Monday, March 31, 2014

An Interrogation


If we are to think about poetry as a kind of violence, we will have to rethink form itself. It can no longer be the fence which separates poetry from other kinds of discourse. It must instead betray that difference, inciting us to imagine poetry as a separate and protected sphere, and then disappointing the desire that it has itself created. It’s easy to imagine how this argument applies to texts in the modernist tradition—texts which ostentatiously betray their own formal limits. But these betrayals involve a set of assumptions about traditional forms: that they need to be broken open, dismissed, discarded. That, in other words, their machinery protects poetry from generic rupture and ensures its difference from ordinary language. In this centennial year of Anglo-American modernism, it might be profitable to interrogate this foundational conceit. Can we conceive of traditional forms as themselves as a false and porous fence between poetry and its other?

-- Toby Altman, "Against Procrustes," referencing Slavoj Žižek, "The Poetic Torture-House of Language," in Poetry, March 2014