Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Other In All This

Preservation of art is essentially a social phenomenon. It happens through a social nexus and a social context— through an Other, or (usually) many Others. Put simply, preservation is the result of people wanting to preserve your work. What motivates this process? Why do certain poets inspire this dedication while others do not? It depends what we may find at the root of dedication (to a poet or to any artist.) The question arises (and it is an uneasy one) whether dedication is more emotional or intellectual, more about feelings or thoughts, or whether it is caught somewhere in between. My own sense is that this kind of (internal, psychological) scaffolding is more affective than intellectual. It is a compelling emotional drive. That is why poetry which demonstrates little affect would seem to have meager chance for continued life over a long period of time— decades, centuries. Why would anyone want to preserve you, if you have no emotional gravitas? Who's going to develop an affective drive to resuscitate you? Of course, there is no affectivity in Kant either. But philosophy engenders a very different horizon of expectations— cognitive complexity is a sine qua non, and affective flatness is desirable. There are moving passages in Kierkegaard, Buber, Sartre, but they usually result from rhetorical flourishes, rather than demonstrated passion (though these two sometimes merge, and it can be hard to tell the difference.) Poetry that is all intellect falls between two stools— it lacks the intellectual rigor of philosophical discourse, and the emotional gravitas that usually attends durable poetry. I think that most poetry which survives for any length of time generates an implicit affective compact between reader and poet (or, to be more deconstructive, reader and text). Those who preserve poetry do so because someone has engendered an emotional reaction and attachment in them. Engendering emotional reactions is one point of Feel and some of my other, earlier work; and the more recent portions of my work, which have more to do with form and avant-gardism, engender their own difficulties, in the composition process, when emotion still needs to be accounted for somewhere.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On Shelley's Birthday

This weekend, I was in New York to do a reading in Brooklyn, and I got my first chance to talk in depth to a member of the Flarf Collective. It was a stimulating, if invective-laden, conversation, but my opinion remains unchanged- I don't think that flarf makes for the creation of memorable (or even coherent) poetry, and I fail to see how it adds (as Warhol and Koons don't add) to the Duchamp paradigm (of the "ready-made") that was put into place one-hundred years ago; presented again here, in a mystifying fashion, as new: anti-art. How retrograde is it to want to produce a durable body of work? Most manifestations of a post-modern sensibility encourage a sense of ephemerality, transience, "positive obsolescence." Post-modernists often tend to adopt the opinion that any other mode of perception is backwards; though, if the tide turns in my direction, this theoretical approach may itself be perceived as junky and corny. Anti-art is junky and corny. And I am developing a new philosophy of readings.


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