Wednesday, April 19, 2006

post moot statements

[statements prepared for and read at the post_moot gathering friday afternoon panel last weekend]

Is There a New Academy?

Is there a new academy? Yes. A new world-wide pseudo-academy of semi-moot poetry is with us and is having its heyday. It is a great, highly organized, and heart-stirring celebration of the half-mind and half-reason in poetry. It has a big market, and poetry apprentices, students, and young talents are extremely enthusiastic about it.

For two or three decades in America, a "semi-" or "near-" moot poetry, which was easily communicable and exploitable, and which made our poetry critics, teachers, editors and publishers very happy, was institutionalized, standardized, prized, and sold very well.

Today, a large variety of hyphenated post-moot schools, such as post-avant, post-language, post-new synthesis, post-new spiritualist, post-new sinceretist, post-new flarfist, etc., have also been incorporated and officialized, and give much pleasure to great masses of people.

Most pseudo-post moot poetry academicians claim that "all poetry is post-moot" or that "there is no post-moot poetry," and reach their paraphrasable, teachable poems by simplifying, distorting, or pilfering details and motifs from older modern schools, or by "adjusting" or "diluting" and "popularizing" post-moot poetry. Poetry that uses "post-moot" poetry, or that "returns" it to something or other, has been constantly before our eyes, and now comes out of everyone's ears.

Post-moot poetry was never a "moment" or "school" or "ism," like symbolism, imagism, objectivism, projectivism, etc., however important and interesting these may have been, and it was not another variation of all the ways and manners of post-romantic and modern poetry. On the contrary, it was a new idea and beginning, with limitless possibilities.

Post-moot poetry is always non-mimetic, non-subjective, non-symbolic, and non-imagistic. There are no easy keys, bridges, or translations, either, no matter how easily the mass media, mass market anthologies and educational industries make them available.

Without a true academy, high ideals, rational standards, and a formal, hieratic, grand manner, we have only our overcrowded, ignoble profession.

We are, with Jack Paar, "for anything that catches on," and though some scoff, some of us, with Liberace, "laugh all the way to the bank," and with Lawrence Welk and his champagne music, "We hope you like our show, folks."

On Poetry and Morality

Ethics and morality come up now more and more frequently in poets' discussions. The only way to handle an ethical or moral problem in poetry is in terms of a poet as a poet, and not in terms of a poet as a human or a sub- or superhuman being or as anything else. Perhaps what's new historically in our time is the awareness of the poet as a poet. But maybe it was always the poet as the poet all the time.

In the thirties, it was wrong for poets to think that a good social idea would correct bad poetry or that a good social conscience would fix up a bad poetic conscience. It was wrong for poets to claim that their work could educate the public politically or that their work would beautify public discourse. The problem is always the poets' problem, not that of poetry institutions, critics, publishers, etc. Poets have to be held responsible for everything they do.

It was wrong for poets to give the impression that their poems were a valuable document of World War II, or that they were helping defense or symbolizing victory in the Pepsi-Cola forties. It was wrong for poets to pass themselves off as visionaries of cosmic orders or seismographs of universal disorder.

It's wrong for poets to overprofessionalize of overamateurize their profession in the practice and teaching of it. Poets can't organize themselves as poets. Poetry does not teach anything. Everyone cannot be a poet.

A writer in a recent issue of Harper's critiquing Jonathan Franzen "waxed" enthusiastic about the non-normative syntax of Gertrude Stein and her followers. He said they were involved in the cult of the unreasoned, the principle of the unformed, the irrational and the uncontrolled, and that moldy, broken, corroded, ragged, drifting surfaces and sloppy, brutalized sentences represented displaced persons and a romantic point of view, romantic not only in outer ruins but also in inner ruins.

Well, there's no question I've been taking an anti-romantic point of view. I can't imagine disjunctive syntax not being a primitve, decadent or obvious quality today. It's isolated in curricula in all creative writing programs now and is made something that anybody can do or make, especially the most accidental and irrational, or something that happens of its own accord. This is enough to exclude it from serious poetic activity. How many photographers take pictures of demolished houses, peeled-off walls, and marked-up sidewalks?

[These statements have been transcribed from eponymous essays by Ad Reinhardt, in his Art As Art: Selected Writings, edited by Barbara Rose (Cal Press 1991), except I have substituted poetry-related terms for Reinhardt's art-related terms and made some slight omissions.]

1 comment:

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Tom, I want to bounce off some of these ideas for a discussion you and I should have about a suggestion for a panel at the Louisville conference. I think your post-moot comments would be a helpful ground in thinking about "poetry at the interstices" or some such--that is, the restless in-betweeness (for better and worse, indeed) of a lot of poetry of our present time.