Below you'll find a longish counterargument against the value of the proceduralist poems we read for today--and against the kind of poetry that Marjorie Perloff praises highly in her book, Radical Artifice. Read it and decide upon the degree to which you agree or disagree with the statement. Obviously there will be parts of it that you agree with more or less. But try to discern, on the whole, how you react-- agree or disagree.
If you on the whole agree, sit on the door side of the room. If you on the whole disagree, sit on the window side of the room. If you want to register shades of agreement-disagreement, sit on the edges of the door/window sides or in the middle. Now here's the statement. Cage's "Writing through Howl" was almost wholly created by "chance operations," by rigid rules of creation-construction that pretty much eliminate individual creativity (individual choice having been removed by the procedural rules, which Cage and other proceduralist poets like Jackson Mac Low follow strictly). I don't particularly admire the way in which procedurality--poems made by chance operations of rule-based (non)choices (such as computer-generated choices of letters or words)--eliminates the role of individuality, individual creativity and/or inspiration and/or self-expression and/or free (or even somewhat free) choice. I also to some degree find the results to be nonsense. Oh, yes, I know they make a kind of sense--nonsense as sense about the problems of "sense," meta-stuff. But finally I prefer consciously chosen sense. To take the example of "Howl" and "Writing through Howl." On the whole, I think what "Howl" is doing is making challenging or radical sense and that what Cage is doing is making challenging or radical nonsense, I think when all is said and done I prefer challenging or radical sense.
Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/cage-position.html
Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:24:47 EDT