"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Friday, July 22, 2005

Josh Corey Ate My Buick

Josh talks New Sincerity over at his French notebook blog. Well, he talks about a lot of stuff.

I concur with his point that sincerity must be more than simply sincere. Problem is, a lot of the "dazzling" post-avant work I see is full of linguistic ingenuity, and it "creates interesting frictions," and so forth, but it's just damn soulless. Josh writes:

But most of the satisfactions I take from poetry (reading it and writing it) depend on the pressure it puts on me to expand my verbal and mental resources: an emotional response (or a Poundian "image," an emotional and intellectual complex) will spur me to make use of those resources but what they unfold will hopefully extend beyond sincere expression into an aesthetic experience of some kind.

Which helps me articulate my position a bit more easily. Most of the satisfactions I take from poetry depend on sincere expression. If my verbal and mental resources are expanded, so much the better, but the expansion of these resources isn't what draws me to most poetry in the first place. Or not anymore. I must admit, in my formative poetry years, I was much more drawn to surface bauble or artifice, more drawn to "ingenuity" and "making it new." But the work I return to most often is free of or very low on "irony" (in most senses), to pick up another thread. Most work that I return to seems to exist to DO something, not to simply be pretty. It's like the ancient vase that John Dewey reminds us was once a TOOL even if now it's simply "art" in a museum.

So poetry must communicate. See Paul Goodman ref. in the below manifesto. Well, poetry DOES communicate, regardless of your position on the issue. It's a non-issue. For me (and I imagine, the other New Sincerists) the best poems are the poems that do something fresh with linguistic resources, remind us about something we already knew about ourselves but forgot, tell us something about our world, or re-contextualize what we know about the world in a way that makes it new, but most importantly, communicate not a message, per se (though they can) but that make an emotional appeal. [Yes, this sentence is grammatically defective, but I'm sick of typing.]

And I know this is tricky. Emotional appeals are the least trustworthy, right? So maybe I'm looking for more. We are tired of BORING poetry. There's a reson most people don't read poetry. I should stop before I start sounding like Joan Houlihan. But I won't just yet. I am tired of people (poets) who seem to have more interest in poetics than poetry.


I don't know if the New Sincerity will pull off any formal innovations. It's a little silly, I think, to believe that we can keep making it new. But I could be totally wrong. According to some comment boxers, though, I should hang up my pen. Or at the very least, take a 5000 dollar workshop to write better poems. Chale.


As for D&D, Andrew Mister made fun of me when he saw my collection of polyhedral solids.

And he embarrassed me in front of a woman I was trying to impress with my mature, confident style. Heh.


I think the naked emotion, the "operatic" emotion, the "camp" that Corey reads into much Spanish poetry is part of what drew me to poets like Neruda, Vallejo, etc. in the first place. Again, this is about an aesthetic preference that, for me, is tied to emotional experience. My Spanish, I should add, is pretty bad, so reading the originals isn't usually an option for me. And I've already proven how culturally insensitive I can be, but what Josh reads as "camp" I take as sincere. What's Jonathan have to say?


Josh, if you haven't, check out Eshleman's translation of Vallejo's Trilce.


Jonathan said...

I'd say Josh is full of it when he says "they lay the duende on too thick." Duende is not a concept that can be applied to any poet except Lorca. And even then it's simply the number 1 cliché about Lorca for English-speaking folks. Yeah, a lot of Spanish language poetry sounds stupid in translation, even if the translation is good. There's just a different rhetoric and a different set of expectations. How would you feel (not you, tony, but you anyone) if someone made a statement about William Carlos Williams based only on some translation into Russian? Spanish is not that hard. I say just learn it and read it in the original.

"Josh Corey ate my buick" is a wonderful title for a blog post. Josh has a prodigious mind, obviously, and he's one of my favorite bloggers as such things go, but I feel that sometimes he lets his intelligence get in the way.

How do feel about the Laurel Snyder poem in the Canary, in terms of irony and sincerity? Obviously both you and I are on record as liking the poem, but to me this poem heavily tips the scales toward the ironic. I'm just not sure I know what you mean by ironic anymore. My definition is not the same as yours, I think.

Jonathan said...

To be fair, also, Josh does say that what he is lacking is the context in which Vallejo's lines make sense to him. That is exactly right. He doesn't have that context so just an adequate translation is not enough.