Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Emergency Reading List

A discussion has recently begun about what is being called an "emergent poetics", which it will take me awhile to understand fully, but which I also think has some urgency. Here are some of the things I'm looking at, along with the links and references within them.

Jane Dark's post on Sept 16 and July 8.

Kasey Mohammad's posts on Sept 17 and Sept 18.

Josh Corey's post on Sept 19.

Also, Steve Evans' very interesting piece, "Continuous Present: On Hearing Modernism in Contemporary Poetry" at Third Factory.

Without yet knowing what side I'm on, or even if there are sides to speak of, my own position is a "modernist" one in whatever sense this amounts to a "classicist" position, i.e., I am not a romantic and, again, in whatever is exactly the same sense, not a post-modernist.

I think the important difference here is whether one believes that "all ages are contemporaneous" or not (a formula you find, somewhat ironically, in Pound's Spirit of Romance). I believe that they are, especially in the sense in which that idea is relevant for poetics. A work of art "emerges" (if you will) from cultural practices in proportion to its likeness to all other works of art (past and future). Thus a work of art becomes its own contemporary with all other works of art.

The competing view, as I understand it, is that a work of art emerges from local and temporary conditions. Each age defines what a work of art is. A work of art does not depend on the sensibility of "present moment of the past" (and the future) but is an indictment of the present's domination by the past (on behalf of the future) or obssession with the future (on behalf of the past). However we turn it, the problem with this refusal to be contemporary is that it implies that historical knowledge is necessary in order to understand the artistry of a given work.

For a long time now, I have found the formula "No understanding of X without an understanding of the history of X" a depressing one. It may, of course, be true.

No comments: