the reader believes you can do with language.

Of course, the sophistication of the reader plays in the game as well. The crowds reacted violently against painting grass yellow: after all, what kind of an idiot paints green grass yellow? Except, in England, grass under sunlight does appear yellow. The viewing public was so bound by the conventionality of realist painting they could not recognize that the yellow was in fact a real event.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: Poetry Magazine (Oct. 2015) – Part IX: The Grand Finale

the other posts in this series


Before continuing, I would like to make a pragmatically motivated, technical adjustment and remove one work from the collective of examined texts which will speak for the October, 2015, issue of Poetry Magazine. That is, I want to remove Franz Wright's one included work from the body. His is the best of the bunch by far, and stands out from the rest of the works examined as being not poorly written but flawed. I still consider the work too flawed too have merited publication in a major magazine; but, comment on "The Raising of Lazarus" should be in the nature of "a flawed entry in an otherwise respectable issue" rather than as "the best of a generally poorly written and poorly chosen group." The verse, even for its flaws, is the exception against which the rest of the work examined might brought into contrast. To note, this not motivated by any personal opinion toward Wright or his work. I have read but little of his work, and my current stance on that work is, equally limitedly, that I have yet to read anything by Wright that I have found all that interesting or all that different from the better written fare of today's pop verse.

As for this series as a whole and my own opinion of how it turned out? I'll say only, not enough jokes.



head shots: crash davis vs. the zombies




"Because you don't respect yourself,
which is your problem. But you don't respect the game,
which is my problem."
[Bull Durham]


Let's talk about discourse.

There is an article on the web site of The Federalist from about two years back that made brief rounds on that ersatz discourse known as Facebook, one of those articles that people will give vocal nod to but dare not dwell on or actually take to habit because of what it might mean for their own participation in the ersatz discourse that is, really, what constitutes most of the popular-oriented content on the internet. The article was "The Death of Expertise" [link ], written by Tom Nichols, then and still professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and adjunct professor in the Harvard Extension School. Perhaps you saw it pass by.