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TL Murphy
December 22nd, 2018, 03:42 AM
Can I defend my poem? Should I? Does it meet defensible criteria? Should it? Or does that matter? What's the difference between defending a poem and defending poetry? Is it the same thing?

Darren White
December 22nd, 2018, 09:41 AM
For me defending poetry is general, defending a poem more personal. I don't think poetry in general needs defending, unless it is against people who think poetry is just an unimportant 'thing'.

I don't think I should defend my poetry, although sometimes I DO defend it, which is weird the same time, because when that poem is out there it is not mine anymore and readers should be able to adhere their own interpretation to it. But still, some poems feel like babies and then I am inclined to defend them

You can ask yourself, what or who am I defending? Isn't it more a question of getting defensive? Shutting down the windows and closing the doors and not hearing anything anymore?

escorial
December 22nd, 2018, 10:30 AM
If you post it the great unwashed will always want to engage about the content... it's up to you how much you engage with mortals....

Bloggsworth
December 22nd, 2018, 10:38 AM
How long is a [piece of string? An old question, but apposite, some context would be helpful. Defensible in what context? Use of language, deliberate distortion of the rules of syntax and grammar? Content? The deliberate overiding of social mores? As I said, how long is a piece of string.

As for defending poetry, it doesn't need defending, it is what it is.

Guard Dog
December 22nd, 2018, 11:41 AM
If a thing exists, it doesn't need defending.

A person's opinion on whether it should or needs to is the only questionable part of the equation.


G.D.

JustRob
December 22nd, 2018, 05:47 PM
Despite not being a regular poet I think that there is an eternal triangle here.

Does the poem fulfil or violate the relevant expectations of poetry?

Do the relevant aspects of poetry themselves fulfil or violate the expectations of people?

Does the poem directly fulfil or violate the expectations of people?

In any situation the answers to these three questions may be quite independent of each other and only regular poets can see the whole picture and establish what they see as an acceptable balance.

Outsider
December 23rd, 2018, 08:57 PM
A poem is water. It can create life and it can be lost between cracks or evaporate. Where it creates life its value is self-evident. Where it has been lost or evaporated, arguing its value will convince no one. Save your breath and don't defend poetry. Perhaps help people understand what is before them and let them make up their own minds about its value to them. They will be right. Your reward is if it creates life somewhere.

luckyscars
December 24th, 2018, 03:47 AM
Whether creative work needs defending or not depends rests on the nature of the attack, the clout of the attacker and how this relates to the intent of the author for their work. Nobody has any business asserting opinions in the language of generalizations on this sort of subject IMO. The soundbites and platitudes are worthless.

Example: If a piece is written with children as its target audience and school boards nationwide are seeking to ban it from school libraries due to a misunderstanding/overreaction concerning some aspect of content, it seems pretty bad advice to say "you don't need to defend your work, Julia". No. If you believe your work has something important to say and the reading of it was incorrect and that by defending it there is a chance you can fix that, then of course you should in that situation defend your poem/short story/novel/whatever. Otherwise everybody loses.

All this is not the same as to suggest one live in constant conflict with the judgments of any Tom, Dick and Harry or being combative. That won't help your work or your sanity. But I don't think its controversial to suggest all writers should view their work with a critical eye and be able to explain it appropriately if it serves their interest and the interest of their readers.

Gumby
December 24th, 2018, 04:09 PM
Can I defend my poem? Should I? Does it meet defensible criteria? Should it? Or does that matter? What's the difference between defending a poem and defending poetry? Is it the same thing?

You really know how to ask a question. Aside from the grammar/tense and all 'kitchen business', I suspect that we all bring so much of ourselves to a poem, whether we are reading someone's poem, (making it ours) or writing our own, that it makes us feel defensive of it, or our interpretation.

When I write a poem, that doesn't mean that the poem is about me, as they often seem to just come out from the collective, as does my interpretation of someone else's poem, I'm not sure how you can defend that, or if you even should.

TL Murphy
December 25th, 2018, 05:34 AM
You really know how to ask a question. Aside from the grammar/tense and all 'kitchen business', I suspect that we all bring so much of ourselves to a poem, whether we are reading someone's poem, (making it ours) or writing our own, that it makes us feel defensive of it, or our interpretation.

When I write a poem, that doesn't mean that the poem is about me, as they often seem to just come out from the collective, as does my interpretation of someone else's poem, I'm not sure how you can defend that, or if you even should.


In my enthusiasm, I asked seven questions (count the question marks). But it's really all one question. I just haven't been able to formulate it properly. I would be grateful if someone could summarize my original comment in one succinct question, because I don't really think there is an answer. In this case I think a good rhetorical question is probably more valuable than the many possible answers.

There is an inherent dilemma in the question, "should a poem be defensible?" In academic circles (which is the driving authority, despite the Beats and Bukowski, of any artistic institution) this situation is paramount because a work of art in the academic world must show its contribution to the greater relevance of artistic evolution.

On the other hand, pure artistic expression must be free of cultural expectations. And yet for art to be relevant socially, it must engage a cultural context and in that way the artist should be able to show that relevance. The point is - what is cultural relevance? Is it the main stream culture at large or is it the experimental spark of innovation. Taking this nuance further, does defending a poem's relevance compromise its innovative reach?

luckyscars
December 27th, 2018, 05:59 AM
There is an inherent dilemma in the question, "should a poem be defensible?" In academic circles (which is the driving authority, despite the Beats and Bukowski, of any artistic institution) this situation is paramount because a work of art in the academic world must show its contribution to the greater relevance of artistic evolution.

On the other hand, pure artistic expression must be free of cultural expectations. And yet for art to be relevant socially, it must engage a cultural context and in that way the artist should be able to show that relevance. The point is - what is cultural relevance? Is it the main stream culture at large or is it the experimental spark of innovation. Taking this nuance further, does defending a poem's relevance compromise its innovative reach?

But isn't this why most critics don't create and most academics are not artists? Studying "contribution to the greater relevance of artistic evolution" is a fine and noble pursuit but surely it is entirely different from the nuts and bolts of creativity...

