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Katlin Profile
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


from Yeats' "The Circus Animals' Desertion":

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

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Last edited by Katlin, Apr/25/2011, 1:50 pm
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


I mentioned to Tere not long ago that I think the use of myth in American poetry is making a comeback, and it seems I'm not the only one who has been thinking along these lines. In a recent blog post, John Gallaher writes about "The New Spirituality. It’s not devotional poetry, at least not overtly, instead it’s searching, questioning[.]"

To read more:

[url][sign in to see URL]

   
May/18/2011, 3:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


When did the use of myth go away? I hadn't noticed it missing.
May/18/2011, 3:35 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Good point, Libra. It never did go away completely. That's why making these sweeping generalizations about (American) poetry can be tricky.
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Kat, the Yeats poem reminds me of something else he wrote. I think it was in his late journals, a copy of which I am pissed at myself for no longer having. Mind you, he and E. Pound worked closely together for awhile. Together they introduced the Japanese Noh play form into Europe, mostly at Pound's insistence. But Yeats would make Noh like plays while drawing on ancient Irish myth. But late in life he reckoned with Pound's notion of a universal language of poetry, what drove his Cantos. In response to which Yeats said, and paraphrasing, 'It is not for me. In order to make poetry I must have village life in my ears, nostrils, and on my skin.' That is what Yeats said.

Tere
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


Came across this essay today and felt the following excerpt pertinent to this thread:


Self-Starter
The H.D. Book, by Robert Duncan. Ed. by Michael Boughn & Victor Coleman
by Peter Campion:

I mean that there’s still germane power in Duncan’s image of the lyric self, his idea of how a poem both portrays and embodies personal experience, his belief that the poem is always bound up with the growth of the person. In this way, Duncan proves an unabashed Romantic. Remembering that first encounter with “Heat,” he writes of H.D.’s lines that “such a shaping was the directive of all simple urgencies—toward the pear, toward the poem, toward the person of a man.” Against the regnant doctrines of impersonality, Duncan wants poems with greater creaturely heat, and greater expressive capacity. Surprisingly, he finds this in the imagist lyrics of the nineteen-teens: “the idea of this being a perfect lyric, an ecstatic, a memorably shaped, moment, drew us away from recognition of the opening and closing address of the poem that cried out for release from such perfection.” Modernist poetry moved on from the imagist lyric, and Duncan himself was certainly never an epigrammatist. But his best work grew from this early glimpse of the poem as both a holding and a releasing of the lyric self.

Reading The H.D. Book seemed, to me at least, a good excuse to return to those poems of Duncan’s. His work stands on its own merits, but dipping into it again, I also wondered if it could have tonic value for contemporary poetry. Against those seemingly innovative writers who attempt to razor the traditional, subjective “I” from their poems because they suspect it of being an illusory construct, Duncan stands as a reminder of the primal, even anarchic, power of the lyric self. But his poems are not mere containers for expression either. Against poets who content themselves with the presentation of a personality, the retailing of anecdote, and the bantering of sensibility, Duncan offers a more expansive vision. In a 1971 letter to Denise Levertov, he claims that “the hidden and life-creative and destructive ID-entity underlying and overriding the conveniences of personal identity is what makes the difference between mere [sign in to see URL] significant craft.” Anyone delving into the self must go deeper than “personal identity,” just as anyone creating true art must go deeper than technical effect. For Duncan, the self is both a source and a potential adversary. It’s no wonder then that, like Pound, Duncan saw Robert Browning as the great precursor of modernist poets. In his historical and fictional monologues, Browning developed what Duncan calls “a form for the poet’s dramatic participation in other personalities in other times.” Duncan sees this form translating in the twentieth century into the modernist use of masks or personae, and even into surrealist methods of dream work, all of which reveal “that there is, back of poetry, some collective poetic unconscious.”

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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


Every once in a while I come across something online that reminds me of this thread and post it.

"Time for a new form of Romanticism, with mystical woo-woo effects and all, I sometimes think (there actually is a small proto-current of that around Flood Editions, maybe). Now THAT would be avant-garde, to give the finger to the oh-so-fashionable vulgar materialism and go back to Blake and really sing."

