Towards A Theoria, Praxis, and Poesis of Modernist/Post Modernist Poetry (A Procedural)

Towards A Theoria, Praxis, and Poesis of Modernist/Post Modernist Poetry (A Procedural)

by Joe Weil on June 28, 2010

Print This Post

in Poetry and Poetics

Preamble of questions

Is there such a thing as “poetic language?” For example, which of the following words are poetic: Splat, emptiness, selvage, corporatization, loom, sequester, actually, rooster, surmise, demonstrate, fart, interpretation, destiny, tooth, ineluctable, meme, vector, duplicity, comma, consequence, drive, chant, teeter, tumult, fragrant, flounder, forget, suspend? Pick four words of five words from this list you think are most “poetic” and write a four line free verse or rhymed poem, using them.

Example one:

The shadows of trees are a (loom)
On which you (sequester) your fear,
Containing it through the (ineluctable) (chant) of days,
through the weave, and thread of (tumult).

Example two:

(Drive) South on routes 1 and 9,
Forsake (corporatization), and
the rotting (tooth) of conscience..
Oh love, (suspend) your adorations until further notice!

Example three:

The lions (fart) in the sun.
(Fragrant) with longing, I think of them:
Those noble cats, ( teeter) on the heat waves of August,
on the verge of (consequence).

Example four

We (flounder), confused by a (vector) of days,
The (duplicity) of math baffles us—
This equation for happiness, this (interpretation)
No tongue can (demonstrate).

Example five:

What (meme) for despair? (Forget) your body
a (comma) lost in the sentences of night,
Forget how it yearns to a be a semi-colon,
Holding independent but related thoughts together.

Example six:

Remember the (rooster), the bright red (selvage)
of the East—those feathers cropped towards (emptiness).
The light raises its spurs, where blood (splats )
the wounded windows, (actually), the dawn.

We have used all the words in the list in these six examples. Now suppose we put these six four line stanzas together, using certain “connective” tissue. Let’s see what happens:

Actually, The Dawn

The shadows of trees are a loom
on which you sequester your fear,
containing it through the ineluctable chant of days,
through the weave and thread of tumult.

But drive south on routes 1&9,
forsake corporatization and
the rotting tooth of conscience.
Oh love, suspend your adorations until further notice!

For the lions fart in the sun,
And, fragrant with longing, I think of them.
Those noble cats teeter in the heat waves of August,
on the verge of consequence.

Meanwhile, we flounder, confused by a vector of days.
The duplicity of higher math baffles us—
this equation for happiness, this interpretation
no tongue can demonstrate.

What meme for despair? Forget your body,
a comma lost in the sentences of night.
Forget how it yearns to be a semi-colon,
holding independent but related thoughts together.

Remember, instead, the rooster, the bright red selvage
of the East—those feathers cropped towards emptiness.
Recall how light raises its spurs, where blood splats
On the wounded windows–actually, the dawn.

Now I did not know what I was going to do with these words. I chose four or five words each time to put into one of the six stanzas (quatrains to be more exact). “Actually, the dawn” is the most eccentric phrase in my opinion, So I took that as the title/ It can be read a couple of ways. We could think the speaker of the poem is saying this is the actual dawn. Or We could think the speaker of the poem is correcting an un-spoken error of perception, as in: “No, actually, it’s the dawn.” Actually is a hard word to get into a poem without sounding like a know-it-all. At any rate, I trust in certain liberties of poesis:

1. Metaphor and extended metaphor.
2. Invocation (such as “Let there be light!” We call this an imperative sentence, but it invokes, it wills, it demands—one of the oldest devices of poetry).

3. Animation or personification of the inanimate (light raises its spurs, wounded windows).

I could go on, but, here’s a good question: what the good god hell is the speaker saying? What does he mean? Lyrical poetry can be very dense. It can even be “high gibberish” (a form of ecstatic speech that does not yield readily to a standard meaning, but may create a mood, an orver all emotional or intellectual atmosphere). It does not usually explain. It is not prone to giving information in an overt and easy way. Why does it beat around the bush? Get to it! Say what you mean! Many a person has turned away from lyric poetry because it refuses to do the one thing people seem to insist on: get to the point!

