Friday, 13 June 2008

Statements of Intent (1) - Catherine Hales: "A Note on 'Poetics'"

I glean, I garner, I gather, I hoard,– scraps of sentences, scraps of other texts, things heard on the radio or tv or overheard in the street , the u-bahn... bits & pieces, and at some point I play around with the bits & pieces and they coalesce into a poem. But I like to keep things moving, I try to get the poem to hit the ground running and keep running and take off again at the end: flux and continuum. so when I say coalesce, I don't mean becoming fixed, but just becoming, always becoming, being in flux, there just long enough to be perceived or guessed at and then it's off again somewhere else. I don't necessarily write poems 'about', since messages are for tracts; meaning is contingent and a matter of negotiation with the reader as an equal partner in the process. 'Meaning is neither imposed, nor passively imbibed, but arises out of a struggle or negotiation between competing frames of reference, motivation and experience. (Christine Gledhill).

So a poem is also play – put these things together and see what happens. It's play as in theatre, mime, pretend; as in play on words; as in the play of light on a clear stream; as in game theory; as in mucking about in the mudpit and getting filthy. Form is part of the play, an arbitrary choice as to how to arrange the words on the page, possibly even giving some kind of order to the coalescing chaos, imitating, ironising or mocking conventional notions of form. This does not contradict the notion of flux. It is rather part of the 'meaning'.

Or an apposite quote from John Ashbery I just found on Ron Silliman's blog: "I would not put a statement in a poem. I feel that poetry must reflect on already existing statements...Poetry does not have a subject matter, because it is the subject matter. We are the subject matter of poetry, not vice versa...When statements appear in poetry they are merely a part of the combined refractions of everything else."

Or none of the above.

Catherine Hales, May 2008

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