"(By the way, this is one major thing that distinguishes the new Brit avant from us—they worship the Romantics and strive to suck, with all of their might, the old into the new.)"

"Now, if all this seems somewhat fanciful and mirage-like, without any real relevance to that “where we are,” let me say this, and it’s very important to my point: The problem is that in our neo-avant moment of poesy, in our desert, where we are all stumbling, thirsting for what may give us meaning, 70% (my rough guess) of poets, so dazed and stunned to see, would dutifully crawl to the tube side first… And in the waste land, when you thirst, whether you realize where you are or not, that’s not the right move to make."

Excerpts written by Kent Johnson in the comment stream under the entry "Cole Swensen - Noise That Stays Noise" on John Gallaher's blog:

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Terreson Profile
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


In my mind, at least, this and the Postmodernism is Dead thread are related. I am following both, linking to many of the threads punctuating them. Mostly I am reading the thoughts and opinions linked to in the spirit of feeling I should know what is au currant in poetic thinking. In the same way I used to visit LangPo aesthetic thinking. Also in the same way I will, from time to time, read contemporary poets who don't do anything for me, but who have succeeded to a measure of success or, at least recognition.

A few thoughts.

In one of the discussions there is treated the question of poetry's relationship to the sciences, at least in terms of metaphor. I remember something about Robert Frost, that supreme pastoralist. From an early age he devoted much of his poetry to coming to terms with the sciences. He was determined to see through to the ends of science, to take in all the discoveries. He especially paid attention to both Darwin and Einstein.


~Stanlis’s early chapters go on to deal with Frost’s reactions to
various materialistic theories, and half of the book is devoted to
thinkers Frost admired or disdained. Stanlis shows that Frost’s decades-
long engagement with Darwin’s thought was profound and
multidimensional, and that he “clearly believed that new scientific
theories or discoveries, which were always subject to change, did
not destroy basic and enduring revealed religious truths,” but instead
“compelled mankind to modify its understanding of them”
(31). For Frost, human “evolution was an open-ended process, like
artistic creativity,” which combined “emotion, reason, intuition, the
senses, imagination, conscious and unconscious memory, free will,
and courage.” Creative evolution “ultimately involves the active
and productive achievements of individuals and the human species
that give shape and direction to culture and enduring civilization”
(53).
The poet felt that the “truths regarding matter as revealed by
science and the truths of spirit as contained in religion are among
the great metaphors by which mankind lives and finds meaning,”
and he believed that art, and poetry in particular, could utilize
metaphors to help tease out the tensions and connections between
the two branches of knowledge (32).
Frost came to think that social Darwinists had misrepresented
theories of creative evolution as much as “literal-minded fundamentalists
who condemned” Darwin’s “theory as a denial of Genesis
and all revealed religion” (38). For Frost, Thomas Henry Huxley,
his son Leonard, grandsons Julian and Aldous, and various followers,
including Herbert Spencer and H. G. Wells, provided a sharp
contrast to Darwin. Though these thinkers have often been closely
identified with Darwin, Frost thought that they engaged in “facile
spieling” and lacked Darwin’s intelligence, flexibility, and respect
for religion. Frost thought that Huxley and company placed much
too strong an emphasis on biology and rationality. Notably, Stanlis
aligns Frost with Pascal, who stressed the importance of intuition
and the relationship between the imagination, reason, and spirituality.
To Frost, Darwin’s theories provided a supplement to creative
evolution and were part of the process of distinguishing the ways
in which human nature differed from all other forms of life on
Earth. They pointed towards the recognition of an “open-ended
universe” and a rejection or modification of comparatively static
Truths of
science and
religion
“among
the great
metaphors
by which
mankind lives
and finds
meaning.”
The Hidden Depths in Robert Frost Humanitas • 115
paradigms such as the great chain of being.
Einstein’s theories were also central for Frost in this regard.
Stanlis devotes a chapter to examining how Einstein’s thought
“confirmed and enriched Frost’s own philosophical dualism”
(141) and how he used the “scientist’s ideas and metaphors regarding
time and curved-space in some of his poems” (142). Most
importantly, Stanlis illustrates how Frost’s “conception of knowledge
and understanding as metaphor” related to the idea of an
open-ended universe by locating the theory “within the historical
context of all previous theories that determined the worldview of
mankind in various epochs” (168). In the next chapter, “Frost and
Religion: The two Masques,” Stanlis examines Frost’s two long poems
(“A Masque of Mercy” and “A Masque of Reason”) to explore
how Frost’s “views towards the ambiguities in traditional religion
and modern science” form the philosophical basis for much of his
verse (168).~

