Featured Post

Anxious gatekeeping

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Home Base

What Allen Ginsberg calls "home base" in one of his Naropa lectures / workshops. Home base is vision, what you see, concrete reality, the music of the words of a poem. This is similar to what I emphasized in my good poetry tricks. Abstract language gets you away from home base or the sensory base. A woman named "Francine" in the workshop reads a poem she wrote that is very abstract, and he objects to it for this, its lack of concrete referentiality. (He also call home base "the breath.")

It is a good metaphor because you don't always have to be at the home base, but you should know where it is!

Ginsberg is very astute and analytical, actually. He identifies the exact moments in another poem by Francine where something good happens, like "leave the water trickle so the pipes don't freeze."

(Francine's poem is “There is no telling, even showing/is missed, and being best to worst, best/ to worst leaves me alone with wild/thoughts.”)

***

My idea is that the "prosaic" is only a valid category for a poem. Elsewhere it is just invisible, but when you put a "prosaic" clause in a poem, then you are marking it as such by way of contrast. The same with anything else "anti-poetic" or "conversational." It isn't that you can't use it, but that it has to be on purpose. Elevated language and lowered language have the same function, and even neutral language, surprisingly. Pared down, neutral language with apparently no emotion at all is used for its poetic charge. You could even have a poetic charge to abstraction, for example, but it has to be deliberate, you have to exploit that exact quality of the abstract as such, its funny-sounding abstractiness. Maybe the funny sound of an abstract word, as in Wallace Stevens, will convey the fact that the abstract is meant to be there or fits.

In one of my bad poems I use the phrase "music notation software." It is fine for what it is, but the three word noun phrase is hard to use in a good poem, because that kind of phrasing is stigmatized as bureaucratic ("department awards committee report"). You could say "cow dung fire," I guess. Maybe "silk road calluses."

***

By the same token, language is a social medium, so letting in the social aspect of language and leaving it out are two kinds of social gesture that work in parallel. To include social intercourse in a genre where it has been excluded is a deliberate gesture that plays against that previous exclusion.

You can't just write poetry badly accidentally, just assuming that every element is valid there.

2 comments:

Leslie said...

Obliquely related I found a new poet and I am all excited.

Alan Mills b. 1979

Poemas Totales/ars poetica
Contenerlo todo
(el vaso del universo)
y pulir piedras con miradas.
No cabe la poesía en la palabra:
la estira/ la tensa/ la quiebra.
Hay quien lo sabe y llora.
Entrega silencios
para parecerse a Dios.
¿De dónde nace un ser bello?
Si el verbo se hiciese carne
la poesía daría tanta verdad
como un puño de tierra/
sería tan cierta como el aliento
del anciano que sueña futuro
en larga fila de jubilados.
Lo bello persigue lo bello
aunque en ello se vaya la vida.
¿Y la mentira?
Caminar con ella/ enamorarse/ morir.
El dolor es anuncio de divinidad.
La poesía se persigna ante las cosas.

Jonathan said...

Nice. I like "larga fila de jubilados"