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The lute lies rusted in its green case odor of pines is synthetic; sweeteners artificial; even salt!  our tongues crave something dif...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New aestheticism?

I guess the new aestheticism is not that exiting:  It tends toward a Kantian / Adornian approach and a clunky prose style.  I've underlined some verbiage that a graceful writers might have avoided.  

The works of Wyndham Lewis provide us with a case study for the application of this view of criticism to the understanding of artistic productions. Lewis’s work has been subjected to the same range of assessments as most other authors, from the classic description of it in terms of certain types of basic writing patterns to the relation of it to psychoanalytic or Marxist categories If we turn to the novels of Lewis from a Kantian direction, however, we can see the vital character of his work as consisting precisely in its negotiation with the characteristics of life itself.  

DON'T WRITE LIKE THIS, PLEASE! The pay-off after these three sentences is the striking idea that Lewis's work is about life.  Imagine that!  Does it add anything to say the "characteristics of life itself"?

I find it interesting that "aestheticism" does not seems to have anything to do with the aesthetics of critical prose.  I imagine the "description ... in terms of certain types of basic writing patterns" to be the analysis of narrative and stylistic techniques, so why not say so.  I imagine the relation between this work and psychoanalytic and Marxist categories to be just ...  Marxist and Freudian readings.  

The New Aestheticism

Although I was unaware that it existed until today, I think that I am part of this larger movement called "new aestheticism" in literary criticism.  Of course, I have no idea whether they are doing it interestingly or well (those who use that term). I think this arose because I always needed to think that the study of literature has to be invested in literariness in some sense, not in strip-mining works for their political content.

One piece of the puzzle is Felski's critique of critique. Another is simply my own investment in avant-garde words in which you can't just take the content out and ignore the writing itself.

One point Felski makes in a chapter called "Context Stinks" is the crudity of thinking of contest like a box. You put the work in a box and everything else in that box is part of its "context."

Of course, the rap on aestheticism was that it was thought to be right wing.  But why cede aesthetics to the right wing in the first place? Isn't that a carry over from Stalinist social realist doctrine?  It now seems wholly artificial.

I am also much less interested in judging things than I once was. You can basically have your mainstream poets who don't speak to me and I'll keep mine. Being non-judgmental (up to a point) is tremendously freeing, because now I don't even have to defend work I think is valuable.



I am epic poet

of the short form


Mise en abîme

Inside our kiss

is a world where people kiss

inside that world

we are one of the couples kissing

Painted Lips

No coffee tastes as good

as coffee smells

No painted lips taste as good

as they look

except for yours

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

JM's Writing Experiments

I wanted to see if these were still alive on the internet somewhere.

Here's more complete list:

1. Make a list of writing experiments.
2. Write a poem in which you include some reference, explicit or implicit, to everyone you know who has committed suicide.
3. Write poems designed for a particular magazine (a la Jack Spicer), even if this magazine doesn’t publish poetry. Send the poems to the magazine as you write them until they either publish you or tell you to stop.
4. If you are an academic, give an academic paper composed entirely of heroic couplets. Don’t tell anyone what you are doing.
5. “Ghost-write” poems for politicians or celebrities.
6. Write non-stop for 6 months, in every waking hour not devoted to any other necessary activity.
7. Compose a poem employing as many metaphors or examples as possible derived from Wittegenstein’s Philosophical Investigations.
8. Read only poetry written before 1800 for a year. See if your writing has changed. If it has changed for the better, do the same with 1700.
9. Take a book of poetry by someone else and compose poetic responses to every single poem. Try this with a poet you hate and then with a poet you love. Try writing your poems directly in the book, if you can stand to deface it.
10. Invent “heteronimos” a la Pessoa.
11. Compose a “Japanese Poetic Diary”
12. Write an autobiography, but including only events having to do with particular “subjects” (cooking, jazz, landlords, shoes).
13. Write the eleventh “Duino Elegy.”
14. Write a book of poetry in which the letter B never appears. See if anyone notices.
15. Parody your own style.
16. Stage elaborate contests (sestina contests, memorizing contests, rhyming contests).
17. Invent multiple ways of “gambling” on poetry (e.g. on the contests devised above).
18. Create a “neo-classical” style that is as regular and normative as Racine. The vocabulary should be fairly limited, the syntax limpid, the versification utterly smooth. Use this style as your normal mode of communication as much as you can get away with.
19. Try to get non-poets to collaborate with you on grandiose poetic projects. Test your persuasive powers.
20. Convince famous painters to illustrate your work or paint your portrait, or composers to set your poems to music.
21. Practice thinking in complete sentences. Do not write these down.
22. Be a Platonic “name-giver” of the type described in the Cratylus. Work at giving things their exact or “proper” names. Then practice with “misnomers.”
23. See if Wittgenstein was right: try to invent a “private language” for your sensations.
24. Adopt a variety of social “identities” in your writing (race, ethnicity, class, sexual identity). However, avoid any explicit “identifying” reference in the poem itself (e.g. don’t use the word “barrio” in your chicano poems).
25. Invent a private slang (a la Lester Young); attempt to get as many people as you can to use the words you coin. Don’t use these words in your writing; rather, conceive of the invention of this language as an independent poetic activity.
26. Write “vocalese lyrics” to a recorded jazz solo.
27. Practice speaking in blank verse as “naturally” as possible.
28. Create your own avant-garde movement; make sure you officially dissolve the movement after 6 months or a year.
29. Invent an imaginary city, complete with geography, history, architecture, prominent citizens, etc… Keep a sort of “bible” of all the information you compile. Then write poems set in this city.
30. Write nothing but sestinas and pantoums for a month. Then “cannabilize” them, using the best lines to write other poems.

When we say we don't understand a poet

There are poets I don't understand. By this I don't mean not understanding the words of poem, or being not able to interpret the meaning of the words. It's more that I don't get what the poet is trying to do, or why they are writing the way they do. I have this problem with contemporary British poets often. I just don't get it. I'm sure many have felt this way about Creeley as well. It is an understanding of the aesthetic intention. In this sense poets teach us how to read them: we have to just keep reading until we have learned.

Another thing is not liking a poet in one's own group. Say, if one liked all the New York School poets but didn't get one or to of them.  Or a poet one is supposed to like, but doesn't.

How To Live

I've been sent this previously unpublished poem by Mateo del Olmo.  He'll probably be insulted when I call it a bad poem, but so be it.  

How To Live

Sleep refreshes

Food nourishes

Dreams confuse but reconstruct the mind

Meditation sorts things out

Kissing makes Goddesses of women and fools of men

Sex is a demon, but who can despise it?

In a dream a problem is never solved

but it is

Poetry confuses the intellect but then doesn't

Spices alert the palate

A man's beard grows to remind him he is alive

Music soothes or excites

Salt is a metaphor for what isn't insipid

Melancholy heightens the appreciation of beauty like Keats's

"sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud"

Sunlight cheers and invigorates

There are those who claim it has a fragrance but it doesn't

Exercise rejuvenates and will not confuse the palate

Surrealism turned out to be a false path

It did not teach men to live

It confused the confusion of the dream with the reconstruction of the fragrance of sunlight

It did not even try to teach women how to live

The alcohol of surrealism is not the spice of melancholy

or even a slow-growing beard

Meditations actually are useful "in an emergency" though you wouldn't think it

The confusion of beards with weeping clouds does not occur in dreams

Spices have fragrance, but we do not know what it is for