Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Zukofsky/Pound Post

Okay. I have already talked to at least 2 people about how I feel about the poets who did their best to take the romance out of poetry. Well excuse me if I want to keep feeling like a kid who wants to believe in the Easter bunny when all these adults in the room seem to "know better." When poetry turns into math or science and I'm not allowed to sentimentalize something without sounding too poetic, what am I supposed to do?

Zukofsky's Objective

(My Eye)----------------------------------------------->(Thing Objectified)

I wish I had Photoshop.

Zukofsky says, "the word combination 'minor unit of sincerity' is an ironic index of the degradation of the power of the individual word in a culture which seems hardly to know each word in itself is an arrangement..." We're way past that. Our culture not only seems to hardly know that each word in itself is an arrangement, but we're practically trying to do away with them altogether. At least the good ones, anyway.

And while I think Zukofsky and Pound (among many others) tried to save the power* certain language has, I think they played doctor too much. Both Zukofsky and Pound's essays are prescriptive; both essays packed with stuff like: "Properly no verse should be called a poem if it does not convey the totality of perfect rest (Zukofsky)," and Pound's titles "How To Read," and "ABC of Reading."

And now I feel like whenever I "express myself" in a poem, I am being too poetic. How did that happen? Why, when I'm writing a poem, am I not allowed to "sound too poetic?" Paul Valéry asserts (in one of his essays that I have been spending far too much time tonight trying to find) that it is the poet's job not to have "poetic moments," but to write in such a way that the reader can experience these moments for themselves. While I agree that if the poet went around all day having poetic epiphanies no one would write poems, I also believe that certain epiphanies require actions that are less like sticking up like an ugly antenna and more like breathing.

I know that in writing a post like this I'm exposing some of my gut reactions to the poetics we've read thus far, and that it feels good. I also feel like I have exposed some kind of ignorance to the current way people are thinking about syntax. But when language, especially poetic language, starts to become more math than art, I feel like some part of the room that poetry is in gets dark.

*as in effectiveness in conveying a clear message, whether it be the image of Fenollosa's man shooting a horse, or something small and intricate like using a particular verb tense to promote a dynamic effect.


K. Silem Mohammad said...

Bryan, I started typing a response here and it got too long, so I posted it on the class blog.

Alex said...

Bryan this is great. You've perfectly articulated how I've been feeling lately about the poetics.

"less like sticking up like an ugly antenna and more like breathing."

so great.

IsaKat said...

Well i really like antennas, though must agree that poetry isn't like the receiver on some horrible radio that you spend all day trying to tune just so you can hear a beatles song.
It makes sense to say that we as poets want to evoke the feelings and exeriences we portray in others, that is the point i'm sure. Any speculyzing on how exactly this is done is received with praise, or in your case, deemed overly verbose, convuluted, and gross.

Bryan said...

hopefully no one uses one of these to figure out how exactly this is done, but it might be necessary.