Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Conrad and others--I have much to say (I think) about competition, although I'm meeting you (Conrad and some others) for drinks in fifteen minutes so I'll start and not finish. Gore Vidal said that every time a friend succeeded he (Vidal) died a little. This is what you (Conrad) would like to see divorced from poetry and poems. What Anselm said is wonderful but I have to ask: care about what? If it's care for the self and its success then you have Vidal. And I think this kind of care is still a necessary one because it seems to be what we are as material selves, as matter that needs continued sustenance. Not that we are nothing more than matter, and this is what I will leave unwritten for now. But if it's care for poetry with Anselm, then this is also a necessary thing for poetry. You wouldn't have such a poet as Bernstein or Silliman, for instance, if you didn't have their suspicion that the O'Hararites, in the guise of Second or Third Generation New York School, had become, I don't know, unsatisfactory. Hegel writes that to make something you also have to overcome something, you need the resistance of marble to sculpt marble. One of the larger problems with the arts today is something that Adorno has identified: that materials are given as pre-forms. What separates pop-music (i.e. Spears) from music-music (i.e. whomever).

[OK I'm back from Dubies; it was pleasant, interesting]--So a poem or a poetry is the refractory material that must be worked (not just your poems but others' poems; writing is intertextual.) We can compete here and it is necessary. What is good for the poem is good for the poet, however. It leads us back to the former form of competition. Conrad, I think you want the most from the possibilities of mentation, but it is dangerous to think of the mind as greater than the body. A deconstruction of these terms might give us something like Nietzsche: mind is a fact of body. On the other hand, yes yes, the schadenfreude of former friends sucks. It's rude and unnecessary. I'd like to invoke Eric Hoffer again here, to dismiss these unkind folks. He writes in his journal:

Unused Talents: Our doubts about ourselves cannot be banished except by working at that which is the one and only thing we know we ought to do. Other people's assertions cannot silence the howling dirge within us. It is our talents rusting unused within us that secrete the poison of self-doubt into our bloodstream. (1955)

I know you work and work hard, Conrad. I've only ever felt to compete with another poet (in the former sense, Vidal's sense) when I haven't been working as I should. What I can do anyone else can do. And likely vice-versa, in terms of poetic material success. I shame myself and have wasted my time in senseless competition. We should all know this.

(Jenn, I wrote something for you posted below this)

Will Esposito

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