Monday, January 02, 2006

A Lovely Little Metaphor, a Tiny Detournement

Spotted and put a tiny spin
on this, from Josh's blog:
At the moment I tend to think of the value of a strong poetics/aesthetics as acting like a kind of gravity well, which may itself have all kinds of interesting characteristics (a planet with life on it), or may radiate a powerful and singular energy (a sun), or may be some kind of untranslatable personal mythos of the unconscious (a black hole), or may be something that was once alive but is now dead (a white dwarf).

Purists lob their verbal objects straight int their wells with nary a tremor in their trajectories (or at least such appears to be their goal; I don't think it's actually possible—but they try to correct the flights of their poems through a sort of body english, the profuse production of writings on poetics that can remind me of a bowler trying to turn a gutterball into a strike by twisting and gesturing). Most poets end up with orbits of one kind or another (and an orbit is nothing more than the arc assumed by a body that misses the target it's attracted to); the most interesting of them are slingshotting poems in wide parabolas as they test the limitations of their hard-won poetics. (Poets who can't or won't articulate a poetics are either being sly, which is sometimes necessary, or naive in a way that is bound to make their writing uninteresting in the long run.)

To put it in Lacanian terms, a poetics is like one's Thang, and you derive jouissance (your poem derives energy) based on the distance or orbit that your desire assumes in relation to it. For many of the writers I find most interesting, the politico-aesthetic complex called "Language poetry" is a significant component of their Thang—but none of them are pitching their desires in straight lines at it.

Sorry, Josh--but I couldn't resist. Lacanian terms must never be accepted without a fight. Besides, as Wanda Coleman says in "Beyond Baroque," "it takes a big thang to do a big thang." (And if you don't know Coleman, everyone, she's worth a gander or two.)

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