Your question seems to assume that a writer cannot write freely while also writing in a way that is conscientious and aware of the socio-political landscape or whatever...and I think that is demonstrably a false premise. If anything being willing and able to defend ones work is usually the mark of an independent mind, not a compromised one.

I know of no instance where being aware of cultural context - and being able to defend ones work - has impacted creativity. Do you? What tends to be called "cultural expectations" comes down to basically "not being jerk", and the rules tend to be lenient. Enough that unless one is intent on writing some extremely transgressional subject matter in an extremely obnoxious way I don't know if there can be any threat to innovation from mainstream culture at large.

TL Murphy
October 13th, 2019, 10:55 PM
But isn't this why most critics don't create and most academics are not artists? Studying "contribution to the greater relevance of artistic evolution" is a fine and noble pursuit but surely it is entirely different from the nuts and bolts of creativity...

Your question seems to assume that a writer cannot write freely while also writing in a way that is conscientious and aware of the socio-political landscape or whatever...and I think that is demonstrably a false premise. If anything being willing and able to defend ones work is usually the mark of an independent mind, not a compromised one.

I know of no instance where being aware of cultural context - and being able to defend ones work - has impacted creativity. Do you? What tends to be called "cultural expectations" comes down to basically "not being jerk", and the rules tend to be lenient. Enough that unless one is intent on writing some extremely transgressional subject matter in an extremely obnoxious way I don't know if there can be any threat to innovation from mainstream culture at large.

To the contrary, I think most published poetry is written by academics, who seem to be the gate keepers of artistic endeavor but not necessarily the creative avant guard. Defending one's work, necessarily engages the language of the academy where it falls under the the judgement of the gatekeepers. A refusal to defend does not mean the work is indefensible but it sidesteps the gatekeeper.

Darren White
October 14th, 2019, 05:34 AM
Lucky, have you read anything written by Federico García Lorca?
He might surprise you.

EDIT
I see it's an "old" reply by Luckyscars, but still valid :)

Pelwrath
October 25th, 2019, 06:19 PM
A poem is only defensible if it's attacked and I know about feeling a poem was attacked. Now, if you mean, should a poem be explained, that's a different question. A poem is the artistic expression of it's writers emotional ideas. Yes, explain your poem if you feel the need. You might have written it as if you were the reader and that' where problems can begin.

Bloggsworth
October 29th, 2019, 11:18 PM
Only if the reader wants to defend it against his own interpretation of it - After all, a poem, once read, belongs to the reader...

TL Murphy
October 30th, 2019, 08:17 PM
Again, I'm going to claim a classical art education which includes - Art for art's sake - James McNeill Whistler. He sued John Ruskin who claimed Whistler's nocturnes were "hurling a pot of paint into the eye of the public." The published criticism resulted in a sudden drop in commissions for Whistler who won the law suit. He was awarded one penny and was financially ruined by the expense of the trial.

However, THIS is not why one shouldn't defend ones art. To defend ones art is to admit attempts to claim it can be attacked validate the concept of attacking art. Art cannot be attacked. Attacking art is like owning a flying badger. Badgers don't fly. Art is not something which can be attacked. Another way to put this is: By convincing oneself one is attacking art one only demonstrates one hasn't a clue what art is. And, by that same token, in defending ones art against this imagined attack one demonstrates one knows as little about art as the would-be attacker.

Art, as was said previously, is an expression. An expression is ones own entirely. No one can say an expression is incorrect. An expression just is. It is a phenomena, and only partially exists as an object. One cannot say the atmosphere is incorrect. The atmosphere just is as it is, and in this fashion so is artistic expression. Even if the artist him or herself believes the particular expression is inadequate in some fashion, any remedy would have to apply to the next expression. It's too late to apply it to the one in question - the one which has already occurred.

Artists critique their work in an endeavor to bring their future expressions closer and closer to an imagined purity. Other artists might critique the work in this fashion, however this critique traditionally deals with specifics about the work and is never discussed in terms of absolutes. To decry or declaim a work of art - to claim it is not art is to attempt to enforce an absolute over it. You might as well try to paint the air.


A well stated perspective. Thank you.

On the other hand, there are those who say if you can't defend it, or refuse to defend it, then you don't know what you're doing. Perhaps "defend" is not the right semantic choice here, since it implies an attack. But we do use the word 'defend' when we mean 'to respond to criticism.' So when I pose the question, "should poem be defensible?" - perhaps a better way to pose the question might be, "Should a poem be constructed in a way that is recognizable as a poem and utilizes those elements that differentiate poetry from other forms of writing?" In addition, "Is the quality of a poem something that should be considered, or is quality in art too subjective to be discussed?

TL Murphy
October 31st, 2019, 09:08 PM
Perhaps Mozart's words are a defense. Basically, he is saying that no one can say which notes to remove, therefore, no notes should be removed. I am also reminded of a scene in the movie about van Gogh, title "On the Edge of Eternity" or something like that. The abbot of the monastery that runs the insane asylum where van Gogh is recovering, is charged with deciding if Vincent is sane enough to release. He says to van Gogh,

"You say you paint and you call yourself a painter?"

"Yes, I'm a painter," says van Gogh.

"And you painted this. You call this a painting."

"Yes, that's may painting."

"But why do you paint like this? It's so ugly."

"I think, maybe, I paint for people in the future."

clark
November 1st, 2019, 12:57 AM
Zen stories often feature a novice asking,"Master, what is Zen?" or "How can I describe/define Zen?" And just as often, the novice gets a sharp rap on the head as an 'answer'. In whacking the novice, the Master is not asserting that the question is unanswerable; rather, he is chastising the novice for feeling it was legitimate to ask the question in the first place. The distinction is important: the question itself is not 'wrong'; it is 'wrong' (IE counterproductive) for the novice to bring his rational mind to bear on a metarational 'issue'. Levels of perception, I would suggest, come into play in pursuing the analogy. The Master KNOWS that the rational path is just that, a predetermined methodology doomed even by the syntax of the question, exacerbated by the wrongheadedness of the novice. Nirvanah is 'found'--I rather like Keats's sense of 'recognition'--within the individual's embrace of the ineffable. So, as Sustrai wisely suggests, when a person ignorant of Art (the Zen novice) presses for some kind of 'definition', the poet (Master) would be wise to walk away or otherwise deflect (a clout on the head is not recommended). Offering an answer would just dig a hole for yourself. The poe​t's perception of the poem, if not of Poetry, is clear. Revealed in the seeing and hearing. But 'explaining' in necessarily linear language what it is or what it means may elude him/her because when engaged in that activity, he/she is distanced from the poem as a commentator.

