Monday, September 28, 2009

Dual, Divergent Influence: Objectivism and Surrealism

Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my divergent tastes in 20th-century poetry and what that may mean for the writing I produce. On the one hand, I enjoy the wild, fantastical power of the Surrealist movement, and on the other hand I have a great respect for the reserved, particular Objectivist school and its affiliates – George Oppen in particular, on whom I will be giving a lecture at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in a couple weeks. Oppen seems to always be searching to get to “the heart of the matter” – that is, his poetry, his language is always a most economic distillation of experience. To put it in physical terms, he packs an incredible density in the relatively small volume of his poems. It is a poetry that is not designed to dazzle but rather to accomplish what he would call “clarity.” From a reader’s perspective, the “object” of the poem may not be incredibly clear (at least upon the first reading), as this clarity is incredibly personal, and in fact goes to such a great depth that it is pushing each word on the page to perform a massive duty. No word, no matter how small, is insignificant. There is no “filler.” It is, to my mind, the poetic form of implosion.

The surrealist attitude is in some ways the diametric opposite of objectivist works. I’m going to speak in broad strokes here: surrealist art is post-romantic, decadent, expansive, highly symbolic, and gives the most “speaking power” to the dream. To say that the difference between surrealism and objectivism boils down to “the psychological vs. the physical” is dangerously over-general. But perhaps it is the objectivist who views his/her psychological state as a physical fact that reveals its humanistic and “spiritual” aspects. I believe the surrealist moves in the opposite direction – the spiritual manifesting itself into objects and symbols. Through automatic writing, the surrealist poet is exploring the psyche by allowing all that is hidden in the brain to rise to the surface, free of scrutiny. Oppen, I think, would rather scrutinize each thought, each droplet of language that forms from the brain. As Williams said “A chance word, upon paper, may destroy the world.”

I’m sure I’ve made a number of miscalculated assessments, but I nonetheless find this perceived dichotomy [of objectivism vs. surrealism] problematic. Surrealism and Objectivism, as movements, are no longer active, but their influence has been inescapable in the world of innovative poetics. In fact, aspects of these styles have already been successfully merged (Leslie Scalapino comes to mind – especially her series “Instead of an Animal”). It looks like I will need to research more contemporary poets in order to get some fresh ideas.

A book was recently published on the subject (Poetry and Language Writing: Objective and Surreal, by David Arnold), which I plan to pick up in the near future.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gregory Corso and "Seeing Something New"

…or you could see something new. And by seeing that something new that’s here that nobody sees, and you illuminate others, then you’ve got it made.

- Gregory Corso

I am particularly taken with the “seeing” aspect of this quote. It implies, to me, that whatever you are creating is not only a creation but an act of observation, of giving credence. The World is the subject, a place we are in disbelief of, though it occurs again and again without regard for our ability to understand it. What Corso is speaking about here is something like a prophetic act.

Here is the url for the video from which the above quote is spoken:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Introduction

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

I often have a penchant for rambling about things that interest me, and perhaps what most interests me is this thing called the “creative process.” So I’ve decided, with some encouragement from my friends, to create a blog to which I may dedicate, in a more concise form, my “extroverted monologues.”

I most comfortably consider myself a musician. I believe this position (and occasional disposition) will dictate what I write to a large extent. I hope to write some concert reviews, album reviews, maybe even do an interview or two.

As for the “rest” – this will consist of subjects of near-equal importance to me, such as poetry or film. This is my first real foray into essay writing (for fun, anyway). I believe I’ll get the hang of it, and I hope you will get something out of it as well.