The above paragraphs are from an article found online. Here is a link to the full essay:

[sign in to see URL]

So Frost not only embraced the sciences, he drew from them for both metaphor and meaning. Another science he paid close attention to was psychology. I think it is not generally recognized well enough just how much attention Frost paid to the darker side of the human psyche. To both motive and pathology.

I could draw from other poets to illustrate my point. But Frost's case does the main of the work for me. The supreme illustration might be the Goethe case. But, for Americans, Frost is closer to home. My point is this: I do not understand the several thinkers in poetics linked to coming to the question of poetry's relationship to science as if they are groundbreakers. They are not. Frost alone predates them by 100 years. Nor do I find what they have to say all that radical or new. According to the scholarship,except in conversation, Frost was not one to talk all that much about critical theories. What he thought he let his poetry express.

Another thought I have. I'm reading these links touching on, what?, on New Romanticism and even the resurrection of the author herself in poetry, the authorial voice Post-Moderns looked to kill off. And it comes to me: these poets are trying to get back to a place, poetically, some of us never left. I know I certainly haven't. There has always been a bit of the Romantic in my poetry, not only there either. And the Naturalist. The same is true of all the poets I read and who excite me the most: who speak to me essentially, to my soma. It is just that we have been shouted down since at least the mid-seventies. And ignored as irrelevant, even passe. So this New Romanticism does not come as a revelation to me. Here to I quote from a poet, someone I've quoted from many times, who, in the 1920s, called for something she called the New Romantic. It was in an essay she wrote and called A Prophecy of a Plea:

"If they are to succeed, their constitution must [sign in to see URL] power of wonder that begets wonder, and miracle, and prophecy. They will be egoists and romanticists all, but romantics with the courage of realism: they will put their hands on the mysterious contour of life not to force meaning out of [sign in to see URL] press meaning upon it, outstare the stony countenance of it, make it flush with their own colors."

This is a definition of the New Romantic I can still run with. And if asked who I think is the supreme embodiment of the type I don't even have to pause. It is, of course, Leonard Cohen. I suppose if there is any value in what these thinkers have to say it is that they express a pendulum swing.

Every time I check in to see what is au currant, or new, in poetic thinking, I not only find a precedent, but an example of a more fully realized aesthetic in the so-called Moderns. This has been going on since I first decided to seriously take on LangPo and its linguistic based proclevities.

I feel for poets coming along nowadays who lack the grounding in the record and the canon. They look to these older people for guidance, people my age I'll guess, That truly hurts the heart. And I want to say: Forget about your contemporaries and even your elders. Go deep time, even back as far as that first archetype of poetry's Way. Orpheus.

Reading back. My aplogies for the messiness of the article cited from at length. It is in PDF and does not carry over well.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Nov/5/2011, 2:50 pm
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


Tere is right that this thread and the one entitled "Postmodernism is Dead" are running on parallel tracks at the moment, so at the risk of redundancy and because a month or two from now I may forget this entwainment [entwine and entrain combined], I am dual posting this.

New Romanticism

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The article begins with this quote by Novalis:

"The world must be romanticized. In this way its original meaning will be rediscovered. To romanticize is nothing but a qualitative heightening. In this process the lower self becomes identified with a better self. (…) Insofar as I present the commonplace with significance, the ordinary with mystery, the familiar with the seemliness of the unfamiliar and the finite with the semblance of the infinite, I romanticize it."

