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Are We Often Seeing What Is ‘Untrue’ as ‘True': Anne Boyer on Poets and Lying

By Harriet Staff

Anne Boyer has a new post up at her blog on liars and lying, ending with a paragraph on Ted Berrigan. Here’s the “Poets and Lies” section:

poets and lies

to be a poet is to lie ALL THE TIME and to lie NONE OF IT or to be in strange relationship to the idea of the lie.

for example, I am a poet and appalled at lying. to just kind of lie, without good reason, seems like rolling around in shit just for a party.

but my work, on the other hand, is like all forms of literature in that it is a giant structure of untruth which I’ve built out of a lifelong study of every form of lying. I have scoured all the libraries and the internet for models and forms and techniques of lying: these lies can be figurative language, they can be forms (like narrative — a huge lie, or the sonnet — an even more dishonest one), they can be “a voice,” and lies certainly can and are our various types of literary games (oulipean, conceptual, appropriative …).

that all of literature is a lie made of lies, there is another form of lie which exists right at the conjunction of aesthetics and politics. this is the lie of perception. this is the lie which exists before the literature, and for the most part after it, but which the lies of some literature can — if cunning — undo, and even moreso than criticism, which flatters itself as truth — once again the mistaken perception of CRUEL TRUTH when mostly CRUEL OPINION.

this is the paradox, of poetry and lying: that if our perceptions, to, are affected by so much power that we are often seeing what is “untrue” as “true,” so then the remedy of literature and its extensive system of lying can rearrange the lie of perception itself.

As for Berrigan’s Sonnets, “it can’t always be 5:15 a.m.,” she writes. Read it all here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, August 13th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.