Thursday, December 02, 2004

 
Maybe mysticism is the soul of theology, and the ghost of philosophy (or philosophy is the ghost of mysticism, depending on how you want to mean with the word 'ghost', haunter within or shade of).

Line saved from waking: "His naked popularity of the conjured vowel."

Interesting post here. I wasn't aware this was the case for either of these men.

Meandering thoughts, I slept so little last night. I just feel like pecking at the board, please don't expect too much of me here. I know so little, really, about the avant motions. Anyway:

Another thing about difficulty is, that something is only difficult if you want/expect it to be something other than it is. So some people want to make things seem difficult to certain people as a way of drawing those persons' attention to those expectations thay have so assumed as to be unaware of them as they are (like 'meaning,' or narrative, for easy example). Like language poets, I think, though I think that most poets strain this play to some greater or lesser degree as part of their craft. In a way, Barthes talks about this in "Mythologies."

Funny, to recontextualize the word "difficult" this way makes Billy Collins a 'difficult' poet to plenty of poets (probably you, if you're reading this). Difficult to swallow, I mean.

What does the word difficult mean, anyway? I think for different groups it means different things. I don't mean the manner in which it offers bonding of some and exclusion of most, that seems pretty constant and the sociology here is the boring part anyway--I mean the variant terms by which the inclusionary work itself is made difficult. The ways the word was used by, say, the '80's language guys as opposed to the way, say, Josh Corey uses it. Not to mention, that how Josh uses it is demonstrably different from how, say, Mike Snyder uses it, even when talking about the same poetries. They are different difficulties, but the same word. How has it changed, and what does its changing mean?

Comments:
It's an interesting word, isn't it? It transcends schools or predilections. Frank O'Hara vs. Eliot.

Maybe difficult people write difficult poems?

O'Hara was such a Rockefeller.

Eliot was so nervous & shaky.

I've been thinking this morning about writing poems to mirror what I want to become. Stop trying to be difficult. The whole lineation thing springs from this, I think.

And for my creative writing students, all poetry was initially difficult. The concept of metaphor itself was difficult. Billy Collins was difficult for many of them, initially (some of his more cryptic poems, anyway). And some Lisa Jarnot poems are more transparent. So it loses its real meaning.
 
Stuart,
Very nice call there on the terminology. Mostly, it seems to me, if one is trying to be difficult, they've already gone wrong. Whatever that means.

And "His naked popularity of the conjured vowel," sounds like it's straight out of Hart Crane. Love it.
 
Laura, I actually remember when Billy Collins left me pondering, now that you mention it, though I'd forgotten. I like your idea of writing what you want to become--that's kind of a modernist thing, at least I remember such a thing written about Joyce in a collection of essays edited by Frank Lentricchia. It's a very striking idea, self-creation. One of the best, really. I'm thinking along the lines of free-will=holiness in Paradise Lost (that's free will hyphenated, not free minus will, btw), recently.

Josh, I'd agree mostly (that difficulty sought is off from the outset) except there are times where the poet wants to be difficult for certain reasons--Language poets are again an easy and accessible example, they want to expose language's hierarchical etc. propensities and this can only be done, in their project, by frustrating them. But you know this, I imagine, so I'd say more generally, that difficulty is a tool a poet can use, and so is simplicity, and combined with all the other tools it can be interesting. "Resist the intelligence almost completely," didn't Stevens say? He did so to make the mind-music and the music-music more prominent than the logical form, though the logical form was perhaps the most important thing (I don't agree with the Ashberyan take soley on Stevens, obviously) after all was made, it needed the passage through initial resistance to make its artistic point, I'd say. Which is kind of like Joyce, again, draping Bloom's life over the Odyssey, or HCE's family's over a mythologized history.

Geez, I'm holding forth. What do you think?
 
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