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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  1998

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 1998

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Subject:

Re: add-on disappointment

From:

Keston Sutherland <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Keston Sutherland <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 8 Feb 1998 21:02:12 -0500 (EST)

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (172 lines)





Karlien, thanks for responding, for keeping up a bit of to/fro, enlivening
the issue.  With regard to your initial Musil quotation - I suppose you
-do- see the irony, that there's as much "overweeningness" in downloading
Musil as in Nietzsche, parhaps more when the downloader's intention is
merely to deploy some 'strikingly' apposite remark in passing, without
guiding the deployed sentiment into any more purposefully relevant
function.  I suppose I mean to say, re: the first Musil quote, so what?
Should we not quote things we have read?  Is this, could this possibly
turn out to be, a mere instance of some kind of cockiness (to notice
another critical tendency in your note)? 

 
you say,

>I resist that I had already been set up to be dissappointed more than the
>disappointment, as this affect itself reveals the critical point in the
>'set-up' (its 'weak' spot). A disappointment which, curiously, you would
>have lead to an assertion of 'one's -own- disrespect'.    

well, it is possible to suppress any distinction between the products of
different resistances -in orbe-, e.g. to claim, as here, that I resist my
resistance to x, and that this subsequent resistance is resistance y (and,
presumably, if one doesn't want to get quagged), that I resist my
resistance to y etc; the point you identify as 'critical' doesn't seem so
to me - rather it seems a fairly cosmetic rejection in the service of
rejection per se, but motivated by a compromising suspicion for 'being set
up'.  If what I propose (imperfectly, mid-current) is a 'set up', then
your designation of a 'weak spot' is similarly 'set'.  In fact, it is more
so: whereas I try to describe an initial attitude, which would promote
(or, as I see it, -allow-) a breadth of reaction and criticism, your 'weak
spot' seems basically to be a call for parameters of relaxation (a set up 
chance to opt out).  Of course I do think that this leads to "one's -own-
disrespect" - an intial, generally available competence can develop in any
way whatsoever, can "lead to" whatever any text and reader decide to
experience.

I don't think that reading is "dependent" on forgetfulness - how could
this possibly be true?  What quality or condition of a poem would be
unable to exist, were it not for our inability to memorise?  It may very
well be that the kind of reading commonly occuring, is characterized by
lacunae in reception, and by processes of reappropriation and renewal, but
this is not due to an epistemological impairment in the reading matter
itself - not due, that is, to any "dependency" or (what this would seem to
amount to), any extra-materialist "addiction" to human beings.  But then,
you limit your description to a profoundly subjective (pessimistic?
self-absorbed?) experience, and that is not what I was suggesting.
Besides which, lethargy is by no means the same thing as, nor does it even
share many of the features of "forgetfulness".  This is a serious
difference (it is, unavoidably, and amongst other things, a moral
difference) not to be overcome by the somewhat lethargic critical
technique (frequently disguised as a flourish, "running with an idea") of
slipping an association into parentheses with an ostensibly modest
question mark ("(lethargy?)": no, actually.)

>The returning mind recognises self-grown autonomy precisely because it
>had forgotten to be persistently arrested. 'Persistence' is a
>disciplinarian's virtue.
 
If what the mind recognises is "autonomy", and a tautological autonomy at
that, -because- it had forgotten to be arrested (though I don't accept
this as an adequate description of how a reader becomes distracted, or
thinks elsewhere), then what purpose does the actual poem serve?  It is
utterly excluded from this "precise" causation, other than as a mere and
therefore anonymous instance of provocation.  Or is the kind of
fogetfulness that so entirely causes "self-growth" different in the case
of each text?  This would mean that every text has its own complete
nothingness, its own temporary eradication in the mind of the reader - how
many species (not to mention genres, blends, lengths, qualities, prices)
of eradicatedness can the mind bear at once?  Perhaps this hellish crowd
of nothings explains why there is no room, in "recognition of
self-growth", for actual writings.    

