Stray thought or three more on conceptual poetry

This not just in (2013) from Calvin Bedient on conceptual poetry:

Writers who pride themselves on conceiving projects and executing them according to plan – thus relatively indifferent to the intrinsic value of what is produced and to the quality of the production itself – neglect life values, which include a trembling web of receptivity, sharply interested observation, the ability to make instant adjustments, and organic developments within a constantly changing context, all properties as important to lyric poets as to cats. (“Against Conceptualism”)

And I am, like a tree with two cows in it, of two minds here. I quiver like a plucked lyrestring to notions of a “trembling web of receptivity” and organic alterations responsive to a “constantly changing context.” I’m also coolly alert to how the phrases are calculus to make me quiver and bow to them.

If it’s that conceptual is a way to do poetry, I’m down w/ that.

If it’s, conceptual is the way to do poetry, got no patience w/ that.

Can never say what its fans are fanning, which article, for sure.

This one is just, okay, sweet. I mean it’s kind, gentle, open, bighearted, fun and funny. So maybe also it’s got a rigorous generative procedure behind it and also linguistic resonances available only to initiates. Who cares, it offers its pleasure to any willing to inhale, to inspire.



(Craig Dworkin, Remotes)

I’ll write more on this one maybe at a later mote. For now just this. Sometimes the cells walls between conceptual poetry & affective poetry & autobiographical poetry (the dedication: “for Miles, and / the time being”) & visual poetry (these are typewritten and every ‘s’ and ‘d’ is twice struck, plurals, pasts) are porous unto nought.

This wee gist has thought & heart & eye & ear & a moving body. I think Craig might assent to calling it a “conceptual poem”? But it affirms everything Bedient says conceptual poetry refuses.

And. Yet. For the most part I’m with Bedient there. Hells yeah.

Stray thoughts on aleatory poetics and conceptual poetry

Thinking about aleatory poetics, that is, chance operations, the acrobatics one does to get will or self or intent out of the way. Whether that’s rolling the dice, or opening a silence to ambient sounds, or transcribing a day’s traffic reports.

Well the thought was this. “Let the universe compose the part of the poem proper to it.” A relief not to have to express yourself!

Thought that came a bit later was, “The trick is telling what part’s proper to it and what part’s proper to you.”

Then I found I wanted to put “it” and “you” in just those scare quotes. Where does the one end and the other begin?

Cage might not have needed his cageyness, nor Heidegger all that wildering swirliness, had he trusted the emptiness more wholly.

Like I’m one to talk. Whimpering about my achy gut.

My other wonder’s about the the title Against Expression that Craig Dworkin (for whom I feel true affection) and Kenneth Goldsmith (with whom I feel true amusement) gave their anthology of conceptual poetry.

Could be argued that in it, expression isn’t opposed there so much as front-loaded – the expression’s in the inception, the inceptive idea, then the rest is allowed to unfold either deterministically or chancewise, which is fine and fun and sometimes beautiful and very often a vital corrective to a navel-gazing aesthetic consensus. And it lets the cosmos show its chops.

But it’s still expression. And it tends to be an expression of will and intellect and even a kind of control and mastery – at least it has a sort of coolness to it often that suggests, I master the inception, I need not master the rest. I, poet, watchmaker god. 

I dunno. I’m just thinking out loud here. I’m drawn to these practices and offput by them too. They offer a way out of the nutshell of the self. But it seems a way of intellect and will, coolness and mastery, wit and a kind of Classicism, and for all that their productions, some of them, turn me crazily on, I’m shut out in the end by the paucity of impulse in them.

They seem the place where the animal in us goes to die. Seem to renounce rather than transform what in us pisses fucks and shits. Am I wrong? Have I missed it?

I want a poetry that weds the animal to the angel in us, the algae to the nebula, not one that subs the higher for the lower (Classicism) or the other way round (Romanticism). Christ I’m sounding like Rilke kill me now.

The aleatory, in our poetry, may be our spontaneity externalized.