Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This from Joshua Corey's review of Shanna Compton's Down Spooky.:

Nervy and syncopated, Down Spooky proves that you don’t have to prove your seriousness to create authentic experience in language. Or as “My Huge Napoleon” concludes, asking of its titular character, “Why can’t he just admit / pleasure is inevitable?”

This from my mind: can seriousness ever create authentic experience in language?


Stephen Daniel Lewis said...

if a person tries to write something and be very serious, i think it seems like the person isn't looking at what is being said from every way possible, and because of that i can't take it as seriously as something that is aware of what they are doing (and i don't think you can say anything with complete seriousness and be aware of every possible way the thing being said can be looked at)

Benjamin Dean-Cartwright said...

Could you say what you mean by "serious" Rob? If you mean serious, as in having some sort of really specific intention for a piece of writing--one that you assume an audience is going to be able to grock as if they've been injected with a shot of something, causing them to fully understand authorial intention, then yes, I think that's silly.

Or do you mean "serious" as in..uh... weighty subject-matters? That confuses me too, because I don't think one can have anything but the vaguest control over how an audience recieves content. Anyways, who would want that control? I do think the act of composition, any composition that you label a "poem" is a serious act, though. Or, at the very least, you have to take yourself pretty seriously to do something as absurd as write a poem--in that old-timey absurdist, duchampy, urinalish way. Also, that Milton way. THAT guy was a jokester. I like this question. This is a good question.

I had a lot of very lyric, narrative confessional poet teachers when I started writing. I think that this fact, which some people know or assume, combined with the fact that political language and trees and shit appear frequently in my poems leads people to believe that I am putting my Ted Koozer pants on. I am not putting my Ted Koozer pants on. I bring up pants made of Ted Koozer because I think he is one of the people I hear others most often associate with the word "serious" in a pejorative way.

Do you mean Ted Koozer serious, Rob?

Will you touch my Ted Koozer pants?

Robert J. said...

Ben, i think i kind of meant what stephen said, i hope that isn't a cop out. i know that i can't ever take what i write seriously: even as i write, there is a constant struggle to suspend disbelief in meaning, etc.

part of it is that i keep thinking of this blogpost by Mike Hauser regarding humor in poetry, especially the quote from Kenneth Koch, which kind of says to me: the fact that we think that we can write anything of "significance" is funny. plus, look at the things that mike points out in the last paragraph re: juxtaposition, etc. and how poetry and comedy rely on the same tactics, "serious" or not.

i think that this is maybe more a condition of "post-modernity" but i don't even know what "post-modernity means", i just know what i feel, and was asking a question based on that feeling.

Or, at the very least, you have to take yourself pretty seriously to do something as absurd as write a poem--in that old-timey absurdist, duchampy, urinalish way.

you said that. i kind of disagree. i feel like there are a lot of people who write precisely because they don't take themselves seriously. again, i point to mike hauser as an example, and one of hauser's heroes, who i have grown to love dearly as well, ron padgett. does padgett expect anyone to read how to be perfect and take it him "seriously"? padgett has sort of resigned himself to the poetry-is-all-we've-got kind of thing, and you write even though you know that it means nothing and everything. writing is inherently absurd, so it living, and absurdity is by and large funny, can't be taken seriously, etc.

the bad things about blogs is that they reveal how dumb you are. not you, ben, i mean me. i mean i just displayed for anyone who wants to see how very incapable of explaining a simple idea i am. that is dumb. thanks for asking.

Robert J. said...

re: "authentic experience in language"

because language is pathetic and absurd, i think that the authentic experience of language is one that is comical and can't be serious. like stephen said above, we should be aware of the context of what we are writing, but we should write anyway, IN LIGHT of that.

Benjamin Dean-Cartwright said...

Writing even though it means nothing and everything sounds like a very brave act. Very absurdist. And very serious.

...and absurdity is by and large funny, can't be taken seriously, etc.

I think absurdity is wonderful precisely because it is incredibly funny at the same time that it is philosophically deadly serious, at least in the way that it destabilizes the belief of those who take themselves "seriously"--or maybe "too seriously" would be a better term? Although "too seriously" gets you into the business of judgment. And I think you're right--every human act is absurd. Trying to force yourself to be in touch with that seems like a serious action, though. I guess I'm working around in a vague way to the idea that it seems people have very serious philosophical reasons for not wanting to be serious when they write, even though the idea that we are capable of writing something and not being serious about it is just as absurd as considering the activity to be a serious one.

Also, I meant most of my original post, especially the section you quoted, to be somewhat playful and tongue-in-cheek. I don't think it came off that way. This is really good evidence to prove your point, though-- that 1) language is pathetic and absurd, and because of this the "authentic experience of language" is necessarily comical, and 2) blogs can be bad.

Wait, scratch number 2. I think this is very good, what is going on with this blog. I'm being forced to get in touch with the absurd nature of intending things, which I think is very good. I do not mean that tongue-in-cheek at all.

Mike Hauser said...

I think seriousness in poetry is important, but who really knows what that means? I feel intuitively that it is, and I think there's real seriousness in Padgett's and others' work in the humorous part of the genre. But I'm not sure how you define it. Is it about the way one approaches the work, or the amount dedicated to it, or revising a poem a gazillion times, or taking LSD? Or writing 4 hours everyday, or having a "ritual". All these thoughts have crossed my mind while trying to figure out whether I'm a Serious Poet. And then there's the fact that you can write a brilliant poem in 10 seconds, and take 20 years to write a completely shit poem. But I don't think it's all just some kind of "magic" either, because that seems to put some kind of mysteriozation on it. I've been really grappling with whether I'm "in it for the haul", if that has anything do to with seriousness. I don't know, maybe one just knows. Or maybe I know, and one just doesn't know.