METAPHORS, IMAGES & OTHER POSSIBILITIES
dialogue with Chris Stroffolino
Stroffolino, a contemporary North American poet, a pro-Beatnik
who teaches Shakespeare, and I, had been talking poetry
and alighting on its peripherals in an electronic mode for
several months. The following is a recklessly edited version
of our pluralistic conversation.
Stroffolino: Born March 20, 1963 (the same day Ginsberg
wrote "Death News,"), Stroffolino has published
3 full length book of poetry. OOPS (1994), Stealer's Wheel
(1999) and Speculative Primitive (forthcoming 2004). He's
also published 4 chapbooks of his poetry, as well as collection
of reviews and essays (Spin Cycle, 2001). He co-authored
a critical edition of Shakespeare's 12th Night (IDG, 2000)
and has played keyboards in various rock bands (Silver Jews,
Rising Shotgun, Hudson Bell, Volumen, Crooked Roads). Most
recently, he's singer/songwriter in the band Continuous
Peasant (www.continuouspeasant.com). He currently lives
in San Francisco after spending almost 40 years on the east-coast
(Philly, NYC, etc.).
first exposure to "post-language" poetry was a
series of essays Mark Wallace wrote, defining and introducing
the term with crippling caution. We got ourselves into a
continuing conversation (that obviously went in all directions)
that lasted several months. Every time I spoke to Mark on
that topic he kept reminding me of the danger of "branding"
poetry - I thought I was trying to get an understanding
of its traits.
when we were working together on his poems, I have asked
the same questions to Peter Gizzi - his reaction was much
like yours. At times I get a sense that we often engage
in a lot of wasteful , wry theoritization of poetry and
poetics which does little to bring a book of poem closer
to the heart of the average reader.
grew up in a state where poetry had a very high public profile
- someone like Walt Whitman's picture would hang from the
walls in virtually every home that had at least high-school
graduates. In the US, it is quite different- most people
have never heard of Walt Whitman.
it's weird about Mark....On one level he felt this need
to coin the term and on the other side he warns against
it. He just should have never coined it (perhaps he feared
that if he didn't someone else would, kind of like WAR-ugh!)
I totally agree with you about the problem of "theorization."
I'd even go further and say it may actually put up a bigger
barrier to the appreciation of the poem. I wrote at least
one piece of prose that said this. One of these pieces,
called "Against Lineage," was originally going
to be published in a big academic book Mark was co-editing
but then it was nixed for inclusion (by a prominent poet
who will remain nameless). I take that as proof that what
we are arguing here is rather dangerous to their "profession."
the same time, I am well aware that much of my own poetry
is likely to not be appreciated by the "average reader"
at least on the page at first. I also know that when I give
readings or performances of my work, I can reach many more
people than I can on the page. Somehow hearing the voice,
and seeing the performance, allows them to return to the
page and appreciate it more at least in my experience.
yes, there's a side of me that's very envious of the fact
that in India poetry can be much more popular than it is
in America. It's my understanding that this is somewhat
true in Russia too. I talk to Russian immigrants who are
very working class and they can quote Pushkin or Pasternak,
or cab drivers from the West Indies who can quote Cesaire.
I want to try to figure out how to make poetry more popular
in America. I also think Bob Dylan is one of the best contemporary
poets, and yes I will call him a poet. Did I tell you that
I am working on putting out an album of songs--- I play
piano and sing, but although I've played with other bands,
as a sideman, I've never really tried to finish my own songs
until this year (at age 40). I don't think I'm as good as
Dylan, and I find it much harder to write songs than to
write poetry, but I think it's worth trying. Nor do I think
my lyrics are especially challenging (if people want that,
they can turn to my other writing). At least my singing
voice is a little better than Allen Ginsberg's, in my humble
am learning piano too (at 38) along with my 8 year old son.
I have never heard Ginsberg sing. Back in the early sixties,
when he lived in Calcutta with Orlovski, the latter always
carried a guitar with him - he used to be the lyricist often
and at times. Allen would lend his voice - later in the
eighties I guess Allen and Peter brought out some of their
more discreetly charming song-albums - as a friend of mine
to the language poetry talk. I wholeheartedly agree with
you that branded or bannered poetry movements quite often
arise from an identity crisis; although these identification
problems are real and important and do help etching out
the whole anatomy of new generation writing, but the longer
these banners last, the more they plague a healthy criticism
of contemporary poetry. I think Surrealism, Dada, the English
Romantic Revival, Cubism, Fauvism, post-modern etc have
attempted to present a rather dogmatic partisan view of
world poetry. Language poetry seems no exception to that.
However, it does seem important given the time it emerged
and the context. I view Beat poetry with a different perspective
though ( I am so fond of them) - Beat poetry seems to present
more of a lifestyle and less of a writing style. Corso is
so different from Ginsberg, Snyder or Ferlinghetti are so
different from either of them. In Bengal in the recent times,
newer trends (that clearly bear extended surrealistic traits
and also have deep resemblances to American poetry of our
generation) are being identified as "postmodern".
These trends do remind us loosely of post-modern poetry
but have other characteristics that are diverse and discordant.
The general feeling that prevailed then, amongst many Bengali
poets, was that they saw Paul Hoover's American post-modern
poetry anthology as their western poetry bible. Hoover's
anthology is "too much of a broadband" - he includes
Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Corso and some of the Black Mountain
poets there; calls their poetry post-modern.
agree with you that Beat could be a more useful category
than most of the other ones you named (I never figured out
Fauvism!) because, yes, it is a lifestyle. In this sense
a little more like the later term "punk." I think
this is crucial distinction. To be honest, I find myself
much more sympathetic to the term "Beat" than
I did when I was 30 (though not when I was 20, when the
Beats were the first poets I took seriously)-- largely because
of their challenge to the sanitized version of the American
lifestyle, a lifestyle I tried to live, but find myself
alienated from (‘these are not my people’ as
Joe South put it)--and thus wanting to champion the alternative
ethos of the Beats. My writing style may be much more like
Peter Gizzi's (or even, at times, Mark Wallace's)--but I
think one crucial difference between Peter and I is that
my lifestyle is much more beat-like than his---for better
and worse, but I don’t want to be dogmatic about it,
for many things could change.
also for your account of Bengali poetry politics. Yes, it
is a fascinating topic, although sometimes I hate myself
for wasting too much emotional and mental energy thinking
about the more unsavory (corrupt) sides of it all. I like
the Hoover anthology much more than the new Norton ‘contemporary’
one or the Douglass Messerli anthology that came out around
the same time....in part because of its "broadband"
or eclectic qualities (which, in my opinion, is what made
that Donald Allen anthology of 1959 so important, and why
it hasn't been repeated as the poetry scene has become more
balkanized), but I really never got the term "post-modern"
in ANY of its usages. It's even more vague and abstract
than the other terms you mention (surrealism and lang. po,
for instance; at least those terms refer to an actual group
of poets who, at least at times, called themselves that).
NOBODY agrees on post-modern. One person's "post modern"
writer is another's "modern." Some say American"post-modern"
is more like European "modernism" and I think
there's some truth in that. But then the difference between
"modern" and "modernist" (not to mention
‘modernity’) is also vague, and to top it all
off, there's many who call Shakespeare "modern"
want to stay away from those terms; except in quotes (or
as a joke)...
interesting to see how other people define those terms.
In your case, it seems that the distinction (in Bengali)
between "post-modern" and "post-language"
is used very differently than it seems to be used in America.
In America it seems that those who use the term "post-language"
poetry consider it a sub-division of "post-modern"
whereas in Bengali, "post-modern" seems to mean
"PRE-LANGUAGE" in many ways (correct me if I'm
guess, by this definition, I would probably characterize
myself as more "post-modern" than "post-language"
so maybe the post-modern group who you are now unpopular
with would like my work more. Anyway, in reading YOUR poetry
I definitely saw your work as more what in Bengali would
probably be called "post-modern" (in a good way)
than mere "post-language." There's a wide range
and a definite emotional investment which seems to be lacking
in much merely "post-language" poetry. I just
don't know why they all need to draw lines, with ins and
outs, and hope I am not doing it myself in trying to understand
see, you dedicated Stealer’s Wheel to your late mother.
