"...Words cannot be wholly transparent" 

	--excerpt from a longer essay  by Katie Yates

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Words Cannot Be Wholly Transparent


Words cannot be wholly transparent. And that is the
heartlessness of words.
---George Oppen

Part of not writing poetry has to do with exploring print making, learning to handle materials which were not intellectual but physical. the other part of the change of focus away from writing poetry has to do with electronic writing. I cannot tell if this discussion is merely my lack of ability to content with the fact that living has little to do with lyrical poetry. Since the forum I wanted to be in to talk about writing poetry did not exist or could not exist given my inability to locate what that forum might consist of, I turned first back to letter writing as a way of working through a poem in conversation. I found that the poem as letter did not communicate the kind of information, "common knowledge" I needed to survive, nor did the letter satisfy my desire for writing "poetry" (the kind of writing which deters syntax, becomes sound communicates meaning outside of analogous juxtaposition to.) E-mail correspondence came about as an antidote to this loneliness, this lack of a place to talk about writing. It provided access to continuous dialogue in writing which has changed my idea of why I write a poem.

Compared to keyboard chatter, the constant mumblings between writers about the conditions of their material lives (my case) or about the conditions of their intellectual lives (the case of the poetics listserv I belong to) a poem is an abstraction, a vanity (vacuity). A poem does not speak as quickly and as unconcernedly as electronic writing. It is anomalous (and therefore interesting) to bring poetry and our concerns about it into a place which is unlike the conditions under which one tends to think or write. Electronic space changes my idea of process. It alerted me to the fact that meaning must be made in this kind of writing.

There is a problem, not a sentimental one, in electronic writing, the lack of physicality and the tendency for oblique discussion. You do not feel the waver in someone's voice, exhaustion, fear in electronic writing. Yet, for me, it does often substitute for intimate dialogue located, at least, around a concern for poetry.

I felt that the starkness, the raw emotionality of electronic writing would be "good" for writing poetry but I found that it took away from my need to write a poem. When there was the possibility of talking through emotions constantly, via what we were learning on the VAX, there was no place (and actually no time) for writing a poem. In many ways, the constant availability of contact on electronic mail took the place of the pathos which may have otherwise gone into elaborating a poem.

Because electronic space is a writing space, I realized that a poem might merely (miserably) be my way of talking through living. Maybe I did not have aspirations to write a poem. In my correspondences via electronic mail I could satisfy immediately the problem of "describing to" which I realize is the nature of my poetry.

It is important when considering the specific instances of poets writing in electronic space to factor in an immanent speed of dissolve. To characterize myself as a writer I say: someone how feels more comfortable in the awkwardisms of written language than the awkwardisms of spoken language--that I would rather, in many ways, deal with the pertinent issues of my life through writing or that I can't live otherwise. If I don't write, I cannot contain the extremes of what I recognize minute to minute, cannot absorb the coldness of contradiction.

The distance between the material world of writing and electronic space has impacted my ideas about what to write in a poem. When a writer has limitless access to writing which is "interactive," her relationship to writing is going to change. For the most part I think my writing since spending considerable time on-line (*Dark far though clasps Daisy root and 2.10-3.28_*) has become language- based. What I do is contend with the quantity of writing that I am involved with: personal and intellectual. These poems mediate between the lack of physicality in an electronic experience and the mundane sensuality of regular living, of regular time and slow place of experience. Perhaps my major effort in combining the work of print making with writing is trying to reconcile the awkwardness of experience with the illusion of technology. The effect of working between mediums is a distinct awareness of what happens when you write a letter in electronic mail and when you write into the treads of a print. I have an intuitive sense that what is being said and dealt with in the print studio and in electronic space is not vastly different but the process, the steps one takes to write in electronic mail and the steps it takes to make a print alter what it is possible to say and to see simultaneously. Electronic writing changed what I thought writing was for. It decreased my need to isolate myself and write. I am composing in a space that isn't solitary. As a poet I can no longer claim there isn't a place for my work. Now there is always a place. The question is still how to address it: to what extent can one's written exchanges, postings, retain the value, the tone of a distinction I still make, between writing and writing poetry? $