Monday, July 30, 2012

Matvei Yankelevich said this... his open letter to Marjorie Perloff: 

I would assert that neither Conceptualism nor Conservatism foregrounds "the word as such," nor, moreover "the letter as such" (as described in another important manifesto of Russian Futurism). Neither American mode takes up the Russian Futurist call to free the word from its usual context in service of greater expressivity. Conceptualism may re-frame a discourse, but it doesn't usually insist on the aesthetic autonomy of its parts.

Here's Ms. Perloff's original essay: Poetry on the Brink

Here's Mr. Yankelevich's full statement:  The Gray Area 

Here's her reply: A Response to Matvei Yankelevich

Neither Conservatism nor Conceptualism (as defined by Perloff) are the kinds of poetry I like to read, that are meaningful to me. But apparently in the big leagues of Poetry these days (and decades previous), both genres or attitudes are the stuff that is taken seriously, wins Pulizters, gets published, is talked about in important articles.

Oh my, how distressing to my head! That kind of stuff rattles across my synapses like gravel. It's all so dull and pretentious.

If I understand correctly some of what Yankelevich is saying about Russian Futurism and its emphasis on "word as such," that poetic gesture has something to do with the lyrical mystic of language. I need to read and think more about what he's saying to be sure. All I know now is that Conservatism (as an affect of style, politics, or classroom) and Conceptualism (as a withdrawal from the deep mystic of word-itself in favor of a-textual Idea) both make me want to pull my hair out.

It's worth noting that in all three linked things above no mention is made of the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer. As if his poems are not sufficiently categorizable to be included in a conversation about important poetry. Or as if lyrical poetry as such is completely beside the point. Of course, all three linked things above are limited to discussing aspects of Conservative and Conceptual poetry. Still though, it is telling that the mystico-lyrical aesthetic of Tranströmer is ignored as an exemplary poetic presence. As if his non-alignment to any methodological posturing or his not having any manifesto ax to grind makes him too weird to appear in that conversation.

A poem, in my opinion, is something that happens in the isolated precincts of a consciousness. It is not concerned with a school or method or consensus. It is a kind of magic. A poem creates its own form and content, each time.

A poem, to be remarkable to me, must be attuned to the inherent harmonics of word-as-lyric and must have lines occurring as fragments-of-séance. It is about personal expression. After the inspired magic appears on the page, then comes the refinement of craft -- understanding what appeared, carefully shaping it, revising the vision. Then the poem is ready to invite a reader into its world, a new world containing textures and strangeness and enhanced time.

But what do I know?

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