Pragmatic particles

Spam is odd, there are patterns lurking in the bizarre stuff that gets posted for approval to this site… but I haven’t the time or the stomach to pick through it just now, maybe later. But, stuff like this: “I am truthful and attached to my friends” in a spam post that leads, presumably, to a porn site (livegirlwebcams). Are these qualities that consumers of porn now find significant? Weird.

I must admit to a similar feeling of disconnectedness when reading much contemporary poetry; I suppose the act of reading contemporary poetry at all implies a kind of disconnectedness–shouldn’t I be watching Dancing With The Stars instead?–but I write poetry, and while learning about what that meant was told, time and again, to stay abreast of what other poets were doing, presumably so I could adjust my style to fit or to oppose whatever mode was dominant. I’m not sure that’s such god advice, in retrospect, if only because it can cause a poet to ignore so much of what has already been written in favor of a crowd-sourcing of poetics. Arguments against plumbing the (very deep and very wide) archive of poetry, both Western and otherwise, might include protestation that poetic value was determined by a set of elites before we had a democratization of poetry, but I’m not seeing a lot of democracy. What I’m seeing is viral marketing–spamming, in a way–whereby poetic value is determined by a crowd already predisposed to adapting the judgements of elites who in turn mirror these judgements back at the crowd…. leading to a narrowing of acceptable styles. Two dominant styles, for example, are the “elliptical/post-avant” poem, which is waning in influence but still very much alive (see: Armantrout, C.D. Wright ), and the chatty, comic, poetry of middle-class virtue (see: Collins, Hoagland), and both styles are, apparently, being superseded by a clumpy style called “the New Thing” by Stephen Burt, who really likes identifying and  naming schools of poetry… but blah blah blah, the self-justifying way that poetic values are determined is not news, and I don’t care to pick on one style or another, or even on the system whereby one (or two or three) enjoys dominance. Also not newsworthy is the idea that when an art becomes moribund, artists must shake things up, but it seems that what has become moribund about contemporary poetry is this idea, that things must be shaken up with each succeeding “generation” of poets, each must add to the family tree in a pattern of absorption and rejection. This idea is the root of poetic “voice” becoming little more than a means of branding, so that every Henri Cole poem looks like an Henri Cole poem, so that what are poetics produce, when run through the voice-enforcing process of establishing a poetic reputation, are poets, rather than poems. The resulting poems, then, have less meaning unto themselves than they do meaning the way corporate logos do, and so the experience of reading, in the worst cases, points a reader toward the poet, the same way a pragmatic particle is a meaningless word or phrase (“sort of,” “you know,” “like”) meant to hold the listeners attention as the speaker propels their utterance forward. 

And of course, some of these poets produce wonderful, memorable poems, but I can think of few who would cast aside the poetic style that brought them notice in favor of a new approach, or many approaches (I can think of several who made big changes midstream, but none recently). Instead of writing in response to the poetic immediately preceding one’s journey through the MFA program, or through the non-accredited Beat/Bukowski internship, why not embrace a constantly mutating, relentlessly inquisitive poetics that works towards writing great poems in an array of styles, poems that can be read by non-poets, poems that challenge and confuse, poems that elucidate, that threaten, that uplift, that make you want to pull out your fingernails, a poetry that accepts any style as the basis for good work, and whose only prescription is a refusal to allow one’s poetry to ossify into something easily recognisable as “the work of poet X”?

Or maybe I just worry too much.

CDs listened to this cycle: 377) Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right To Children; 378) Nusrat Ali Khan & Michael Brook, Remixed: Star Rise; 379) Ohio Players: Gold; 380) Suicide: Ghost Riders; 381) Al Green: Everything’s OK; 382) Patti Smith Group: Radio Ethiopia; 383) Willie Nelson: Crazy, The Demo Sessions; 384) Frank Zappa & Mothers: We’re Only In It For The Money; 385) Jorge Pardo:Las Caigarras Son Quiza Sordas; 386) Richard Thompson: 1000 Years of Popular Music {damn yer eyes}; 387) Mascagni: Cavalleria Rustica (Obraztsova/Domingo/Bruson);388) Joculatores Upsalienses: The Four Seasons (Woods, Women, and Wine).