Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Humpty-Dumptyists strive to stuff words into broken, fragmented, long-discarded shells, wishing them never to have hatched or gone into an omelette. The anger of some of our poets at the polysemous nature of words sounds to me like reactionary denials of the ineffectuality of all the king's horses and all the king's men.

I don't know much about the Langage poets, and what little I know I don't particularly like, although it often strikes me as an interesting brain-muscle-flexing exercise, perhaps something I'd find a useful warmup if I was a poet. But I had never picked up on any hostility to connotation (something you mention in your next post), just perhaps a dearth of it.

But if it's true--how odd. When I'm in an irritatable mood about the "polysemous quality of words," I read philosophy. When I'm in a mood to luxuriate in it, I read poetry. I mean, that's the difference between philosophical writing and poetry, isn't it?

But this does square with something I've noticed. I run into a fair number of poetry grad students (I live in Ann Arbor), and it is true that many I've met (mostly in bars) seem more interested in and knowledgeable about philosophy than poetry--especially any poetry that predates, say, John Ashberry.

So maybe this language poetry thing is a subversive plot by the philosophhers against the poets.

Just joking--sort of.
Thanks for your comment. I went back and re-read Watten's essay; it's not exactly clear that he was attacking "connotation itself" in it, but I don't think I was crazy to have gotten that impression. (I've updated that post to reflect that.)

Among the poetry bloggers I read, only Ange Mlinko regularly gives me the impression that she likes any poetry predating Gertrude Stein.
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