To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, April 23, 2012

Charles Bernstein: The Truth in Pudding


Imagine poetry as a series of terraces, some vast, some no bigger than a pinprick, overlooking the city of language. The sound and light show begins in the dark: sentences dart by, one by one, forming wave after wave of the rag and boneshop of the quotidian, events passing before our eyes like the faint glimmer of consciousness in an alcoholic stupor. Facts, facts everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Now it is dawn, now night, now noon, now morning. It’s as if the day never ends, it just keeps coming back for more.

Language is an event of the world, just as, for language users, the world is an event of language. Even the world is a word.

Speak truth to truth.

In the viscosity of process, the end never arrives.

Poetry shows the ink the way out of the inkbottle.

Don’t let the Proper Name horse lead the active thinking cart.

A thing of beauty is annoyed forever.

Poetry’s social function is not to express but rather to explore the possibilities for expression.

Poetry is difficulty that stays difficult.
[Hank Lazer via Pound/Williams]

Slivers of reason make amends.

Connect the knots.

Blaming others for your own failings is inevitable; getting others to do it for you is unforgivable.

Fate makes us who we are
Just as we make it what it is
But the sadness overwhelms.

I don’t want interdisciplinarity but nondisciplinarity.

Something there is that doesn’t love a frame
That wants it laid bare.

Before I made a frame I'd ask to know
What I was framing in or framing out.

Two frames diverged on the common road
& I, I could not choose the one for the other
So stood, astounded, in place.

For frames are what we are inside of.

Two frames are better than one
Three's the thicket.

Today I am worried about Professor B, who worries about whether his worrying is run-of-the-mill worry or worrisome worry and this worrying about his worry worries him the most, turning his worrying into the kind of worrisome worry he worries about.

“Is the best you can do really the best you can do?”

Does the work frame the interpretation or the interpretation frame the text? Or is a text a work without a frame?

Poetry starts in the present but immediately takes you to its many pasts, through its many paths.

What is missing from bird's eye view is plain to see on the ground.

Not incoherent, coherent by other means. By any means necessary.

Not the flow of consciousness but the flow of perception.

"It is not a thought, finished and complete, that seeks expression in a beautiful form. It is thought's struggle, what is in and below the thoughts; it is the things and all things behind them, the life-material, expressed in our perception, that we should render in aesthetic creation." [Gunnar Bjorling, tr. Fredrik Hertzberg]

What's the difference between narrative and story? What's the difference between stories told and untold? What's the difference between a story told once, a story told twice, and a story told many times? Does a story have to find its own way of telling itself or does the teller tell it? How can you tell the told from the tale?

A fact is a frozen state of affairs. If I had to stipulate the facts of the poem I would say there are no facts other than the words and the words are not facts at all but what makes facts possible. The poem is the fact of its own making. The poet is the extension of the fact of the poem.

 “It is what it is. It swings.”
[Paul Anka]

In the 1990s, it was common in Russia to find stores with empty shelves, but one was stripped to bare walls. It was a shelf store.

So much depends on what you mean by failure, what you want from success, and what you imagine poems do. Insofar as a poem is successful, it fails to fail, but, in failing to fail, it also succeeds at failing. That's a lose-lose scenario (which in the alchemy of poetry we imagine as win-win).

Some praise the beauty of a poem and the exactness of its images. Maybe this is what least I like. The poem’s polish makes a glossy surface in which I see myself staring, barred from making it to the other side. Here we find the hymen of voyeurism intact. So here the poetics is compulsory autoeroticism. I have several names for what went wrong: tone constrained, ending boned, syntax pulled thin over box-like frame, then teaspoon
used for stirring in feeling.

Either you have talent or we’ll buy you some.

Better a four-legged dog than a three-legged cat.

The time is not far off, or maybe it has already come to pass, when computers will be able to write better poems than we can. So we must now add to logopoeia, phanopoeia, and melopoeia: algorhythmia.

Good poets make analogies, great poets make analogies between analogies.

Computers will never replace poets because computers won’t take that much abuse.

Is the diachronic robustness more valuable than synchronic flickering?

The work of art always exceeds its material embodiment as well as its ideal form: physical or digital instantiations, anterior codes or algorithms, experience while reading or viewing, interpretations, contexts of publication or appearance, historical connections – all these have an affinity, clustering around an empty center.

Three types of fragmentation, or three aspects of any fragment: disjunction, ellipsis, constellation.

Serial frames, each displacing but not replacing one another.

In modular or serial essay form, each of the interchanging parts relate tangentially to the next, forming a cluster around a projected but unstated series of possible motifs. In this way, different aspects of the imaginary are addressed, as if they were the interlocking faces on the surface of a crystal.  Juxtaposing disparate, if related, material, forms an array or constellation within an environment.

“… we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.” [E. A. Poe, The Poetic Principle]

Words falter then fail, love and care persist.

Love falls away, cares betrayed, words remain.

