Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Speaking of accessible, inaccessible, experimental, main stream, l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e, avant garde, narrative, lyric, etc. poetry, here are my modest thoughts: the very terms: (in)accessible and experimental are highly suspect.

Accessibility first. How is a non-linear, disjunctive poem less accessible than a narrative poem? This assertion is ridiculous as a qualifier as it posits some sort of authoritative determinism. It’s yelling at an apple for not being an orange. So what if a person doesn’t “get it?” What if no one “gets” it? What if the poet doesn’t “get” it? What if it nonetheless still has value as it may evoke emotions, ideas, conflicts etc. People can chose to bring their own mystification to the piece if they’d like, or they can decide to discard any preconcieved ideas.
More main stream poets often accuse avantgardists of elististism. This is, and is not, true. Sure, I am an elitist, as are most of my friends. We know our shit, and thus like to discuss complex ideas, argue our points into the ground, and, in a pinch, make pleas to authority. We know that few have decided to pursue, for whatever reason, poetry, language, esoterica, etc. to the same degree we have and thus, yes, we feel elite—we are an educated minority. This is pleasurable activity: It feels nice (and this is universal) to make sense and find solace in other thinkers; however, this is an activity open to all. In this sense, we are not exclusive--elitist yes, but anyone can join the club if they enjoy the club activities.
Andrew’s poem is a great example of how a supposedly elitist, inaccessible poem reveals itself to be just the opposite. I can almost guarantee that people will find their own unique way into the poem. This becomes tricky, as I could line up a list of words and let people “make their own meaning.” This, of course, would be pretty silly. Andrew’s poem however works as a locus of sorts: an area that has dimension and boundary, and yet can be explored in a myriad of ways.

Now to “experimentalism.” What the hell is contemporary “experimental poetry?” I understand how this terms works historically, but I fear the term is becoming too fuzzy. So Kasey Silem Mohammad, Lisa Robertson, Chris Stroffolino, Tanya Brolaski, and Ron Silliman have all been referred to as experimental. What does this tell me? It like saying, “I like alternative music.” What a dumb thing to say! Once, there was a difference, I think, between avant-garde and experimental—but now, often, there is absolutely nothing experimental about an “experimental” poem. People too often use the terms interchangeably. I think that if we are going to use the e-word, then we ought to refrain from using it unless we honestly feel that the writer is attempting some sort of linguisitc/poetic experiment, and NOT simply when this or that poet’s writing sounds unlike mainstream poetry. I suppose I’m calling for a sharper division between avant-garde (which is the larger term and can include experimental poetry) and experimental (which is intrinsically a more narrow term).

Anyhow, these are my cursory and off-the-cuff blog-thoughts. Maybe it’s something like B=L=O=G=G=A=G=E.

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