Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.


Are poets crazy? Can literature make us better people? Will I change my mind after reading Plato?

1. Is "yes, a little; but no a lot" a meaningful answer?
2. I certainly believe so.
3. Ask me tomorrow, when I finish. (But I doubt it.)

Yes, the semester has begun. With it comes Literary Criticism, Irish Literature, The Hebrew Bible, and a little Spanish added to the mix. I felt like I had my "real" life back today as I parked in the lot and walked across campus. There was no sudden sunshine on the faces of the students, or a meaningful flight of birds, although the bells did ring on the hour. Merely a walk in the cold morning air, a few minutes in the stuffy office, and the squeak of the chairs in the classroom. The same mixture of confidence and doubt that I face every time I walk into a new situation still is with me. I'm not quite giddy this year, just relieved.


A. D. said...

1. It's a Catch-22: Insanity is contagious. This is the only sane ward in the whole hospital. Everybody is crazy but us. This is probably the only sane ward in the whole world, for that matter.

2. I don't get this "better". Sexier def.

3. After Plato? As much as I've read of him, I don't think he's the right guy to ask.

Amy Unsworth said...

Hi a.d.,

1. Yep, I agree. I did find P's argument (from Ion) that suggests that poets only create poetry from divine inspiration, so thus are "out of their minds" a bit comical. Maybe it's all that "Yes, Socrates, you're so wise" bit.

2. More moral, better members of society, etc. Hmm, hadn't considered the "sexier" option. But perhaps only to those, out-of-their-minds-anyway poetry-types.

3. You're probably right, but one must start somewhere, it is Lit Crit after all. He's helped me see that I hold some conflicting beliefs about Lit's influence, but the whole idea that poetry is basically a cheap third-hand representation of reality (or Lies! All Lies!) & the only good it can do is if it only portrays "ideal" behavior is like saying kids will only learn to walk in the cross-walk if you tell them that walking in the cross-walk is a good thing to do without telling then that crossing else where might get you run over by a semi-truck & squashed like a bug.

3.b. Who would you ask? Where do you find your sense of poetics? Will looking too hard at these types of issues inhibit us from writing poetry? Will it make us start to second guess ourselves?

A. D. said...

2. More moral? I think this depends on the definition of one's morality—in a conventional sense I would imagine many of the most celebrated poets have been rather immoral. I do think there is a heightened sense of citizenship—undertaken of authorial investment in some sort of faith-like, non-self pursuit—that could be viewed as 'better'.

3. My denouncing Plato isn't really fair, considering I've read (and enjoyed reading) his poetry ruminations in former attempts at Lit Crit. He is a great starting place, as it seemed more an elemental discussion than confusing erudite jibber-jabber to my uninitiated mind.

3b. I don't know who'd I'd ask. Dana Gioia maybe? (Just kidding.) A trite (and unhelpful) answer would be to consider more a poet's oeuvre than any line of critical work. A real answer though . . . Plato is seeming better and better.

Amy Unsworth said...

3. I'm asking about how do we as poets-in-practice define our own poetics? Is it necessary to write a "Preface," "A Retrospective" or "A Defense" to outline our work? (or our aethetics, goals, and aims?)

Is it possible to find some critical work that already lays these out?

I doubt, though, that I'll be able to find (just) one (past)critical work that maps out my individual approach to poetry. I find I agree and disagree with different aspects of previous approaches. So my approach to poetics is rather a hodge-podge of what has come before.

A. D. said...

i'm sure that here i'm missing some adorno or blanchot or bloom. . . .

i do like reading blanchot (in translation).

there's an untitled poem by franz wright, creeley's "the door", rilke's "archaic torso of apollo", several verses of the tao te ching—each in a way turned into something definitive about poesy or poetic pursuit in my head.

i have been trying to make myself read the extravagant by robert baker for quite some time. i'd thought for sure that it was going to place my work into a real critical context, but i couldn't maintain interest once i got going. it still seems to have promise, but my attention span is pitiful.

perhaps that? i often revisit "the door":

But the Lady is indefinable,
she will be the door in the wall
to the garden in sunlight.
I will go on talking forever.

strangely, i also backed away from reading critical works last year when i had grown somewhat frustrated with a few works right when robert creeley died. i read an interview excerpt (from contexts of poetry) which quoted him as saying “speaking particularly of the situation of poetry, there is no correspondence of any interest to me between the activities of contemporary criticism and that poetry I am myself most engaged with.”

interviews and some authors' letters can be interesting in this regard as well—more bite sized, concrete and personal as well.

i'm going to answer a few of your questions more directly i think, now that my thoughts are in motion . . . come over in a bit.