Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An Observation

Seems that Hart Crane had boundless
expectations for The Bridge. I can't
recall the quote, but it ended in the
assertion that if he put it down, no such
dancing would have ever been recorded
on paper.

The observation being: reading that
poem, it is quite obvious that he failed
in what he set out to do, but this is a
different "risk" category, if you will.
Crane failed at upstaging Whitman, but
if one didn't know the lofty goals he'd
put up for himself he'd no doubt declare
The Bridge a triumph. Here we have
that elusive risk, which seems to be the
common thread in all really great writing:
attempting something beyond your power
which results in something better than
you would have produced with more common

It takes that combination of sheer audacity
and a library large enough to solidify a
rightful self-consciousness to do what Crane

I know very little of Donald Justice as a person
or creative force. I don't know how he works,
or what his ambition is when he picks up his
pen. Reading his Collected Poems makes me
glad he is out there, and can teach a writer
quite well the auld Poundism (though he
adopted it, I can only think of Pound when I
utter it) Dichtung = Condensare. (Or thereabouts.)
Justice seems to have a discipline that is
lacking in most of today's vanguard. (Economy
of language isn't the phrase one thinks of
thumbing through most quarterlies.) If one
judges from the body of work, the man's
picture and his bio, it would be hard to imagine
Justice having that streak of romanticist
self-destructiveness. It would be hard to see
him saying "This will change the course of
literature." It seems rather absurd, actually.

Dugan, yes.

His oeuvre is replete with grand failures. There
is a tone to each of his Poems that reminds
the reader of those wild-eyed poets, the poet
fixed in the popular imagination of most
outside the publishing industry/MF(A) circles.
The kind of guy a person would love to get
drunk with and swing sticks madly at passers-
by. Naturally, I see most of Dugan's poems
as brilliant -- but I'm sure he'd tell you different,
probably about the best ones. He seems the
natural progression past Bukowski, who may have
worshipped Hemingway to the point that
advancing past a certain point in poetry was
made impossible.

I recently engaged in a correspondence with a
fellow wild-eyed romantic who declared all of
his work to be "drafts." I don't know if this
was because of self-doubt, but in reading one
of these "drafts" I was struck by the fact that
it was indeed better than most of what is being
produced in the quarterly market. My guess
is that he is actively pursuing something great,
if not a new thing under the sun at least a
shake-up of the poetry hierarchy that seems
to be bookended by "Proets" whose work
is workshopped to impotency (I miss that word!)
and langpos who tend to display a "postmodern"
(a word I wouldn't miss if it were to be hurled
into a great chasm of word-death) hipness that
doesn't resemble poetry at all. (I am not saying
the work is without value, but for those of us
who revel in our romantic anachronism it is
just too coy.)

In this one page "draft" I feel more comfortable
about the future of poetry than I have in some
time. I am certain that those from the two
opposed schools feel a return to transcendental
or romantic verse is beyond anachronism and
into the territory of second-rate modes of thought,
something one decides upon because s/he hasn't
read enough contemporary verse, or refuses to
step into the 21st century... Well, I've seen about all
I need to of the 21st century as it is (a continuation
of the twentieth with a few nightmare twists)
and I'd wager the two schools will be outmoded
quicker than you can say "Wordsworth, Whitman,
Keats" three times quickly.

Neruda is a hell of a model for the New 21st.
South America is the global bright spot. There
is hope on the one continent actually ambling
into democracy. Big Hope is the only antidote
to the poisonous atmosphere of fear and repression
we see in, well, everywhere else. Neruda maintained
that type of Hope through very dark days for
Chile. Did he see a Chavez, a Lula coming? Maybe.
The two schools are an "is" type of equation.
The new poetry landscape, should people like
that friend of mine continue to write and not
jump off of anything high anytime soon, will again
be that of "what should be." I can tell you
"is" all bloody day. In third person. Big fucking
deal. We're through the looking glass where
"objective" writing is the most narcissistic.
Imagine the solipsistic weltanschaung of a writer
whose goal is strictly portraying "is" through
his own glasses, actually pretending to have
objectivity. It is a pessimistic way to do things,
and art (especially poetry) should be a
vaccine against the shit this criminal enterprise
of a Western World throws at us.


Maybe this will fail. Maybe South America
will fall again. And maybe those of us who
think like nineteenth century outcasts are
going to be scorned or ignored.

As Hart Crane might tell you, that grand
failure is better than any measured success.

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