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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Some notes on the nature of Art... (2) Thoughts on Poetry

The poem as occasioning the question of meaning rather than giving the answer or the meaning itself.
Novels are stories or a work. Poetry, however, offers fewer occasions to be naively read, that is, as simple stories.
Question of meaning comes about from an imaginative stance taken towards a poem, even a syntactically rebellious one, that is primarily linguistic. Not a literal reading, not simply 'messages' or folk-tales in poetry. These tend to be bland anyway.
Meaning (the meaning of a poem) in the sense of signification. Its relation to a wider cultural story. No sense in talk of 'finding' meaning, it was already there.
Musicality of poetry. That 'these words' cannot be replaced by other words. The sense of finding the correct 'fit'. Poetry as a technique that must be mastered, it is not merely playing with words, in the sense that almost anything will do. Far from it, it is akin to building a very complex structure and trying to keep its balance.
Critical practices require more than simply imagination and the poem. A sophisticated critical reading would include many other aspects. The musicality, the cultural context, and so on. Indeed, the critical reading as being a work inspired by the former, in a sense the 'child' to the poetic 'parent' or at least have these connections in a familial manner.

2 comments:

nietzschesorphan said...

Hi Chris,

"Poetry, however, offers fewer occasions to be naively read,
that is, as simple stories."

I'm not sure if a poet is conscious of any meaning at
the time of composition, I don't think there has to be a reason(s) why they've chosen a certain subject, it could be emotionally driven or merely a mental
exercise to try to extrapolate something from nothing.

Poetry doesn't have to be understood
to be enjoyed, a masterful technique can be musical and complex yet - void of any meaning.

A poem can be naive, composed with the simplest words yet - it can also be profound.

Stories tend to be formulaic,
poetry can vault between the banality of everyday existence to an abstract wilderness.

I look forward to reading
your older posts.

Cheers

Mark

god-free morals said...

Mark
Thanks for the comment and welcome.

I agree that the poet doesn't need to be thinking about the poem's meaning, possibly at all, but definately not during composition. As if there needs to be a constant thought accompanying the act, "now i'm writing a poem, & now I'm writing a poem," etc. Although this idea exists in philosophy (or did). Indeed, being over-concerned with the specific meaning is one of the ways to make a poem didactic, naive, bland, or just bad.

I don't agree that a poem doesn't have to be understood to be enjoyed, but here I think our divergence isn't as strong as it first looks. Understanding a poem needn't mean grasping the poem's meaning entirely (what ever THAT means!) or seeing into the poet's mind (!!) or something along those lines. Rather it's something more like knowing what makes a poem (even a minimal abstract poem or the musical 'empty' poem) a 'good' poem. I say 'good' because it's not a good in an ethical way or any other similar way. Instead it's like a said, "The sense of finding the correct 'fit'. Poetry as a technique that must be mastered, it is not merely playing with words, in the sense that almost anything will do. Far from it, it is akin to building a very complex structure and trying to keep its balance." It's good in that way. Poets, musicians, and all other artists are jus as skilled as any technical or scientific worker. Indeed, more so, for learning this skill is holding onto something much more ephemeral. There are no text books as such, only techniques, but it is still something learned for all that. (This relates to an earlier post about rules)


Sadly most of my old posts (from over a year ago) have gone to the great blog in the sky when I put the blog to sleep for a bit. Although if I'm lucky I might still have the roughs saved as word files on an external hard drive somewhere (exaggeration, I only own one).

P.S. I went to a great talk last night about Nietzschean aesthetics, by Chris Janaway, so expect a Niezsche post soon.