I'd love to hear more about your mother, your childhood...family...friends...elementary..school...teenage..red
baloons…babyteeth..first love ... travel .. trips...
bachelor parties...early poetic excursions...sex ...music
...lonely NYC evening walks...and a whole lot more.
mother would have turned 61 last month. She didn't even
make it to 50. I think she had a huge influence on me. I
was definitely what one might call a "mama's boy".
She was a victim of being poor and female raised in the
1950s and medical ineptitude/incompetence. Ah, America!
A long story-- someday I must say more. I don't mind you
asking at all.
"Stealer's wheel" have a special meaning ?
Wheel" was the name of a rock band that basically had
one big hit around 1973 (and a minor follow up) fronted
by Gerry "Baker Street" Rafferty (I didn't know
they were the same guy until later). The song was called
"Stuck In The Middle With You." I wrote the poem
‘Stealer's Wheel’ in 1992 (actually read an
early version of it for the first time at a reading I did
with Peter the day before my mom died). Originally, the
poem was going to be called "Stuck in the Middle"
but then I thought that that was not a good title so I changed
it to the name of the band that did the song. And then when
I was putting together the book and looking for titles it
seemed like the best title for the book (as one blurbist
comments on the "circular" quality of many of
the poems therein), which is kind of funny because a) it's
the oldest poem in the book and b) I almost wasn't even
going to put that poem in the book-- for various reasons.
But the title, to me, aside from the "story behind
it" as I've told you here, is interesting to me because
it's VERY suggestive I think (and I like the SOUND of it).
What IS a Stealer's Wheel? Hmmmm... Maybe it WAS something
historically? A torture wheel they put petty thieves on?
Maybe, it's like the WHEEL OF KARMA? So, there's a few possibles.
I'm sure there's more...
led me to the poetry of Jennifer Moxley. I have had a rather
bewildering time acquainting myself with Moxley's poetry
(just a handful by far) and some of her net-essays. In the
post-language wake, Moxley must have left the language poets
aghast. I find her old-fashioned; sentimentality and romanticism
aside, her poetry is too verbose, her language overtly metaphorical.........
maybe....actually I'm sure I'm missing something here...need
you to help. Is it a possibility that the defiance her reinvented
lyric offers to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, sort of catapulted
have had the same reaction to Moxley that you have had,
people who I really respect. I don't quite understand how
people like my work and not hers(or, as is probably the
case more often, like her work and not like mine). But I
don't think I can change anybody's mind about it.I guess
what I like is the fact that there's SUBSTANCE in her work(unlike
quite a few contemporaries, even some with whom she is associated).
Moxley has a lot to say, and doesn't shy away from wrestling
with big themes of self-questioning, etc. while others might
want to provide easy answers.
know her work is more "formal" and "high"
(or, one could say, "repressed" or "careful")
than much of mine, but I get a sense of someone who really
loves language, thought and feeling-- and feel much more
a kinship with her than others who might more superficially
resemble me (Wallace? I don't know....)
am missing out on the quintessential here. True, however,
that I haven't found Moxley's work to mirror yours or vice
versa but then I have my own hurdles too. I am no expert
at American poetry...just beginning to learn.. sketchily
read some Blake, Plath, Frost, Whitman, Cummings in my teens...I
have no formal training in literature...like most Bengali
poets of my generation...graduated in Mechanical Engineering,
did a PhD later on something called Finite Element Analysis....engineering
math stuff...not a fluent exponent of the English language
either...not to mention American English...still write "labor"
with a British "u"....
you can see I hope...
look for good poetry from female poets worldwide....all
the time...but rarely have I been charmed. Ingeborg Bachman
I liked, at one time almost fell in love with the burning,
often squeamish sensitivity of Plath's "Ariel"...sniffed
at Diane Di Prima and Adrienne Rich- did like some...a bit
of Lorde ...barely one or two female poets from Bengali
poetry, Debarati Mitra is one, my most favorite.
you translated any Debarati Mitra? I’d like to see
some of her work. And these days, in America, it seems that
in my generation (perhaps for the first time) women seem
to have an easier time of publishing and getting more recognized
than men do. Of course, I think this is just a fact, and
saying it isn’t necessarily incompatible with feminism.
The fact that more women get published as poets in the larger
scheme of things doesn’t mmean much when poetry itself
is so peripheral (it’s like ‘here’s more
monopoly money; doesn’t that make you feel good’).
But a man isn't supposed to say this (and I don't know if
any woman would dare to), and I may come off reactionary
I talk about some of this in an interview I did with David
Hess in a on-line magazine called "readme". I
think some people say women write differently than men,
and that a lot of the things that are associated with "avant-garde"
(in quotes) female writing, things like fragment, etc.,
are more suited to a female mode of perception, and that
may be true. But I don't care to make such arguments. I
don't think this is necessarily true of Moxley, or some
of my other favorite female writers in America---yes, Plath,
but also Notley, Harryman (who is incredibly relentlessly
intellectual---some would say she's not even a poet), Riding.
Do you like Emily Dickinson? I do....
guess given my life situations as a single heterosexual
male who is fascinated and frustrated by the female gender,
and who believes that one of the most difficult, and challenging,
tasks (and hopefully playful too) in life is for the sexes
to come to some kind of understanding--since, whether because
of nature or culture, we are extremely different, and misunderstandings
abound, and I think this is root of many evils, etc. I find
myself interested in feminism and in many ways very sympathetic
to it, but I also find that not a lot of women are really
interested in dialoging with men on it these days...at least
in the poetry scene.
e-mail hung me up in the dark brooding clouds above my mirror
size cubicle window...it rains so much in Cincinnati dont
know why people single out Seattle so much...I went home
for lunch today..it has been raining since the last 3 days...I
stepped into my latest crazeyard...our garden..two red dwarf
dahlias died..my solitary pink gerbera daisy looks as bleak
as a primrose...too many insects feasting on the white ones.
cooking up a few discordant lines about a garden last night
on my way back from the grocery store. In Bengali, the word
"garden" could be segmented into two parts, two
whole words - the first one would translate "or"
and the second part means "song". So this is how
my first few line doze off -
garden holds no tune for us, no song
garden holds no one, no song
a few that fly, alight
garden is not so much ours, its a make-up
the house with those red-yellow tapestries
odorless lace at its feet
garden only holds green but never a green flower
garden holds none, no god, no song
you say about women writing today holds good about Bengali
too - the one good thing that I see in my language today
is that now there are women who are breaking off the continuum
- there's an increase in fragmented writing, a single poem
is running off in many directions to catch the pulse of
time, subjectivity is reduced. It's getting to be more abundantly
off-topic, something I enjoy a lot. All this is welcome
from my standpoint...women are at least trying to get away
from conventional forms of poetry writing. A poem is not
about a topic or a theme. A poem is an Iris that grew up
to be an Iris.
didn't know that.
GARDEN (audio pun on "guardin")
email is way more poetic than mine....
don't know names of flowers
primroses pink? Are they PRIM and PROPER roses? (prim is
a weird word; i wonder if that's how primroses got their
of a british flower I believe, symbol of a sick (actually
convalescing) soul, abound in British poetry - Rosetti,
Donne, Byron....etc. Dont know how they got their name,
but they are hazy pinkish roses that describe nothing but
a faded scene.
yeah I always forget about the "flowers-as-symbols"
thing. I always think of Ophelia, who was into that. And
it makes sense of that Laura Riding poem that ends with
"nor are the primroses unwelcome" (I'll have to
check on the title of the poem for you.). Someday I should
perhaps study this iconography more.
like real full-blooded red roses, like we see in India...dont
see them much here.
someday I'll have to get to India.
especially like "odorless lace at its feet"
the seeming equation of god and song...
poem is an iris that grew up to be an iris"
an iris is a kind of flower (i don't know the name of)
also part of the eye (i don't know which)....
are there no flowers called retinas?
am an ignorant man...
is the relation of "word" and "thing"
better, what is the relationship of the word "thing"
you. This poem is only in the making.
line has been laid down for good.
me see it as it finishes.....
wrote - why are there no flowers called retinas?
curious nuance. Could I "install" this line in
my poem ?
course you may. The flower goes with the eye (or the nose...ah,
but i am allergic! but i don't mind sneezing. in fact, it's
it's the watery eyes and stuffy throat that bugs...)
