Monday, January 30, 2006

Philosophical Investigator

Thought must be hidden

"Thought must be hidden in verse like the nutritive essence in fruit. It is nourishing but seems merely delicious. One perceives pleasure only, but one receives a substance. Enchantment, that is the nourishment it conveys. The passage is sweet." (Valery)

"The passage from prose to verse, from speech to song, from walking to dancing--a moment that is at once action and dream." (Valery)

Last night Karl and I were trying to deal with the "Is it poetry? Or prose?" debate. Think of Dorn's appropriation of the "screen crawl" of words at the bottom of the poetry book page. Prose used for poetic ends?

Poetry is always hijacking prose; prose is always stealing its best tricks from poetry.

Karl was given the assignment to present two pieces for a speech class, one consisting of poetry, the other of prose. He chose Adeena Karasick poetry and Christian Bok prose (EUNOIA).

The problem arises that Bok's book will probably be considered poetry, even though it is clearly a work of prose. It is composed of simple subject/predicate sentences in linear sequence in the shape of paragraphs. Due to the Oulipian constraints imposed upon the text, however, the work "sounds" like poetry.

What to do?

I gave Karl a copy of FINNEGANS WAKE. Tell me whether that is poetry or prose?

It's kind of an old story. Observe the unreflective standards, the easy conventions, in order to get a good grade? Or, present more challenging material which puts the conventions to a test.


How can we make a distinction between poetry and prose until we know how to define poetry?


Prose is one word after another and poetry is one word before another.


Maybe that is the difference. We can write a new definition of poetry every day but the definition of prose is always the same words anew.


Blogger john hanson said...

a thought from comparative anthropolgy. i think about griots all the time. if i could adapt any role in the world to our culture it would be that of the griot. these guys play the kora a many stringed harp made of gourd hide and wood. they also have a social role and obligation: they are entrusted with the stories of families, great safaris, battles, migrations. and they are great liars. comedians. how is that like garrison keillor's lake woebegone world? this is what i mean by desperation and writing. it is one thing to strive to be eloguent and interesting. it is another thing to try with all one's might to tell the truth. it is another thing to lie eloquently...tell a tale.....write it down. the poem seems to me to be the most desperate of media....and those who write poems should do so with a sense of desperation; i have only one piece of paper. my pen is skipping running dry. there is something that needs be said needs be written. one must not discount the peculiar containment of forms. to write a sonnet according to the form and have it mean something is no mean task. in a world where we are glutted with imagery and verbeiage of every kind we do well to reflect long before setting pen to paper. or, maybe nobody does that anymore.
hunger for truth. don't be satisfied with less. and if you msut the most clever of liars. if you have the leisure to write a novel...have at it. if you can taste the relative desperation of every day a pome will do. in this country we've had a few intelligent souls who have mastered more than one genre. i am thinking of wendell berry poet, essayist, novelist. eugene mccarthy poet, political writer. robert penn warren. evan s. connell and of course charles bukowski. i recall being baffled by the fact that james joyce could write such great and convoluted novels....and the simplest, most elegant poems.

7:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home