Better last night’s salami than this morning’s baloney.

Are poetry and poetics at odds? Are poetics and scholarship opposing? Is innovation a matter of aesthetics or of applied research?

Poetry is to the classroom what a body is to a cemetery.

Poetics and innovation are the Scylla and Charybdis, or possibly Mutt and Jeff, or then again dog and bone, or possibly singer and song, or is it doctor and patient, or inner and outer, or hook, line, and sinker?, of the politics of poetic form.

If reading poetry is not directed to the goal of deciphering a fixed, graspable meaning, but rather encourages performing and responding to overlapping meanings, then difficulty is transformed from obstacle to opening.

“It is a puzzle. I am not puzzled but it is a puzzle. … I am not puzzled but it is very puzzling.” [Gertrude Stein, The Mother of Us All]

everybody talks about the fall of the humanities
but few make the effort to get up.
in other words, does the past have a future?

"The ladder urges us beyond ourselves. Hence its importance. But in a void, where do we place it?" [Edmond Jabes, tr. by Rosmarie Waldrop]

Information is born free but is everywhere in chains.

Poetry is metadata without code, free-base tagging, cascading style sheets with undefined markers.

The role of teaching poetry, or of poetry criticism, is not to overrule difficulty, as in a court of law, but to sustain it – to recognize the ways that resistance to easy assimilation might sustain our engagement with the poem and in the process provide aesthetic pleasure and intellectual challenge.

Are we scholars and teachers and artists or academetricians?

The crucial distinction, in our poetics, is not only between presenting and representing, enacting and expressing, but also grasping and pointing.

All poetics is political
All poetry is politics
All politics is poetics

What you think and $5 will get you exactly something that’s worth $2.95

Think of poetry groupings not as islands but as directions: northern or southern, open to inhabitation by different times, different populations.

Schools are made to be broken.

No where to go but on.

Yes, we have no ideology, yes we have no ideology today.

Tumble, sunder,  fake,  fall. These are not only my subjects but also practice (makes imperfect). Does the poem allow its error to lead? rupture? collapse? rapture?

Even the Pacific Ocean has a bottom, but you’d be hard pressed to get there with even strokes.

I may be wrong, in fact I most surely am wrong, just not as wrong as you.

Two rights almost always make a wrong.

The absence of absence is not evidence of absence. (The evidence of absence is not the absence of evidence.)

What is after me is also after me. I hide in my past.

“But the world will never weary of watching that troubled soul in its progress from darkness to darkness.” [Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist]

Don’t tell me it’s time to go to bed because I just woke up.

In Portuguese, you don't count the last syllable.

As if poetry was something you give to your mother-in-law when she goes deaf.

Rabbi Eliza would always say, Which comes first, the egg or the idea? as a way to stop a conversation she felt was coming too soon to a conclusion. One very hot afternoon, Rabbi Omar asked Rabbi Eliza to trace the origins of her favorite maxim. “In a roundabout way,” Rabbi Eliza began, looking up from the passage she was studying, “it’s related to Rabbi Yukel’s so-called Rule of the Index Finger: Don’t put all your chickens in one egg, which itself is a variant of the saying, attributed to Rabbi Raj, and which we chant on the first half moon of Winter, One egg is not the world. On hearing this, Rabbi Omar loudly protested, noting that several centuries before Rabbi Raj, Rabbi Not-Enough-Sand-in-Desert-not-Enough-Water-in-the-Sea had insisted that the central question to ponder on nights-without-visible-rainbows is Which comes first the basket or the idea of the basket?. “Exactly,” Rabbi Eliza said with a triumphant laugh, “without baskets or eggs we would only have words and without words only mouths.”

Imagine poetry as a series of terraces, some vast, some no bigger than a pinprick, overlooking the city of language. The sound and light show begins in the dark: sentences dart by, one by one, forming wave after wave of the rag and boneshop of the quotidian, events passing before our eyes like the faint glimmer of consciousness in an alcoholic stupor. Facts, facts everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Now it is dawn, now night, now noon, now morning. It’s as if the day never ends, it just keeps coming back for more.

Language is an event of the world, just as, for language users, the world is an event of language. Even the world is a word.

[Originally published in NO: A Journal of the Arts #6, 2007, to reappear shortly in Recalculating, Charles Bernstein’s next book from University of Chicago Press.]


[please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here]

3 comments:

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Here's a poetry near extinction thanks to the academic's silly otiose distinctions.I tire of the man's odious distinctions!

Look to the young, Jerome, for readers who'll carry your legacy forward. Only the young with broad fearless shoulders...

William A. Sigler said...

An immensely thought-provoking read. One who really thinks about the social function of words (and by extension poetry) can only come away with an urge to veil, for the truth evades everything else, and all that is exposed speaks of so much trauma, so much pain it is torment to catch the words into use, but one can’t (as I am now) help but to do so, as a function of breathing.

Ed Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.