This is exactly where modern poetry wanted poesis to go—to the thing, the object, the point. It wanted a vocabulary stripped of poetic “rhetoric” and overtly flowery speech. At the same time, it wanted the main meat of metaphor: the ability to link utterly different things together and make a connection between them—a paradox of sorts in so far as it was a connection of disconnects (What Rimbaud called a “derangement of the sense”). It wanted to get rid of abstraction: “no ideas but in things.” Actually, it didn’t want to get rid of abstractions (ideas, moods) so much as make abstractions covert. Take this famous poem by Ezra Pound:

At The Station of The Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

This is considered the most famous example of imagist poetry. Note that Pound does not use the verb “are.” In regular metaphor we’d say: The apparition of these faces in the crowd are petals on a wet, black bough. In simile, we’d say: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd are like petals on a wet black bough. Pound allows the reader to make the connection between these disparate things. We don’t look at crowds standing in a subway station or train station and say: Wow… their faces look like flower petals on a wet black bough!” Note Pound uses a semi-colon, a form of punctuation that holds “independent but related clauses together.” Some readers might stress the independence over the relatedness. They might prefer to keep the apparitions of faces in the crowd, and petals on a wet thick bough separate—they might choose not to relate them. Other readers might go to great pains to see the relatedness: it must be raining because the bough is wet and black. Faces blur from a distance in the rain, and become “ghostly” (apparition). What does a crowd and petals share in common? They imply more than one. If things are blurry because of the rain, and you stand at a distance, you might see a similar effect of clusters—pale points of skin against a dark back round, or pale petals against a wet, black bough. IN either case, by removing the “are” Pound gets maximum juice from both the disparity and the linking of these two different orders. Petals are more traditionally “poetic.” Faces in a crowd at a sub way station are not considered a particularly poetic image, and, at that time, such an image would seem the anti-thesis of poetic. Pound has written an essay in these two lines, a great essay on what energy can be created by linking the traditionally “poetic” to the unpoetic. By doing so, he gives a crowd in a subway station the poetic value of flowers, while he makes the way we look at flower petals new. He empowers the new with the old, and the old with the new. Pound got much of this idea from Japanese and Chinese poems, and so we will look at such poems, which do not use metaphor or simile, but, rather, present one thing with a disparate thing to incite the reader to make a connection.

Try using all the words I listed, but first, make six four line stanzas using them at random (not in order). Good luck.

(Note: Picture by Steven Hudson taken from Chicago Art Magazine)

  • Loreen Lee

    Dear Joe Weit:
    Just found your blog, as I began on on WordPress about the end of June. It is called poeticinteraction, a word I hope I am not
    ‘stealing’ from McCumber (Univ. of Chicago). Also I used poetic praxis and thought I’d google it, and found you. I’ve started out with a biography in which I attempt to contrast my interpretation of my interactions back in the sixties with how I might interpret this today. My attempt at being ‘concrete’. But then I find this, and am really in praise of your interactive drawing in the audience to follow your example. So I hope that you post often, because I would love to learn from the interaction. I believe though that you are far more knowledgeable than I am. So glad I’ve found your blog.

  • joe weil

    Loreen: take a look at Dante’s Vita Nuova which is both a work of creative non-fiction, a confession, a series of love poems, and at the same time, a textbook on poetry forms written in the vernacular as well as a classic blue print for the last stages of the cult of courtly love. Amazing book. Thanks for writing in. I post a lot of things like this on the Joe Weil morning face book show.