This discussion revolves around the various Perceivers of the poem. The aural element of the poem, for example, is the music of poetry and, in free verse especially, is perceived by the poet of value as a critical embedded part of content. It is the vehicle that carries the substance of the poem forward, that along with all the other 'devices' renders the poem greater than the sum of its parts. Another Perceiver of the poem is the enlightened and sensitive reader, who brings to the poem the clothing of the culture from which it arises. This reader represents the cultural nexus or ethos that acknowledges the poem as an integral part of its culture and which, ultimately--after we got over our incestuous love affair with IA Richards and Cleanth Brooks and the isolationism of the New Criticism-pushed-too-far--derives larger emotional value from the poem. The remaining Perceiver of the poem is the literary critic, who is really just an 'enlightened and sensitive reader' who writes about his/her enlightenment and sensitivity.


IT'S ALL GOOD, in my opinion, because humans cannot stop speculating and exploring and trying to understand, and engaging in all of the above helps us enjoy Art on more levels and deeper levels than if we threw our hands in the air when we realized that the mystery of the poem is what appeals, and we will never unravel that mystery. If we insist we CAN unravel it, we are fools bringing dull knives to a gunfight. And although the poets own all the guns, once they pull the trigger the effect ​belongs to the world, which may ask for defense. Or not.

TL Murphy
November 1st, 2019, 04:10 AM
By such reasoning, Clark, we should all walk away from these discussions, or slap each other on the head, the latter of which could get you banned.

RHPeat
November 1st, 2019, 06:29 AM
Tim

To say you defend the poem or poetry is to imply there is a weakness in the poem or poetry that needs defending. It implies you are building a wall around the artwork. Artwork that puts up a barrier between others is an absolute loss. It fails to be art to stir emotions. I don't need to defend my poetry at all. I try to eliminate all weaknesses from my work. However I am more than willing to discus at length what I've written with another poet who might understand the wordings as a higher state of consciousness as elevated artistic language. Poems should stand on their own merit without the poet attached, if the they are well written. If artwork needs defining; you are saying there is a flaw within the work, and if you want the flaw to be there it part of the poems presentation. If form is content incorporates a flaw as part of the intent; the artwork doesn't need defending because it is intentional as part of the creative process of deliberate organization and composing. If there is no offense — what the hell are you defending. Be the master of your own work and there will never be any real offense. The artwork will stand as it is as real art. And anyone can choose to like or dislike it as part of the personal view of the world as a whole. Real art never tries to control anyone. It asks others to take the adventure of realization, revelation and epiphany.

a poet friend.
RH Peat

TL Murphy
November 1st, 2019, 05:42 PM
Touché, Ron! I think I'm done here.

clark
November 1st, 2019, 09:14 PM
Tim --you may reject my reasoning as flawed, perhaps because you've found errors in logic or omissions of critical fact, but to focus only on the 'Perceiver-dolts' in a more complex presentation, seems a little exclusive. You both liked and thanked Sustrai's excellent post #15, which a little later you called "a well-stated perspective" (and I heartily agree), but my perspective is in the same arena as Sustrai's, so I'm very interested in the difference you see between the two.

Please do not be "done" with this discussion! Your contributions, and the questions you have posed, are at the very core of what we all attempt as poets. We need the play of your mind in the ongoing discussion.

For example, you, Sustrai [anyone else noticed that this word is an acrostic or cryptogram for 'artisus', art-is-us? Interesting. . .], and Ron have prompted me to this shocking realization: we eschew ego in our work, both as poets and as critics, but when a poet turns away from or declines response to someone who 'attacks' the poem--is not that turning away an act of ultimate egotism? The poet is essentially saying, "That poem stands alone. It is DONE. It is free of me. It is free of you. It is unalterable and sacred." Or, as Sustrai puts it: any changes "would have to apply to the next expression. It's too late to apply it to the one in question - the one which has already occurred." So putting up "Revision 1" or "Revision 2" is a fraudulent label. The poet is real-ly putting up a different poem, not a 'revised' one.

clark
November 3rd, 2019, 12:41 AM
Sustrai -- to take your last point first: If an artist presents a piece publicly with no motive or intent beyond sending it into the world, and a group seizes on that piece as their 'poster child' and uses it to inflame others to commit violent, perhaps fatal acts, then the artist bears no responsibility for what might ensue. If the artist is commissioned by an incendiary group to create a piece designed for violent purposes, then he is just a propagandist and should share responsibility for what might ensue. But even those seemingly clear examples get muddled. For example, the famous charge of the British Light Brigade against superior Russian artillery positions during the Crimean War in 1854, was an appalling cluster-fuck of errors and incompetence among British field officers. The charge was an utter failure resulting in the deaths of a couple of hundred men and over 300 horses. Military records suggest that a couple of senior officers should have been court-martialled for this debacle, but the event came to stand as a celebration of British courage and determination. Tennyson, appointed Poet Laureate four years earlier, wrote one of his best-known poems, "The Charge of the Light Brigade", in which he aggrandizes the British military and ennobles this foolish and abortive engagement. The poem was hugely popular and a source of great comfort for Queen Victoria, prevailing over British expansionism into the greatest Empire the world has ever known. The poem contributed to public complacence about the 'rightness' of British values. Given this effect of the poem, can we critique it as a poem per se or is it so encrusted in tradition that the tradition itself becomes part of the reading? Finally, should we even bother speculating about the artistic/moral status of poems-with-history/tradition intruding on the standalone requirement for a poem? Is there a net gain in such speculation.