As for the latter sentence, so be it.  If '[p]ersistence' is a
"disciplinarian's virtue", I can live as well as before; but of course, as
your sentence implies, no-one wishes to be disciplined, and perhaps
rightly so.  In which case, better not persist.  Fair enough.  Sod
everything.


to persist (to listen to what you say):

>...whether what it is trained to search out is the vulnerable spot in a
>problem or that in a physical opponent.

So, it must be a cold and steely thoughtfulness that approaches poetry
with a prepared disappointment?  One that brings to mind the projected
computer monsters of the early 20th century?  Yes, with such preparation I
-would- hope to be trained to search out, and, even more 'ruthlessly', to
-react to- vulnerable spots in problems.  In that way, defending my own
vulnerability to what is problematic.  Like, wasting time and money on
witless rip-offs labelled as culture.  As far as physical opponents go,   
I would hope that anyone who imagined they had any, would want to know
where they were and why they were doing what they were.  Apolitical
inappetence is -not- compassion, nor is it open-mindedness.  

 
>The phrase 'positive efforts' in itself implies such practical actions
>are considered as 'affectionate, implicit patronage' (as were there an
>elision of the 'yet' between those latter two sentences). Yet it is with
>politic hopefulness that you write that 'women's poetry deserves and
>demands' (oh not respect) but 'rigour'. 


I don't think that "positive efforts" is a front for "patronage", and am
wearied by the insinuation; just how -should- I, or anyone else, describe
what they do when they decide to show their interest in something, rather
than not doing so?  And, more importantly, why is it that any other
formulation -should- be so radically different in implication (and,
therefore, in impulse) than this one?  Is the 'issue' of the reception of
women's work (I'll return to that tag) to be debated in such quarantined
oppositions?  I enjoy reading poems written by various women (not -by
women-), I listen to those poets read, I buy their books and consider them
with the same preparedness as with poems written by males.  I made no
other claim; that there are other issues is indisputable.

A "yet" would make no sense between my two sentences.

And yes, I would say that "women's poetry" deserves rigour rather than
respect: how could you possibly state that "women's poetry" deserves
respect?  Is respect an utterly default conferral, for "women's poetry",
i.e. for all poetry written by women?  This would be an unbearable insult
to women writers, who would be immediately less distinguishable, and whose
-own particular work- would necessarily be neglected.  Rigour, on the
other hand, is what the poetry - all of it, hence "women's" (not the
women, despite the perverse facility with which that claim can be
'detected' in my letter) deserves: it deserves to be read, re-read,
criticised, and maybe thrown in the bin or maybe advocated passionately.
Right now I find it saddening and angering that so ready an incitement can
be made, by you Karlien, with your "(oh not respect)"; if the tenor of my
note is, by whatever inevitability, disqualified from kindness, it had
better be made aggressive to women.  If it is not an inevitability, and I
have genuinely offended women on this list, I would appreciate being told,
preferably by those offended, how I have done this.  I promise to listen,
and not simply to insert calculatedly distracting and uninterrogated
parentheses into misappropriated extracts of the letter I address.  


                        
>However, if the prepared dissappointment was that there were no modernist
>plums to be had (at which moment one is welcome to 'assert one's -own- 
>disrespect'), then where would the disablement of that fruition lead you?


This is an interesting question - thanks for putting it.  I would say, of
course, that the preparation I imagine is not simply nostalgia for a
'high' commitment, though I also suspect that this does have -something-
to do with it.  Where it leads is precisely not determinable by any
systematic follwing through: it is so that -new- qualities can be
discovered, exhibited, given their chance amongst the approved body of
re-hashes.  It is a warm-up to prescience and to open mindedness, keeping 
the mind more able to appreciate new successes, by forcing it to
eliminate de-masked drosses.  It is a resistance, an assertion of generous
regard for what -needs- such notice, that is, -new- plums (yes, yes, and
other fruits).  It is an available optimism at the current end point of
conic reduction to stupidity (just like previous end points).  It is, I
believe, care purged of its necessity.            


Keston







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