Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mayhew poll

1.What is your sense of the poetic tradition? How far back does your particular historical sense range? What defines your tradition? Nationality, language, aesthetic posture? What aspect of your poetic idiolect or tradition most distinguishes you from your closest poetic collaborators?

I think public school imprinted on me the idea that the poetic tradition began with the English Romantics. who I did not read until I was in my early 20s. I think of poetry as a primal force of sorts, somewhat in the sense of Graves' White Goddess. my historical sense, then, ranges pretty far back, but I can't claim to be well read in ancient words. I do not trust translation so my tradition rests mainly in English. which is not to say that I haven't read translations. I have futzed my way in works in French, Spanish and German, plus old and middle English. I am not a scholar, I write more than I read. I'm not sure what aesthetic posture means. that romantic picture of the English Romantics was one I had to beat off (tuberculosis as a hobby and nympholepsy). I don't know what or who my closest poetic collaborator might be. I have read Olson more deeply than any other poet but I don't know how much that shows in my work. long ago Robert Grenier suggested that I read O'Hara and Koch, which seems very apt.

2. How would you define contemporary poetic practice? (Say, the typical poem that would be published alonside one of your in a magazine where you are published.) How does this practice relate to the tradition defined above? Does poetry of the "past" (however you define the past for these purposes) occupy a different corner of your mind?

I wouldn't define contemporary poetic practice, that's Ron Silliman's job, haha. a lot of things are going on, viable diversity. methods of production have changed greatly, likewise methods of publication. I think there's a different sensibility towards the arts now, in which the formailities are more personally defined rather than imposed. "past" poetry occupies the same part of my mind as contemporary.

3. Whom, among poets you most admire, do you understand least? What is hindering a greater understanding of this poet?

Pound's lucidity and craziness, together, boggle and worry me. Zukofsky, Stein, Dickinson all challenge me because they demand a patience that I can rarely rouse. I see a hermetic quality to their writing (differently expressed) that I greatly respect but which isn't easy for me to penetrate.

4. Are we over-invested in poetic "hero worship"? Is it necessary to have a poetic "pantheon"? How does the poetic pantheon relate to the notion of an academic "canon"? Are they mirror opposites, rivals?

I think I've rid myself of heroes but I think I needed them when I was younger. I think it is wise to let go the heroes. the poetic pantheon perhaps is another matter. I regard that as a necessity: those writers who still bring the bacon. the poetic pantheon is personal. the academic canon provides road markers, which are good to check out tho they might be wrong. I mean, it's fine that Harold Bloom exists to provide canon advice, but I reserve the right to consider him a goofypants. we need both the canon and the pantheon, and the strength to break from both.

5. Is "total absorption in poetry" benign? How about "poetry as a way of life"?

such an absorption, if it exists, wouldn't be benign in my life. and yet, poetry is my discipline. it's the lantern I use on my way.

6. Do you see poetry as a part of a larger "literature," or is poetry itself the more capacious categtory?

the categories blur, and I really have no definition of poetry. but the interesting stuff is poetry.

7. Are humor, irony, and wit (in whatever combination) a sine qua non? Or conversely, is humor a defense mechanism that more often than not protects us from what we really want to say?

not sure what this question asks. humour, irony and wit can say something but, like with poetry, what is said is less interesting than how.

8. Is the poem the thing, or the larger poetic project?

the larger poetic project. a single poem is like building a birdhouse. the continuing process is what interests me.

9. What is the single most significant thing anyone has ever said about poetry?

I don't know, but I'd like to hear.

10. Which of these questions asks you to define yourself along lines of division not of your own making, in the most irksome way? How close do these questions come to the way in which you habitually think about poetry? What other question would you add to this list?

christ this whole thing was tough. defining poetic practice is the most irksome, I guess. only question 8 came easy. these questions are much more external than I am given to.
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