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Journal, Day Two
Here’s something that surfaced in my reading today:
“Power presents only the falsified, official sense of words; in a manner of speaking it forces them to carry a pass, determines their place in the production process (where some of them conspicuously work overtime) and gives them their paycheck . . . Poetry is becoming more and more clearly the empty space, the antimatter, of consumer society, since it is not consumable (in terms of the modern criteria for a consumable object: an object that is of equivalent value for each of a mass of isolated passive consumers).”—Guy Debord
I don’t know about that equivalent value thing. Or that consumers are isolated. I think there’s quite a community of consumption, even if it’s a perversion of what we mean by community. And then there’s the community for poetry consumption, and the poetry economy, and the power structures in the world of poetry. Which are not poetry, but which partly govern how it makes its way in the world.
I love the idea that poetry is antimatter.
I hate the phrases Homeland Security and Operation Enduring Freedom.
So I looked up antimatter because I didn’t feel clear, after all, about this idea. Here’s the interesting thing: antimatter can’t exist alone. When energy turns into matter, there’s the matter and its mirror, the hole in the shape of the matter, or the antimatter. I guess what I’m thinking is that in Debord’s formulation, if poetry is antimatter, it requires consumer culture—it can’t exist on its own. Maybe that’s right—it’s the obverse of the coin. Where is this going? I don’t know, I just find it interesting. I also discovered a great line which I intend to use, so please don’t steal it: Energy is the money of nature. It has a certain ring to it, like Death is the mother of beauty.
“I hate and I love.” Catullus. It baffles me that there is this conception of “the confessional mode,” and this idea that it all started with Lowell. I think of it as the lyric poem, which has been with us so much longer. Anyway I don’t think the problem with poems that don’t work is that they are “confessional.” That’s just a strategy, one of many, and it’s not better or worse than any other. All this denial of, and problematizing of, the “I” in poetry. Of the personal. Why are we alive if not for the personal? What’s living worth without valuing the “I”? It’s the extinction of the “I” that is a problem. Not the egotistical “I” but the particular, irreplaceable person. That nexus of energy that takes the form of a human being.
Last thought: A few lines from Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Speed of Darkness”:
Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis.
Whoever despises the penis despises the cunt.
Whoever despises the cunt despises the life of the child.
Resurrection music, silence, and surf.
My night awake
staring at the broad rough jewel
the copper roof across the way
thinking of the poet
yet unborn in this dark
who will be the throat of these hours.
No. Of those hours.
Who will speak these days,
if not I,
if not you?