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The New Prometheans' Journal
 
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Below are the 9 most recent journal entries recorded in The New Prometheans' LiveJournal:

Thursday, October 25th, 2007
5:23 pm
[reagun]
Receipt Blog
http://www.proofpurchase.com/

that's the link to some woman's blog where she scans and posts the receipts of all of her purchases.

it's great!
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
2:11 am
[reagun]
SPAM
yes, spam is poetry too. zach weir shared this with me, because it's hilarious. i'm especially fond of "whizgiggle."

t.s. eliot said that poetry is important because it keeps language alive - if this isn't keeping language alive, then i don't know what it is, or what to call it.


From: Lisa A. Sosa [Lisa@hersheys.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 8:38 AM
To: Weir, Zachary Andrew Mr.
Subject: {spam?} My boyfriend's prick keeps slipping out.

Baronesses always laughed at me and even bucks did in the urban bathroom!
Well, now I whizgiggle at them, because I took M_E GA D IK
for 6 months and now my peter is hugely weightier than usual.
achieve http://jnfozine.com/
--------------------------
team. Lille made two changes of their own, throwing
looked listless, as shots from Podolski and Makaay were
usually great community people and Canadians. It's
in lockdown, but according to a statement on the
played a strong side, with Lucas Podolski and Roy Makaay
2:04 am
[reagun]
MAP
This is a piece written by my friend Tim McCormack. Below, you'll also find the program notes.






"The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it.
Henceforth, it is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory […]
that engenders the territory..." -Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and
Simulation

MAP [2007] is the first in a series of three pieces that take as their
reference point the map/territory relation, particularly as elucidated
by Jean Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation. The idea of a
simulation of the real which does not merely precede the real, but
engenders is not far off from the nature of my own compositional
process. In MAP, this process exists in two strata: first, of course,
within itself, inaudibly behind every note of the work; and
secondly, I attempt to simulate this process in the music – the aural
result – itself. The natural sonority of the trombone is constantly
being transmuted and vitiated by three techniques that are treated
rhythmically and dynamically independent – the use of the performer's
voice, left hand in conjunction with the harmon mute, and tongue or
throat [for flutter-tongue effects]. These techniques were chosen due
to the profound effect they have on the instrument's sonority, the
fact that all four strata can be produced at once, and that, in
certain specific combinations, each can mediate the others.

"... as you push the question back, what you find is an infinite
regress, an infinite series of maps. The territory never gets in at
all [….] Always, the process of representation will filter out so that
the mental world is only maps of maps, ad infinitum."
-Gregory Bateson, Form, Substance and Difference

"Why does it disturb us that the map be included in the map.[…]? […]
these inversions suggest that if the characters of a fictional work
can be readers or spectators, we, its readers or spectators, can be
fictions." -Jean Louis Borges, Partial magic in the Quixote

Each stratum [flutter tongue, harmon mute, voice, and trombone] exists
as a consequence of the others – each successive product is the
product of another. Every moment in MAP can be understood as the
result of the intersection between these strata as filtered through
certain systematic processes. Each map is a mirror of itself, though
nothing is reflected [one may think of Borges' The Aleph]. In a sense,
the map has been laid upon the territory or, more accurately, the map
has been folded upon the map, in order to encompass itself.

"Perception always intercedes between reality and ourselves." -Rene Magritte

"The more a system is coming close to perfection, the more it is
coming close to destruction." -Jean Baudrillard, in conversation with
Aude Lancelin [in Le nouvel Observateur]

Structurally and formally speaking, this piece contains to territory
at all. It is all processes generating processes, systems creating
systems. They exist underneath the music, behind (and before) the
score, which itself can only attempt to be a simulacrum of them.
However, if all is a map, then what is the territory? The map becomes
a territory adversarial to itself. The work is transfigured into its
antipode in performance; the auditor perceives nothing but territory –
a terrain of sound detailing nothing but itself.

