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

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thursday morning, 8:45 am, second thoughts scattered below.

Carpeting (photo by Mr. Jumping Chocolate Pudding)

The poets keep talking about looking for a public.

"Hello, I seem to have lost my public. That is, my profession has. Do you know what happened to it?"

The public has limited interest in modernist disjunctive aesthetics. That doesn't mean anybody should go changing to try an' please
them. They never want to work that hard, mm-mm mm-mm mm.

[Second thought:
What's this hostility to the audience about? What's up with that? Sure, the Billy Joel quote is a joke, but jokes reveal truths about states of mind. Does such a joke reveal a resentment of the general public much like the poets'? Yes, no, maybe. I like the modernist disjunctivist mode, but it doesn't surprise me that outside of music video (including ads) it hasn't caught on as a pop mode, and it's televisual uses always feature a highly continuous soundtrack. People shouldn't be surprised not to have their shtick widely loved, and I'm highly doubtful that a strategy of changing one's shtick to meet a hypothetical, abstract "public" halfway somewhere would result in either aesthetic happiness for the maker or public success for the work. Counterexamples probably exist; I'd be curious to hear of them.]

The public likes stories.

The last time the public liked critically-approved poets, they liked dynamic characters, like Allen Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas.

The public likes the oratorical style, as in the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas -- and, as in the poetry of the Slammers.

Some of the anti-Slammin' anti-disjunctivists talk about bringing back rhyme. I love the old rhymes, pop and "high," but the public doesn't care about rhyme. Unless you have a drummer, electronic or body-activated. And once you start talking about drums, you're talking about music, and when you're talking about words and music, the words are generally lyrics, not poems, even though lyric is one of the ancient genres of what we call poetry, which reflects a split that started happening probably 400 years ago but didn't really get finalized until about 100 or 120 (some of Tennyson's poems became hit songs); the split isn't really defensible on aesthetic grounds, just social-practice grounds, and I stand on those grounds too and run on the grass. The runniness of my syntax flows like a nose -- yes, I'm snotty.

It can be diverting, this constant fussing between the disjunctivists & the anti-disjunctivists, and this perennial worry about the lack of a public; meanwhile, none of the fussers pays attention one way or another to the Slammers, who do have something of a public. Which is fine, and makes sense: the poetry is conceived of publicly, specifically for a public voice, to be recited in public, in everyday open public spaces, and with a public sense of rhythm and voice. Not the only way to go, by no means, but definitely a legitimate one.

But in general, the fretting about a public? For poetry?

I'm nobody, who are you?

This blog is my ribbit to the world.


[Another second thought: The Dickinson allusion equates the public with a bog, and not just any old bog, an admiring bog. Dear reader, I apologize. You are not a bog, though you are fertile and as squishy as you wanna be, when you wanna be. When you feel like being a bog, you are a beautiful bog.]

* * * * * * * *

My beloved spouse and son left today for a week in California visiting my wife's sister's family. Mr. Jumping Chocolate Pudding has been exicted: he has 3 cousins there, 2 a little bit older and one a little younger.

The other evening at dinner I said to them, "I'm going to be sad, I'm going to miss you!"

My son looked sympathetic and said, "That's OK, Daddoo, we'll come back again."

And they will! But I miss them.

John -

Maybe "public" is the wrong frame - a better question might be, why don't poets want to figure out what people want? Or, since there is no such thing as "people," why are poets either not accepting that they are doing what they want, or else, why don't they pay closer attention to what they do want?

The problem is that it is very difficult to perform and monitor your performance at the same time -- very difficult to write freely while simultaneously listening critically to what you write. Oh of course it's possible to be hypercritical and smush the life out of a poem, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about checking in with the poem while guiding it to be something like what the poet imagined.

All that stuff about rhyming, disjunctive, slammin', blah blah, it's historical baggage. ("Why do you seek the living...") There is always living language, and there so far have always been people who have wanted to make art out of it.
Hi Jordan!

Here's to living language!

I appreciate your dismissiveness toward the "historical baggage" of stylistic differences, but I do think those differences mark sub-cultural boundaries between poetic "camps", and they do affect how readers experience poems.

I regret having insinuated that the people who started this particular discussion were considering the possibility of changing their poetic practice in hopes of reaching more readers; they aren't -- and that's a good thing! People of another poetic camp, however, have talked about changing what they do.
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