Friday, April 16, 2004

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
(from via

Hamlet (Bantam, 1988)

My lord, he hath importuned me with love
In honorable fashion.


Robert Potts on JH Prynne in the on-line Guardian April 20 (thanks aaron,
"How then might one read Prynne's work? It appears so alien to our habits of reading, so unlike the lyric poetry we are more habituated to; it is only on quite prolonged exposure that its coherent arrangement - sonically, prosodically, thematically and metonymically - becomes evident: though this is, admittedly, a profound and giddying experience. Even then, one is at a loss as to how to naturalise this experience, to make of it something as familiar as 'a meaning'. . .
Part of the pleasure for some readers, including myself, is the discovery of fresh vantage points on the world, garnered from chasing references in the poems, whether historical, musical, literary, scientific or economic. As on reader has said, 'the experience I always get reading Prynne, going to the dictionary and the encyclopedia, is the excitement I was cheated out of by my education, having it all served up, rather than, like my grandfather, finding it out for myself (after work) with great effort and little societal encouragement.'
This autodidactic pursuit, necessarily different for each reader, is an incidental pleasure rather than the whole point of the poetry, though it does seem unavoidable. One should perhaps note that the contexts implied by Prynne's poems are unignorably part of our world, and part of our language (and in their initial strangeness can induce the same combinations of fear and wonder once associated with the sublime). It may be uncomfortable for us to become aware of these contexts, and to become aware of our ignorance of them, but the artist is under no obligation politely to spare our feelings by reducing his frame of reference to that of a notional "general reader", and would be showing scant respect for such a reader if he did."
[italics mine]
The impulse to blog is back. After turning in third term grades on Wednesday, I have read and reread the column from which the above was excerpted. I've thought about it a lot. I'm always interested in the appearance of serious poetry journalism in the mainstream press here or abroad. Recently the Globe "Ideas" (ahem) section included a very small piece about Garrison Keillor's book of good poems & August Kleinzhaler's objections to the book. There were no ideas in the short article just a tired argument between the populist & the avant-gardist. (The lack of ideas & the tiredness of the argument were by no means A.K.'s fault it would seem. There simply wasn't the space for anything but a declaration that there is a conflict between this and that. The paper seems to be about a century to late.)

So I was happy to read an argument made on behalf of difficult poetry made in the mainstream (though not U.S.) press. At one point Potts' unnamed source even gets a bit Olsonian "I was cheated out of by my education, having it all served up, rather than, like my grandfather, finding it out for myself." & what exactly is *it* that is served up. *It* is a packaged thing. A product. A commodity. Mass education certainly is often such an *it*. As is poetry for the so-called general reader.

More later.