"The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would
be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless." – Neil Gaiman, Fragile
Things

Thus, what is the map in MAP? Is it the very musical substance, or the
formal processes of pre-composition? Is it found in the audible or
the inaudible? The answer, I believe, is that the work imposes upon
itself a series of maps – maps of maps and maps within maps. The
autonomous strata of the voice, harmon mute, and flutter tongue
obfuscate, resist and fundamentally alter the pure sonority of the
trombone, while the formal processes at work within the piece
presuppose and influence audible and cognitive layers, such as texture
and structure. However, is it not also true that a methodical system
or process of parametric composition, no matter how rationalized or
automatized, is realized and preceded first and foremost by the
composer's intuition? Are these processes merely simulations of the
composer's mental process – maps of some intangible territory,
tragically too complex to ever detail completely?
Thursday, October 18th, 2007
12:19 am
[unrulybadger]
Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
7:17 pm
[reagun]
interesting interview
Interview with Kent Johnson
conducted by Rodrigo Garcia Lopes, Editor, Coyote Magazine, Brazil

below you'll find a snippet of this interview that i've been reading (and re-reading) lately. while the entire interview is worth reading (fascinating how he challenges the role of contemporary 'experimental' poetry and it's authenticity/originality), but i think this part goes well with the spirit of this group. let me know what you think! i'm especially fond of the very end of this interview (as i think all of you will be - especially you, hannah).


this interview can be read in its entirety at: http://www.litvert.com/coyoteinterview.html


Q: How do you see the world and the United States after September 11th and the war on Iraq? What can poetry do in a world that is increasingly becoming violent, complex and unpredictable? Is poetry still necessary, or even a necessary discourse?

KJ: I have my outward positions, of course, and like most people, I like to sound like I know what I'm talking about. But like most people, too, I'm very uncertain about what the world is or where it may be headed. And it seems to me that poetry must resist the temptation to assume a defining "mission" or "role" in these times when we are all hungering for firmer bearings. Perhaps what we need to do, as poets, is plug our deepest recesses into that great and encompassing uncertainty, fear, paradox, and, yes, dark comedy of the current conjuncture and just see what happens. Allow our selves to be shocked and lit up by the horror. To be transformers, as it were. Needless to say, there are as many cords and plugs as there are snakes in Medusa's head; and there are as many open outlets as there are orifices in Hades. So while we must be bold, we need also, I suppose, to be careful and have the polished shield handy!

So I guess I'm saying I'm not sure that poetry can or should aspire to "do" anything, really. To the extent that poetry does do work beyond its general aesthetic circumference, it seems to do so most meaningfully when it remains steadfastly what it most "politically" is: an autonomous zone of spirit and conscience, a zone that should be understood by those who enter it as multifarious and many-guised, beholden to no ideology of politics or art. Oppen and Zukofsky were onto something not yet sufficiently explored when they talked about sincerity as the ground of the art. Too easy to dismiss the concept as a sentimental cliché; harder to view and follow one of its countless paths waiting there.

Auden writes in his elegy for Yeats,

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

Perhaps in moments of crisis like we are now in, powerful poetry may reveal the connections of the "political" to that mysterious "mouth" Auden evokes. Maybe one could say that the poet's "political" task is to show how the "Real" is never separate from that dark space. But, well, I guess you can see that I am struggling with this answer!

Q: Who are the new poets that you consider as being the most expressive and interesting in the U.S.?

KJ: I had mentioned some younger poets working with a kind of Dada-Pop aesthetic, what they call Flarf-I think there are some interesting possibilities there, if they can become unstuck from their somewhat unimaginative relationship to the flattening figure of Authorship. And I'd mentioned the Ubuweb poets, a loose affiliation of visual and web-based writers, where there is considerable energy, in particular in Canada. I'm fortunate to work very closely with one of the most gifted poets of my generation, Forrest Gander. He and I have been co-translating the great Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz, and we are now into the second book, Saenz's frightening and magnificent book-length poem, The Night. Gander, I don't mind saying, is most definitely il miglior fabbro in our writing relationship. And he will most emphatically be the only contemporary poet I will individually name, since if I continue, I will inevitably end up, I'm sure, leaving the most obvious people out, including some of my friends, and I have few enough friends as it is! So I hope you'll understand.

