Should a poem be defensible? - Page 2


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Thread: Should a poem be defensible?

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by TL Murphy View Post
    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.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    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.

  3. #13
    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
    Last edited by Darren White; October 14th, 2019 at 05:50 AM.

  4. #14
    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.
    "Illegitimi non carborundum " Vinegar' Joe Stilwell

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  5. #15
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
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    Only if the reader wants to defend it against his own interpretation of it - After all, a poem, once read, belongs to the reader...
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Sustrai View Post
    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?

  7. #17
    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."

  8. #18
    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.



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  9. #19
    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.

  10. #20
    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

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