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August 28, 2013


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C. Faye Ross
I am really interested in this topic, as you will see from my blathering on and on about it: These two posts characterize poetic immediacy in four ways: 1) as an effect produced by linguistic form (concrete poetry, haiku, the formal order of the new sentence); or specific media (photography, comics, film); 2) as a direct private experience to which the above forms/media give expression; 3) as an aesthetic effect best created by appealing to the eye; 4) as a reader’s experience of the immediacy intended by the writer/artist. The key issue in all of these musings is vision -- perhaps because visual art seems to invoke and support immediate visual experience. If that’s true, though, poetic immediacy is something of an illusion. Perhaps poetic immediacy is more about how the poet imagines language itself rather than the poet’s craft. The poet understands language to include more options than 1) aesthetic expression, 2)instrumental communication, or 3) codified institutional power (all of which make it possible to slice and dice more or less recognizable discursive forms fleshed out with more or less novel words and serve them on the same white platter). Poetic immediacy is impossible in that kind of universe though the illusion of immediacy is easy to come by. What if poetry did not try to recapture or reproduce immediacy but was the author of it? Language would be a formal order so intimate with psyche and the moment-to-moment experience of consciousness that syntax, grammar, diction operate as an action not a meaning, a productive process or practice not a message or a narrative of the remembered. I do not mean the performance of discourse as a process of discovery or the construction of collage (both of which I do a fare amount of myself). We already know that language has far more power than merely organizational or narrative creation. It’s just that the study of it has been confined to the merely communicative and institutional functions of language: How to do things with Words (Austen), Wittegenstein's language games or Foucault’s people-creating discourses, etc. I’m not aware of any attempt to explore the poetic uses of linguistic performatives or reflexive agency. Maybe I’m just ignorant, and I’d be really grateful for a lesson, if you know better. I think concrete poetry does aspires to a different kind of power (though I hadn’t thought about it until you brought it up). Concrete poetry seems to turn away from the massive boot of rhetoric on the neck of linguistic formality. I hadn’t thought about the new sentence either, but insofar as it seems to alter and foreground a distinctive experience of language in time, it would be something like a start, it seems to me, on poetic immediacy. If it is possible to identify—to recognize in the new sentence—the formal alteration of one’s inner experience of linguistic linear time, one would be getting at something like a performative figure, if not metaphor—something more like dancing than interpretation of the purely semantic. Emily Dickinson seems to have been exploring something along these lines. Her use of deixis—the demonstrative/locative pronouns such as “this,” “here,” “now”—seems to pierce the page with tiny worm holes, as if one were suddenly resituated inside her perceptive eye. If her syntax and diction confront me with the vertigo of seeming to inhabit someone else’s lived perception (not the meaning of a past perception or an objectifying re-presentation of one) what was she doing? Maybe the prosthetic power of language is her gift to the future. If one does not get inside the electrical wire of Dickinson’s syntax—resurrect it as a precisely calibrated experience in time—her poetic seems more or less odd rather the mark of a new relation to language that her poetry generates rather than assumes. Anyway, I think Bob Perlman’s “China” does something else again; can’t quite put my finger on it. Cheers! Faye

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