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Questions for Poetry I

By Gillian Conoley

In the 22nd century, what will the line look like and do?  Will the line continue to have its traditional roots (“traditional” not meaning middle road but rather a haunting presence of what the line has been in the past centuries however shaky and nonsequential)?  Will the line of Williams (short, aware of its breath both at beginning and end) still hold?   Will we be able to see traces of the Sapphic embodiment and brevity, its simultaneous sense of fullness and void, torn and alive? Will the rhetorical flourishing length of Whitman/Ginsburg still hold, will Olson’s field still provide canvas and sweep and room for void?  Will the Dickinsonian gem-like fracture continue to provide a locus for the unthought? Will the line move entirely from the page? What will the line look like and do?

That is my first question. Please answer and I will too.

A.E. Stallings:  The Didactic.  I love your pleasures of the didactic. It’s nice to be reminded of the Didactic. Dante as the Didactic. But is the Didactic in “disquietude and disrepute”?  The word is didactic. Poetry is didactic.  It is at its most didactic when it pretends not to be didactic.  It’s very display is didactic.  Even when it strays far from the intentions of its author, it is didactic.  It has notions of its own, and has left us behind, for its own didactic.  And the whoever is speaking– didactic! I am being very didactic right now.  Schools are not the good kind of didactic because they swim around in their stasis of bureaucracy and belief that they are not didactic.  Perhaps in our distrust of authority we are afraid of the didactic.  But from where I am sitting, there is no way to get around it–– it just becomes another impossibly unwieldy aspect of poetry.  Along with all other elements and aspects of the art.

A.E. Stallings' point that country music as the pastoral in poetry–– that is brilliant and true. Ange Mlinko mentions the rhymes she's hearing on Houston radio. Country music is poetry in its most highly didactic form.  Pastoral, narrative, lyrical, it carries the most plaintive tones. "High soul music" (as in "high modernism") is also poetry: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett (nothing after Diana, and including her).

Rachel Zucker's question:  Is it more important to you that your poetry be timely or timeless and why?  I want my poetry to be of my time.  I think being in one's time, extremely difficult to do (how to court awareness and presence in our flickering minutia? ) is the portal to the timeless.    Yeats' "Easter 1914" still speaks to us because Yeats wrote it deeply tossed into his time.  He gave himself over to the time, and in the poem one can feel his surrender to the torn identity he felt as a Protestant Irishman, who some (at the time) didn't consider "really Irish," practically a Brit. His distaste for green.  His hatred for nationalism.  His calling out of the Irish names, of the dead, even of the one who had also loved Maud Gonne.

Barbara Jane Reyes:  Please have a conference for women of color, a conference to include both writers and publishers, or writers/publishers, writers/editors.  So much would conceivably come of it--  The Bay Area would be a good home for the conference.

Rigoberto Gonzalez:  Let me add a triple "fuck you to polite monochramacy."

Sina Queyras:  The loss of Silliman's blog.  It is the loss of a dominant blog, as you say, and perhaps that is one reason he is ending it.  As a statement against dominance?  And discussing Vida, yes.

I'll get to other posts soon.  Like Rigoberto, I don't Facebook, twitter, or "web-out" in all the various ways, but I do like conversation.  Jean-Luc Godard says "Conversation is thought."  So let us have many.

Meanwhile please answer my question: In the 22nd century, what will the line look like and do?

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Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011 by Gillian Conoley.