  • Loreenlee

    Just found this posted while exploring what they had on Loreen Lee on the Web. Have ordered the rest of McCumber’s books, and am also reading some works by Habermas, who to my mind ‘transcends’ the other critical theorists. Thanks for the hint on the Vita Nuova. I want to make use of Dante in my ‘book’ and will work more on it once I assimilate better the developments in philosophy. Thanks for your reply. I’ve found my predecessors, Dante, as well as Augustine, but I have my doubts on my capacity to live up to these models, even of Menippean Satire. The whole things needs ‘rewrite’, constant ‘rewrite’….I like to think of it as ‘Spiritualist-Feminism’ (irony here)

  • Loreenlee

    It’s not a matter of (corporatization)
    But (interpretation)
    (Sequester) my words
    Within the (rooster) of a (meme)
    And my thought will find no (selvage)
    I will (forget) their meaning,
    And (flounder) in a (consequence) of seeming (duplicity)
    If you ignore the comma in the (loom) of my speech
    My meaning will (teeter) on the brink of an (ineluctable) (emptiness)
    And be naught but a (fragrant) (fart)
    A abscess in want of the (tooth) fairy.
    A (chant) I cannot (demonstrate) in (actuality)
    Another (drive) to the silence of a dumb (destiny).

    Please note: this is all in fun, hopefully.

  • Loreenlee

    It’s not a matter of (corporatization)
    But (interpretation)
    (Sequester) my words
    Within the (rooster) of a (meme)
    And my thought will find no (selvage)
    I will (forget) their meaning,
    And (flounder) in a (consequence) of seeming (duplicity)
    If you ignore the comma in the (loom) of my speech
    My meaning will (teeter) on the brink of an (ineluctable) (emptiness)
    And be naught but a (fragrant) (fart)
    A abscess in want of the (tooth) fairy.
    A (chant) I cannot (demonstrate) in (actuality)
    Another (drive) to the silence of a dumb (destiny).

    Please note: this is all in fun, hopefully.

  • Loreenlee

    It’s not a matter of (corporatization)
    But (interpretation), (Sequester) my thoughts
    And they will crow like a (rooster) of a (meme)
    Unconnected sounds of a personal made (selvage)
    I (forget) the meaning of my words,
    And (flounder) in a (consequence) of seeming (duplicity).
    If you ignore even the comma in the (loom) of my speech
    My meaning will (teeter) on the brink of an (ineluctable) (emptiness)
    And be naught but a (fragrant) (fart)
    An abscess in want of the (tooth) fairy.
    A (chant) I cannot (demonstrate) in the (actual)
    Another (drive) to the silence of a dumb (destiny) within discourse

    (Splat). There goes another silence.
    I cannot situate my thought.
    I attempt to (suspend) from my language the (vector)
    Of imaginative intent.
    Then in a (tumult) of poetic fancy
    I find myself in a (vector) of idealization and possibility.
    Lost between the modern and the post-modern
    I flounder between a poetry and prose.
    Shall I (suspend) critique of my aesthetic judgment
    And hope only to say what I mean
    To be heard only for what I say?
    I look at what is written and know I know not how language speaks.

    Sorry. Will not post again. I shall become a nuisance, but I couldn’t pass by what I felt to be a challenge. Have checked as well as I could – hope I got all the words. Thank you.

  • angela

    splat! the fat cat

    a vector of absolutism

    absolutely fragrant crap

    forget that rooster, he said

    for his next tumblr meme; one forgot

    emptiness precludes a 1 percent promise.

    chant, i promise You (comma) U S of A

    Corporatization blinds our  future!

    destiny so sweet

    a fart in the wind of hope

    actually, it was hopefully change,

    it being ineluctable

    these wheels rolled too many miles

    to teeter on the brink of manifest

    duplicity; eye tooth of knave gnaws

    off the selvage knowing

    the consequence of drinking tea with four 

    paws. one must demonstrate gentile logic

    tease with a bit of breaded flounder

    slowly digesting, the yawn of duplicity 

    red banner suspends belief and shall 

    loom darker than a Kansas dustbowl

    fields gone american gothic, tumult cries

    I surmise we shall hear many rats.

  • angela

    hmmm…it was formatted in stanzas, not sure what happened..reading through your old posts and found this exercise. It was a good challenge, thank you. ~ 

  • Pingback: painting a political landscape & WWLGD (what would lady gaga do?) « yellow house cafe

Previous post:

Next post: