Sunday, March 24, 2013

I and I- Bob Dylan. I haven't heard this song since I listened to my old vinyl copy a long time ago. Read interviews with June Jordan and Loiuse Gluck in POETRY IN PERSON: Twenty-five Years of Conversation with America's Poets ed. by Alexander Neubauer, which I still consider a find at $4.98 at the Tattered Cover. The main thing I keep coming back to as I read these interviews is that the conversation about poetry really hasn't changed that much since 1978, 1979. Poets were still concerned about first person I limitations, marginalization, collage, fragmentation, ellipsis, politics and external and internal landscapes. I really do like these interviews which were done by a woman named Pearl London. London was the daughter of M. Lincoln Schuster, cofounder of Simon & Schuster. Poets would bring drafts of their work to class and discuss it, as well as answer London's questions. I find each interview  helpful in that they make me more thoughtful and reflective about what it is I'm trying to do with my own poems.

Gluck's comments on moving away from the depersonalized voice. That she wanted to move away from communication of the self. She states, "No, no, not communication of the self, that's not what I want. The issue of ego is a sensitive one. I think that most contemporary poetry is horrifically disfigured by it. The territoriality in most poetry that goes out to claim "my pain," "my father," "my mother," "my past." There's a swagger in it that offends me greatly. I would like to write poetry that was intensely personal and seemed absolutely devoid of egotism."

Again, I find myself thinking about trauma, and how it is personal yet non-personal and dissociated. I can't therefore quite agree with what she said, but I understand what she meant by egotism in a poem. But for working with trauma, there is a necessity to find oneself, one's ego if you will, to help others who have been traumatized (I mean by a life-threatening situation or violence).

June Jordan was interesting as well. She was bold about African-American poets needing to defend their work, but what I found myself most interested in was her references to Rilke and how she saw Rilke as one of her favorite poets. She specifically addresses Rilke's address to a young person who feels they have lost God. She says Rilke responded with "You are God" and she ties this to women in South Africa. This type of empowerment is important to me as a person who has experienced the shock of trauma. I think it is a means of expression or communication. And as Jordan said, "When I write poetry my purpose is to express myself, about whatever it is, to as many other people as possible."

1 comment:

Martin said...

Really interesting post, Sheryl. I can't find any reason to entertain Gluck's theory: it sounds to me like over-thought academic posturing. I (I I I) think when people get to a certain point in/with poetry, they start to work so hard to break away from it, from themselves, that they start exploring artistic possibility with an almost clinical aesthetic, resulting in something as sterile as the idea that the poetic "I" is corrupt.

I (I I I) mean what is more vital, important, meaningful, impacting, and braver than asserting something, yourself, your "I" into the void? Reducing, or rather, limiting this possibility and ultimately, this power, subverts and suppresses the human spirit. And if this spirit is a spirit that's healing, as most of us are in some capacity (since we all are constantly being wounded and trying to recover) then I would argue that I want to hear this "I" and not focus on decoding the byproduct of a workaround.

I've been reading a ton of Jack Myers lately. Certainly could be classified as a "confessional" poet by cool edgy, experimental types, but he rips into my core, and from his "I" my "I" learns more about myself and others than I ever could from some detached narrator who's trying so hard to lose his or her self.

I must admit, it's an interesting notion, and a worthy challenge--I can barely write a poem without an "I," and I appreciate the idea that the poet, the artist is pushing outside of his or her self, constantly, but so much poetry has become undecipherable because poets are scared to insert themselves into the poem less they might be seen as weak or confessional.

At the end of the day, I'll take poetic truth however it arrives, and I try not to limit myself to thinking that one modality is superior to any other. If anything, the element of surprise and unknowing is most essential. I never want to think that I or any one else has it ALL figured out, and suggesting that we drop our "I" seems to put the whole enterprise at risk!