San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Assembling the Writer

What I'm after these days is a new way to assemble the writer. It's a familiar problem, Aristotelian I guess in its operating at the intersection of poesis, praxis, and theoria.

To assemble the writer is almost the same as assembling writing. But the challenges for writing, at least formally, are nearly obvious (multiple media experimentation, site reading, recognition of multiple, hybrid literacies).

Strategies for assembling the writer, however, are not quite so straight-forward. Collaboration, for one, is a keen utopia, almost gratuitous; the fact that written works are co-labored is avoidable only via certain rationalist denials of world and practice. Selective targets like 'poet' are equally nice but, as covered earlier, are culturally over-burdened, sacks of flour split open in the street under a pouring rain.

And the novelist, the web artist, etc. -- I've heard that these distinctions make little sense elsewhere (e.g., Mexico, that famous elsewhere). But in specialized economies of the first-best order (read George's world), the sins of Fordism and Taylorism still go unchecked. We're trained to be good specialists, efficient in a given skill, self-contained (and reliant), comfortable in our roles, happy in our boxes. Resistance (holistic practice) is futile, unless (maybe) you're a writer, for whom multiple approaches become assets over time -- that is, if you're paying attention and willing to pay the price.

That price, by the way, is roughly equivalent to the price of freedom, of liberty, and is all-inclusive: obligation and opportunity cost nothing extra.

The point is that writers should assemble themselves deliberately and be explicit -- and unapologetic -- about it. These assemblies should materialize regularly and readily, can be modified of course over time, but must be nonetheless overt, conscientious, intentional and dramatic. Component parts should be chosen with care, and the fact that one has chosen, is choosing constantly, should be celebrated and, most importantly, never denied.

The solitary writer, alone in the "garret," has been a hopelessly clever and artful dodger, denying assembly outright in the guise of the penitent sinner whose rewards are doled out in some later, deferred paradise.

And the myth, with its denial, persists. For too many out there, the writer in them either just happens (as calling, for example) or the first assembly in its infancy is hardened for all time. The life of the writer in this case becomes a series of denials, struggles on the cusp of transition. To be "a writer," I'm afraid, is in this scenario the true sin. To claim that distinction is to implode into oneself for want of cyclic self-revision. Anyone who claims to be "a writer" seals him/herself in a box. Box becomes coffin. Assembly stops. End of story.

The writer for my purposes (now) is part bird-watcher, part driver, part dishwasher, part reporter, part architect, part singer, part lecturer, part victim, part actor, part dreamer, part sadist, part gardener, part student, part manager, part mole, part senator, part cook, part gearshift, part animal, part windsock.

These are gestures of assembly -- idiosyncratic, nonexclusive, partial, and all mine. I'm pretty sure the writer begins there.


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