Tuesday, November 11, 2008

K. Silem Mohammad on "Stupidity in Poetry"

Here is the last paragraph of the post:

Lest it be concluded that I am trying to dissuade my readers from their poetic pursuits, I should say that I think stupidity, like wisdom, has its place. And there are different kinds of stupidity. Here again the other three disciplines of magic, religion, and philosophy are relevant. Magic encourages a local, temporary application of stupidity to a specific, staged set of actions. This stupidity is always already recognized as contingent and insincere. It is pretend stupidity, largely harmless but also largely frivolous. Religion encourages a total or near-total investment in the most dangerous kind of stupidity: the kind which leads one to surrender wholly to whatever powerful idea or feeling is presented as necessary, and in so doing to render oneself an unthinking pawn for whoever presents that idea or feeling. Philosophy encourages, like magic, a stupidity that is temporary and contingent: a voluntary placing of oneself into certain postures of unknowing, in the interest of isolating and clarifying those truths that are (hypothetically) knowable. Poetry uses all these strategies, but strips them of their practical applications. In poetry, we engage stupidity almost in the spirit of confession or ecstatic ritual. We stare it in the face and acknowledge it. We admit it as a fact, and don't try to control it. We simply experience it, like absurd laughter, or a surge of morphine through the veins. We own it in the hope that it won't own us.
i feel like the people in my poetry workshop should read this (though maybe Dennis Etzel has already done so).

this, in a lot of ways, gives me hope that people will rethink poetry like Obama will help people rethink politics. (what does that even mean? i think it means my brain is small, soft, feline.) it makes me feel justified in my motivations for writing and my assessments of poetry: i read and write poetry because i feel like doing so is to participate in communal acknowledgment of the inability of language to hold lasting meaning outside of a hyper-focused context, the inability of our brains to process and hold enough cues to know anything. what i mean by that latter clause is that poetry (read: "language"?), for me, is the constant renegotiation of meaning, trust between humans, and the violations thereof.

i think i just butchered KSM's point for my own purposes. just read his piece.

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