Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts

Thursday, September 05, 2002

There is a fallacious presumption in my comments about Christian Bök: the implication that one might “improve” a poem or that a “better version” might be unearthed lurking in the published text. This fallacy of the well-wrought urn fails to acknowledge that “well-made” poems are little more than the bland pastel background against which important poetry, such as Bök’s, is written. In fact, if one were to look at the texts of, say, Blake, Whitman, Dickinson, Pound, Williams, Stein, Olson, Duncan, Ginsberg, et al, what one notices, over & over, is that it is the rough spots as much as anything else that tells us we are in the presence of significant work. This is true of fiction also, from Melville to Joyce & Faulkner, and to Kerouac, Pynchon, Delaney & Acker. And it is what I trust about the very best poetry of new writers as they emerge on the scene. You can see it in Lee Ann Brown, Linh Dinh, Eleni Sikelianos, and Lisa Jarnot, to name four. 

This is not to suggest that any of these writers, past or present, doesn’t create the best possible works they can, but rather that obsessiveness with smoothing out the dissonance of the creative process is ultimately a destructive impulse, born of a decorative conception of literature. Yet it is precisely this process that is inscribed as the core activity of so many creative writing classes wherever they are taught, people sitting around in small circles, suggesting how this or that line break might be tweaked, this word choice “strengthened.”
In 1977, Curtis Faville self-published a brilliant & troubling collection of poems entitled Stanzas for an Evening Out. Faville (who these days runs the Compass Rose rare book operation, one of the best for modern poetry: is/was an extraordinary student & mimic of contemporary style, but also someone who seems always to have felt a most charged & ambivalent relationship toward writers in his own generation as well as those who came before. (No accident here that the first poem in the book is entitled “Second Generation.”) I’ve always read that book’s title with the pun (Evening as a verb) in the foreground. So while I don’t share his cynical view of the state of writing (which may have moderated over the past quarter century), I think that title captures the problem as it confronts not only creative writing students, but so many poets today.
Evened out describes quite fairly what is wrong with poetry in the New Yorker, Nation, Atlantic Monthly and like-minded venues.