observation was interesting - that female poets dont tend
to discuss feminism with men. My stance is very similar
on the subject. My nextbook of poems, which I am yet to
title has a section towards the tail end consisting of 16
poems I took 12 years to write. "BimalBimalaa"
-is the title of that section. Two names; "Bimal"
is a male name - the word means pure or unblemished, "Bimalaa"
means the same, but is a female name. The poem-series is
about these two asexual individuals and a world seen through
their eyes - a world that's genderless in the spirit of
observation. Bimal Bimalaa are friends, partners, husband-wife,
two gay men, two lesbian women, two 7-year olds, two kings,
two queens, two wordcrafters, two singers, two hermaphrodites
singing in the streets of Calcutta; so vividly described
by Ginsberg in his "Indian Journal"....the asexual
is no different from the bisexual to me.
my daisies are dying
sounds quite fascinating in a mythic way. For me all those
interesting questions and thoughts and feelings about the
complementarity of male and female and the so called "male
and female" principles, whether asexual, autosexual,
bisexual, whether solitary or social---the yin and yang
interest which I'm very fascinated by, and it sometimes
gets into the question of EVIL for me. I mean, if one rejects,
or at least severely interrogates the whole "western"
philosophical systems of manichean dualism and figures the
relation of two forces in the world in a way that's complementary---day
(often traditionally linked with male) and night (often
traditionally linked with female), life and death, affection
and anger, etc--then how does one deal with the question
of evil. Evil becomes ignorance. I.E. George W. Bush and
Chaney, etc., aren't evil, they are just ignorant, and realize
they are not acting in their own self-interest when they
accrue lands and money and oil and worldly "power"
at the expense of others. Is this a sufficient moral, or
ethical stance? Hmmmm....
like the thematic focus slowly and gradually drifting; sometimes
sharply changing like a "jump-cut". But not an
array (or disarray ?)of fragmented words. The way poetry
has been happening to me over the past 3/4 years is that
moments would arrive to me (poetic occassions, as I call
them) and I would jot down my thoughts, sometimes even have
time to compose a couplet or so. Obviously not the same
kind of thought-theme would you expect each day...so when
I look back at these fast transcriptions a month later...I
notice reflections on several thoughts, motifs..often subjects,
visuals, feelings etc. I would scoop out 15-20 lines from
that bunch and rewrite them into the body of a single poem.
This is natural writing to me as this is exactly how poetry
and my thoughts occurred to me. This is exactly how, this
supersonic life let's me write poetry. Also, all these multidirectional
thoughts are my own, so I do see that invisible thread of
continuity amidst those lines. Mind is as random as a weathercock
thesedays, but as you can see, I mean the same weathercock.
APPRECIATE YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR PROCESS here. I do that
sometimes too, and I didn't mean to sound unsympathetic
to the jump-cut jottings of a supersonic life. To me, it's
always a matter of the particular poem and the particular
mood or needs I have at the moment of reading it. It's why
I don't want to be a poetry critic anymore. But what you
say makes sense...
in India, I lived for about 3 years in a small industrial
town called Jamshedpur – fell in love with a group
of radical middle age poets - the KAURAB group - KAURAB
was the name of the literary mag they published.I edit an
online version of that mag today (http://kaurab.tripod.com)
created be a big bang on parallel literary movements that
occurred in India and Bangladesh during the last 3 decades.
poets, then unaware of Snyder-Kerouac trips to the Big Sur
, would arrange similar poetry camps or poetry trekking
events where 3/4 poets would spend a few days in a remote
natural place...read/scream/eat/write new poetry, dig into
each other's poetic preoccupation, discuss poetry from dawn
to dawn - and they did all that they would constantly tape
their conversations, or do a fast transcription. Later KAURAB
magazine would publish an edition of such poetry trekking
camps. I would love to do something like that with you at
Big Sur...we have more than a year to plan. Have you ever
been there ? is it a safe place ? could we get cottages
to stay there ?
me know when you're here at Big Sur. I don't know if I can
make it down there, as I am very busy in the city for now
and can't really afford a vacation (though maybe a day trip
down there could happen) But I would definitely be into
seeing and spending time with you if you come to SF. Yes.