But I will mention three writers who are not primarily known as poets, and whose work, I feel, is as crucial and singular to poetry as that of anyone writing in English today: Eliot Weinberger, generally known as translator, essayist, and editor, the finest prose stylist we have among those who write about our art, and someone who has taken the "essay" into new conceptual realms, so that one gets the sense of a wholly new genre in the making; David Rosenberg, primarily known as a scholar and translator of biblical and Judaic literature, one of the most original thinkers about translation's purposes, and who has engaged translation's mysteries and paradoxes to create works of poetic fiction that look like scholarly books but are something much more otherwordly; and Mikhail Epstein, the great Russian cultural theorist, now of the U.S., whose works of philosophy, like Wittgenstein's famous rabbit figure which changes into a duck and back again, oscillate between rigorous theory and delightful poetic fiction.

Frankly, I think we "new poets" of the English language have considerably more to gain from reading writers like these than we might by reading any of our more generic "Poet" contemporaries.
Thursday, October 11th, 2007
11:16 am
[chef_brockett]
 

THE FICTION MACHINE

The Workshop and the hacks.

By Sam Sacks



 

In R.K. Narayan's novel The Vendor of Sweets, a young entrepreneur pushes his father to invest in what seems like a dubious venture: a short-story machine. How the machine works exactly is never made clear, and the hapless man squanders the family savings.

 

Still, if Narayan floated the idea ironically 40 years ago, today a short-story machine is probably within technology's grasp. Given a set of common parameters—say, a 5000-word story with three scenes for introduction, development and climax and a finite field of predetermined variables (character names, settings, activities, dialogue tropes and so on)—a literate engineer could surely create a serviceable program.

 

This is but fancy; however, I was reminded of Narayan's machine recently while reading the Best New American Voices 2006, an anthology edited by Jane Smiley. The book gives such a desultory vision of the future of American letters that one can only hope its title is wrong. Without ignoring the occasional flashes of verve, the stories included are so monotonous that they seem to have been written by a single person of middling talent. All but one of them are written in the first person; a similar percentage hinge upon the narrator's difficulties with dysfunctional or deceased members of his or her family, or with ex-lovers. The tone is always confessional and saturated with self-pity. The plot and action are always negligible: one story takes place on a road trip to a presidential birthplace, another while moving apartments, another at a wedding, another while opening presents in front of the Christmas tree. None of this much matters anyway, because the things the characters do are always mundane and largely incidental to their psychological conflicts. From time to time a structural innovation appears to offer an interesting novelty, but under the packaging the same old formula is always to be found.

 

Even the style of writing displays a numbing verisimilitude. The first-person voice is always a lazily generalized vernacular, jazzed up at significant moments with consciously poetic frills in the exposition.

 

Finally, most of these stories end with a symbolic "moment of clarity" in which nothing happens, but a change has been imperceptibly arrived at. The apogee of immobility at the end of Jamie Keene's "Alice's House" should suffice to make the point: "It's a little after midnight when the phone rings again. It seems as if it's ringing forever, but finally it stops, abruptly and absolutely. And it's quiet again, and I'm alone."

 

It should be no surprise that every one of the writers in this anthology have one more thing in common: They have attended writers' workshops, either in graduate programs or in similarly organized writing conferences.

 

Writing workshops, for their ubiquity, are currently the most significant phenomenon influencing American literature. Enrollment into them has become de rigueur for people with a calling to write, and is assumed by increasing numbers (including publishers) to be as necessary a first step toward a writing life as college would be toward a professional life. But because the self-styled "best" of these workshops comprise such a poor lot of dull, mechanical stories, it becomes necessary to ask: What goes on in these programs, and how do they influence today's writers, for ill or for good?

