Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Poetics

There is one element of poetry that I see has remained unchanged over the past thirty years, and that is fundamentally important to my writing and other activities as a poet. There is a confluence, one that may be hotly contested, of the receptivity that goes by the name of the humanist, creative and writerly activity, and the experimental modes of avant-garde poetics that work by formal invention. In Poetry, and particularly in my own work, this confluence appears more and more in terms of various developments of conceit. I mean by conceit that poetry is result of a mental activity, in addition to the writer and reader’s sense that a poem is an elaborately figurative form of cultural communication.

Whether that conceit has to do with, on the one hand, an image of the poet's subjectivity and deep epiphanic evocation, or is an announcement and foregrounding of the artificiality, discursive privilege and tyranny of language over individual intentions on the other, the making of the poem nevertheless retains conceited notions of its specific activity, makes for itself a distinct function and purpose in the more diffuse life of the language(s) it participates in. Even if the poem's intention or performance is to quicken the crisis of representation, thwart its assumed transparency, or exist at the level of disarticulated language-substance, it cannot shake off its status as art. It can be accidental just as much as it is architectural, but the poem, through all of its special stagings, techniques and introductory fanfare, makes its designations and amplifications felt by way of the distinct attention it draws to modes of communicability. This is an aspect of its medium, of it mediums (humming), and its mediations of our recognition, our ability to recognize and desire. It functions, operates, and inquires by use of the conceit: the cilia of antennae that test the receptivity and communicability of various modes of figurative perception. It bugs us.

I sense that a lot of the fineness in poetry's evaluative overtures are lost in the abrasive and pornographic gratification that overwhelms our public word-transport systems (of which Flarf poetry is one form of protest-by-glut and oversaturation). Poetry tests the social axioms (of economy, of truth-conditions, or acceptable modes of speech) for flexibility and integration, and as it reconfigures points of convergence or levels of perceptual capability, it determines the degree of the community's openness and responsiveness by these very permutations of truth-conditions and economies. The necessity of furtive travel in dark alleyways and altering of terrain by way of conceit doesn't necessitate the building of an exotic Poetry Preserve in which to house the menagerie of wordy evolution's fantastic creations, or by which to corral its wildness for the big-game sharpshooters of editing and criticism, but the fact that poets and poetic activity exist in tenuous relationships with large subsidized institutions and other philanthropic entities doesn't diagnose the artform as too weak for an "open" market, but reveals the paucity of the "market-friendly" forms of activity permissible to our regulated communities.

Once upon a time I attempted to use the conceits of mobility, motility, and the machinic, in the attempt to convey a certain dismay with the culture of the sports/utility vehicle, and to address the urgent demand for new desiring iconographies and spatialities, our access to them, and the movement into and between them. This was a vehicle for the use of language, in its going out, its coming and returning--seeing exactly where a fascination with high-speed mobility, rapacious consummation/abandonment and the territorial consumerism so central to my upbringing and society met the desire for an end to strip-mall convenience and urban expansion. This resulted in certain disinvestments of the "open-road" philosophy, without giving up the joy of the stroll, the amble, and forgotten qualities of the abiding. Poetry shouldn't have to make new roads: it should grow new feet. Since then, along my zig-zag travels, I have been obsessed by sleep, waking and the necessity of house and home:

where o where does one lay this weary burden down,

and who will build me up anew come morning.

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