Last edited by Katlin, Nov/12/2011, 8:42 am
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Thank you for your persistence, Kat. I finally read the article. Here is my response posted on the MegaModernism blog.

~Article brought to my attention by a fellow member of a poetry board. It makes for a good read. My only objection might be: how do you pin on a Riker mount an inclination all Romantic types are possessed of without killing it? I might argue as well that this same inclination has never actually left the scene. It just went subterranean for a quarter century or so, surfacing, when it has, in lyric poetry especially.~


It occurs to me that a case in point of how the Romantic has kept alive, surfacing occassionally, has to be Libra's EV ezine. The Romantic is always, and at the same time, both going after what is unchartable while insisting on the individual freedom needed to do so. The second insistence being what makes the Romantic type political. Just like Shelley was and adamantly. And I mean it when I say the Romantic inclination has never left the scene. Just been shouted down or shunned.

Tere
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This thread absolutely calls out to get brought forward, not lost in the stacks. It is a sadness to me how few poets are who bother to think about, not so much what they do, but what it is they are doing, involved in. Socrates was right about one thing at least: the unthought life is not worth living.

Kind of blown away by how much Katlin brought to the board. It all starting with her thread's subject: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry. A year or so later, bothering to reread the thread, I notice something else. Her posts read like a ledger sheet. You got your credit side and you got your debit side. For/Against. Yes/No. Abelard's greatest work he called just that: Sic et Non. Yes and No. First philosopher in Christendom, at least, to bother about questions involving what is real and what is not.

The Silliman case, or that of LangPo, Post Modernist poets looking to bring deconstructionist ideas in linguistics to poetry in general, picques me again. Something I should have immediately thought about when I first took on their aesthetic sense. I want to call it their anti-aesthetic sense. It is this: the impossibility of their position and their critique. Theirs has nothing to do with poetry. They never understood that poetry is less an active than it is a passive activity, as Houseman put it. Less an intellectual than a physical activity. Along the way they looked to kill off the author, at its simplest the lyrical I addressing Thou. At its most complexioned the dramatic poem, play, always and still a kind of ritual, ritualized enactment involving myth. Author killed off they then looked to deconstruct poetic language, saying, since it is value based, it must always be local, particular to a given culture's biases. Of course poetic language is value based. Not much isn't. But the case has been proven over and over and over again. That poetic language, a cultural product, can and does draw on the archetype, the eternal idea that, based in the human psyche, transits all cultures, all cultural biases. I take my proof for the evidence of archetype(s) from biology. That in all species of animals there are innate forms and shapes from birth. It is called the gestalt of form. It is what enables immediate, again from birth, recognition of forms. Case demonstrated in what might be the queen of all the sciences.

So the position of the postmodernists in poetry I can liken to the most soundly discredited of philosophical branches, discredited since Kant. That of metaphysics. Meta is a weird Greek word. It can mean before, after, or above. In the case of metaphysics it can mean before, after, or above the physical. With it philosophers looked to come upon all these positions: what is before, after, or above the physical. In other words the ultimate stance of reality. Philosophers tend to think now the human brain is not wired in such a way that it can know what is before what is real. Others go a step further and say, categorically, there is nothing before, after, or above what is real, even what is physical.

Personally, I can't know about such things. As a poet I can say I am not much concerned with what might stand outside what I've experienced in my soma. I've experienced what can go by the name of the mystical. But I don't view that as standing outside my comprehensions, my ken, of experience. To my point:

Silliman and company never have actually concerned themselves with poetry, certainly not with poetics. Rather, theirs has been an attention devoted to what I'll call metapoetics. What, again, stands before, after, above poetry. What even stands outside poetry. How, then, can they think they can tell me anything about poetry itself? Categorically they cannot, since, it has never been what they've attended to.