 

I attended the University of Arizona's creative-writing program between 2002 and 2004, from which I received an MFA. This was almost entirely a good experience: I had great friends amongst my peers ,and I came to love the odd and beautiful city of Tucson; and, because I held a teaching assistantship, I received a generous stipend for work that still left me huge spaces of free time in which to write, a luxury of which I've thought wistfully ever since. If I find fault, it's not as an alumnus, but as an avid reader who has had the advantage of seeing firsthand how these programs work.

 

My experience, though, wasn't necessarily definitive—I would only be entitled to that claim if I had attended what is roundly agreed to be the sine qua non of writing programs, the Ur-Workshop at the University of Iowa.

 

The creative-writing degree program began there in 1897, and the Workshop (with breezily unconscious arrogance, the capital "W" is still used) started in 1937. The early decades were remarkably distinguished, both for the student body and the professors—Flannery O'Connor, Wallace Stegner, Philip Roth, John Cheever and Raymond Carver are still spoken of reverentially as leading figures in an era when Iowa City was almost what Paris and the Village had been to literature before it. The Workshop prided itself on being an elite corps—as a teacher in the '60s, Roth wrote that "Part of our function is to discourage those without enough talent"—and for however much this made for snobbery (like Paris and the Village, it must have been a rather snobbish place), the ultimate aim was not just elitism but great writing.

 

This was many years ago. In the passing generations Iowa's rich bloodline has become increasingly anemic, and the truth is that, with the possible exception of Marilynne Robinson, who teaches there, no major writer has come out of the Workshop in decades. Yet today, when workshops (with a lowercase "w") are found in nearly every university across the country, these glory days are perpetually referenced, perhaps to serve an involuntary need by workshop participants to justify themselves. A professor of mine once regaled our class with stories about the famous friendship between Ernest Hemingway and his mentor Gertrude Stein (of which Hemingway renders an ungratefully one-sided picture in A Moveable Feast). "That," my professor said, spreading his hands toward us in an expansive gesture, "was a workshop." By implication, what we were doing in that classroom followed directly in the footsteps of the masters.

 

Wine and discussion of writing in Stein's Parisian parlor room may or may not be rightly called a workshop. Nevertheless, it bears no resemblance to the workshops at present. And it is not so hard to strip away the nostalgia, defensiveness and self-sustaining bias to see, with pretty fair objectivity, just what today's writing programs are.

 

First of all, the writers' workshop is an academic institution. Creative-writing students don't think of themselves as having any kinship with medical or business students, and this difference is to some extent confirmed by the total academic leniency they enjoy. Even so, every year ten to 20 new students will arrive, and the same number will shuffle away with diplomas. Most programs are two years in length and usually the size of every individual workshop is proportional to class size. A dozen people is about average.

 

Immediately we have nullified perhaps the most crucial aspect of the "workshops" of lore. The tête-à-tête mentorship, as between Stein and Hemingway, Flaubert and de Maupassant, Tolstoy and Chekhov or even John Fante and Charles Bukowski, is impossible in this setting. Twelve is a small class for other studies, especially those based on lectures, but it is unwieldy for the cultivation of something as personal as writing. Even the most remarkable professor could not be expected to strike up an intimate and meaningful rapport with an aspiring artist—and all great mentors must also be friends—when a score of new bodies is plopping down before him every twelve months in search of a guide.

 

More on these professors. The only prerequisite to teaching in an MFA program for writing is that you have published a book—or, if not a book, enough stories to buff up a résumé. Of course, it's not easy to publish a book, but of all the ways in which to claim instant legitimacy and mastery in a field, publishing a novel or book of stories is one of the easiest, as it circumvents the years and years of understudy research academicians must put in before they may don the title of professor.