I'm posting this part now, because I may not get at the more interesting perspectives for awhile.

TL Murphy
November 3rd, 2019, 05:39 AM
Tim --you may reject my reasoning as flawed, perhaps because you've found errors in logic or omissions of critical fact, but to focus only on the 'Perceiver-dolts' in a more complex presentation, seems a little exclusive. You both liked and thanked Sustrai's excellent post #15, which a little later you called "a well-stated perspective" (and I heartily agree), but my perspective is in the same arena as Sustrai's, so I'm very interested in the difference you see between the two.

Please do not be "done" with this discussion! Your contributions, and the questions you have posed, are at the very core of what we all attempt as poets. We need the play of your mind in the ongoing discussion.

For example, you, Sustrai [anyone else noticed that this word is an acrostic or cryptogram for 'artisus', art-is-us? Interesting. . .], and Ron have prompted me to this shocking realization: we eschew ego in our work, both as poets and as critics, but when a poet turns away from or declines response to someone who 'attacks' the poem--is not that turning away an act of ultimate egotism? The poet is essentially saying, "That poem stands alone. It is DONE. It is free of me. It is free of you. It is unalterable and sacred." Or, as Sustrai puts it: any changes "would have to apply to the next expression. It's too late to apply it to the one in question - the one which has already occurred." So putting up "Revision 1" or "Revision 2" is a fraudulent label. The poet is real-ly putting up a different poem, not a 'revised' one.


Clark, the discussion has splintered into various threads so I don't think I can address them all. If you are asking me why I did not equate your comment with Sustrai's or Ron's ( I assume you mean the one that started with the Zen story) I can only say that it is a matter of clarity. Both of their comments made sense to me. I'm not sure what your comment was saying. I couldn't understand it. I did understand the Zen story, and that is what I commented on. If you were saying the same thing as Sustrai then I missed the message.






This discussion revolves around the various Perceivers of the poem. The aural element of the poem, for example, is the music of poetry and, in free verse especially, is perceived by the poet of value as a critical embedded part of content. It is the vehicle that carries the substance of the poem forward, that along with all the other 'devices' renders the poem greater than the sum of its parts. Another Perceiver of the poem is the enlightened and sensitive reader, who brings to the poem the clothing of the culture from which it arises. This reader represents the cultural nexus or ethos that acknowledges the poem as an integral part of its culture and which, ultimately--after we got over our incestuous love affair with IA Richards and Cleanth Brooks and the isolationism of the New Criticism-pushed-too-far--derives larger emotional value from the poem. The remaining Perceiver of the poem is the literary critic, who is really just an 'enlightened and sensitive reader' who writes about his/her enlightenment and sensitivity.




​Sorry Clark, whatever you are saying in the above, I don't get what it has to do with "defense" of a poem. Do you mean Gwyneth Brooks? I am totally mystified by the sentence "our incestuous love affair with IA Richards and Cleanth Brooks and the isolationism of the New Criticism-pushed-too-far--derives..." etc.. I haven't a clue what you're on about. It makes me see white spots in front of my eyes.

As far as every posted revision being a new poem, how could you say that? If I change one word in my poem or remove an article, it's a new poem? I don't think my poems are ever finished. I've revised several poems after they were published in reputable magazines. It's still the same poem. Just better.

RHPeat
November 3rd, 2019, 11:33 AM
Tim --you may reject my reasoning as flawed, perhaps because you've found errors in logic or omissions of critical fact, but to focus only on the 'Perceiver-dolts' in a more complex presentation, seems a little exclusive. You both liked and thanked Sustrai's excellent post #15, which a little later you called "a well-stated perspective" (and I heartily agree), but my perspective is in the same arena as Sustrai's, so I'm very interested in the difference you see between the two.

Please do not be "done" with this discussion! Your contributions, and the questions you have posed, are at the very core of what we all attempt as poets. We need the play of your mind in the ongoing discussion.

For example, you, Sustrai [anyone else noticed that this word is an acrostic or cryptogram for 'artisus', art-is-us? Interesting. . .], and Ron have prompted me to this shocking realization: we eschew ego in our work, both as poets and as critics, but when a poet turns away from or declines response to someone who 'attacks' the poem--is not that turning away an act of ultimate egotism? The poet is essentially saying, "That poem stands alone. It is DONE. It is free of me. It is free of you. It is unalterable and sacred." Or, as Sustrai puts it: any changes "would have to apply to the next expression. It's too late to apply it to the one in question - the one which has already occurred." So putting up "Revision 1" or "Revision 2" is a fraudulent label. The poet is real-ly putting up a different poem, not a 'revised' one.

Clark

A little story from Zen Flesh Zen Bones compiled by Paul Reps.


11. Joshu Examines a Monk in Meditation:

Joshu went to a place where a monk had retired to meditate and asked him: "What is, is what?"

The monk raised his fist.

Joshu replied: "Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow." And he left.

A few days later Joshu went again to visit the monk and asked the same question.

The monk answered the same way.

Joshu said: "Well given, well taken, well killed, well save." An he bowed to the monk.


Mumon's Comment:
The raised fist was the same both times. Why is it Joshu did not admit the first and approved the second one? Where is the fault?

Whoever answers this knows that Joshu's tongue has no bone so he can use it freely. Yet perhaps Joshu is wrong. Or, through that monk, he may have discovered his mistake.

If anyone thinks that the one's insight exceeds the other's he has no eyes.






The light of the eyes is as a comet,
And Zen's activity is as lightning.
The sword that kills the man
Is the sword that saves the man.

RHPeat
November 3rd, 2019, 11:45 AM
Clark

A little story from Zen Flesh Zen Bones compiled by Paul Reps.


11. Joshu Examines a Monk in Meditation:

Joshu went to a place where a monk had retired to meditate and asked him: "What is, is what?"

The monk raised his fist.

Joshu replied: "Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow." And he left.

A few days later Joshu went again to visit the monk and asked the same question.

The monk answered the same way.

Joshu said: "Well given, well taken, well killed, well save." An he bowed to the monk.


