Wednesday, April 17, 2013

3 truths and a lie

The lie is that there is no lie, these three things are all true:

1. It's snowing (again). Looks like snow now, when we left the house this morning it was more like tiny hail.

2. The right side of my neck itches. It almost always itches. This has been true for decades. Why, neck? Why the right side?

3. My latest column on "The Poneme" is up at Lemon Hound. I wrote about Ana Bozicevic's new book, Rise in the Fall, and "the godlike thought" in poetry. It goes like this:
When on occasion I teach poetry, one of the main things I try to instill in my students is, to quote Spicer, “Poet, be like God.” To go from trying to write poetry to really writing poetry, there’s a leap that has to happen, and that leap is a realization that you are the god of your poem, and you can make anything happen – anything at all within the world of your poem. The poem has no obligation of faithfulness to reality or known syntax or anything aside from the fact that it must be made of language, the way we’re made of oxygen and carbon. 
The task of the poet is to figure out what they want to do with that material – what they want to make happen....

8 comments:

  1. Elisa, sorry about the itchy neck...how very annoying. If I sleep on my right side, I wake up with a headache - have since I was little.

    The snow has got to go. Rain, I could do for weeks, but no more white stuff. Of course, looking at the dull landscape that is Dallas, snow doesn't look so bad.

    You could have lied about poetry and I would likely never know. Too much 'what the F' for me to truly appreciate. I know, I know.

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    1. I've had eczema and lots of skin allergies all my life, and for some reason this one spot on my neck is the most sensitive, it always starts itching first.

      I would actually rather have one day of snow than days on end of rain (which often happened in Boston), but it's snowed once or twice a week for the past 3 or 4 weeks, which is NOT giving me spring happiness.

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  2. It's still trying to be winter here in Minneapolis. It was something like 35 degrees when I got to work this morning, plus wind. The forecast is for more snow sometime over the next couple of days. (Maybe just an inch or two in Minneapolis, a lot more further north in Minnesota.) The winters can be long here, though this is ridiculous. It hasn't gotten up to 60 degrees here yet this year. We're getting near setting a new record for the latest 60 degree temp.

    Regarding poetry: how I've often felt it is that there comes a point, periodically, when I need to really feel (or re-feel) the ultimate "nothing" of myself. That's not quite right, so I'll say it another way: to write poetry, I find that I need to make contact (however briefly) with the void underlying the universe; or, to put it less grandiosely, I need to find, at least briefly, the silence before words.

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    1. Sounds a little like Eliot's idea that one writes poetry not to express personality but to escape it.

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    2. Yes, I like to feel like "nothing"--nothing more than a conduit through which braided tributaries of language flow. I like to feel passive, so that when it's done and I read it I have that I-is-an-other feeling.

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    3. I love reading old poems that I've forgotten I've written for that reason.

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  3. I don't think of it as writing poetry to escape personality. Maybe rather, writing poetry to * discover * personality.

    The terminology of this is damnable. Personality is probably not what I mean at all. Maybe something more basic than personality, which I tend to think of as mostly a cultural construct. Not sure what the best term would be for a more basic or real quality -- "authentic self" doesn't seem to work either, because I don't think of it as mere (isolated or individual) self.

    In the Middle Ages alchemists spoke of a "Hermetic vessel," the purpose of which was to contain highly volatile forms of energy (theoretically, the energy of the god Hermes). When a person writes a poem, or paints a painting or composes a piece of music, or another similar act of creative work, they make contact (at least briefly) with the silence or "nothingness" that underlies words or image or sound, or (to put it in larger terms) they make contact with the void or vacuum that underlies the universe. This contact, however brief, causes a release of a great amount of highly volatile creative energy. Making the poem or painting or sculpture or piece of music is, in a sense, making a vessel to contain (at least some portion of) the creative energies.

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    1. I just thought of something David Dodd Lee said about his Ashbery erasures: the erasure process enabled him to "escape the self" or "escape youness" (that may not be verbatim). So he was talking about negative capability, I is an other, escaping personality rather than expressing it, etc. But he said that his old preoccupations with sex, nature, and religion became evident in these erasures, these poems that were unlike any he'd written before. So the process enabled him discover his personality as well.

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