Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fear and poetry

I myself am not clear - despite the general prestige of the word - what, as a term, "poetry" with its entailed implication of "creativity" can now mean in the context of the actual human task. What obligations "poetry" requires. What benefit to the human world the obligation, privilege, or competence named "poetry" - the vocation to "poetic work" - implies or promises. Above all, what knowledge it contributes. Nor shall I answer that question to my own satisfaction. But the tendency of my thought is to consider the term "poetry," as it is now employed, as meaning "sanctioned making." That is to say: "poetry" is now a mystified term. And the mystification of the term is demanded by the social necessity (peculiar to our cultural moment) of concealing the violence of representation as such: eidetic violence.... [M]y avowed unclarity with respect to the "meaning" of the word "poetry" is not, I assure you, a claim of modesty on my part or a gesture of intellectual circumspection, but rather an expression of fear.

-- Allen Grossman, "On Communicative Difficulty," in True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing (University of Chicago Press)

6 comments:

Jordan said...

(Hand raised)

Does AG speak elsewhere about his concept of the actual human task?

Henry Gould said...

I believe he meant "to make whoopee", but I could be wrong.

Bobby said...

Yes, lots of places, probably most directly in Summa Lyrica, though I think the essay on Orpheus and Philomela in The Long Schoolroom also deals with it at some length. The short version is that the actual human task is to make a world.

I think Don's quote has a typo, the correction of which makes this a little (but only a little) clearer: for "human word" it should read "human world" (or at least it did in the CR version of the essay).

Don Share said...

As always, you rock, Bobby! Many thanks, re the typo (now fixed) and the context for both A.G. and this quotation, including crediting Chicago Review.

Michael Robbins said...

Yes, Summa Lyrica is a fabulously strange & contrarian vatic poetics. Totes necessary, even if one don't buy no vaticness (me, I can vatican, I can).

Jordan said...

Thanks for the recommendation. To the library I will go.