Saturday, September 22, 2007

Paid my fourth and (alas) final visit to the Jess exhibit at the Madison MCA today, and was stunned again by the intelligence of the composition, the humor, the precision of the technique, the referential complexity, the dizzying shifts and impossibilities of scale in the work. Not for some time have I had such experiences of profound estrangement; it reminds me of the first weird art that I remember seeing, as a kid wandering up the street to the art studios associated with Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, walking through the grounds of the former brickyard and train station, coming across unattributed abstract sculptures in the tall grass, entering the building (always open) and exploring the painting studios, in the presence of things utterly alien, fields of energy leaked through some rift from a hidden reality. Or the first times I saw De Chirico's paintings, also as a kid (still my favorite art associated with surrealism). That sense of vanished human time, a resonant silence.


Overheard before the Robin Blaser reading last weekend (with my unspoken comments in brackets):
"The thing about the Language poets [uh-oh]--and I'm sure I'm overgeneralizing [me too]--they've ended up in the same position as the New Critics, who were the enemy back in the '70s and '80s--taking up academic positions--they've become the canonical critics for the younger generation of poets [to some extent, yes, but there's a hell of a lot of resistance to that--and, in any case, the Language poets are so much better than the New Critics, and so much more fun!]"
[Also, they're poets.]


A curse of being a writer: it's hard to have an experience without thinking of it as material for poetry. One could spend an entire life working on two fronts: to let experience simply be experience, and to find a capacious enough poetics to encompass all of it.


Thinking about argumentation and critique:
If a statement is readily available, easily deployed, intuitively convincing due to its ubiquity, be as suspicious of it as possible. If you must use it, compose your language so that its former users don't speak through it so loudly that they drown you out.


On confidence:

A couple of years ago (just before I started sending stuff out for publication again), I finally convinced myself that I'm a good poet. This, however, does not at all mean that I think a given poem of mine is necessarily good--or that I have great confidence in the future production of good poems. On the contrary: the uncertainty only gets greater as I go on.



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