Saturday, January 24, 2009

His true Penelope was Flaubert

"What seems beautiful to me, what I should like to write, is a book
about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be
held together by the strength of its style, just as the earth,
suspended in the void, depends on nothing external for its support; a book which would have almost no subject, or at least in which the
subject would be almost invisible, if such a thing is possible."
Gustave Flaubert, Correspondence.

Substituting poem for book, I find this quote very liberating to how I write. However some may say this is a very bourgeois manner of
writing. Setting myself up a straw man for the sake of this
argument. Let me try to explain how I oppose this idea.

One of the definitions of the word bourgeois is one whose interest it is to support the status quo. It is this usage of the word that is of most interest to me in this exercise.

It seems fairly obvious that the ruling classes control language and
that they use this control to entrap and downpress the working
people. One of the uses of language is the relentless demand on the
narrative flow. This counterfeit river that flows from A to B, that
moves from rags to riches.

Life, however is a much stronger stranger than this simple narrative
arc will have us understand. Language creates consciousness, and it
follows that this bourgeois hegemonistic control of daily life and
culture controls and moulds language and art to suit their own ends
(indeed this can be seen as a definition of hegemony).

It is this bourgeois control of language, and therefore consciousness, that creates the mind-forg'd manacles of our oppression. It is these manacles that we must self consciously over come and over throw. For it is precisely this mental slavery that causes the great mass of working people to think that without God there is no morality, that without work they will have no identity, that without coercion there will be no happiness.

Language, a poem about nothing, a poem that hangs with no support in
the void. This is what I am striving towards, this is what John
Kinsella and Tracy Ryan
refer to when they say "every poem we write
should be a form of resistance, an act of linguistic disobedience."
This is what will allow us to write "beyond good and evil", this is
what will allow us to move beyond imperialist ideas of ownership and

Time, history, relationships are the matter of literature, and in some ways literature is greater than nonfiction or even philosophy, for only literature can talk about how life really is, how life should be. Time is not, history is not, the straight and narrow journey from breakfast to lunch to dinner, rather it is the dream distortions of Finnegan. History does not have as its horizon the simple Aristotelian unities of the television studio and of market based book publishers, but rather a deeper understanding of history and relationships can only be found in the convoluted signature of Shandy.

I write, as do all artists, mainly for myself, but also for self aware proletarians. I write in a way that is often called pretentious. (A label I am happy to wear, for to be pretentious is to pretend, to play, and if a poet can not play that what is a heaven for?) I write in a way that allows me to survey all of the history (natural and human) of language and appropriate for my art all 'that which being seen pleases me'. I write in a way that, in defiance of the petty academic poetry cliques, is not direct nor aimed for 'working people' (all of which is code for banal and trivial). I write understanding the unity to be more than a mere harmony, but rather a complete interpenetration. I write in a manner which says proudly, 'let the common reader be damned'. I write knowing that the artist is meant to be something more than an entertainer.


Anonymous said...

As I have long implored you to write something to explain your motivation for your work to the unsuspecting reader (so as not to scare them on the first date), I can only congratulate you on taking the plunge.

Didn't hut too much, I trust.



Mr. Tomás Ó Conghaile

While reading you piece of writing, I remembered what Toni Morrison said in her Nobel Lecture speech in 1993. It is about the language. Here it is : when language dies, out of carelessness, disuse, indifference and absence of esteem, or killed by fiat, not only she herself, but all users and makers are accountable for its demise.

I would say that you have narrated the characteristics of our literary language in more extended form than Toni Morrison had referred to.

Naval Langa