In a message dated 17/01/2005 15:33:54 GMT Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
I'm really curious what you think a reader will get out of this. What
impetus, what reason does the reader have to work through these apparently
random associations and -- squinting mentally -- find some situation or theme
that connects them? Or do you think a (sophisticated) reader will do so
In line 16, do you mean "Dasein"?
Dasein it is, thanks. & a good question to which I have no good answer. A
few quick thoughts, though:
* I'll nick a caveat (because I haven't been writing poetry for a long while
let alone talking about it); Wordsworth: "But I was unwilling to undertake the
task, knowing that on this occasion the Reader would look coldly upon my
arguments, since I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the
selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him into an approbation of these
particular Poems . . ." well, that's obvious, but so is all of this.
* Also, I am suspicious of poets who write always-already-canonically, whose
methods big up academic close reading as the best (or worse, the only) venue
of ultimate value-giving. But sometimes I'm one of them. John Ruskin: "I have
no patience with apologies made by young psuedo-poets, 'that they believe there
is some good in what they have written: that they hope to do better in time,'
&c. Some good ! If there is not all good, there is no good. If they ever hope
to do better, why do they trouble us now ? Let them rather courageously burn
all they have done, and wait for the better days".
* I think (probably pretty uncontroversially?) that not all poetry needs to
be -easy- to read. Probably some needs to be very difficult to read. (I can't
-think- of a situation in which such difficulty is -intrinsically- worthwhile,
rather than connected with some other worthwhile matter. But if there were
such a situation, it would probably be quite difficult to think of itself . . .)
* The impetus to engage with this difficulty, to join-the-unnumbered-dots, is
transmitted through the same channels as the impetus to pick up a book in the
first place, or to read the second line if you don't like the first. If a
text is uninteresting "by itself", you might still -try- to become interested in
it if, e.g. a) a friend wrote it b) somebody whose poems have previously
interested you wrote it c) somebody who has previously been interested in things
which interest you has recommended it d) it contains one or two bits which
really interest you a lot.
* Poetic reputation is a good name for the overriding impetus-delegator, with
others niggling and jiggling. But for those who can't rely on their
distinction to remotely callibrate, fuel and prime interpreting machines, there is a
back-up system. Readers who have previously had impetus to make sense of
intractable tracts (somebody doing a dissertation on Charles Bernstein or the Gawain
poet, somebody whose job is to read through piles of phone-tap transcripts)
often become comfortable in the presence of texts which they only partly
understand. This might be a bad thing. My hunch is it's good. It allows for rambly,
browsy perusal, plundering skimming, reading full of half-insights,
opportunistic intensifications of attention, switches among different modes of
information-gathering, private reactions, speculations, throw-away chuckles. As well as
just maybe leading to deep and demanding critical engagements, I think this
kind of reading is important in its own right. It's certainly a kind of reading
which I (slightly guiltily) enjoy doing.
* Is -connecting- all that matters? (less applicable to this poem, which I
thought of as having a pretty distinct theme, but -- I would certainly admire,
get a kick from, feel attracted by, any poem which juxtaposed, juxtaposed and
juxtaposed, without becoming infected by the little wormies of accidental
* What makes a poem experimental? The possibility of failure is a pretty good
demarcation criterion. The blind leprous emperor has no clothes. Still don't
know how I feel about this one.
* Lots more I could say, but this has already gone on longer than I expected.
Sorry if I read a bit stuffily. Thanks for looking at the poem. I'm going to
restore this stanza:
our powerful navy shall no longer meet,
the wealth of France or Holland to invade;
the beauty of this Town, without a fleet,
from all the world shall vindicate her trade.
in the fourth canto. It comes from Dryden's "Annus Mirabilus" (sp?) which is
partly about some of the same things as that canto.