Mumon's Comment:
The raised fist was the same both times. Why is it Joshu did not admit the first and approved the second one? Where is the fault?

Whoever answers this knows that Joshu's tongue has no bone so he can use it freely. Yet perhaps Joshu is wrong. Or, through that monk, he may have discovered his mistake.

If anyone thinks that the one's insight exceeds the other's, he has no eyes.






The light of the eyes is as a comet,
And Zen's activity is as lightning.
The sword that kills the man
Is the sword that saves the man.




Shall we say the poem is the sword in question here. And the monk anyone that reads the poem. The poet is Joshu. Does the poet need to defend his work? He only needs to bow to the reader amid his own perception. Or if you want to turn it around the reader bows to the poet for the poem (sword) is its own defense. To quote Mumon: If anyone thinks that the one's insight exceeds the other's, he has no eyes.

TL Murphy
November 3rd, 2019, 11:26 PM
However, THIS is not why one shouldn't defend ones art. To defend ones art is to admit attempts to claim it can be attacked validate the concept of attacking art. Art cannot be attacked. Attacking art is like owning a flying badger. Badgers don't fly. Art is not something which can be attacked. Another way to put this is: By convincing oneself one is attacking art one only demonstrates one hasn't a clue what art is. And, by that same token, in defending ones art against this imagined attack one demonstrates one knows as little about art as the would-be attacker.

Art, as was said previously, is an expression. An expression is ones own entirely. No one can say an expression is incorrect. An expression just is. It is a phenomena, and only partially exists as an object. One cannot say the atmosphere is incorrect. The atmosphere just is as it is, and in this fashion so is artistic expression. Even if the artist him or herself believes the particular expression is inadequate in some fashion, any remedy would have to apply to the next expression. It's too late to apply it to the one in question - the one which has already occurred.

Artists critique their work in an endeavor to bring their future expressions closer and closer to an imagined purity. Other artists might critique the work in this fashion, however this critique traditionally deals with specifics about the work and is never discussed in terms of absolutes. To decry or declaim a work of art - to claim it is not art is to attempt to enforce an absolute over it. You might as well try to paint the air.


I think the whole reason I brought this question up stems back to an incident that happened to me in college. I did my last semester in England through my school's abroad program. It was a liberal arts college and I was majoring in literature. I was doing well, maintaining a high B average. We were required to take one course at the Polytechnique institute across the street from our campus. It was up to us to design and implement our own course of study. I chose photography because I had no experience with it. This was 1975, pre-digital. I was writing poetry anyway so my idea was to put together a book that offered opposing pages with a poem and a photograph side by side. It was really ekphrasic but I didn't know what ekphrasis was at the time. As far as I knew it was an original idea. Someone showed me how to use the camera and I would check one out on weekends and walk around the city taking pictures and then develop them in the darkroom. I really got into the darkroom effects and spent a lot of time there experimenting. I found the photos I liked and wrote poems to support them or I had some poems and created photos to support them. I finally got a body of work together. Did all the editing and layout. This was before computer printing, so I used a printing press, setting up every page on the metal plates with individual slugs for each letter, running the ink, pressing the paper, etc. It was a laborious process. I learned how to put the books together, using the perfect spine technique and trimmed all the pages. At the end of the project I had a stack of hand-made books that paired poems and photographs in ekphrasic expression. It represented many hours of work. I had learned a lot about photography and printing, and the process and pitfalls of combining two artforms. I was very proud of myself. The final exam was to present my work to the faculty. They asked me what I was doing. I showed them the book, thumbing through the pages. They asked me to explain it. I said, there's nothing to explain. The book speaks for itself. They asked me what it meant. I said, "look at the pictures and read the poems if you want to understand what it means." Again, they asked me what I was doing. So I explained that I had taken the photos, developed them in the darkroom, written poems to pair with them, made the book by hand and here it is. It looks great. I failed the course. I was so pissed off, I dropped out of college and never went back.

So there are people out there who hold real power and they expect you to be able to defend your work. If you don't, or if you can't defend it in the language that they believe is meaningful, then they close the gate and lock it and you have to find another way into the kingdom.

clark
November 4th, 2019, 11:14 PM
Tim -- my Prof in bonehead English in first-year completed a brilliant MA in literature at U of Alberta (parts of his thesis on Moby Dick were published in a prestigious British journal). He was awarded a Fellowship at Oxford and went off to work on his PhD. Four years later, having hopped thru all the ancillary hoops, his 450-page dissertation was complete. His tutor was enthusiastic about the paper. It was sent off to the Outside Reader, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard who was considered at the time one of the top authorities in the world on my Profs dissertation area. The Harvard prof declared the dissertation a "non-thesis topic" (built on a false premise, hence an invalid argument), and despite weeks of furious letter-exchanges between the tutor and the Harvard prof, the old boy would not budge. He declined to attend my Prof's oral defence. Oxford declined to buck Harvard all the way, so, after an excellent oral . . .they awarded my Prof an MA as a consolation prize.

The power of The Academy at its very worst. My prof was a bitter man.

I was told once (I have not checked this out) that somewhere in his writings, Aristotle apparently said that men had more teeth than women. It took over 2000 years before someone opened a man's and a woman's mouth and counted. . . . . .

Teijal
November 18th, 2019, 09:12 PM
Every work of art isgradable, be it in the form of money or grade. In this sense, there is acertain value. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the originalconcept or idea is understood by the receiver, if this is not the case, and thepoem is falsely interpreted, it might need explanation. Just see this as themistake of the other, and not your way of formulating.

TL Murphy
November 19th, 2019, 12:44 AM
Every work of art isgradable, be it in the form of money or grade. In this sense, there is acertain value. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the originalconcept or idea is understood by the receiver, if this is not the case, and thepoem is falsely interpreted, it might need explanation. Just see this as themistake of the other, and not your way of formulating.


This comment falls under the misconception that a poem should be understood.

Edit: two misconceptions, the second being that there is only one correct way to interpret a poem.

clark
November 19th, 2019, 01:34 AM
Teijal -- Of course, any poet is pleased when their original intent is grasped and appreciated as they intended it. But such a marriage between Intent and Comprehension is a very risky criterion for success of the poem. Milton announces famously in the encomium to Paradise Lost : h


What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert Eternal Providence, [25]
And justifie the wayes of God to men.

