Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gary Snyder on poets/writers' role

The function of the poet is to determine what part of our mythology is valuable in the present era.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why I Love Calculus

Calculus is the mathematics that, among those I know, is most like metaphor. It describes longing in its approach to limits that are never achieved, it describes the imperfect analogy of anything to anything else in a similar way.
It grabs the world by a parameter, and derives what it can. And so much more too.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More about the Lyrical Delusion

The lyrical delusion is that each of our idiosyncrasies is important. E.g. the rambling, hermetic work of Blake Butler.

The lyrical delusion presumes we have endless time to follow any thought, any digression, any path. E.g. The huge novels of David Foster Wallace.

The lyrical delusion is youthful, vigorous, but not hardened by experience or condensed. The latter has its e.g. in Seamus Heaney and Adrienne Rich.

Poetry of Conscience in Syria

Learning the World from Seamus Heaney

"There's a good yield, isn't there?"
As proud as if he were the land itself.
- from The Wife's Tale

The lough waters
Can petrify wood.
Old oars and posts
Over the years
Harden their grain
Incarcerate ghosts
Of sap and season.
- From Relic of Memory

Heaney's greatest strength was not his music, his way with phrases, his style. These were powerfully idiosyncratic to him. But his real shamanic gift was that he saw the world better than most of us do. The phrase "incarcerate ghosts of sap and season" envisions a natural process in spiritual terms, and makes the conflation of the two concrete.

And the way he makes clear that rural life eliminates the distinction between people and their soil is essential to understanding life outside of cities.

The poets I care about enable me to learn the world anew.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Questions for Blake Butler - or anyone who cares

Question #1 - Do you think writing is more powerful when it addresses directly matters of ethics and conscience? My favorite novelists - Melville, Rushdie, Woolf, Kundera, Cervantes - all address them overtly.

HTMLGIANT and Literary Dissent

There's been a minor controversy over at HTMLGIANT. My long time friend Rauan Klassnik, with good reason, didn't like my sarcastic posts in the comments section eulogizing Heaney. He challenged me to put together something on why I think writing that doesn't engage questions of conscience becomes merely decorative. This is how he posted it: Troll Post by Rauan.

To reiterate some stuff I posted over there.

1. In science the test of an idea is how well it stands up to fair and thorough evaluation relative to other ideas. I don't think Rauan attempted that here.

2. Words can carry ethical meaning in a way music (sans lyrics) does not. I wanted to explore this question: if you reject that aspect of writing, are you a primarily a decorative writer? I think that's worth discussing. There's an aspect of emotional effects vs. ideas that is interesting too. Maybe my hastily assembled piece for Rauan didn't bring that out. I'll try to address it more directly elsewhere.

3. I found it striking and ironic that Rauan chose to eulogize Heaney, a large part of whose program Rauan disdains, or doesn't try to live up to, or both.