Showing posts with label indeterminacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indeterminacy. Show all posts

Friday, June 22, 2012

This note ran as an item in the Poetry International Festival blog on June 7:

The Middle

Ron Silliman’s lifelong poetics of the incomplete

© Didi Menendez. Big Ron.

It has always been true that I think a long time about something before I begin. I was calling myself a poet for at least two years before I sat down to write, although I then published my very first poem (derivative, arch, pompous beyond imagination – the waiting seems not to have taught me all that much about what I was going to do).

I knew at a young age – still in my teens – that I would write a long poem, but it took me nearly a decade before I actually began the work I am still writing today, some 38 years later. Some sections of this project – I call it Ketjak – have taken a long time to get under way: one section of The Alphabet took over 20 years from conception to completion. A section of Universe that I am working on presently – Parrot Eyes Lust – is something I have been thinking & dreaming about since my first false starts on the poem in 1973. 

Being unfinished is for me the norm – I am in fact always in the middle, rarely in a position to take a step back and say that this (or this) is the final shape of something, only building blocks toward an emergent thing that I call a poem principally because poetry is the art of language, and hence for me the category that contains all others at least implicitly within. The detective novel, for example, is merely a defective poem of a certain type. Ditto theater, even cinema. Ditto even tweets.

When I begin to sense that I am nearing the completion of any section of this project – maybe 50 pages out, perhaps just ten – I start to be aware of a rising tide of emotion not unlike the impending loss of a loved one. I often ride this emotion much in the way that a surfer rides a wave, and this directs me toward understanding what that moment of temporary closure might be. In my best writing, I give up all control to the poem: I’m barely holding on.

But it also means that often I am working on passages, material, with no such sense at hand, not unlike a sailor who is out at sea, but unable to read the sky nor get any clues of direction from the horizon: sailing blind. In such moments, I have to trust in the process, in what the poem is telling me, and I have moments of enormous anxiety during these periods.