San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Bad Student Essays, Vol. 1

On M. Bakhtin's Art & Answerability

I'm pretty sure this work is positioned somewhere between Russian Formalism and Neo-Kantian metapsychology. Bakhtin distinguishes his project from R.F., for example, by way of a clear emphasis on material aesthetics, finding the Formalist doctrine of defamiliarization limited and limiting. He proposes that material in art should not be foregrounded but "overwhelmed," surpassed, worked on-beyond.

Like Blanchot, Bakhtin sees the material body of a work as something lived in the reader/writer coproduction of an "aesthetic object" -- a kind of hypertext (?) fashioned in the correspondence of work and perceiver. Also, note the functionalist or utilitarian emphasis on perception as an act of using. Bakhtin goes further in discriminating between simple acts of cognition, by which lived experience assumes an integrated appearance (architectonic), and acts of aesthetic consummation whereby the object/other transcends the cognitive plane and becomes art, beyond use.

The consummation of the other is a form of aesthetic completion: the act of reading (the other, the outer) becomes an act of formulation.

Consummation I read in part as an act of compensation, the self "adding what is necessary" to be complete. Compare the reader who invests a work with the activity of dedicated interest, atonement, "internment." Consummation, then, is a kind of performance (I confront in order to see). Material (as art) "helps" me do this, according to Bakhtin.

On Karen McCormick's Quirks & Quillets and Sheila Murphy's Teth

Short prose snippets (quillets?) of the new sentence variety, re-/cross-readings, the way a word, placed thus, and thus, can redirect a sentence, and then, again, and then, by chance?

A word has a certain bearing within or against a field of other words, and here the writing is a kind of purposive violation of a word's bearing. To enlist a word free of its bearing is to suggest bearing negatively.

Each use of a word nudges the word in its drift toward bearing. To read is to induce a kind of trouble-shooting, to hear the word fit its bearing. To move along and match the shift (little red bouncing ball). Then completion stops at provisional gatherings / totals bracketed as a new habit of reading.

High-pitched meditative scanning and the appeal of method enacted (as described). The first night that discloses (ablanchedhot). The concept consummated by its contrary (blech).

The idea, basically, that "sleep" and "death" foreground the death of the American lyric -- a way of avoiding that real death which comes as mystery.

This is all evidence, I think, of the quirk-iness at the heart of this writing. I take it literally as aberration, and seriously as evidence of a different kind of literary experimentation.

On Rachel Blau DuPlessis's Tabula Rosa

She who writes / underwrites / rewrites history. She who...and few do...harmonize dissonance.

I think it's best where the isolation of a single letter has the double effect of bringing up figure and sound.

The sense of argument in this book moves me, but argument via alternative methods of persuasion, suggestion. But suggestive in the sense that reappraisal is suggestive. We cannot "look again" without "looking differently." Abomination from which motivation is born.

Her repeated use of the word "tuning" : perhaps to locate frequency, to align dissonances, to fashion a music that orients. Self/other : the choric tune.

And my favorite line: "what cannot be said / will get wept."

Here, the force of disclosure, rewritings that recount the missing term.

On Valéry's The Outlook for Intelligence

I'm struck by the insights, foresights.

It's ironic that while one of Valéry's primary concepts is the unpredictability of futures, so much of his writing anticipates late 20th century America. In particular his "we end by needing it." Perhaps the end is needing it; need supplants desire. As long as needs are filled like prescriptions, who needs desire?

I'm also charmed by the mood of resistance in The Outlook. At one point V. calls for a recovery of mind, values, thinking, within "a few years." At heart, he strikes me as a traditionalist seduced by the fantasy of hasty repair.

Today we thrive by "needing" it, and the horror lies in our unfamiliarity with desire, which we so hastily traded in for need. We're addicts who know the dangers of the drug, who sense our own immiment destruction, but who willingly yield to the seduction.

If we're at all different from Valéry and his generation then it must be in our willingness to yield to our needs, forgetting desire, even while desire, after all, has not forgotten us.


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