This past semester I’ve had the immense pleasure of being involved in two distinctly different workshops. The differences are many, but the one I want to focus on here is the differing attitudes towards the aesthetic of a young poet.
In WORKSHOP A the professor (a wonderful poet and person) is totally upfront and honest about her specific aesthetic, her belief in this aesthetic being ‘right’ and pushing us towards this approach. This sounds oppressive. And honestly, her aesthetic is far from my own fledgling poetic approach. Still, I admire this approach for several reasons:
- There is no bullshit about the possibility of being ‘objective’.
- As she says, by making her students do it her way, even if they disagree it will harden their resolve about ‘their way’.
- It promotes discussion.
In WORKSHOP B the professors attempt a much less prescriptive approach, pushing us to consider our own aesthetic more consciously but wihout imposing their own artistic predilections. This works mainly because this group came together through shared poetic approaches and interests, and focuses on collaborative work and poetry as a community. It is divorced from the classroom.
I am required to write a STATEMENT OF POETICS.
Although I do not have a poetic but hope to catch a real one soon, this is what I’m presenting instead:
STATEMENT OF POETICS
When I first began writing this, I mistitled the document ‘statement of purpose’. Perhaps that would be more fruitful. The purpose of the poem is expansion. It should be an ambitious mark on the page, wanting to connect to larger things and grow considerably within the reader’s mind. This can be achieved in a catalogue of ways. This catalogue is not closed. There is not an individual catalogue for each poet or poem.
From the current catalogue:
- An awareness of the poem’s object materials
- Poems are usually made of language. If a poem is to move outside of itself, it needs to be aware of its limitations to break through them. The most obvious limitation is its material of language. Showing the seams of language and its functions reflects back onto the poem, onto the act of writing and reading. Examining parts of language in a poem is an act of vulnerability and an act of trust. The poet is admitting ‘look, this is all I have, and yes, I am trying to manipulate your thoughts and feelings, but I am showing you that is what I am doing. It is a trusting the reader, and the poem, that a truth will still exist when the artifice is revealed.
- A poem can also be partially made out of white space. This space can be shaped around a poem, or this space can shape the poem. This space can be silence. By using the page, attempting new forms, the poet is still aware of the artifice.
- The material objects of poetry are base. The material objects of poetry are democratic. All words are available. Advertising is poetry. Saying fuck is poetry. Whispering is poetry.
- Writing the body
- To write, to read is a physical act. The body is the largest universal. To stretch outside the page, the poem can inhabit the reader’s body.
- The poem should be honest. It should not deny that it was made from a breathing and heaving fleshly poet. The poem is not always a physical space but it can connect physical beings if it isn’t coy and accepts its bodily space.
- Please remember to read aloud. Your mouth is for many things and poetry is one of them.
- Relinquish ownership
- The poem is a small town with a population of two. The population is the poet and the reader. There may be spectres of speakers or other such for the population to inhabit. However, the population is two but neither owns the town. The town only exists between the two of them: the poem needs writer and reader to create itself. Neither authorial intent nor interpretation can build a poem alone.
- The town is not isolated. It is selfish to disconnect the town from other populations, current and previous. The poem should not ignore other poems. It can make a dialogue or an argument. It is possible to collaborate with the past.
- The town is changing. It is no longer built of bricks all of the time. Technology is changing the town. Do not leave the town to ruins because you are scared of change.