August 16th, 2013 / 9:16 am
Craft Notes & I Like __ A Lot

“Instead of judging the poem, let’s become overtaken by it.”

Janice brought this up a few days ago, but I think it bears repeating. Johannes Göransson continues to mash blueberries and puncture orchids while juggling swords and cacti over at the Harriet blog this month with his “Corean Music” posts.

Here’s a powerful glimpse from his latest, which seems to reverberate across a similar body of water I attempted to canoe sometime ago with my “How To Be A Critic” posts:

What would it mean to wade through the plague ground as a model of reading/writing as supposed to transcending the tasteless “too-much-ness” of poetry? Well, I think for one thing, I would do away with the model of “access”—take away the idea that when we read (or listen or watch etc.) that we are agents, that we are in control and we try to “access” the passive artwork with tools we’ve learned. Instead of access, lets think about fascination: When I read poems that I love I am not in control, not in charge, not trying to access some meaning that will redeem the work (make the shit valuable). No, I’m enthralled, overwhelmed, spellbound. This is what Steve Shaviro, writing about the movies in The Cinematic Body, “fascination.” Instead of judging the poem, let’s become overtaken by it. Instead of reinforcing our position as complete agents of evaluation, let’s be compelled and possessed.


  1. kjtuyy

      i hope grief is always allowed to be as “too much” as it wants, even or especially in poems.

  2. deadgod

      Arguments that there’s ‘too much poetry’ aren’t coterminous with arguments that some/a lot/too much poetry is lamed by excess; those’re two different raps.

      The latter argument — ‘lamed by excess’ — isn’t restricted to the dismissiveness of austere empiricism / empirical austerity, but that’s a useful place to start.

      Many poets and readers feel that poems should work, affect, change or at least challenge, cause. And to cause, the sense is that a poem cuts; the impulse from a poem won’t come, or will be smothered, if the poem is pillowy: ‘puffy with self’ or ‘swollen from poor metabolism’ or ‘plain lazy’.

      The demand from excess would be the same as from parsimony: be effective. It’s hard (for me) to think of a poetry “camp” that doesn’t privilege ‘effectiveness’. The argument against a particular case of ‘too much’ would be that it doesn’t work, not that it exceeds some indefinable but unmistakeable limit.

      The argument against excess is a pragmatic ethos, not an a priori imposition — though, as with all pragmatism, anticipations are smuggled into the sense of ‘what works’.

      Not that ‘too much’ is inherently bad, but rather, that ‘ineffective much’ is inherently bad.

      Gratuitous: indistinct about (or disconnected from) cause and consequence. Sensation detached from the audience’s contextual sense of it.

      Gratuitousness is not only excess; it’s barren excess.

      It’s not intensitivity that moves some to call something “porn” — say, the ‘atrocity porn’ of horror flicks — . It’s not being too visual (?) or excessive that makes “porn” trashy.

      It’s the provision of context-dependent sensation in a critique-detached package that’s trashy.

      I think there’s pornography that’s not “porn”.

      Likewise, when violence seems schlocky, it’s not always because it’s violent, but often because the violence is thoughtless sensation.

      I don’t think the entity Solaris is “poetry itself”, or even the poetry of excess. The outrage of Solaris is fulfillment without work — getting something for nothing. That’s how Solaris works: by having your fantasy fulfilled just by fantasizing it, you become Solaris’s energy source.

      The host is fantastically nourished by the parasite.

      I think excess that nourishes also costs. ‘In’ Solaris, you spend neither time nor toil — you lose only everything else than the fantasy of what you want.

  3. deadgod

      By the way, Higgs’s blogicle reproduces what I take to be a homophonic misprint in Johannes’s Harriet piece:

      as supposed to transcending -> as opposed to transcending