Sunday, March 02, 2008

A half-start manifesto by way of poetic statement for class

To be revised, of course, but here she is in embryo:

My Manifesto, GO!:

I am interested in poetry that communicates emotion without succumbing to sentimentality. I’m all for codes and metaphors so long as something is alive in a poem, something recognizable, even on an instinctive, intangible level—something on which readers can hang themselves.

I object to the intentionally vague. I don’t allow words like “experimental” or “avant-garde” to dictate my work or my reading. (I am first a reader of poetry, a watcher of films, a viewer of paint, sculpture, photography, a listener of music. . . music, by the way, may be the most perfect form of artistic expression, as well as the easiest to get wrong.) These words have no relevance in the post-post-modern world where too many claim outsider status. You may as well claim to have ten toes.

I prefer art to damn near everything, except love, sex, and food (all of which, I admit, can be forms of art, but still, there are distinctions). I know art when I see it. I know trash when I see it. I love both for their ability to more clearly draw lines between each other. I always know what is art and what isn’t and that’s how it is, so there.

Craft wins awards but art lasts. Randomly arranging fifty-cent words on a page can be artful but more often it is empty. Be careful. Forms have a place. High among them are the loosely formed. Everything has a form. “Free form” anything is pretty difficult to pull off. Actually, quite impossible. Automatic writing is pretty hard to pull off and usually incredibly dull. Or unpolished. Or just plain obnoxious. Over-wrought formalism is often wonderful, but it is always the content, the ideas, the language, the beauty, the ugliness, the truth, the illusions that captivates the reader, not the form. Only people who study forms care that a sonnet has fourteen lines.

I don’t know if poetry should be as serious as people seem to think it is inherently.

I have no patience for quick dismissals. Why don’t you like something? Saying a work of art, or even a work of trash, is “stupid” evidences one’s own stupidity. Form a better argument.

I am not on this Earth to “get” everything. I don’t need a McExplanation. Ambiguity is underrated. Understanding is always secondary to the experience and/or emotional connection. The mind is overrated.

Everything can be interpreted with varying results. Everything can be misunderstood.

The anxiety of influence is utter bullshit. Sure, it exists, but only if you let it. Time is the enemy: slay the fucker. Love your influences and wear them proudly on your sleeve. Your idols, by the way, should routinely be worshiped and toppled.

No one is allowed to tell me what does or does not belong in a work of art, my own or anyone else’s.

Originality is wonderful. Let me know what you find it. If you don’t, you are far from alone, and anyway your heroes are pretty unoriginal as well. You think Kafka was the first to write about man turning into a monster? Keep digging.

Unoriginality is not a sin, but it should not be celebrated.

Trust your instincts but revise so as not to have to rely on them. You’re probably a genius, but most likely a hack. I’m both, depending on the moment.

If you think art and politics are mutually exclusive, you’re not looking close enough.

Art need not be political, or anything else for that matter.