 

Due to the huge proliferation of workshops, you need not be (or write anything that exists in the same galaxy as) Flaubert or Tolstoy to assume the honored mantle of respected "expert" on the art of writing. Consider the fiction professors at the University of Houston and Johns Hopkins University, which I have chosen for no reason except that the schools were tied for second (behind Iowa) in a U.S. News & World Report ranking for creative-writing programs: Robert Boswell, Chitra Divakaruni, Antonya Nelson, Robert Phillips, Daniel Stern; Mark Farrington, William Loizeaux, and Paul Maliszewki. These men and women may in fact be exceptionally devoted teachers and fine writers to boot. But as a sample cross-section, they are certainly not names that cry out "literary mastery."

 

Which brings us to the second key fact of the workshop: Professors teach primarily as a means of supporting themselves as writers.

 

This was in fact one of the founding intentions of the writing program—a way to give writers time and money to write; a form of patronage—and it was a noble intention indeed until writers began to make halfhearted careers out of what was meant as a short term sinecure. The plan began to go awry once writers became so accustomed to the relatively cushy role of "professor" that they took for granted (and they universally take it for granted) that they were qualified to teach writing without having arrived as great writers themselves. An enfeebling paradox has resulted: Professors with little calling to teach give only part of their attention to their classes, yet devoutly cling to their positions, sometimes for the rest of their lives, vacillating in a vocational purgatory, neither wholly writing nor wholly teaching.

 

Let us briefly recapitulate. Large, impersonal, ever-shuffling workshops are led by writers of, on average, mediocre ability who throw only part of their energy into helping their students. The result of all this is as predictable as it was inevitable: Writing is taught by rote. Limited in time and care and needing to satisfy at once a wide range of very different would-be writers, professors must rely on the crutches of formula.

 

This means rules and doctrine.

 

It might be thought that every professor would teach differently—and it is true that one of the challenges of being a workshop student is sussing out the varying tastes of your professors in order to qualify their criticism. The far larger trouble is the extent to which the rules that are taught agree. As in psychology and law (and franchise coffee shops) a workshop-specific lexicon has been born, and its terminology is common, with minor variations, to every writing program in the country. And thanks to the noisome cottage industry of books on writing—invariably authored by people who have never written anything of significance—the buzzwords are standard usage to the reading public, too.

 

A Story, as it progresses, is counterbalanced by a Backstory, which informs the reader what of importance happened beforehand. Both Story and Backstory must have a pronounceable Why Now, a meaningful reason that they are being told—something must be At Stake. Regarding meaning and significance, the writer should Show Not Tell through recurring Central Metaphor rather than through dry explanation of what is being felt. Furthermore, a good story has an apt and memorable Voice and conveys a strong Sense of Place.

 

I'll stop there, though I could continue. These rules of Craft—every workshop conveniently maintains that while you can't teach writing, you can teach Craft—of course have a lot of validity. Certainly there's much to be applauded in the art of evoking a character's anger without writing, "He was angry." (Though sometimes "He was angry" suits just right.)

 

If the term Show Don't Tell were one tool out of many that a perspicuous teacher used to aid a specific student in a particular situation, then it would be all to the good. But recall that except in exceptional cases professors need a common denominator with which to teach a group of students of all degrees of talent and taste. Consequently, Show Don't Tell becomes one of the rules in a standardized how-to checklist.

 

Rules of this sort, I think, come to resemble the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which is used to boil down matters of deep complexity for easy consumption by the masses of the laity. A few objections to the rules may have already crossed the reader's mind: books such as War and Peace, Moby Dick and Ulysses shatter all notion of common law rules of fiction; what is great about the stories of Chekhov, Isaac Babel, and Eudora Welty can't remotely be explained in the way they embody a structural law. Every story in Best New American Voices 2006 is infallibly faithful to workshop formula, and none are noticeably good. All of these objections should be immediately fatal to the premise of teaching Craft, yet they are all routinely shrugged off as caveats (Moby-Dick as a caveat!), explained away by the one all-obliterating fallback rule that I've heard in every workshop I've ever attended: You Can Do It If You Can Get Away With It. Tolstoy, Melville and Joyce "Got Away With It," but you probably can't, and shouldn't try.

 

These are some of the rules for graduate students. The rules for undergraduates are even more invasive. Here the discrepancy between class size and professorial involvement is stretched even further—workshops are taught by graduate students, and the only whiff a young aspiring writer will get of a writing instructor is in a packed lecture hall. The class I taught was assigned a course packet and there, on the first page, were more rules: Never begin a story with a character waking up in bed. Never write a scene where a character looks at himself in a mirror. Never use the word "stuff."

 

These rules aren't exactly arbitrary. Having a character gaze into a mirror is evidently an involuntary reflex for amateurs and writers without talent. But the rule makes no allowances for the possibilities of a mirror scene in the hands of a writer with talent. (See Katherine Manfield's "Prelude.") This gets to the crux of the danger of the workshop: Doctrine is imposed with the working assumption that everyone is a mediocrity. If obeyed, it grades down the spiky brilliance of the talented and leads to the limited elevation and refinement of apprentice hacks.

 

Students are generally complicit in the dilution of literature through formula—the second-hand experience of a catechism instead of an immediate connection to God to, perhaps, strain my comparison—because it spares them the possibility of being unceremoniously told that they're not good enough. The prevailing atmosphere of study, then, can hardly be called rigorous. Most of the assigned books are contemporary works; things written before 1920 are largely ignored; ancient classics (which often times universities relegate to a classics department, separate from the literature program for some unaccountable reason) are even more difficult to synthesize into the workshop model and are generally left untouched. Given the choice between studying great books and learning rules, students tend toward the latter, which is why more read John Gardner's The Art of Fiction and E.M. Forster's Aspects of a Novel than actually study the fiction of these writers. (Does this not have a striking resemblance to the old Church policy of having an exclusive synod explain what the Bible says while discouraging followers from reading the thing themselves?) As for grammar and mechanics, the only aspects of writing actually governed by rules, they are considered beneath the contempt of creative minds and are omitted from study.

 

Such diminishing standards are made possible by the final fact about writers' workshops: Success as a student is gauged by the act of publication.

 

On one hand, publication—the approbation of a certain editor—is a good thing and a real watermark in many writers' growths. But with such a vast number of obscure small presses—the ratio of literary journals to writing programs is almost one to one—the importance of having a story picked up is greatly diminished. Or it should be, but is not because of the tangible benefits a few minor publications can afford a writer, regardless of the actual quality of the stories: Publication, which is often aided by the commendation of a professor, can lead to a teaching position. (Remember that literary journals are normally run out of universities.) And so as each generation perpetuates itself with a system of high rewards for low returns and grows progressively weaker through inbreeding, the formulaic doctrine of Craft is ever more cemented into the consciousness of writers. Completely lost in this self-fulfilling rigmarole is any notion of writing something great, something for the ages.

 

A popular anecdote that sheds light on an earlier epoch of American literature has F. Scott Fitzgerald, fresh out of Princeton, saying to his fellow alumnus Edmund Wilson, "I want to be one of the greatest writers who ever lived, don't you?" There is naiveté in the statement and there is hubris, but the boast also expresses a serious pursuit of greatness that is beautiful and quite spine tingling to any young writer who feels within him the powerful welling of undeveloped talent. But today, such a statement would most likely be met with muffled embarrassment in a workshop, which values the practical ends of publication and employment over this sort of dreaming.

 

I have no doubt, similarly, that some readers have found the peppering of names like Tolstoy and Flaubert throughout this essay to be mildly grasping and pretentious, irrelevant to the contemporary state of things. But isn't it discreditable, even insulting, not to hold today's writers to the very highest standards existent?

