Tuesday, July 10, 2007

i don't know what the word *permanance* means in reference to poetry & publishing. there are radically diverse views regarding whether diy self-publishing is legit form of publishing, or must publishing be under the aegis of an editor, a board even, which is all funded by a grant.

reading the thoughts of the talented poet nicholas manning re: publishing poems on blogs counts as the real deal or not makes me want to air my own 2 cents worth. manning is concerned with the permanence - if i understand him correctly - of writing. i guess we all are, since surely each one of us secretly thinks that we might be a cesar vallejo or gerard manly hopkins toiling in relative obscurity only to be rediscovered soon after our deaths and celebrated as the geniuses we are.

i have my doubts about the permanence of anything. that does not mean to imply that i also in my best and worst moments like to think of myself as a rimbaud laboring in obscurity until. . .well, a discovery of my work. but quite honestly i don't give a shit about it. to me writing is part of living, and perhaps as ephemeral as the passing day. why bother to publish at all is the question, since it is the writing that counts. i'll answer that rhetorical question with a very concrete answer: because i love to read. i have many, many, many, many favorite poets. and i want to read everything they got.

which is why i like blogs, why i encourage poet friends who don't have blogs to start one. i'm the type of reader who wants to read yr grocery lists. i get frustrated by the poets i have crushes on who don't publish all the time. whether their poems will mean something to a future reader is hardly a matter, since i and the poet i'm reading will be dead. what we do now is what matters.

i do not advocate a sort of pop fleetingness in style, subject and what-not. i'm as influenced by trends as each one of us. i do mean write with the highest abilities we got. this is our only life so do yr fucking best. but permanence of writing, like permanence of living, of my life, is illusory. i won't be here for ever. neither will these words. neither will you.

the punk in me knows that poetry is not a commodity. it might be a fetish, even a religion, but not a saleable item. therefore, do it yrself. i'm beginning to publish more and more poems on this blog. i'll continue to do so. as a poet i admire and respect said some time ago, no one will recognize yr genius, so get busy and do it yrself.

poetry is a gift. at least for me it is. so far, i've given away far more copies of my chaps than i've ever sold. as long as i can afford to, i'll continue to give them away. i've learned from jim mccrary, the great lawrence, ks poet, that self-publishing is as legit as you can get. do for yrself, now.

another poet i greatly admire, tho he may chafe at my language, then again maybe not, is bill knott who has vowed to stop publishing books and is in the process of putting all of his poems on his blog.

i'll end this ramble at knott's example.


At 10:31 AM, Blogger Nicholas Manning said...

Richard, this is a fascinating and beautiful post. In reply, my approach I suppose to permanence, is to see it not in any way as a phenomenological reality of the world, but as a purely subjective trope, a sort of mental, rhetorical ploy. It is the subject vainly attempting, by its own affirmation, to assert its own value. While we know that this assertion is vain in a teleological sense, it need not be merely delusion, but a sort of cry for value which may have value as cry.

Does the Renaissance poet truly believe his beloved will become a western constellation, or that mere words will preserve his/her perfect face against time’s eroding agent? Yes and no, I think, though importantly the question itself seems to me misplaced. We will die, and what we do does not have importance on a scale of duration. In this sense, your stress on the quotidian, diachronic engagement with others, what may perhaps be called the living through of the work, in a personal and communal sense, is crucial. But also I believe that it is possible, in the face of this absurdity, to attempt through some sort of act of will to give value to what one does entirely from one’s own volition.

Your thoughts on self-publishing only confirm this: but do we want a sort of pure self-affirmation, everyone affirming themselves? My concern that the poem on the blog is displayed and then quickly dissappears into never-seen archives is, I admit and in a specific sense, completely illogical, as what else happens to all poems published in journals or books? Don't we all read most poems once? A concern for permanency thus seems either extremely ridiculous or very vain; unless we take permanency as a metaphor, as a way the self may say to itself: "This is perhaps permanent for nobody else, but it is permanent for me, until I die." Why the circulation or publication of this "personally permanent" thing should have any impact on this affirmation is perhaps paradoxical, except to say that for many of us, for better or worse, it does.

Permanence then, as trope, carries a degree of truth, along with its obvious falsity. Like children believing in fairies, belief at a certain point becomes itself the value, replacing the value of the thing believed: not in the sense of fundamentalism, but simply as a humble sort of actualizing.
Permanence then for me is also informed very much by Rimbaud’s: “the true life is elsewhere”. That poems are written for a future state of your life or your self that you work towards, that you would like to believe in. Whether this “elsewhere” is actually contained on the horizon of eventuality of one's own life, or that this elsewhere may occur one day or not, doesn’t concern the trope. (Moreover, the elsewhere is no doubt very humble, but it would be my elsewhere, nobody else's, entirely mine.)

O’Hara’s “but how can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death?": this is wonderful and necessary. And yet this is coupled in O'Hara with that other element, which fights tooth and nail against any possible nihilism suggested by this humility, namely the O'Harian sentiment that "poetry is a part of your self". It has permanence in the sense of being a part of you.

All this is perhaps far from the question of publishing poems on blogs, but thank you Richard for letting me get through some of these ideas.

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