December 15, 2005

December Confessions

It's been a while since I posted anything here. I began writing an entry back in November after a good friend had died. But this blog, with its infrequent notes, was starting to feel like an obit column. I want to honor the great men and women who have moved on in the last year: Lucia Berlin, Robert Creeley, Carl Thayler, and so many--too many--others. I'm distrustful, however, of the urge to commemorate, as if death makes retrospection safe and authorizes our investment in a past that is not ours. Poetry should be present, and in the present, providing recursive paths through current situations. The cult of the person doesn't interest me so much as the range of the person's work. How do we make that work vital to the present? When the cells break down and memories disappear and emotional significance is absorbed into earth and air printed (or digitized) words are all that remain. That aside, I will miss conversations with my friend Carl. And I wish he could have had his cherry red Harley.


Another reason for my absence, if this is to be a moment of confession—I began PhD skool last fall, studying rhetoric and poetics. I read a lot of books. Showed up at a lot of meetings. Taught my freshman introduction to writing. And wrote two journal articles on S.T. Coleridge. I love the work, the introspective time away from children to dig and connect. I had been feeling stagnant in my study. So there's been little time to write here in my quest for the company card.


The blog medium itself disturbs me. To do it right requires a considerable amount of self-investment. The blogs I admire--Rue Hazard, Wood's Lot, Texfiles, Orpheus in Boxers, Equanimity, Third Factory--manage to make connections that are thoughtful, understated, and arranged in ways that reveal the state of the art with transpersonal values. I mean, poetics is central, not the person behind the blog. And I have a fairly extended notion of "poetics." I don't mean a person isn't present behind these sites, but "person" is an instrument toward some greater agency beyond their own limited field range. These are trustworthy observers of the state of the art because the blog medium is arranged formally--according to each distinct perception--to reveal something we didn't know before.

Too many blogs wallow in in the pigsty of personhood. Instead of making an instrument of themselves, they are vacuums of attention. While picking on Silliman's blog is hardly new or useful, one thing about his that has not been mentioned elsewhere is the commitment to Enlightenment rationality. His blog prose at times is equivalent to Sir James Mackintosh, the 19th c. lecturer who Coleridge excoriated in letters and private notation. Silliman's ongoing history of the "post-avant" po scene is terrific, in its way, but you have to endure the discursive prose and categorical feather-fluffings.

Blogs that reveal a situation and that work according to the diverse motivations behind the scene are useful tools or gauges through which we can evaluate the larger field. A commitment to that should be commended, but it is a time-consuming and challenging task to use the blog with such force and attention.


Before blogs were fashionable, I edited the Possum Pouch as an irregular online newsletter. This was 1999 or so, before kids and when I had time to devote to an online medium. In 2002 the blog format made more sense, though I continued to run this much like the original newsletter. In recent years, I've had less time to commit to this medium, concentrating on print publications and writing for others who kindly ask for my prose work. Also, I find that the 20-30 page journal article, or chapter length paper, is a better tool of discovery than using the short blasts of blog discharge. The immediacy of publication is missing, but the discipline of prolonged study on a subject has other rewards. So with this in mind, I'm suspending the publication of the Possum Pouch until I feel its need again.


Skanky Possum is likewise on break--n indefinite break. We have been publishing chapbooks by Marcia Roberts, Tom Clark and Anne Waldman, and Basil King, and books by Stefan Hyner and Carl Thayler. David Hadbawnik will have a new chapbook available this spring. My interests at present are in printing small books such as these and not dealing with the time consuming task of magazine production. Besides, as long as The Poker, Damn The Caesars, Effing, Hot Whisky and Noi are out there doing great work, I don't feel the same urgency to publish. We have work enough for another issue, and we will publish another final one this summer. Someday a Skanky Possumreader might be a terrific project. But for now, our commitment is to individual authors as publishers, reviewers, and critics. Given our domestic situation, this is how Hoa and I think our time would be best distributed. To those of you who have not heard from us or to those to whom you may have received confusing messages over the last few months we apologize. We simply don't have the organizational time to keep up at the moment.


Finally, I just want to throw this out there to gauge my perception, but poetry as its practiced now feels in many ways hollow. There are many individual poets doing great work--mostly in isolation--and they realize the present in language and make vital communications. Much else out there feels shaped by the social--network connections, chummy insiderness, etc--of course we know many people and make use of each other's generosity. I'm the first to admit that. We need a re-evaluation and re-commitment to the poetics of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. The New Americans were in many ways the first writers of the romantic-modern tradition to realize the profound impact of audience communication. If poetry is to remain vital, it needs to address a diversity of situations and not only its coteries of admirers. This is an old problem, I know, but it's not that old, because it is a uniquely romantic-modern problem. Poetics as public conversation had a much different effect in antiquity and the Middle Ages. But this isn't the place for that story. And who wants to prescribe what poetry be, anyway? One thing for certain, at its best it is an impersonal instrument that helps us realize the environments we inhabit. Without that gauge in language--or a kind of test of space--we've got nothing but our own limited psychic traumas. I keep thinking that the solution to poetry does not lie in form, but in our personal approaches to it and our adaptations of it.

Over and out, for now.


Posted by Dale at December 15, 2005 04:18 PM
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