26 sept. 2005

Take Kenneth Koch's "The Art of Poetry." Most of the advice he gives is actually quite sincere and heart-felt, but the tone is "mock-earnest." He is parodying at least two genres at once (self-help and how-to literature along with the classical ars poetica), but he actually means what he says. The miscellaneous organization of the advice comes right from Horace, I imagine, but results in odd shifts of tone in the "postmodern" context. That is, the meaning of the disjunctions is different for Horace and Koch. The poem woudn't work without this ironic dimension--the prosaic language he falls into at times would be seen as simply prosaic, not prosaic-ironic. So he feints in the direction of irony in order to achieve a sincerity that cannot be got at "straight." It must be told slant, on the bias.

When he tries to do a similar thing in Making Your Own Days in straight-ahead prose, there is an element missing. The flatness of the instruction manual at times threatens to make this book difficult to swallow without imagining a different audience: one that would not feel condescended to by it.

3 comentarios:

Tony dijo...


I don't feel condescended to by Making Your Own Days, but then I "know" my Koch....it seems very natural and unpretentious to me.

I also very succesfully used it as a primer for a creative writing class in the past (though one student complained that she thought it was condescending, but I think she was an exception).

Whimsy dijo...

KK also advises:

"Drinking alcohol is all right
If not in excess, and I would doubt that it would be beneficial
During composition itself. "

which I have found to be wholly incorrect. You can write quite well drunk, as long as you edit sober.

Tony dijo...

Hmm. I can't write drunk, but I can edit drunk.