Friday, September 18, 2009
Am I going to see "Bright Star"? - a mini Q&A
Qs by Michael Marcinkowski; As by me. Occasion: reading at Columbia College Chicago earlier this month. (For Bright Star content, skip to the middle of this post.)
Q. [No stated question here, but rather dubiousity about the deployment of aphorism in Squandermania.]
A. ... and so, for example, when I use the word “chestnut” in the poem, "On Original Intent," ("... that old / chestnut, The Constitution of the United / States of America") I allude to this etymological crux:
Q. I stutter with your poems as they approach an epistemological level, particularly with your (introductory) insistence on the truth-value of certain words. The OUP article on chestnut and its uses shows how little truth there actually is in language? Are your considerations of the realness of words in that case just pandering to weaker strains of thought?
A. Weaker strains (literally) of thought are my only subject “matter.”
Q. In your turnabout of the aphoristic or whatever, you still retain the framing of a traditional poem, which, in some parlance (perhaps post-Hesiod (?--which is to say, like, forever)) itself buys into the frame set of the aphorism and is complicit with it. As such, it seems that your turning of the aphoristic chestnut, in your use an explicitly poetic form, is suspect in its affinity with such a selfsame thing. This leaves the parsing of the ironic and non-ironic parcels of the poems to such a heightened level of differentiation that it may fall to the same fate as many of our favorite conceptualists' works: that they are only able to be properly read by a reader of a certain initiation? The fault I find with much moralizing conceptual work is that the ideal reader for the work (one who would cause the text, as it were, to act) exists only in the unwashed mass who is able to be radicalized via a certain turnabout in the re-contextualization of a demotic text, yet it is exactly those unwashed masses who are unable to perform the subtle differentiation necessary to achieve such an effect (the path toward such a theoretical backing needed to understand the work of course by its nature transforming one from being unwashed to washed). Which all bears the question: how do people come to understand? (Lukacs, as I’ve said before, I think, deciphered the issue as well as anybody, in his writings concerning class consciousness, where the formulation came down to: If a proletariat can recognize themselves as the proletariat, what use is the party? With the answer, of course, bobbing between via praxis.)
A. Yes, the framing is part of the strain. It makes no sense to attempt a distortion that retains no aspect of the frame. At the same time, yes, I buy into the frame set. If I did not, I would have no interest in “writing” “poetry.” (What use is the poetry party, etc.?) If one doesn’t buy into it, there’s always photography, filmmaking, painting, and other “arts.” My moralizing is therefore pure and limpid, and perhaps even necessary. For me if nobody else.
Q. I like the four poems that are in a row starting with “Honi soit.” With their longer lines and more compact form, they muddle the slantwise aphorisms in a much more exuberant way. They play well, their confessionalism (signified by the 14 lines, of course, and not the content . . . wink wink) works as a strophe against the aphorism in a very natural way. The shorter lined poems in the book work more deliberately in their stepping. These 14 line poems seem “real in the world” and I therefore more believe their (non) conclusions.
A. Thank you. At first, the whole book was in sonnet-like box form. But then I came up with “the title poem” and said to hell with it.
That’s it in a chestnutshell.
And the last question comes from me, and is answered by same:
Q. Are you going to see the movie, Bright Star?
A. Well, my considerations include the following. First of all, Keats is naked without his Cockney accent: he did not speak "estuary" English. Nor, for that matter, did Wordsworth. Or Bunting. This is a serious flaw. Keats was not posh.
Second, as my Facebook friends have pointed out: Keats is depicted in the film as skinny: "WRONG!" says Paige Morgan. And "not just skinny, but a HIPSTER," says J.S.A. Lowe.
On the evidence of the trailer, above, I can picture this cinematically handsome fellow sipping a pumpkin spice latte, pecking at his iPhone to message his BFF, Fanny Whatshername, and giving interviews. So... it's looking doubtful.
I may just re-read this classic book, instead (you can hear Sir Christopher talk about JK here and here):