Monday, April 21, 2008

I am learning XML. XML stands for X-Men Language and... Okay, it stands for eXtensible Markup Language. I mention this because XML demands firm accuracy. If you open a tag, you have to close it (unlike html, which is a similar mark up language, but much more loose about rules), and all statements must follow a rigid logic. Heaven forfend that you should commit a typo. Please do not fall asleep yet, I am bringing this to thoughts on poetic practice. The rigid demands of xml are challenging to work within, at least when you first start out with it. Think of Oulipo, or simply a defined rhyme and rhythm scheme. Those defined parametres can actually open possibilities for a writer. Oh look, I am beginning sentences with capitals! This, for me, is a stricture. When I first began typing, on a typewriter, I found that the less I used the shift key, the better, one less thing to deal with. A lot of poetry is written at odds with its structure. How many poets make a craft of rhyme and rhythm? Few do, by my reading. Especially in the current day (Henry Gould is an exception, from what I have seen). Metre and rhyme are more like burdens for many poets, as they follow rules they feel they must adopt. One of the keen things about Emily Dickinson is how she subverts the rules. The missteps in her metre and the off rhymes are canny realignment of old virtues. On the other hand, Whitman + rhyme/metre = botched Tennyson, he kowtowed to that structure till he had the good sense to blow it all up. Creeley, who really is the point of this ramble, follows from Dickinson. I cannot think off hand if he ever spoke of her or her influence. His early career was plangently poised in rhyme and metre. Plangently, because he was not smooth or comfortable with the stricture. But he was dogged. In that doggedness, he was able to greet words profoundly Yes, an early volume of his work was Words, followed by Pieces. I did not cotton to Creeley ay tall, when I first met his work. All I could witness then was the clunkiness in For Love and Words. That and the persistent attention in and of words. Which I regard as a virtue, but to read at a time when I didn't know poetry or its possibilities, all I saw was a grey bind. Creeley is not a colourful poet, which is to say, he gave me no toehold. Not until Pieces, which I discovered with the help of Robert Grenier and his class, did I decide that Creeley was great, with writing of a trippy focus.

The Bird
flies. She
flies.

Pretty sure Mr C was at least stoned if not tripping during the composition of these pieces, slightly post-psychedelic age (past the early giddiness, that is). I got Pieces where I didn't get For Love (my copy of that book is loaded with griping marginalia). I got one or two Creeley tomes after P, then moved on (oops, not counting his prose, especially his criticism)). I felt that I had the use of him. Creeley has always been there for me, tho. I want to read deeper now. I think I saw Creeley as Heading 2 to Olson's Heading 1. But that conversation between them, Creeley 16 years younger, was a matter of equals. This downright constancy of Creeley's sense of word and relationship was a structuring influence on the broadcasting intensity of Olson. Olson was a lifelong scholar, but he was a sloppy, crazy ass one. He was an adventure in the act. And that is what I love about him. But not to be fooled that he was clear, organized, or orderly. Creeley had the metre. Olson had this poignant energy that remains a worthy exercise. Olson made arabesque, Creeley found the words. What is wonderful is that they found each other, and combined (to some extent). Olson's local is mapped, whereas Creeley's is personal. We do not need to choose. Creeley took the unit as word, tho that unit had dimensions or aspects within. That breath that Olson talks of, and Ginsberg likewise, sounds nice, locus for their energy (Olson has always been an energy transfer for me), but it is more like a story. Olson's breath is a nervous New England accent, which I imagine I have I am stuck with my heritage). The commanding momentum of Olson is not his breath, but his crazy exuberance. Creeley was never exuberant, he was too tranced by the most local and plain. I am admitting thru out this piece that I fought Creeley. I have had to learn the simplest things last. Olson is all unbound complexity. Creeley is about the words that people us. I hope some of this makes sense. In xml, when you say something, you say it very precisely. Your xml editor will tell you that you have erred. It will not validate what you wrote, it will not tell you that your xml is well-formed (both italicized terms are official xml distinctions). Try thinking of poetry that way, which I think Creeley did. Try thinking of poetry, in general.
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