Friday, December 07, 2007


You have no idea, folks, how much it means to me to have gotten some comments recently. Thanks for not giving up on this blog--I haven't, even if I've been a mite overwhelmed this past week / month / year.

Back on the 1st I got this, from Maria Melendez--a wonderful poet whom I'm happy to have discovered recently in two venues: the Very Useful anthology The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, edited by Francisco Aragon; and then her own fascinating first collection, How Long She'll Last in this World. She's the penultimate poet in my big roundup essay-review of Chicano, Puerto Rican, and a few other poetries con sabor latino, which is due out in the next issue of Parnassus: Poetry in Review. (Look for it on the stands in February, I believe.)

I'll post more about that review in another post. First, here's her comment, based on my little joust with Josh Corey a few days ago.
"The symbol of all Art is the Prism. The goal is unrealism. The method is destructive. To break up the white light of objective realism, into the secret glories which it contains."

Thus spaketh e.e. cummings, whose work I still love, dad gummit.

Although...I do tense up a little around all this talk of destruction and destabilization...where does the ancient tradition of poetry/chants that heal fit in with this brusque language? A notable difference between Corey and Cummings: toppling structures as the desired end, vs. releasing secret glories. Both seem, intellectually, like noble aims, but I have to admit the latter has more gut appeal, for me. OK, so, yes, even Cavafy says half the house must come down, but then again, that leaves half of it standing, and the coming down isn't the goal in itself, the release, the broadened view, is...I suppose this is where my sympathies for avant garde writing lie.

I say this as someone who has loved, and written, many an "epiphanic lyric," although I'm now working to learn what I can through admiring, and taking inspirational cues from, writers who have devoted their efforts to the breaking up of the epiphanic lyric's white light.

(Which breaking, by the way, just as a reminder, can be done without breaking the surface of language to the extent that avant-garde writers are known for. Lyrical content itself can potentially "destabilize hierarchical structures of meaning and feeling" simply by having a speaker from the non-top of the hierarchy.)

I agree, in part, with both Josh Corey's post and your response. Corey's claim is to the potential of avant-garde writing, your point about pedagogy speaks to this potential's realization.

One of poetry's most endearing qualities, to me, is that it needs so much help in the world; readings, thorough discussion in blogs and in reviews and in classrooms, word-of-mouth expressions of that it is most alive only as individuals make it so, I love this weak little puppy.
I love Maria's final metaphor here: poetry as the runt of the literary litter, endearing because it needs our help. Compared to the other metaphors she quotes--poetry as a prism, poetry as a destabilizing force, poetry as the big bad wolf that huffs and puffs and blows half your house down--this homelier version of the art speaks to my own sense that poetry needs my help on a practical, down to earth basis. Maybe that's why I love both poetry and romance fiction. They need me (sniff!)--and you know, genres who need people are the luckiest genres, aren't they, really? (Insert image of Lorne in lounge-wear here.)

Seriously, though, I get tired of the higher-flown romantic and post-romantic Claims for Poetry. Even the cummings, which I hadn't heard before, falters when I compare it to, say, "may i feel, said he."
may i feel said he
(i'll squeal said she
just once said he)
it's fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let's go said he
not too far said she
what's too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you're willing said he
(but you're killing said she

but it's life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don't stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you're divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)
Secret glories? Nah. (Although for those of you interested in pedagogy, the final stanza is a hoot. The way male and female students read its second line out loud--let's just say, it differs. No secret as to why.)

Anyway, I like Maria's metaphor, which speaks to why I do what I do, here and elsewhere, and inspires me to do it more. Posts soon on the next set of comments: on Ron Johnson (what's up with the NPF volume? Stay tuned!); and on delicious glances in music videos. And if you're reading, say hello--it means the world to me.

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