Just let me know when like a month in advance or so. I have
a roommate now and if you wanted to stay here, I'd have
to run it by him. But we do have a couch and we're in one
of the few really WALKING neighborhoods....Walking around
the city is something I want to do more of.
interesting, but really relevant that my name reminded you
of the Aryans and thus Hitler. But you know what, The idiot
never thought what a sun could do if it burned too long
on white Aryan skin.
IDIOT also had dark hair didn't he---so by his own programme
would have HAD TO EXTERMINATE HIMSELF! If only he did it
10 years earlier! sick sick sick....
me throw a few one-liners here that will etch out my first
thoughts about your poetry.....
are very different from the kind of poetry I practise
have rarely read a poet like you, who relies so little on
do lure the reader to get into your thinking game
poetry makes few references to the details of contemporary
American life, and that adds more translatability to it.
glad to hear these one-liners, especially that you felt
lured and that those poems might be more translatable...
best wife is usually the third...(courtesy Bach).. has it
consciously occurred to you anytime that it is important
to point out differences than likeness in your use of metaphors.
What makes an image an image ? A metaphor a metaphor ? Do
they bind like weed and rock ? is one the other eye beside
the right eye ?
for your third question, YES. Others have also pointed out
that my use of metaphor tends to do something different
than many other people's use of metaphor. That instead of
"yoking disimilars" together that at times my
metaphors seem to serve an opposite function. I'm very interested
in the possibility of metaphors to be BI-DIRECTIONAL. That
a metaphor creates some linkage that wasn't there before
and that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, for instance,
"love is a rose" or "love is a dog from hell"
is not simply defining love in terms of a rose or dog, but
also DOING something to the ROSE-DOG, and that tension,
that movement by analogy into the ineffable becomes both
greater and lesser than literal prose equivalence.
image and metaphor sometimes become each other. A lot of
this has to do with the question of whether words refer
to things or to themselves. In rhetoric and language perhaps
many more things are possible than in reality. In language,
one can "deconstruct" binaries, prove them "merely
rhetorical, but in "real life" one finds them
sometimes more recalcitrant.
for instance, there's a lot of things in my poetry similar
to this line from Ashbery---"you loved cats for the
pleasure of letting them out of the bag." In American
English, "to let the cat out of the bag" is a
rhetorical phrase for which I don't know if there is an
equivalent in Bengali--as you may already know, it means,
to "give a secret away". But at the same time,
it is as much of a real CAT as any other use of the word.
At least potentially so---so my language sometimes goes
back and forth between the "literal" use of the
term and the, er, CULTURAL HISTORY of the word. I try to
only use this "device" when I feel it can work
both ways. I'm very interested in PUNS and CLICHES, the
poetic possibilities of them. Sometimes I've used them not
so judiciously. We all have our "clunkers". I
don't know if this helps....
this point I still haven't started any translation yet...just
beginning to gather the feathers that'll make the crown....melting
ricotta for the cheesecake. I am slow, my poetry mates complain...but
I do a much better job than most of them as I believe. One
poet a year for translations...and with you ....I seem to
have found the self I'd like best on my mirror...so it is
have your translation of "fish story" proudly
displayed on my office
on the off chance that someone who knows Bengali might stop
a few things to talk about this morning. About "polarized
metaphors" first. I think, especially during the mid-eighties
and all throughout the nineties up until today many Bengali
(and I believe many world poets) poets have tried to explore
and renew the world of imagery. As poets, we find a metaphor
quintessential and unavoidable. But they can be as choking
and restrictive as non-metaphors. Moreover, we always want
to mean "more" and mean "new". So there
is a struggle to find a new context, a new mode of usage.
Some negate it, some stretch their limits, some like me,
tend to connect them to other words that are phonetically
similar - all we are trying to do here is inform the reader
about the many "other" possibilities that exist
around a given element.
as for that approach. Lately, sometimes I find myself needing
to check it a little more---it does seem to be often the
way I've become habituated to writing and thinking---especially
in poetry, or it's "natural." In any event, I
do sometimes get a thrill in editing many of those "polarized
metaphors" out, and writing something that seems more
straightforward. A question for you---why do you think (those)
Bengali poets, including yourself, also use that device?
