I think I just blew my own mind

Ron Silliman re-iterates that old argument over what is the chewiest, least reducible tootsie roll center of the poem. Two options are presented: Image & Sound.

Of course, he footnotes that it has long since been decided that poetry cannot be reduced to one thing. True enough! Poetry is like a jackaloupe. It takes a strong stomach, some bitchin taxidermy skills and the fortitude to withstand being ostrasized for always smelling like something dead. Still, people try to define it all the time (er, like I just did?). Tis human nature - taxonomies, rubrics...semantics. Whoever masters the definitions, whoever writes the dictionaries wields the power of language. So, at heart, this fruitless argument is more a political enterprise than anything. To defy defining, also a political act.

But what does a poem that can't be understood at its heart as being a specific thing for a specific purpose accomplish? That is the question I most often grapple with when attempting to explain why I poet to not-poets.

Well, my most succinct answer to that quandry is that poeting is sort of built into my personality. Less succinctly: there's something in poetry that's not in other art forms; the musical/rhetorical conjoining of language, while concurrently using language (that has more often than not been built to objectify and oppress people) for play, for subversion, for indictment, for love. Nothing is quite as important to me as a poem, because it is the closest written thing to a person. Not in a creepy Pygmalion sort of way, but in the way that you feel as though you've made something autonomous that can now go out into the world and hold its own (if you've written it well enough, that is) and say what it wants to say, make people fall in love with it, shrug it off, hate it, &c.

A poem has its own memory, which is why so much of the early history of the poem involves memorializing great heros and narratives.

Speaking of memory, I have in fact finished memorizing the Sexton sonnet (again, you'll just have to take my word for it.) I'm thinking I shall next memorize something by a still-living poet, though I haven't quite made my mind up. I'll endeavor to keep mentioning this in order to make myself feel obligated to follow through.


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