San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Words of the Poets

February 12, 2003 [NYT]

To the Editor:

Re "A Song of Themselves" (Op-Ed, Feb. 8):

Leonard Garment's wish that "politicians and artists display mutual restraint" would be better directed at our government than at the many poets who participated in Sam Hamill's poetry project, which would have been presented at the White House if Laura Bush, the first lady, had not vetoed it.

This is not a time for artists to display restraint.

Berkeley, Calif., Feb. 8, 2003

To the Editor:

Re "A Song of Themselves," by Leonard Garment (Op-Ed, Feb. 8):

Poetry is the song of the human soul, and it will cry out -- in joy, in alarm, in celebration, in grief.

It cries out of necessity: it sings from the radical core of the human heart. It cannot be reduced to a pleasant parlor-sized art, and those large souls Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes cannot be diminished.

They are courageous pilgrims, revolutionary spirits, at odds with orthodoxy, in love with truth.

Bless those American poets who are awake at this time and who cry out. Poetry serves life.

New York, Feb. 8, 2003

To the Editor:

The controversy about antiwar poetry (Op-Ed, Feb. 8) brings to mind the words of the poet William Carlos Williams:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die
miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

What people find in poetry is a deeper, more creative and moral way of looking at the world. True poetry, the very opposite of propaganda and scripted political "spin," inspires mental freedom, courage and clarity.

It's an antidote to the power-hungry, opportunistic ways of thinking and speaking that so often lead to misery, violence, destruction and death. That's why people turned to poetry after Sept. 11. That's why they are turning to it now.

New York, Feb. 10, 2003


Summer Guild Bash: Pre-Promo

Raining finally in San Diego and some talk of 'drought relief.'

Conversation with a guild member the other day yields the following, roughly: each according to his/her expertise. Meaning, for want of professional association, most writers convene to represent a role played by everyone else as well.

A room full of identical folding chairs.

That guild-mate and I had designs, in that moment, for a summer guild bash that would mark the first global poetry meeting of the 21st century, at least here in SD, where it rains occasionally.

At least that is the kind of thing we want to spend time imagining (the truancy of design in the age of busy schedules).

I was hoping to see Clayton Eshelman on stage tomorrow night over at SDSU, but that event has mysteriously disappeared from the website calendar.

The stage is empty.


Sociopoetics for a New Century

Sociopoetics: a theory of poetry as social force.

Social reflexivity as a channeling instrument for poetic composition (insurrection). Social force as writing prompt.

As literary ethnography, a research into poetry formations (groups, gangs, guilds) as social worlds. People & poetry as a combinatory (compositional) force. Writing in geopolitically specific (g)locales.

At the same time, writing -- poetic language -- as a form of social research. Looking into, documenting social activity via data recovery, selective filtration, grounded theory, writing through the experience of participant-observation (life as always).

1. poetry research (study activities)
2. research poetry (activist studies)

Answering needs (finding solutions) for a given social world (in its own time) through literary activism.

In part, revisionist ethnopoetics for the (digitized) 21st century.

The charge, for some: to practice daily (in service), to promote just causes, continuing through amalgams of research and compilation (writing as editation, assembly), culminating sometimes in some bank of results, in turn feeding future research.

What are the sociopoetical power flows of a (North American? SoCalifornian? Northern Baja?) poetry, in its several (g)locales, and how does a poetry manage there?

Sociopoetics may resist the culture of publication but leans ever toward distribution. Persistent and ever-regenerative distribution is all but required in an age of ubiquitous information flows (steady-state impermanence, ephemerality).

Periodical inquiry through available means of periodical distribution.

San Diego, for example, needs a ‘newsletter’ of sociopoetic agitation, lovingly and dwellingly meta-urban, as a focus point for experimental literary action close to its bones, graveyards, and killing fields (border). This blog-site in part serves that function, though its resources are limited.

For: poetic writing that makes good on its imbedded promises. Against: poetry opportunism and the empty promises of dead letters.

Sociopoetics less as a category, as the imperative of a movement, and more as a common point of reference across languages, geographies, disciplines, life-walks. The end of poetry as guise and given (publishing mainstay, performance ethos), so the beginning of poetry as infinite risk possibility, where lives depend on it.

Where it begins is writing research, where it ends is writing research. It vents through acts of assembly that materialize in certain settings, unavoidably (and so intentionally) destabilized from the start. Instant archiving sends a message, and the message works. Documentation, as the primary activity of sociopoetics, is for the most part the visible work of messaging.

Literary activity (somehow poetry sometimes) implies working the visible work of messaging. The merging of the literary and the social takes place in part in the rendering visible the work of messaging. Knowing the codes and conditions of that work is the first task of sociopoetics.

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