Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Social Media... and poetry: fear of obliteration and alienation

How does social media and internet enter the picture? Robert Pinsky believes poetry destabilizes mass culture (source of tremendous collective anxiety), but the poet also is afraid of obliteration and alienation...becoming like everyone else /and losing connection if we are fluently different.

Wendy Willis,in her article, “A Million People on One String: Big Data and the Poetic Imagination” published in Poetry Northwest helped me to think again about the meaning of "art" in the context of poets and writers as citizens of “modernity” as producers of content. She compares Internet to a chocolate factory, churning out specially designed confections to satisfy our deepest and most compulsive cravings, play to our weaknesses.
For poets these are existential... clattering craving for recognition... desire to be seen... Facebook, twitter for all (or none) to admire...

I wonder what Cummings might have thought about this? A nuisance? something that could perk his imagination?

Willis reminds us of Wallace Stevens, "Man with the Blue Guitar". Even though the artist may not play things as the reader sees them, the job is to see how the artist is playing..

"The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

We will start the discussion with a look at the Stevens' poem and a short look at Cummings' spirit... the relevance and acceptability of the lyric was certainly called into question in their times.

In 1969, John Ashbury's "Soonest Mended" where long sentences are broken into lines to look like a poem, seems to make the poem a vehicle for ruminations and musings.
45 years later, we read efforts such as Mathias Svalina: Dream Delivery Service: “I will write the dreams without consultation with the dreamer,& deliver them daily.”
Champions of social mediated poetics sometimes sound gleefully dystopian: “We’ve all been flattened to virtual handles and data” they say, “so literature should be similarly flattened...
Flatness of unqualified exuberance; rote positivity; flatness of pious conceptualism; wry deflection; language authentic when simplistic, but wallowing in inability for nuanced response...

But the fantasy makes it ours, a kind of fence-sitting
Raised to the level of an esthetic ideal. These were moments, years,
Solid with reality, faces, namable events, kisses, heroic acts,
But like the friendly beginning of a geometrical progression
Not too reassuring, as though meaning could be cast aside some day
When it had been outgrown. Better, you said, to stay cowering
Like this in the early lessons, since the promise of learning
Is a delusion, and I agreed, adding that
Tomorrow would alter the sense of what had already been learned,
That the learning process is extended in this way, so that from this standpoint
None of us ever graduates from college,
For time is an emulsion, and probably thinking not to grow up
Is the brightest kind of maturity for us, right now at any rate.
And you see, both of us were right, though nothing
Has somehow come to nothing: the avatars
Of our conforming to the rules and living
Around the home have made—well, in a sense, “good citizens” of us,
Brushing the teeth and all that, and learning to accept
The charity of the hard moments as they are doled out,
For this is action, this not being sure, this careless
Preparing, sowing the seeds crooked in the furrow,
Making ready to forget, and always coming back
To the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago.

 The Paris Review, 1969

No comments: