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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, April 22, 2016


Here's my idea for the day. IWell, I really had it yesterday but will tell you about it now. I will take about half an hour and develop it as much as I can.

A critic (Bonaddio) uses as epigraph to a chapter on Lorca's early poetry (Libro de poemas), Oscar Wilde's quip that "all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling." Right. This is funny, it rings true and implies that poetry is bad because it stems from an excess of sincerity. Nevertheless, my idea is the opposite (Mayhew style). Sentimentality is a form of emotional dishonesty. Lorca's problem in this book is that he wears a literary disguise, inherited from poetic styles not his own, the inheritance of the turn of the century. I'm sure he is sincere, in the sense that he is not saying the opposite of what he means, but he is hiding behind a mask. To the extent his poetry here is "bad," it is bad in precisely that way. The aesthetic response we have, insofar as it is negative, is not an embarrassment at too sincere a confession of personal details, but rather a vergüenza ajena (the embarrassment we feel for someone else) stemming from the highly artificial nature of this literary construction. So I take it back when I said that Lorca's poetic speaker in this book is confessional. What he is doing is dressing up his emotions in a costume that he thinks will be appropriate. He hasn't yet found the aesthetically honest language for his poetry. Of course, if we want to read him as being closeted at this point in his life, that is true as well, and perfectly consistent with his need to don a mask. I now will argue that the poetic speaker here is not "Lorca" but Lorca's idealized and fictive literary speaker.

I know the speaker is fictive because the scenes of enunciation are fictive, as in the poem where he is talking to the children in the square and he says he will go find Jesus Christ to ask him to restore to him his childlike soul, or when he is talking to the ocean and the ocean answers him. All lyric speech is fictive, actually. Poetry is a genre of fiction, and its fictional nature is seen mostly in the fact that the speech act depicted is invented. Nobody could actually say it outside of a poem. This is super obvious, poetry 101 analysis.

The mistake is in thinking that sincere poetry is an unbearing of the self, when it is really the encounter with an honest, unsentimental poetic language.

Aesthetic feiglures (I typed that word wrong and then liked the way it looked, the g is silent)... Failures of this type are indices of other kinds of deficiencies, other kinds of dishonesty. Oscar Wilde's irony is more sincere because we know that it is reflection of an honestly earned position.

There, that is half an hour's work. Tomorrow I will add these ideas to my chapter in a more academic style of writing.


Jonathan said...

Also: link this kind of sentimentality to kitsch.

el curioso impertinente said...


Jonathan said...

Apparently I parsed that as "unburdening" rather than as "laying bare."