This post will end the series on creating "Strong Verse." It begins with a bit of discourse on criticism and theory.
So I've found myself dealing again with content created by the fellows at Penny Arcade. Specifically the following:
"As Tycho mentioned, Ebert is simply filling a role played out by art critics throughout history. There was the newspaper headline back in 1959 with regards to Jackson Pollock's work that said "This is not art — it's a joke in bad taste." It's a funny line but time has proven it was also completely wrong. Ebert has thrown his hat in with the rest of the short sighted critics who would rather debate what is or isn't art, rather than simply enjoy the work of artists."
There are two halves to this argument of "Gabe's": the first half, that "time has proven it was also completely wrong" is a bit of a stretch--will Pollack's work still be hanging in a hundred years? Three hundred? That's the time scale of art--which is at heart, the problem with both being a critic and being a critically minded artist (as opposed to one who simply "creates" without mind to audience or time--but generally those ditherers are not worth spending ones time on). Moreover, it doesn't take into account the critics and patrons who supported Pollack.
But the part of Gabe's quote I've been running around in my head is the second part, regarding "short sighted critics who would rather debate what is or isn't art rather than enjoy the work of artists." On the one hand, he does us a great deed to remind us that the proper response of art is our enjoyment.
Critics, on the other hand, serve an important purpose, as recounted in the inimitable Ratatouille:
"There are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends."
"The New," is of course, the crux of the problem. Too many critics are concerned with defining "the Good" and not finding "the New."
Defining "the Good" is not possible. What I've tried to do on this blog when writing about writing for the past two years is not to define the Good but recognize its signs and encourage poets to write not for themselves but for the Good. But this is writing theory. One must be careful not to confuse theory with criticism.
It is the job of the critic to discover and defend the new.
It is the job of the theorist to recognize and encourage the Good, which needs no defense.
It is the job of the poet to create work both new and good.
That having been said, let's come to the remaking of a living art (or the resurrection thereof, depending on your level of pessimism)--making a Strong Verse.
It must be said, of course, that poetry is alive and well within the realm of poets--a nebulous population of perhaps a hundred thousand to a million souls in the US.
But poetry has left the mainstream. No longer does a Longfellow create the idiom of the coming decade. No longer does a Dante create and enshrine a new language.
It is possible that that task has been given to song birds and television and film writers. Possible, though depressing.
In order for poetry to return from the echoing halls of academia, strong verse must be brought back to the mainstream. There are three ways for this to happen:
First, the Wagnerian argument that poetry must be a larger part of art (as in, one part of opera--which I'm sure Wagner would put on "the big screen" now) is certainly a tempting one. As I mentioned in the AWP recap, the discussion regarding poetry and opera librettos was both fascinating and productive--I am still waiting for the delightful and energetic Beth to put out her list of poets and composers interested in collaboration--and, indeed, as "novelizations" of films tend to sell very well, it is possible, even probable, that a successful opera, whether filmed or live, would put books of poetry into the hands of non-poets.
The second, as David Yezzi says, is for poetry to embrace the dramatic element, either fully--in developed plays, as Eliot and MacLeish did, or partially--in poems, as Frost was famous for.
The last has been my argument all along, that contemporary poetry is hung on the cross of fealty to the lyric and that narrative poetry will engage the mainstream.
All three arguments are essentially the same--we should tell stories with our verse.
Of the parts of "strong verse," "full verse" is the voice of narrative poetry.
I hope that this series will serve as the definitive theory of this blog. I would prefer to spend my time on discovering and defending the new strong verse being written today--the new narratives that will define our language in the decades to come.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Butts and crap!
There is no religion or faith when one must fear not God, but the followers of a god.
The whole "Prophet Muhammad" crap has got to go.
We can tolerate faiths,
we can tolerate beliefs,
we cannot tolerate violence in the name of anything.
Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad Prophet Muhammad
Friday, April 16, 2010
Though certainly appreciative of the comments and traffic and progress generated by the 14th's post, I've got other things to cover. As I said, I returned on Sunday from the AWP 2010 Annual Conference in Denver. Here's the recap:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The New American Slavery
We’re on the cusp of a new world
An order unlike anything our fathers could have imagined
We’ve been trading morality for comfort for too many years
And finally, painted into the corner of our own undoing
We’ve decided to just close our minds
Sit Indian-style like children
And chuckle while shit burns down.
We’ve finally outsmarted ourselves
Reasoned that style and platitudes
Could uplift us straight out of reality
“They’s a nigger in the woodpile”
My granddaddy would say
And though I hated his language
I can only imagine he was prophesizing about right now
And how our leaders herd us like cats
Into unnaturally straight lines
“Come on up here little pussies…
Massa’s got some healthcare for you
Come on up to the porch, Toby,
And get you some free milk…”
The fields are going unplanted
The harvest time will come and go unnoticed
But we’ll just keep grinning
And not worryin bout nothing
Cause Massa’s got this magic machine
And he just gots to hit a button
And corn will roll out this here contraption—
Wheat and chicken and flour
Will just pop right out I think
And we don’t need to ever plant the fields
Or tend the flocks again.
The rich folks’ll keep the magic machines rolling
And we’ll just grin and think about equality
And how nuthin’s really equal
If’n we don’t get to pay less and take a little more
On account of all the wrong done to our granddaddies and such.
But I’m starting to think the magic machines
Might not be working proper
It’s turning cold again and I worry about the empty fields
I’m doing what I’m told, though.
I continue to hope, to think “Yes we can” all the time
But I’m gettin hungry
And it’s taking longer each season
To get my ‘lotment.
I hear the Chinamen gots all the rice they can eat
But it still don’t seem right
They should have to work so hard
At planting and harvesting—
Food is a basic human right—
What sorta evil Massa they got
Makes them work to eat?
The baby’s sick most days now
And we’re all pretty fed up
With the failin’ machines
Think maybe we’ll get pitchforks and torches
And tear apart that woodpile
Till we find that liar done trained us out of farming.
I tried to plant a garden today
But I couldn’t work out all the steps anymore
Massa’s forgot about me
And momma’s long gone
And it’s turning colder again.
MY RESPONSE TO THE BANNING: