Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blogging under the influence ...

I said I would blog this weekend, and here it is, past 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. It was a busy day: John and I took the dog to Pine Lake with the minor detour of neighborhood garage sales. (I bought some lovely linens and crochet doilies and such, the kind of things I had hoped to inherit from my mom, but which disappeared during her final illness. You can't dwell on such things.) Then we went to Sloat Nursery to replace plants that bit the dust during the deck construction. I planted them later. Then we visted the Urban Farmer store so John could get advice and thingies for repairing our garden irrigation -- also mucked up during the deck work, although John believes a gopher or something was gnawing on the underground tubes. He worked on the garden irrigation while I got groceries. I worked back there while he had a beer and kibbutzed. And here it is evening, and I'm sipping some of the wine we have leftover from the wedding. The fog and the wind have come in on our hill. In a short while I will cook some red snapper and rice pilaf and maybe some broccoli stir-fried with garlic and red pepper. But you don't really want to hear any of this.

I never stop thinking about poetry even when I am stopped from doing poetry. Even when I am writing about thermal protection materials for NASA. I meant to comment on the essay by CK Williams in APR, republished in Poetry Daily that Greg Rappelye discussed-quite a while ago -- and that even before that Robert Thomas pointed me to. Whew! All that linking about wore me out.

But really, I thought it was quite an interesting essay, though after a glass of wine, damned if I'll be able to say anything cogent about it. What I meant to do all along is just quote the bits that I liked most, so here goes.

I might in fact be talking to the poor self I was in those days, who thrashed about in so many unknowables, not the least of which was how to think about itself, and what to ask of itself, because so much was asked that seemed off the point, and had nothing to do with anything except the host of dull imperatives with which it had been conditioned by its very disorganized education. We're inflicted with many lessons about ourselves in the course of growing up, but most turn out to be not only useless but possibly detrimental to any sort of artistic creation.

In some odd way, it feels as though the most abiding element of all this has something to do with having from time to time given myself and the very problematic mind which is mine permission to make a poem.

The right to not concentrate, by which I mean the right to allow one's mind to skip and skid away from any prescribed subject without worrying that some aesthetic or moral commandment is being violated.

Poems can take a long time to arrive, and to find their final form, so surely patience is the word here, but it's worth emphasizing that what actually happens doesn't seem to have the maturity and dignity the term patience implies. There's much more flailing about, and hesitating, and clearing the throat; and taking out the trash: we have to have the right to all of this.

Another, related, right: to be wrong... The corollary to this would be to realize that the judgment that something is wrong, or imperfect, or unrealized, has a dialectic concealed in it of which one can be unaware, and that working through this dialectic in itself can be fruitful.

From this follows the right of the mind to be able to remark in itself and not repress, or at least not too quickly, anything that comes to it, even such ostensibly inadmissible emotions as, to mention just a few, lust, greed, envy, anger, even rancor, even genres of otherwise unutterable prejudice. [N.B. certain people who know who they are.] We have, for poetry, to have as accurate an awareness as we can of the quality of our ethical consciousness, but we also need a firm sense of the difference between sins of the heart and sins of the hand: the mind has a life of its own which cares little for the parameters culture and society propose for it, and it is often this inner awareness which is most potentially interesting as aspects of a poem. [N.B. Same people.]

Remembering is necessarily inventing, and inventing is often remembering, but this doesn't mean there are no standards for judging how things are remembered in poems; on the contrary, the poetic memory is art under oath, but real accuracy has more to do with the aesthetic efficacy of the poem, rather than its fealty to any "real" past.

Corollary: to be able to keep confidence in one's work flexible enough so that useful criticism of it won't be rejected out of hand... But we still should be able to believe in and enjoy now and then our own and other people's appreciation and acknowledgment of what we do.

The last right I'd like to propose sounds odd: it's the right not to know what you're doing, even to not know what you've done.... Yet the fact is that much of the best work produced by artists (and maybe everyone else) is accomplished by small or larger leaps into the obscurity out past our intentions; much of what we come to value most in our own work are evidences of that unfathomable phenomenon we call inspiration.

The hardest thing is that inspiration is neither something that can be willed, nor something you can wait around for.

That's enough for now.

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