 

Possibly no writers who are indeed appointed for greatness will be much affected by the dangers listed here. But the evidence from books like Best New American Voices volubly suggests otherwise. And as workshops grow in number, expanding to inculcate more and more impressionable minds, we can only wonder what is being lost amidst an institution that, unintentionally but inexorably, conspires to discourage daring greatly as both irregular and impractical.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
11:26 pm
[reagun]
validation
today, hannah, talcott, ponto and i were talking about the use of poetry. what IS the use?

look at where we are, now, in 2007: the u.s. is in the stick of a 4-year war that has shaky justification and no end in sight. protesters are being abused by the myanmar government. genocide in sudan. putin has threatened to attack western europe with a vacuum bomb in the event that they should build a protective "wall" near eastern europe. aids and cancer continue to take lives. we're killing our own planet. the u.s. government consistently dopes its people with fear and takes away more and more rights, and the people put up little fight.

in light of all this, what do we write? HOW do we write? how can we consciously write about the things we find beautiful and important when we know atrocities to humanity and the planet are occurring behind our shut eyes? how can i write about fish (as i have been lately) when i am fully aware that no fish-poem of mine will ever save a monk in burma, stop a woman from being raped in sudan, or preserve the ice caps? as hannah so bluntly said, "words do nothing."

i'm aware that the following reference will seem undoubtedly hypocritical, but i think that if you look closely, you'll be able to see the heart of why i bring it up.

carolyn forche's anthology, against forgetting, might point us towards an answer to the question i proposed earlier: how can we write in the face of what we know? she opens the collection with a poem by bertolt brecht, motto -

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.

forche immediately confronts the higher purpose of her anthology, stating: "It is, however, not my intention to propose a canon of such works; this is, rather, a poetic memorial to those who suffered and resisted through poetry itself." a "poetic memorial." her anthology serves NOT the academic community, it serves the PEOPLE, the COMMUNITY of those who died, and those who survived - those who belong to the community of witness. and - perhaps most importantly - it offers us a reason to continue writing (and to continue to seek the poetic and the art in everyday life - the non-written); that is, "the poem might be our only evidence that an event has occurred: it exists for us as the sole trace of an occurrence."

perhaps a more solid example of my point can be seen by looking behind us to past horrific events. look at the holocaust (i choose the holocaust because of the quotes i'm about to use, not because i privilege its tragedy over other horrific events). after WWII ended, many artists who survived the nazi death camps wrote that the war killed art, that "to write poetry after auschwitz is barbaric" (adorno). this, if i'm not mistaken, is the very question/argument that many of us have struggled with. but, art did not die. poetry continued to be composed, and - as forche's anthology demonstrates - continued to save lives. in response to adorono's blanket death-sentence, artist jabes responded, "To Adorno . . . I say that we must write. But we cannot write as before."

perhaps, this is where this group, we new prometheans, comes in. "We cannot write as before." definitions of poetry have changed, and we're the weather vane. this group validates the idea that poetry and art are still important and can still make a CHANGE if we ACCEPT ALL FORMS OF ART AS WORTHWHILE. we are the witnesses of all of the horrific events i mentioned, we are the historians of what the leaves in oxford look like blowing in the wind, we are the ones who are writing as has not been written like before because we acknowledge the fact that NOT ALL ART IS WRITING.

we are the ones who are keeping art important and vital.

i hope this helps. don't be discouraged - here we are! we are here and we are active and we are not sitting passively by while art is murdered by the comforts of academia and the apathy it breeds.
10:53 pm
[talcotts]
I don't believe that we're on the eve of destruction
Guess what?

The world is still here.

That apocalypse? The one you've been talking about for the last fifty years? Social, economic, political, ecological, literal? It happened. It's in the past.

Things are fucked up, don't get me wrong.

But the world is still here.

Modernism was about the last days of the world. Post-Modernism was its violent decentering and de[con]struction. Now we've made it through and it's time to whip out our Geiger counters and test the air.

Sure, there are problems. Radiation is everywhere. Food and water are scarce. Society is in shambles. Things need to be put back together (or might be better off in the rubble). Even if it is safe to go outside, there's always the threat of a long nuclear winter.

