Sunday, September 16, 2007


More from Barbara Guest's
Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing

Respect your private language.

Plasticity, strive for noble Plasticity.

Never "negotiate" with the reader by projecting the reader's aims into the poem,
such as a "desirable subject."

When in trouble, depend upon imagination.

Picasso, when facing his inquisitors: "Subject matter? You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."

what Picasso said about subject matter: "It's always something else in the end."

I underlined and marked up a great deal from this next essay by Guest. When I get carried away, I might as well underline the entire thing. It's titled, "Mysteriously Defining the Mysterious: Byzantine Proposals of Poetry," and it opens with a short description of the author purchasing yards of beautiful silk at a bazaar in Turkey. The silk was then turned into curtains and "began to lead a domestic existence, its history asleep, much as a poem enters into an anthology. (Who knows when those Mersan curtains rustled and their sound entered my poetry.)"
I'm struck by the idea of the exotic silk becoming something domestic and then again becoming something mysterious. How that needs to happen in my work.

Underneath the surface of the poem there is the presence of "the something else." Mallarme said, "Not the thing, but its effect." The "effect" is what I have been leading to with my curtains from Mersan. The "thing" is the poetic process which lends its "effect" (the silk of the curtains) to the poem. Process and effect, each go about in disguise. They must be uncovered, these other realms Keats discovered "When First Looking Into Chapman's Homer."

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