He then goes on, magnificently, for 12,000 lines to FAIL, magnificently, to "justify the ways of God to men." Just one particularly grand example of the gulf that often exists between a poet's intent and his readers' comprehension. Shakespeare wrote plays to be performed for money. The revenue put butter and bacon on the family table. His jaw would hit that table in utter astonishment if he could see the thousands of articles and books written about his plays, many of them written from wildly different perspectives than he ever intended. A psychoanalytic reading of Hamlet? I can hear him (mis)quoting himself: "Oh Brave new world, that hath such [critics] in it!" If we had a clear 'understanding' of Hamlet, an understanding rooted somehow in what Shakespeare intended us to understand, WHY would the play be produced? Why would it be read? Surely it is the mystery, the attempt of every director and reader to bring his unique take, or interpretation, of events and characters, that keeps the play vital and alive.

The audience becomes the missing component in the work of art.

RHPeat
March 9th, 2020, 12:39 AM
Tim

You have answered your own question in your reply to Teijal.

To be put into an either/or category is limiting the issue of the poem in question. Does any poem need defending? It doesn't hold true because no writing needs defending. There are far too many other choices for the poem in question to be or become in it's own right or "write" for that matter — to exist.

Art is left to the viewer or reader or dancer or player or musician for whatever reason. What creation doesn't fit one will fit the next. This goes beyond any academy. It deals with self belief, not ego, it deals with survival by choice, not in the sense of defense, but in the sense of sharing as community. This is what the humanities do for culture.

Art is a humanity and not a weapon but words can be used as a weapon, the most powerful one out there is persuasion. Art deals with the emotional centers of the human being. It's meant to emote, provoke, evoke and promote. If it has any power it is found in the other that is moved by it. That the art object moves humanity to another state of consciousness.

If it is felt as a threat it might be an excellent work of art. For this is what art should do ‚ provoke and evoke the other. Change the society that produced it. It expands culture not contracts culture. Defending it is building a wall around it to hide it's intent, that's censorship not ego, as I said. Real art never builds a wall around itself. Instead its power is held by taking all the walls down to create a new expanse.

Art never needs defending; it needs perceiving. It seeks revelation, epiphany and realization. These are things that can't exist behind a wall. The poet doesn't need to be a warrior, but everyone knows it they challenge the power of the society as a whole they could be dead. Lu Chi and his two son's were met by arrows through the heart while tied to poles in the ground. Lorca had a bullet put through his skull and then buried in an unmarked grave. So let the poem stand on it's own even un-named. But at the same time it doesn't mean you can't workshop the poem to improve it either.

As I said in my original statement the poem is to be made to the best of the poet's ability so that it is flawless in its presentation. This just empowers the poem more, not the poet. The next poem he writes could be a crippled dog of a poem. Hopefully he learns something along the way.

As the 20th century has shown us; we don't have to answer to God. With all of Hitler's prison camps and Pol Pott's killing fields we need only answer to the atrocities of mankind. These were places where they built barb-wire walls to hide art. Not expose it or leave it to be questioned. A lot of it was even burned.

a poet friend
RH Peat

Tirralirra
March 10th, 2020, 09:28 AM
We seem to be having this discussion on intention, perception and projection of meaning in several places simultaneously - which surely emphasises the question’s importance - and insolubility.

RHPeat
March 11th, 2020, 12:59 AM
We seem to be having this discussion on intention, perception and projection of meaning in several places simultaneously - which surely emphasises the question’s importance - and insolubility.


Tirra

Isn't that typical of any real discussion? That it tends to create a spherical pattern to lead back to its own center continually. We keep thinking words are linearly imposing, yet we always find that thought isn't at all linear; its truly spherical in its outreach. It's a wonder sometimes that we can communicate anything to one another. It shows that imagination is truly part of the process, admitted or not, discussions can take some wild curves.

a poet friend
RH peat

clark
March 11th, 2020, 09:40 AM
RON AND TIRRA --We use the wrong tools, don't we? From infancy, we are trained to lay out problems and proceed to solutions in a linear mode. And this method works for most life applications. Want to eat cereal….go to fridge….no milk….put on coat….go to store ….etc. Then we label: “put on coat is step 4 in Problem Recognition and Resolution”. Then we shorten and streamline this process: “call desire to eat cereal “x”, go to fridge “a”, no milk “b”, put on coat “c” . . .etc. It follows that x=a+b+c . . . . . . Whether it ‘works’ all the time is incidental to our learned USE of this tried and true methodology, and it is the foundation on which a non-poetry lover says, “yeah! yeah! but whaddafuck does this poem thing mean?”

I really do not know how we get around it. We need to qualify your observation, Ron, that “we always find that thought isn't at all linear”. We find that the results of thought are not linear—we can even come to this realization at some partial plateau or ‘pause-point’ in a process of complex reasoning—but we have usually got into that bind because we’ve been using linear methodology to get into it in the first place. We’re bringing knives to a gunfight.

Linearality creates the fiction that discourse has a beginning, middle, and end unique to whatever problem we’re dealing with. Formal debate is an excellent example. “RESOLVED: the current climate crisis is more the result of planet earth’s natural periodic adjustments than human pollution”. All data even marginally peripheral to that proposition is swept to the side and not considered as the debaters bore into that specific issue as though its “solution” existed as a fixed point at the end of a straight line.

We bring this kind of reasoning to our critiques. It is even helpful when dealing with certain aspects of the poem. Let us say a conceit built on tactile sensation is developed in a poem. Suddenly an olfactory image pops up, then the imagery returns to the tactile. As reader/critics we can find zero justification for this pimple on otherwise smooth skin. We take the poem to task—incongruity, irrelevance, shattering the pattern. Linear thinking.