What do you think it provides your poetry?
favorite poet of mine from the fifties, Swadesh Sen, writes
van, an empty van runs through the forest department"
The apple is asleep. Use your teeth, wake him up"
the first line, he hints at an autumn forest. A visual.
The trees are all bare; an empty van from the state forest
department make its way through the woods. He takes the
van, the forest department, the emptiness, the baldness
of autumn and mixes them into a smoothie - the metaphors
are all there, like the spice in the curry that can't be
identified, felt on its own.
like the lines you quote from Swadesh Sen, regardless of
the fact that I've seen similar "devices" in many
poems. While the first is more "modernist" perhaps
in its attempt to negotiate an antagonism between "nature"
and "technological 'progress'," the second has
a slightly different emphasis---more perennial, and perhaps
deeper, in a way that it exists in contemporary poetry but
also in Zen Koans or things like the Tao-Te Ching. No "technology"
but "teeth and imagination here. Both strategies for
me can still be very useful for a poet today.
poet, Barin Ghosal,writes about a friend, Bijan -
name of Bijan's environ is Bijan
thunder struck, even its lightening mattress
jolt the friendship
name of Bijan's environ is Bijan"
the metaphor to itself is another technique. I have seen
that a lot in WCW, and I was so much impressed to see someone
do that in 1916. WCW, according to me, was quite a phenomenon
in american and world poetry. I get really pained when I
see people from literary arts who haven't read him or even
heard of him. Too bad, that Pound and Elliot overshadowed
him. Pound's poetry was long dead, Elliot, quite old-fashioned
but WCW can still be a lesson to most young poets of our
time. What do you think ?
for Barin Ghosal's quatrain, the "lightening mattress"
image/metaphor, is tweaked to the point of "pun"--and
makes me think/feel the difference between "thunder"
and "lightning". The repetition (which kind of
reminds me of some Stein) of the first line focuses the
attention on the profundity of that idea, and in a way provides
a kind of "lightening mattress" to the friendship
that is evoked in the poem--that this friendship is not
firmly grounded, and that Bijan is a remarkable character
who understands and acts as if his soul, as Pasternak would
say, is in "others" as much as himself. I like
the way it achieves that for me.
I always thought, of the American modernists, that Williams
was more profound and less backward-looking than Pound and
Eliot. of the American modernists, I also prefer Stevens,
Riding, Stein, Moore, Crane, e.e.cummings, and others, to
Pound and to much of Eliot. I think Pound in particular
is one of the most overrated of the 20th century. I also
think in some ways "American Modernism" itself
is largely overrated among many American contemporary poets
I know. There have been some notable reactions to it---the
Beats, much new York School, Creeley--many of whom were
largely influenced by--or found an elective affinity--Williams.
In fact, they had a lot to do with turning me onto Williams
(as well as Whitman, Dickinson, Lawrence, many European
modernists, who, aside from Breton at times, were not as
interested in the desperate sanctimonious pronouncements
by which Pound tried to systematize 20th century notions
of "free-verse")--but, for many today in America,
Pound still looms large for the way he allegedly "revolutionized"
poetry. I also feel it turns many budding poets away from
earlier poems by Shelley, Blake, or Shakespeare, which to
me remain profound affinities, or influences. I believe
that the influence of the largely unquestioned lineage of
Poundian "modernism" has a lot to do with the
unpopularity of poetry in America today. Sure, there are
probably bigger factors too---I think it's not accidental
that poetry is less popular in this rather violent Empire
than in Bengal or in other countries. Ginsberg came very
close for awhile to achieving a popularity here that might
rival Tagore's, and there are some other examples of poets
who have used the mass-media to popularize poetry,but not
nearly as many are able to (for whatever reasons) as back
in the 1950s' and 1960s. I'm very interested in investigating
way this is, but more interested in trying to figure out
how it can be changed. I think a lot of poets are afraid
of "watering down" what they'd say to reach "the
masses," or changing the way the write, or even to
some extent SPENDING LESS TIME WRITING and more time on
the streets talking, etc. I also think alot of people who
may have been inclined to read or listen to poetry have
found in musicians like Bob Dylan, and so on, enough poetry
to sustain their needs for it, that when "high"
or "proper" poetry is presented to them, they
find it not particularly seductive, especially to the more
seemingly immediate bodily and emotional ways in which music