My first response to Katlin's thread was to draw attention to this thing called the personal/universal. If lyric poetry's first condition is the I/Thou address its big prize is the personal/universal address. I draw out my condition in such a way so that 2,000 years from now it reaches a reader. Not because of my condition but because it flips a switch speaking to hers. That is what lyric poetry does. That is what the autobiographical in poetry can do. If such were not the case I could not read the poetry of Sappho or Archilochos or Ovid or Sextus Propertius and know they have spoken to me personally, felt in my body.

There you go, Katlin. What your perigrinations bring me to.

Tere
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libramoon Profile
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Re: Does Autobiography Make Good Poetry?


Rituals for Worshipping Beauty (triptych)
 

Life's a Mad Dog in Heat; But At Least There's Art
 
I want a poem, painting, song
to be authentic
heart to heart,
mind to mind
Not to tell me something about you;
to show me more of me.

* * *
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Katlin Profile
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Hey libra,

You have reminded me of one of my favorite qutoes about reading:

"We read to know that we are not alone.”
― C.S. Lewis

I think that's true. I know that's one of the reasons I've always loved to read and read so much.
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Katlin Profile
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I read an article this morning that got me to thinking about writing rules. You know, the ones we all accumulate along the writing road. One of the rules I was taught somewhere along my writing path was: Don't use "you" in a poem. That one stopped me for a while. But just a while. What happens when the "I" becomes a "you" and starts "singing"?

Singing is a perilous business. What does it mean to be next to oneself, seeing and/or singing one’s self in time as a rhetorical figure, disembodied and refigured as an embodied line of verse? To be spoken not just in the act of writing, but to be spoken and present and remain intimately embodied in some posthumous time as well—to accept this haunted occupation of poetry? I think of this vamping or throwing of the voice as a kind of homespun amerikun version of the aorist tense—a sonic blurring in time. It’s exhausting and sometimes overwhelming to give oneself over to the pressures and responsibilities and the real depths of writing and reading, and to employ language as an instrument that might give some form of relief to this otherwise dark process of time and its passage, in an historical sense but also within one’s own body.

Then “why am I afraid to sing,” you ask? Madness? Overindulgence? Failure? I accept all three of those conditions, and am willing to let my line seem ungainly or misshapen in order to refigure my voice so as to open a threshold to other orders of sense or reality. Simply, life is strange (at least for me) and a life in poetry is strange and gets stranger as one journeys further into it—and as my ambition for modes of expression grows, so does my humility and doubt. I want to insist on my own asymmetrical and restless and fallible imagination, and go further into it to embrace mystery as a useful mode of research. I think that one essential preoccupation of poetry is to forge its own terms, even if these terms may at times be seen as absurd, odd, or obsolete.




"Poetry at the Threshold: Peter Gizzi on lyric selfhood and the perils of singing."

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Well, I was trying to find a Bly quote I once posted online, couldn't find it, but I took a big trip into the wayback machine:

“The dance of the intellect words among words” is fine, but if those words never engage the body, never reach the heart, never touch upon the mystery, we’re still chasing the tail end of our own minds; we’re still living in the wasteland.

Tere, I'm having that feeling you mentioned having the other day when you came across an old poem you couldn't remember writing: who wrote this stuff?!?

[url][sign in to see URL]

If you want to stumble and fall the way I just did, jump into the wayback machine for yourself:

The Body and Intimacy in Poetry

[url][sign in to see URL]

I don't know

[url][sign in to see URL]

Ah, the good ole days. lol

As to the Bly quote, looks like I'm going to have to look it up from scratch.

Last edited by Katlin, May/30/2012, 6:42 pm
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Okay, I found the quote after all:

The poet does not insist on presenting all the events of his life, and does not refuse to present them either. He brings in enough to make the poem his, but is sparing, so that space opens behind the details, just as there is space between stars in a constellation, so that through the space the reader may see the outer world, may see the mountain light. Anna Akhmatova is a master of this sparing use of detail. The poems clearly come from her “life,” yet through them we glimpse something else, not “hers.”

Robert Bly, News of the Universe

Three Questions

[url][sign in to see URL]

I have one positive thing to say about those not quite forgotten days: without them this board would not exist. There is that.
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