A move in the right direction would be much closer attention to the role of AUDIENCE in trying to get closer to the work of art. Only in studying and attempting to describe one’s experience of a work of Art is Audience regarded as a component in the Gestalt. As critics, however, we also acknowledge that the views of each person who experiences a work of Art and chooses to say something about it, deserve consideration. Some views are nonsense and buffoonery, easily discarded through linear arguments. Other more thoughtful but still ‘wrong-headed’ views may need to be discussed with the lens of inclusive circularity mentioned earlier.

HOW that might be achieved, eludes me. At least it eludes me right now . . . . . . .

7:05 AM
Maybe ALL discussion is not at all " . . . linear; its truly spherical in its outreach. It's a wonder sometimes that we can communicate anything to one another. It shows that imagination is truly part of the process, admitted or not." The corollary of that line of reasoning would be that conclusive 'argument' is illusory, especially if we consider Audience through the lens of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which proposes that we cannot trust the reportage of our fellows when they offer a piece of information. Plato's character, Socrates, "wins" every argument he engages in, at least in part, because he denies his interlocutor a freely offered opinion. He begins each 'dialogue' with a question: "Tirra, m'lady, is it not true that an honest man will seek The Good in conducting his affairs?" The question is of course rhetorical, and Tirra knows it. To answer "no" would invite an attack on her core morality, so she provides the expected compliant answer. Socrates then moves on to heap proof upon proof of the efficacy of a proposition that both have already stated to be True. David Hume impelled Empiricism into irresolvable solipsism when he concluded that the only Truth a man can absolutely KNOW is his perception that he's having a perception. The same insight is Implicit in the appearance vs reality argument of Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave at the end of Book vii and viii of The Republic (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave
Keats probably was thinking along these lines when he teetered on the cusp of blasphemy in stating that he believed in nothing but "the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination" (Letters). The Imagination may have to be introduced in our speculations about how to talk about poetry. Aspiring to exclusively rational evidence-rooted argument will produce fragile so-called "objective" textual analysis that may well be closer to the imaginative projections of the critic than it is legitimate "spherical . . .outreach" [Ron]).

I'm going to pause here, because I feel quicksand lies ahead. I'm probably doing little more than rambling on about the quandary faced by modern poets/critics in their search for an aesthetically defensible platform from which to make helpful commentary on each other's Art. The parameters of modern poetic Art have been in flux for decades now, and I see little indication the critical tools we bring to bear on the shifting ground of poetry have kept pace with the 'flux.' Perhaps we are TOO enamoured of the legacy of "objective" textual analysis laid out by IA Richards in the 1930s and Cleanth Brooks et al in the 1950s. What DOES the phrase "Truth of the Imagination" really offer us? Does Keats's dedication to Imagination invite us to develop a 'new' subjectivism in our approach to poetry. . .or at least discussion of poetry? Coming to terms with the role of Audience in our sense of the whole poem certainly seems to be impelling us in that direction.

Wordsworth's and Coleridge's Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1795) is regarded as a milestone in the evolution of poetry in English away from the rules-oriented traditional subjects and forms that dominated the century before. Yes, the Preface is an important historical document, but that entire lengthy essay boils down to two oft-quoted moments: poetry should be written in "language such as men do speak" and the best of poetry results from "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . recollected in tranquillity." At the close of the 18th c. such propositions were iconoclastic. Of equal importance--IMO of greater importance for contemporary poets and critics--is Shelley's 1820 essay "In Defence of Poetry". It is here that Shelley insists poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world", culminating an elegant argument in which subjectivism, hence Audience and imagination, are validated as significant tools in getting at the heart of poetry.

i carry no flag for the details of this mini-essay. it is intended only as a stimulant for discussion, part of which could be severe challenges to my reasoning. i hope so.

Tirralirra
March 11th, 2020, 09:37 PM
Let me assume that we are poets/artists - producers of the stuff, for whatever reasons from aesthetic to financial (yes, futures in senryu on Trump have risen 4%). As time goes by we may modify our practice through self-criticism, imitation and application of theory (however acquired.)


Our focus is on the methodologies used to get results, RATHER than on the justification of those methodologies as theories. There are a number of exceptions to that, things like the Vorticist or Surrealist manifestos or the examples Nadezhda Mandelstamm cites of the early Soviet pos-revolutionary years, but in the main, practicality rules. Cezanne’s, Seurat’s concerns were practical, not philosophical. I see Bauhaus as practice, not philosophy.


So, get on with it and paint, or write.


But then along come two other groups - the wannabes and the critics/historians, asking ‘why’ questions rather than ‘how’ questions - and for some reason we feel constrained to try and answer them. We feel obliged to write a Foreward outlining our ‘aesthetic’, a wall plaque placing our painting in ‘perspective’ - even though we’ve just been through several discussions noting the irrelevance of this to actual practice.


I can recognise the need for the security of academic tenure and hence the need for the Ph.D questionnaire, (‘ethically’ sanctioned these days) but I should feel no compulsion to answer it - their problem.


It’s like the story the Buddha tells of the man shot with a poisoned arrow, and who insists on checking which medical school did the treating doctor attend before allowing the extraction.


I’m actually not sure where I am going with this, but linking your thoughts with my experience today when producing ‘in ward’ seems to emphasise two things significant to me:
Firstly, yes I find these discussions fascinating, linearity, circularity and the windmills of the mind, while
Secondly, my creative process in the moment, seems completely divorced from all that. It is inchoate, swirling up in scattered words and phrases which get rearranged, deleted, realigned according to how it FEELS and not (except in the very humorous final post-editing) according to my philosophical view of, say, Lacanian therapy.


In the Beginning is the Flow. Discussion is Secondary.


Now I am really in trouble - is this turning into an anti-intellectual diatribe?

clark
March 12th, 2020, 07:57 PM
Notice none of our colleagues is booking into "our" discussion. I'm reminded of the two armies that stand down while a couple of selected warriors battle it out in no-man's-land to resolve the war! Or, more likely, they can't figure out what the hell we're talking about, so they're witing for a Little Clarity before they engage!

You sum it up admirably:


Firstly, yes I find these discussions fascinating, linearity, circularity and the windmills of the mind, while
Secondly, my creative process in the moment, seems completely divorced from all that. It is inchoate, swirling up in scattered words and phrases which get rearranged, deleted, realigned according to how it FEELS and not (except in the very humorous final post-editing) according to my philosophical view of, say, Lacanian therapy.

(I'm not familiar with Lacanian Therapy, but my ignorance can sit over THERE for the moment)

Sir Phillip Sidney, close of Sonnet 1 in Astrophil and Stella:

Thus great with child to speak
And helpless in my throes
Biting my truant pen
Beating myself for spite
"Fool!" said my Muse to me,
"Look in thy heart and write!" (more or less. From memory)

The creative process IS "inchoate", is it not? No one of us 'proceeds' creatively ipn exactly the same way. So is there any functional relevance is all this fascinating chat about 'what is poetic Art?' and 'how do we get at it?' and--the most important question of all: will all this fine-tuned chat about aesthetic theory make any one of us a better poet?

I don't have answers to any of those questions but, as you point out, almost all of us are fascinated by the questions and will probably keep asking them, even though the functional immersion in . . .whatever. . .that we all go through when we WRITE may well be fundamentally the same as Sir Phillip Sidney's dive ipnto the pool!

midnightpoet
March 12th, 2020, 09:57 PM
Very interesting discussion. I don't know how other poets' minds work, only mine. I'm all over the place in there. I remember my neighbor laughing at me as I mow the yard. Not linear, back and forth, but a little here, oh I'll just go over there that patch needs it right now. So how can you defend that? You can't, it just is. I would say trying to write an indefensible poem is like trying to lasso the wind.

I remember my philosophy class back in the day, we got into an argument one day over Socrates. Don't remember what happened, but the next class the prof brought in a vial of hemlock. He was challenging us. Our challenge is to write the best poem we can, so let's get on with it.:icon_cheesygrin:

Gumby
March 12th, 2020, 10:21 PM
. I remember my neighbor laughing at me as I mow the yard. Not linear, back and forth, but a little here, oh I'll just go over there that patch needs it right now. So how can you defend that? You can't, it just is. I would say trying to write an indefensible poem is like trying to lasso the wind

We are all different for sure. I mow in a concentric circle, an old habit that came from riding and training horses in an arena. The power of the circle is mighty. Lol!

TL Murphy
March 12th, 2020, 10:39 PM
The grass and I have an agreement. I don’t mow it and it doesn’t grow.

Lawrence Lee
March 15th, 2020, 07:34 PM
The audience becomes the missing component in the work of art.



Which should be no great surprise to us. I've been saying this about painting for years. Each person brings a unique set of life experiences to a work. Each person encounters a work of art, be it a painting or a poem, with different expectations, different prejudices, different color receptors in their eyes, different everything. So when the artist's "intent" is grasped, that is either because it is so universal, or because it has been presented with such a heavy hand that it is impossible to miss. People like to think that my figurative paintings are all about something very profound--something that only an artist might communicate. But they're not. They are exercises in the elements of design that can be endlessly varied. I have no intent other than the creation of something that is sufficiently interesting to look at that someone will buy it so that they can continue to look at at their leisure. If they want to ascribe some deep meaning to it, that's fine. But that's them, not me. And my poems are much the same. I write them for me. I need not defend them. They have no intent other than my intent to write them. Sometimes, I find within them some personal truth that might well only make sense to me and none other. Anyone who reads my poems may indeed find some personal resonance with what I have written, but that is just happy chance for which I can take little credit.

When I read a poem, I might get the poet's intent, or I might not. The important thing is that the poem resonates with me on some level. If it does, I will think of it as a good poem. For someone else, it might not resonate at all, and they'd likely think of it as a bad poem. Whatever! It is not what goes in to the poem that is important, but what comes out.

So what is a poor poet to do? Relax, I guess. Write what pleases you. Someone, somewhere, will likely think that it is crap. And someone else, somewhere else, will likely think that it is the best poem they've ever read. And this is a good thing, in my book--or at least OK. Because when Art becomes Science it is no longer Art.

Jp
July 28th, 2020, 07:26 AM
In my enthusiasm, I asked seven questions (count the question marks). But it's really all one question. I just haven't been able to formulate it properly. I would be grateful if someone could summarize my original comment in one succinct question, because I don't really think there is an answer. In this case I think a good rhetorical question is probably more valuable than the many possible answers.

There is an inherent dilemma in the question, "should a poem be defensible?" In academic circles (which is the driving authority, despite the Beats and Bukowski, of any artistic institution) this situation is paramount because a work of art in the academic world must show its contribution to the greater relevance of artistic evolution.

On the other hand, pure artistic expression must be free of cultural expectations. And yet for art to be relevant socially, it must engage a cultural context and in that way the artist should be able to show that relevance. The point is - what is cultural relevance? Is it the main stream culture at large or is it the experimental spark of innovation. Taking this nuance further, does defending a poem's relevance compromise its innovative reach?
One could argue, which I am going to, that the driving forced that you hold up as shining beacon and path forward for poetry is actually the major contributors to it’s public death. At the onset, I am going to say that by no means am I discounting what have been created in academia and the poetics that have come out of such avenues. I myself have been enriched and love this line of poetry, but when asking the non-poetry writing, the not already interested, about poetry there is a consensus that poetry, today, is hard to get at.The would be new reader finds the works difficult and not relatable.This is a side affect of all of that which we have come to love, a certain difficulty that has left the field of new readers a wasteland. A month or so ago I found Robert Frost and his poetry after he left London an interesting example of the two types of poetry that exist and have existed for a long time. When he wrote and published in London, he was focused on being academically accepted. Once he achieved this, he left back to the states with the intent to write the other type of poetry. The more simple, more relatable, down to earth poetry he saw as the path forward. Being a man who understood the worth of academic poetry, even within his new poetry (the poetry the world came to love), he stuck little tidbits of academia inside but covered them in a surface of the daily. I think having come this far it is high time the academic circles begin to see the truth that resides in Robert Frost’s work and fold it into their hearts to begin to heal the grand canyon that has been formed between contemporary academic poetry and the potential new reader.