Sunday, July 18, 2010


Seems I've been missing in action online of late. It happens. I was indeed away from home for three weeks in June which probably explains my lack of posting in that month, even though I had internet during that time. Could it be that blogocentrism is an at-home proposition? Probably.

Being at home at the moment means sitting in heat. And that's been too much the case this month, another excuse for avoiding online life, I guess.

But I see my last appearance was on the 24th of May, and it does surprise me that I managed that even. Fact is, from April 9th till June 2nd I was mainly preoccupied with regular composition of a long poem that began simply as free free-versing but eventually extended to five parts with a variety of forms. With the provisional title 'Metro Lace,' it's 79 typed pages, over 18,500 words, about 3,761 lines. What will become of it I don't know, but in between those dates I was spending most of my time wandering around in what I hoped was some kind of receptive state. It's not a narrative, it's not an autobiographical sketch, but it is a stream-of-consciousness -- in a manner of speaking. Maybe it's more accurate to say it simply is a manner of speaking -- because 'stream-of-consciousness' seems to imply that it's a rendering of what's going through my mind, the way a journal might be, for instance. But it's not that. Parts of it, I believe, do reflect upon my actual experience, but not much. Mostly it lives up to my intention that poetic expression not be personal expression so much as an expression of linguistic possibilities.

Anyway, I've also been doing Screen Time, the weekly column on films showing in and around New Haven, for the Advocate. Occasionally I get to talk about a movie that inspires more than just providing info, as here, with some comments on The Big Lebowski, or here, with some recent comments on the two films that have opened stateside based on Stieg Larsson's best-selling thrillers, or this consideration of My Beautiful Laundrette.

I've also seen the two shows so far this summer presented by the Yale Summer Cabaret, run this year by Jesse Jou, and commented on them at NHR: one was a feisty version of the rock-monologue, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, starring Chad Raines and directed by Jou; the other an elliptical and challenging play, directed by Devin Brain, derived from a story by Isobelle Carmody called The Phoenix.

But more than all those items, I think what has distracted me from blogocentrism has been a will to move in two separate directions, prose-wise. On the one hand, teaching again -- the summer Ulysses course at Yale -- brings me back to an ideal of analytical prose that doesn't simply trade in received ideas or personal opinion, but works through the text with fidelity to what is present there but with what flights seem necessary to render its implications. Implications for whom? Well, that's the question not so easily settled. I'd like to say: implications for writers and readers. That is to say, the focus shouldn't be the ongoing academic conversation on Ulysses and Joyce, per se, but would address what could be called 'the use value' of the experience of reading Ulysses.

The idea of the Ulysses book is to be more rigorous in the sense of fidelity both to an original and to a variety of experiences of that original, broken down into 'reading Ulysses,' 'studying Ulysses,' 'teaching Ulysses,' and, possibly 'writing Ulysses,' where the 'writing' isn't about how Joyce composed it, but rather how one -- namely me, pilgrim -- approaches the task of writing about it with the focus on Joyce's writing. In other words, it's a way of pondering the value of writing via Ulysses.

The other direction is toward something that might be personal, like blogocentrism, but less chatty, filtered more through the kind of writing 'Metro Lace' makes available to me. Call it lyric diction, I suppose. But what it means, in terms of writing, is having a certain liberated edge to it. Liberated from what? Primarily the explanatory mode, the informative mode, I suppose, which is so intrinsic to newspapers and to non-fiction writing in general. Not that I would want the essays I envision to dispense with filling in background or context -- a lot of the fun of writing comes from characterizing such things, plus I can't help thinking it keeps the writing 'honest.' Or maybe just keeps it from being uninformative or, worse, uninformed. But there is more to give via writing than information and opinion, isn't there? Something other than stories too, eh? A story it may be, but a story of ideas; a memoir it may be, but with the accent on the present in which it occurs rather than the past it departs from. A critical act, yes, in the sense of wanting to arrive at some kind of clarity about the topic at hand, trying to see and to speak clearly about it, but also a lyrical act that creates a position, a viewpoint, a manner of speaking.

1 comment:

. said...

"Mostly it lives up to my intention that poetic expression not be personal expression so much as an expression of linguistic possibilities."

Maybe you could say a little more about this...