Should a poem be defensible? - Page 3


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Thread: Should a poem be defensible?

  1. #21

  2. #22
    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.



    ________________________________________________

    "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

  3. #23
    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.
    Last edited by clark; November 3rd, 2019 at 12:53 AM.



    ________________________________________________

    "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

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    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.

    Last edited by TL Murphy; November 3rd, 2019 at 11:13 AM.

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    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.


  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by RHPeat View Post
    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.

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Sustrai View Post
    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.
    Last edited by TL Murphy; November 3rd, 2019 at 11:44 PM.

  8. #28
    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. . . . . .



    ________________________________________________

    "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. #29
    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.

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Teijal View Post
    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.
    Last edited by TL Murphy; November 19th, 2019 at 05:10 AM.

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