Saturday, January 16, 2010

contention continued

First, a fun slight alteration of a translation from Nerval:

"This life is a shithole and a whorehouse. I am ashamed that God should see me here."

The version I found said 'hovel' and 'house of ill-repute' which I just don't believe can be accurate.

The in-laws were dispatched without incident. Our little shack was approved of, our food was prepared and eaten with pleasure (sour-dough pancakes and barley jambalaya, oddly enough) and I missed most of it because I've come down with some sniffles. So I threw myself at some prose but my foggy head produced little of value.

As I was saying, prose poetry, according to what few rules are (mostly) agreed upon, should look like prose but magically be something different, although what, exactly, no one knows.

Both prose writers and poets tend to scapegoat the prose poem for this vagueness, but scapegoating is exactly what it is. The trouble is, no one is really able to define either prose or poetry, especially poetry. Prose can always fall back on its 'Hey, we don't use line breaks okay!' Poetry, however, being on shakier ground, usually resorts to socio-political theory to explain that if we think it sucks, we voted for Reagan. (My political reference is dated but so are most of these poetic movements.)

And the ubiquity of MFA programs for writing ensures-- insert rant against MFA programs here.

Anyway, I'm gonna fix everything. Aren't you glad? Shit, I am. (Also, I've been drinking this 'yogi tea' which is pieces of various tree barks and peppercorns and cinnamon and ginger that you boil for my cold and I think it has other odd properties...)

Now, bear in mind that most of what I am about to say has been discredited variously throughout literary history-- or, rather, bear in mind that I know that.

I think that certain modes of thought have inherent and natural forms of expression. Political argument, argument generally, expresses itself most easily and perhaps most forcefully in prose.

Evocation of the undefinable, whether varieties of love or God or nausea, finds itself most comfortably in poetry.

Time is also an easily divisive quality. Prose deftly creates the sense of time's passage, either slowly or abruptly, while poetry has at least a foot in the timeless.

Through the accumulation of these formal properties and their, to my mind, natural alignment (which is not to say they can't switch sides with powerful results) I'd like to create a kind of compass by which to navigate my ideas about text, and also create a kind of living map, via these prose poems, as a record of those explorations.

What makes this (i.e. the two pieces I've already posted) prose poetry is that it contains 'unbroken' prose elements and exists at the boundaries of prose space. The presence of the page, of the prose rectangle, defines how the prosy and lyrical play together. They are, perhaps, something like sculpture, half painting, half drama.

While all this may sound airy and theoretical it is really just the explication of my ambivalent, ambidextrous, ambiguous relationship to reading and writing. I've never fit comfortably into any genre of writing and I was never pruned or trained to believe anything about it by those who know better. The epic poem, the novel, the lyric, philosophy, tragedy, journalism, comedy-- none of these forms have ever moved me as such, but when any written work undoes me (which is how it feels, like I have been split, pared, unraveled, and have to begin all over again) as each of these have, it all feels the same.

It feels like a human being with rare gifts groping past the edge of their abilities.

In short, I think that each idea, each phrasing, each story, etc, had its own form. I'm trying to draw out these possibilities and the prose poem is how I think this can best be expressed.

Tall order.

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