29 oct. 2006

What if writing poetry were like writing in French? That is, what if it were simply a matter of learning a "poetic language," that, once learned, one could deploy "at will"? Anyone who learned it could then write poetry. Aesthetic rules would be like grammatical rules. That has a certain appeal.

But there is no poetic language. That is, there is no language to be learned. It is true that some writers have developed a language that for them works like this. They write "in it" and, if it is a highly developed language and they are good at it, they can write virtually "at will." It's a matter of turning on a faucet. Clark Coolidge and John Ashbery are like this, to name two poets I admire. There is a problem, though, in that poets like that can simply let themselves be carried along by a magnificent style. There's no longer that sense of the poet inventing language ad hoc. I like Clark better when he was still becoming Clark Coolidge. No that he already is Clark Coolidge I am less thrilled by what he is doing.

For everyone else, poetic language is an instrument that fails about 95% of the time. It's either someone else's language or something unsuited to the task. There's something thrilling about not knowing how to write at all, approaching the page with that attitude.

So what would it mean to teach writing? You could teach a serviceable style, one that was pretty much like that of the journals the student wanted to publish in. Or you could have the student construct a style, learn about how to put together a unique style. Or you could be a style agnostic, like I am.

4 comentarios:

JWG dijo...

I am listening. Yr laundry lists are much more interesting than mine. I'd enjoy sitting in your class.

Jonathan dijo...

I think your laundry lists are every bit as intersting as mine.

Jordan dijo...

This is the premise of KK's Making Your Own Days, actually -- that for poetry to be recognizable as such it has to be written in something like a 'poetry language' made up of all the poetry that has come before.. a language which like all other languages is changed by each new speaker.

Jonathan dijo...

I'm not sure I agree with KK here. Do you? There will be poetic language always, but the idea that poetry itself is a language... I see that in particular periods where the poetry is not very good but where it all has a stylistic unity.

Whereas I prefer poetry that breaks out of the idea of a poetic language per se.

He's dead. The old dog won't have to sleep on his potatoes anymore to keep them from freezing.


As I sd to my friend become I am always talking, John I sd which was not his name.


I love you as a sherrif searches for a walnut that will solve the murder case unsolved for years, because the murderer ...


I remember when I wrote The Circus

These example are poetic but don't rely on a specialized "poetry language" for their effect.