But that poster, the one that always caught your eye on the bus, somehow survived the inferno. The pastoral photo still looks beautiful. You don't wish that was your family, but they somehow remind you of them. The surrounding destruction only serves to enhance these feelings.

As you start to explore what was once your city, you notice that a lot remains standing. Maybe only a shell. Maybe only a skeleton. But enough of the past to evoke what was here before it all fell down. Some of it is even fully intact.

And your memories are the same as they would have been had you simply moved away. The city will always stand that way, and it remains yours to explore as long as you hold on to it.

The world is still here.

And even if it were worse, it still would be.

It's not as if we're unnatural aberrations summoned by a band of rogue sorcerers intent on destroying Earth. We're overgrown wasps with gigantic nests we call cities. That doesn't excuse the damage we cause, but it does make the whole human/nature dichotomy a bit redundant. We might change, taint, use, and harm what was here before us, but we can't completely abolish it. That's not to say that we haven't tried, and it's not to say that we haven't irrevocably destroyed a great deal of it, but our cities are still part of nature. The sky is not artificial (although perhaps not pure). The grass, trees, weeds, flowers, shrubs, and clover are still made out of walled cells. Our squirrels are not robots, nor are the insects, spiders, cats, dogs, and birds. It's not harmonious, fair, or even, but it's still a union. It's still the same whole.

And there's no way for us to destroy the world. No matter how hard we try.

We can make it toxic. We can finish corrupting the biosphere. We can shift the atmosphere from uncomfortable to unbreathable. We can wipe ourselves and everything we recognize from the face of the Earth.

But the world will still be there.

Extremeophiles of some stripe will survive, and sometime within the next five billion years (when the sun is set to clean up anything we do leave behind), they'll take our place. Maybe making the same mistakes. Maybe making others. And, someday, they'll find all that we've left behind. Maybe part of a tower. Maybe a tire. Maybe even some scrap of text that's survived the sedimentary weight. There's a 1/1x10^20 (or so) chance that some of this post could survive.

That's not to say that we should champion our own destruction. Longevity's no excuse to inflict misery, and if there is a distinction to be made between humanity and nature it might be the ability to do something about that.

What I want to point out is how big it all is. None of this matters to the kid who is riding home from school with his first failing grade. None of this matters to the someone who just saw the death of her lover. None of this matters to the actor with his first big break. None of this matters to the physicist who just won the lottery. None of this matters to the family without enough money to turn on the heat. None of this matters to the penguins preparing for mating season. None of this matters to the column on ants. None of this matters to the observers in Andromeda, watching us two-and-a-half million years ago.

All of this matters to all of them.

And that's the thing. This is all a contradiction. None of it makes sense, except for the parts that do. That's what makes life worth living. That's what makes it interesting. Anything else is far too predictable.
9:15 pm
[hannahtron5000]
I will pop this cherry
I feel very validated in writing a curt, gloriously garbled spitting out of the lungs kind of verse. I do not need to hack a thousand texts that have no visceral bearing beyond the realms of the academics (whose championing of such texts are the only reason they are remembered at all) in favor of reading the way the clouds unroll themselves for me, or how the stars arc and arc across the sky. Aren’t the stars a kind of text in and of themselves, part of a cosmic interpretation of the universe? Just reading them ourselves the stars become second hand knowledge, and if you add half a dozen scholars, theories, and articles soon the stars that poke out through the black are third or fourth or fifth removed, are a drawing of a story about stars told by our step-mother’s cousins third niece who heard it from a bunch of men down at the fire house, and now you have you it aren’t quite sure what to do with it anymore

I am done with reading long passages about power or socio-political regimist subversive dicoursive dictates. It's all hot air, all diarrhea of the mouth. From now on I am going to read the frogs bleat at the dusty moon, or how self-causally the world deposits the world, ad infinitum, without speculum, clock, microscope or any other rudimentary instrument designed as clarity but whose real purpose is obfuscation.
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