Sunday, March 14, 2004
Hassen when i hear you talk about the artmill, and the damage it can create, i'd say that that is far more a problem for places where the authority figures are present, not peers. for instance (this'll piss some off, if they don't read clearly) MFA creative writing programs have, for some poets, not worked to nurture but to mutate writing. it's simply a fact i've seen over and over with friends. in some cases the opposite happens. and this makes me think of Prageeta Sharma's comments about such programs, where --as she claims-- it is simply Time that some writers look for. and that changes everything, of course.
but with a community of peers, without the dogma at the head of the class (which may or may not infiltrate the student--always depends on the strength of the student) there is the obvious change in dynamic, as well as the obvious support structure.
do peers influence one another? this again depends on the student (since we're all students in this, in or out of the university), on the strength of the student, the courage to stand behind what they write/believe/feel/think.
the Philly Sound, for instance. us. we're very very different writers, all of us. we're also broad minded, and thus our ability to come together as a group without expecting any form of conforming to any particular school of writing. in the classroom however (and this i know to be true, horror stories galore) some professors INSIST a student conform to a certain system or school of thought, of writing. one friend of mine was broken down to tears, literally, and over the two years, slowly, painfully (for me at least) started to write these poems i no longer recognized as her own. true, not everyone has had this experience. and i've met my share of folks who claim to want the time, as Prageeta pointed out. so really, many factors come in play, whether it be the bully of the instructor, or the sad weakness of the student.
Magdalena told me that Michael Palmer is an amazing poetry workshop instructor, in that he never tells you HOW you SHOULD be writing. in fact, she says that he never ever uses the word "should" which makes me happy. she said that he focuses on the strengths of a poem in the workshop, what's working. because of course, to say what's NOT working would lead down the lane of dogma, of "should" and of school of thought, setting margins for poetry itself. Palmer sounds to me like a poet with strong beliefs in the life of the poem. not needing to bank the river, so to speak, says to me that he'd be fine stepping back and allowing a flood of words, which may or may not be pleasing to him, rather than controlling the flow. of course, the same could be said about his saying what's the strength of a poem, that that is leading the poet to the poem. since i'm not there, it's hard to implicate him about what he IS saying, but since there is so much he's NOT saying, no one needs to be there for the NOT to create an understanding. in the end, i've always felt that, whether or not his pointing out strengths instead of what he'd consider weakness in a poem, leads me to believe that this is a man who really wants poems to be cared for, loved.
he sounds like a man who has poetry at the center of the world, not just his world. and that, to me, is what the best part of community can do.
if community is doing anything less than this, let's promise to question it. look at Breton, for instance. what a fucking bastard he was. i like to call him the bully who hated fascists. his terrorist grip over who was in or out, or what was in or out was so severe that i question his own lines of poetry. but then, that's just me not seeing the possible multitudes. which would lead me back to an earlier post i had about Hitler, when his secretary confessed much of what is never talked about the man, that being his very human fears and other emotions.
there is also something to be said for writing a poem and rubbing it against a friend, someone you commune with, see what they'd have to say they feel/think about it. there are aesthetics we trust, that we come to trust. and those people, those aesthetics we choose are in fact extensions of ourselves in a sense. what's so horrible here? we're connected and there's no denial strong enough to dismiss our connections as beings. WHY write poems in the first place!? if not to SHOW that connection!? we say, look, look at this poem, hear it, do you hear it? because it's who we are. it's what's going on. we're all in this together, and this poem has a glimmer of the puzzle that maybe you hadn't noticed before.
and the poems we write, emblems or not of our own lives, are us in the sense of what and how we see and hear and taste and fuck the atmosphere around us.
okay, so some folks don't like being around other folks, and they create their work in silence, in the dark, in towns where no one knows their names, or on an island, but they are still creating and that's what counts. because they DO want to connect, or else they'd just blow their fucking brains out and be done with it!
so sure, i'm not saying we have to all get together and hug one another (for fuck sake!), but for some of us, many of us, community is this place to enter when a poem has been written to let it live. and it's where we share our ideas of poems. and where we read and share what we're reading, and we extend ourselves further and further each time into bigger and better ideas of what poetry is capable of doing!
community is a beautiful, thrilling, expansive, LIVING thing!
and i'll just go ahead and say that i really do feel that those who will defend a position that the connection is unnecessary are really just bullshitting us. because hey, what is the reason for publishing in the first place? especially publishing material that says community is unnecessary or an artmill, or whatever. isn't the very ACT of publishing reaching out to a community of readers? Melville said it best when trashing the nonconformist Transcendentalists with his story Bartleby, when saying suicide really is the only alternative. and it's not a very nice one. if it were true that such artists and writers didn't want community, then we'd never ever hear from them. like Henry Darger, for instance.
but then that leads me into an entirely different discussion. because i really do feel that Darger, if he had been treated with dignity and respected as a human being as a young man, then when he ran away to Chicago and became a janitor, he might have actually had some better sense of others. but his whole focus was on distrust. his entire world of art, the subject, was about invasion and distrust. but then again, maybe he wouldn't have made the art he did. maybe maybe mabye, and maybe, because we don't know, because things went down as they did. but he created it anyway, and wrote the longest novel in the world. just for himself?
Emily Dickinson. okay, she wrote in seclusion. okay. she didn't burn the fucking pages before she died though. and she MUST have showed them to someone at some point, or the publication she claimed to have been so upset over would have never happened in the first place, right? bullshit needs a splash of red paint. and i'm not even saying HER bullshit, i'm talking about her many scholars and fans with their darkest notions of her.
in the name of clover, death and bees,