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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On competence

Kasey on competence (& wit) here

& then more here


Still thinking [first smooshed that into "stilling"] but to relate this to my own frustrations with poems (with Poetry?), my own (especially) and others (sure, often) being so "poemlike." Lately, oh f*ck, when I can see what I am going to do before I do it, and see what you're doing before I read it, it makes me groan/want to rip and ball go for the three-point go read something else (like a novel).

I'd really rather a poem just be bad. Willfully bad. Messy. (Alice Notley doesn't neaten anything, by the way.
let us substitute for you a more agreeable poet
you may substitute for me your splinter thought.
and if you ever desire to know
what your evil is composed of
the mirror is everywhere frame encrusted with
decorative carven lilies
commissioned by you. "follow your discomfort"
                                                         but you
acknowledge none. what
can the spirit say to you?

So yeah, there's a current type or a contemporary set of rote moves and these come fairly easily to quite a few people--once you've seen them if you're a passable mimic, well. (Not sure I'd blame the magazines for this & can say from my own mag-editing experience, that people after a while do begin to send a certain kind of thing thinking that it will "fit." It's the idea of fitting that's maybe the obstacle, for *both* the editor and the writer, yeah? Fitting works nicely though for the the critic, who attempts to describe the milieu/scene/zeitgeist by applying the concept of "fitting" either positively or negatively, once it's been identified/defined.)

Added: I think Lanny and Stan Apps both make good points in Kasey's comment streams, Lanny drawing a parallel between flora and us poetically inclinded fauna (out of all the possible shapes efflorescences could have been, they are these due to the common/shared restraints/conditions/fertilities of evolution) and Stan makes some headway with his assertion that "competence" is a "group bias." Nathan Austin's post is also a good one, bringing in ideas about art-by-committee or poll-results, i.e. what we could think of as Poetic Pandering (which is about as stunningly effective as it is in our So-Called Democracy.)

To get on with the ramble: if I/you can make a poem almost with my/your eyes shut, or like getting dressed in the morning not even awake (shirt + pant + shoes = dressed, but without flair), a particular kind of poem anyway, then it's not really a poem, is it? It's just passing for a poem?

Of course writing a poem should not be like speed-dial. When phoning it in, try to hang up. (Talking to myself, uh huh.)

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