Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Poetics

It is the task of the poem to detach an experience from its politics. To extricate it from history. By this means, the poet locates the emotion.

The poet, for example, meets a beautiful woman. A woman's beauty is intensely political. The poet undertakes to compose a poem "to her beauty". His task here may be to free [his experience of] her lips from the policy that governs [his experience of] her face.

Update: as I noticed during the discussion below. This post is actually an abstract of this one.


Kirby Olson said...

I loved this post... It's posts like this that keep me coming back here.

You're completely squirrelly.

Laura Carter said...

This kind of reminds me of Yeats, tho some of his poems were "political." But many seem to "have taken" your advice.

Harold Haller said...

can you think of an example that fits your poetics?

Thomas said...

I'll be doing some examples in upcoming posts. Basically, all poems should count as examples ... or I'd be wrong about what poetry is.

All of Shakespeare's sonnets would have to fit.

Tony Tost's "A Northern Eros" (in Complex Sleep) is on my list.

Also, Rothenberg's Khurbn. It is an attempt to pass from the politics of the holocaust to the poetry of "total destruction". A perhaps better way of putting it: we are normally urged (by the imperatives of history) to convert the emotion evoked by the word Auschwitz into a policy. (That policy may be as just & right as you like, it doesn't make it poetry.) Khurbn helps us to recover the emotion implicit in the policy. Rothenberg uses his own experience during a 1987 visit to Treblinka as his point of departure. Already in the preface we get a sense of it: "This was in sharp contrast to the crowds of tourists at Auschwitz..."

Thomas said...

"implicit in the policy" is not the right way of putting it. But I'll have to work on it a bit.

Thomas said...

And like Laura says: Yeats. (I don't read Yeats very often, but I'll have to now.)

Laura Carter said...


How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics,
Yet here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has both read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms.

--This is Yeats's last poem.

Presskorn said...

In the prefactory remark to my edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets the following is stated:

”It is also a subject for controversy among students as to whether any or the whole of the Sonnets can be [seen as] a description of the poet's own feelings, or not. Some members certainly favor the theory that he reveals himself. But in none of his other works does he do so; they are purely objective.”

I imagine that you would respond that they are descriptions of feelings while yet being ”purely objective”? Admittedly, the occurrence of ”purely objective” is odd, even in its original context. But wouldn't this, in a sense, be part of ”extricating” the emotion?

Thomas said...

My guess is that Shakespeare's sonnets were based on observation, not personal experience. The good poet will notice emotions, even where s/he does not feel them. And even where s/he feels them s/he will have to make the specific effort to notice them.

I think subjects are always political, as objects are always scientific. So the poet does detach the experience from the subject. But this does not make it "objective". The observations on which the sonnets may have been based were not objective.

(This post is actually quite good.)

Kirby Olson said...

It's the opposite of historicization? Could you call it dehistoricizing?

I think you have a concept you can run with here. I love this idea.

Presskorn said...

Yes, that post is quite good [In fact, I might mail it to a few friends...]. It also reminded me that the sense of ”objective” I was going for was ”impersonal” - although perhaps without a good bulk of the Deleuzian metaphysics connected with that word – a simple distinction between ”feeling”(as it were, subjectively) and ”noticing”(as it were, impersonally) would do just fine for me...