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(11-07-2013, 01:29 AM)jdeirmend Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-06-2013, 09:03 PM)lainey Wrote: [ -> ]I don't understand why you have to lock yourself into one theory or 'perspective.' At times there may be a line, a stanza, a poem, and so on, which alludes to the writer's life, and is so obvious it would be stupid to ignore. Other times the writing has nothing to do with the author's life. Can we not address both in criticism?

For purposes of discussion, it would be useful to know who you're addressing. I see myself arguing for an inclusive way of reading.

Whether or not a portion of a work recognizably or obviously alludes to a writer's life, however, is almost besides the point. For it doesn't confirm or change the fact that his or her intention formed the work. You seem to recognize this in the second half of your post, when you address the "professors."

I don't think anyone argued over how writing was formed, just the relevance. Whether you agonized for years over a poem while your mother was dying of cancer or found the words floating in your alphabet soup won't change the definition of the words. Ahhhh, ready-mades.
Quote:I don't think anyone argued over how writing was formed, just the relevance. Whether you agonized for years over a poem while your mother was dying of cancer or found the words floating in your alphabet soup won't change the definition of the words. Ahhhh, ready-mades.

The implication seems to be that the definition of words is what constitutes the meaning of a poem. This can't be true, for where the organic use of language is concerned, words don't have merely certain and fixed meanings. Consider that the use of language, poetry included, was something that came prior to the invention of the dictionary.

I've read you variously write about "controlled ambiguity." The idea is intriguing, because I agree that it is a virtue of a poet not only to be able to write ambiguously, but to do so with a certain self-conscious precision. What this implies, however, is that as poets, we work with meaning as much as words. But where does meaning, in this instance, come from?

Here's one possibility: we revise. We imagine, we think, we write; what ends up on the page or screen, for the first go, is almost always garbled, distorted, unintelligible. Our revisions take the work into directions we would have scarcely anticipated. An untold number of horizons and possibilities, hidden worlds of meaning are opened up and closed off as we variously read, re-read, snip and edit our own work. It is this very amalgamted process, wherein there is a unification of the conscious and unconscious aspects of our mental lives, that interests me in the study of writers and writing.

This is why I can't side with any kind of simple new criticism, with its intentional fallacies and so-forth. And this is why I'm pressing you, and anyone else, to tell me what it means for a work to "stand on its own." I agree that certain writing does just this, in some sense, but just how this is so is by no means an easy thing to say.
I am not my poem.

I am a 52-year-old trucker from Antigua. I frequent
lemur hospitals and pudding cups. On Wednesdays I
build straw men and on Fridays I douse them with rum.
The Sunday roast burns the pudding.

In Oslo, I became a cobbler. Your feet were bitten and
bare. Someone stole the bells. The straw man shattered
in the jaws of the ass.

Tomorrow I will drive home. Melting
is all that is left to do.

I will not become a poem. I am words. I did not write
this. You thought it and it appeared, naked as
the lemur. Bandaged. Broken. Silent.

When I give a poem to my students for analysis, it is always sans title, sans writer's name, sans date. I want their first impression to be of the words themselves -- what can they glean from just that information? It is not a trick. They know there is no right or wrong answer -- any answer is correct, so long as they can back it up with evidence from the text. Only after the text has been deconstructed as a stand-alone entity do I give them additional information. Often they are correct, but just as often there are elements that I as a reader would never have extracted and similarly, the students would never have extracted them had those avenues been closed by providing biographical/historical context beforehand.

Knowledge of context and provenance prejudices a reading and privileges certain elements while allowing others to remain undiscovered. This does not mean it is never useful. Poetry is a valuable tool to illuminate aspects of an historical or cultural period, or provide insights into the character of a writer -- however, these pieces of information too often overshadow the true value of poetry, which is to provide insights into ourselves as readers and help us to understand our place in the world. A poem, once written, no longer belongs to the writer -- except perhaps as a reader. Poems, like any text, only find meaning when being read.
I agree with you Leanne. I get what you mean by "no longer belongs to the writer." It's just interesting to think that when one writer claims someone else's poem as their own, people immediately scream "plagiarism!"
Ha! Smile

OK reader, you can have the poem, but you can't change a word of it, including the name of the person who wrote it!
(11-07-2013, 01:29 AM)jdeirmend Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-06-2013, 09:03 PM)lainey Wrote: [ -> ]I don't understand why you have to lock yourself into one theory or 'perspective.' At times there may be a line, a stanza, a poem, and so on, which alludes to the writer's life, and is so obvious it would be stupid to ignore. Other times the writing has nothing to do with the author's life. Can we not address both in criticism?

For purposes of discussion, it would be useful to know who you're addressing. I see myself arguing for an inclusive way of reading.

Whether or not a portion of a work recognizably or obviously alludes to a writer's life, however, is almost besides the point. For it doesn't confirm or change the fact that his or her intention formed the work. You seem to recognize this in the second half of your post, when you address the "professors."

I'm sorry, but the point I was making was that you and milo are arguing for different approaches to criticism, and so I'm asking, why can't you include both? There is no need to go off on a tangent about intentionality because really you are just arguing for a psychoanalytic approach to reading poetry.

Oh and thanks for not bothering to respond to my second paragraph and completely ignoring my third.
hi lainey. great to see you jumping in. you and everyone else here can respond to all or part or none of any post in the discussion forums.

for me, once a writer throws their poetry to the masses. it's a done deal. when we/i say the poem no longer belongs to the poet, we're talking about intent, the text always belongs to the poet and plagiarism should be taken really seriously less everyone steals everyone elses work and claim the text their own. the poet can't tell us what we see, can't tell us how to read it. can't tell us we're missing something. the poem now belongs to me. (to read, dissect applaud etc, but not to steal)
(11-07-2013, 01:59 PM)billy Wrote: [ -> ]hi lainey. great to see you jumping in. you and everyone else here can respond to all or part or none of any post in the discussion forums.

for me, once a writer throws their poetry to the masses. it's a done deal. when we/i say the poem no longer belongs to the poet, we're talking about intent, the text always belongs to the poet and plagiarism should be taken really seriously less everyone steals everyone elses work and claim the text their own. the poet can't tell us what we see, can't tell us how to read it. can't tell us we're missing something. the poem now belongs to me. (to read, dissect applaud etc, but not to steal)

I'm not sure what you mean by intent. It seems like you're saying that intention is concerned with how the writer wants a reader to respond to a poem, but this kind of intention can be relinquished and probably has been by many writers, e.g. , writers who realise they can't control what a reader thinks, and so want the poem to 'stand out on its own.' This is why I think intention serves a more fundamental purpose in the writing process and encompasses more than just how the writer intends the reader to react.

The more I think about intention, in poetry at least, the more I start to realise how random/arbitrary it is.

And thank you, wow this is a friendly forum!
(11-07-2013, 05:24 AM)lainey Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-07-2013, 01:29 AM)jdeirmend Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-06-2013, 09:03 PM)lainey Wrote: [ -> ]I don't understand why you have to lock yourself into one theory or 'perspective.' At times there may be a line, a stanza, a poem, and so on, which alludes to the writer's life, and is so obvious it would be stupid to ignore. Other times the writing has nothing to do with the author's life. Can we not address both in criticism?

For purposes of discussion, it would be useful to know who you're addressing. I see myself arguing for an inclusive way of reading.

Whether or not a portion of a work recognizably or obviously alludes to a writer's life, however, is almost besides the point. For it doesn't confirm or change the fact that his or her intention formed the work. You seem to recognize this in the second half of your post, when you address the "professors."

I'm sorry, but the point I was making was that you and milo are arguing for different approaches to criticism, and so I'm asking, why can't you include both? There is no need to go off on a tangent about intentionality because really you are just arguing for a psychoanalytic approach to reading poetry.

Oh and thanks for not bothering to respond to my second paragraph and completely ignoring my third.

Lainey,

To address your first question: well, for one, the idea of a work "standing on its own" is something that I'm suspicious of. Context informs every single possible sentence that can be uttered or written, as much as it informs the meanings of words themselves in a sentence, as much as the meanings of paragraphs and pages. Agreed?

Even so, as I mentioned in my first reply to you: I see my perspective as inclusive. I don't see myself arguing for a "psychoanalytic" perspective, in the sense that most lit-crit students probably understand it, because I don't see psychology as something separate from semantics. Every mental production is meaningful, and every meaningful bit of language is mental.

What pisses me off, really, is the pretense that seems to go hand in hand with "New Criticism." To say that a literary work "stands on its own" is often as much to say that it conforms to one's own sensibilities as anything else. If someone wants to offer me an alternative account of what that means, I'm all ears. No one really has yet, to my knowledge. Nevertheless, I am considering the possibility that something can, in some sense, "stand on its own." I tend to believe that this happens when literary works address timeless themes, of which I take much of classical philosophy to be an exemplar. Milo seems to scoff at this.

Now a concession for you: at the beginning of the thread, I tried to explore some of Pound's and Eliot's work on the basis of psychobiographical speculation, it's true. And I know I've spilled no small amount of virtual ink trying to defend the idea that we can know something about an author through his or her writing. But I've since acknowledged that building an informed picture is more of a hermeneutic task than a "psychoanalytic" one. Meaning simply: the more one reads of an author's work, as well as of the works that surround it in time and place, the better an idea one can have of what that work means. This is true, I think, particularly in relation to the question of what motivated the work's production, on the part of the author.

Arguably, the perspective I'm pushing for is psychoanalytic, but I think that people who have little or no training or knowledge of psychoanalysis employ the methods I'm mentioning all the time, whether they are aware of it or not, Milo among them.

Second: I was addressing something you had written in my "tangent."

Lastly, as I've already written, much of the second part of your response was very difficult for me to make sense of. Also, I am by no means required to respond to you or anyone on this forum. I did respond out of a desire to include you in the discussion, as much as a curiosity to know who you were addressing.

If you're going to expect a comprehensive response to what you write from me, I would kindly invite you to make it a habit to read, re-read, and edit your posts. I don't mean to be presumptuous in saying this. We obviously share interests, and from what I could get out of what you wrote, you seem to have a lot to say that is relevant and interesting. The way your thinking was presented, however, seemed haphazard, which discouraged me from responding.

I would like to engage you in a discussion on these matters, please rest assured -- I would just need you to display some more control and deliberation in your diction for me to be truly interested.

Again, I don't mean to be off-putting, just honest.

Best regards,
James
If, by "knowing" the author through her work you are increasing your understanding we are left with 2 options:

1. The author deliberately included this requirement suggesting poor writing and egocetricism.

2. The author accidentally included it suggesting poor writing through lack of control.
(11-08-2013, 01:10 AM)milo Wrote: [ -> ]If, by "knowing" the author through her work you are increasing your understanding we are left with 2 options:

1. The author deliberately included this requirement suggesting poor writing and egocetricism.

2. The author accidentally included it suggesting poor writing through lack of control.
These are the reasons I despise the American confessional movement Big Grin
(11-08-2013, 04:06 AM)Leanne Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-08-2013, 01:10 AM)milo Wrote: [ -> ]If, by "knowing" the author through her work you are increasing your understanding we are left with 2 options:

1. The author deliberately included this requirement suggesting poor writing and egocetricism.

2. The author accidentally included it suggesting poor writing through lack of control.
These are the reasons I despise the American confessional movement Big Grin
So, what your saying is "this" is every Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath poem ever written. Wink
Pretty much. I want to poke their whiny Is out.
(11-08-2013, 04:58 AM)Leanne Wrote: [ -> ]Pretty much. I want to poke their whiny Is out.
Now you've got me moving down the path of:

Oven Plath Intention

There is no good place to end here.
Ah well... it's been a gas...
(11-08-2013, 05:57 AM)Leanne Wrote: [ -> ]Ah well... it's been a gas...
For Anne Sexton too
(11-08-2013, 01:10 AM)milo Wrote: [ -> ]If, by "knowing" the author through her work you are increasing your understanding we are left with 2 options:

1. The author deliberately included this requirement suggesting poor writing and egocetricism.

2. The author accidentally included it suggesting poor writing through lack of control.

Ohhhhh please.

I guess the palpable poet's anxiety in Milton's "When I Consider" shows us his terrible lack of control, or that he was an egotist? Maybe both?

It's not even that what you're saying isn't true, in some sense, Milo, that gives me reason for scorn. It's that it is so narrow and unsympathetic a way of looking at things.

But I also think that "suggests" is as strong of a conclusion you can arrive at, and "may suggest" is a more modest and appropriate one. With that in mind, here's a counter-example, where the issue is far, far more complicated than this simple bifurcation you're presenting. Go ahead and read Steppenwolf or Journey to the East or Demian, and tell me that the Nobel Prize winning Hesse was 1) lacking in authorial control or 2) any more egocentric than anyone else. Each of these works were autobiographies of a sort, shot through with the redeeming rays of the imagination, but they all conveyed different stages of life and aspects of the manifold that was the personality of Herman Hesse.

Now, to shift gears briefly: let's grant that every single writer is a narcissist of some sort, as is every single human being, though I think writers are typically worse than your average person. (Let's face it. If we didn't all desire recognition more than your average person who doesn't write, none of us would be doing this).

This would not at all be to say that an individual's desire to stockpile the narcissitic storehouse is the sole motivation for literary writing in general. And yet, to say that it's not a primary one, in each instance, is to paradoxically dehumanize literary writing. We're not writing technical manuals, after all. We are writing things that are meant to be sublime and/or beautiful, and which were meant to be appreciated as such.

Hesse himself struggled with the question of whether or not his imaginative-fictive autobioraphies were really true-to-art, too, and even extensively parodied himself in his novels. And yet, there was something profoundly healthy, as far as I'm concerned, about him doing all of this. As much as there has been something profoundly therapeutic and inspiring about reading his novels, for me.

This is all possible, I'm convinced, because Hesse's own struggle was something he knew how to use as a signpost for truths that transcended poor little old him. He was reflective and committed to the visionary's life, with its terrible lows and indescribably ecstatic highs. And yet, it was only through tracing the contours of his struggle that was able to arrive at these truths. Writing was not only a vehicle for him to accomplish this by. It arguably was the vehicle. "The creations of the poets are more real than the poets themselves," he claimed. This is the same ideal I aspire to in my writing: getting over myself. That I fail, in some predictable way and perhaps in every instance, is only human and to be expected.

You really do seem to expect next to impossible things of the writer, Milo. In a sense, that is good. Not even good, it is excellent, and I can't sing praise enough to it. Here is a man who believes in an ideal! But that ideal can never be achieved, in full, and in time. So although there is a discipline you aspire to that is both rare and admirable, even you cannot avoid letting yourself slip through the cracks in your own writing. What's more, if you didn't, strangely enough, I dare say your writing wouldn't be nearly as good as it is.

Even if the only thing a poem you write conveys is a mood that is somehow universal, if that same mood motivated your writing, you've done what you seem to be saying is a no-no. But that's what a great writer does. He takes his own feelings, experiences, heartbreaks, traumas, ecstasies, and so forth, and lets his imagination play with them, until he has articulated something that anyone with any sense at all can relate to. Maybe he does this by denuding the experience of all the markers that would indicate it as his sole possession. Maybe he does this, on the contrary, by passionately insisting on revealing "his actual self", which is always going to be a farce and a fiction (this is the difference between a whiny confessionalist and a guy like Hesse. The latter was reflective enough to realize that his own thinking about himself was hopelessly lopsided). The best writers, I'm convinced, are simply people who have learned how to alternately and artfully conceal and reveal different aspects of their own selves, their own reflections, their own thoughts and experiences, in writing.

This is why "observe and report" just won't do. That's what a mall cop or an investigative reporter does, and even then, they have their own biases to contend with. But "observe and report" is just a profoundly misleading way to conceive of the work of a literary writer. Writers, after all, feel and think things. Ugly, scary, noble, beautiful, true, false, bad, strange things. Not only that, we feel and think them deeply. And if we are any good, the inner turmoils, the terrible conflicts, the vague and ambiguous, anxious and indecisive fits we fall into - all this heavy lead, this existential manure we carry with is - is alchemically transmuted. It becomes baptised by the imagination, and confirmed by the symbol. Somehow, then, through writing, we learn to dress our own being-towards-death up into splendors, whose brightness shines to where the agonizing inevitability of death can be forgotten.
(11-08-2013, 07:23 AM)jdeirmend Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-08-2013, 01:10 AM)milo Wrote: [ -> ]If, by "knowing" the author through her work you are increasing your understanding we are left with 2 options:

1. The author deliberately included this requirement suggesting poor writing and egocetricism.

2. The author accidentally included it suggesting poor writing through lack of control.

Ohhhhh please.

I guess the palpable poet's anxiety in Milton's "When I Consider" shows us his terrible lack of control, or that he was an egotist? Maybe both?

I will stop here. You don't need to know a single thing about Milton to enjoy this. in addition, being able to create a narrator with anxiety is different than having anxiety.

you are stuck in a very basic, very beginner mind set here.

Do NOT confuse the narrator with the poet.

as for the rest of your very long diatribe, you need to understand the difference between using personal experiences to convey a shared human experience and writing a diary entry. You show, clearly, that you cannot differentiate.
(11-07-2013, 02:25 PM)lainey Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-07-2013, 01:59 PM)billy Wrote: [ -> ]hi lainey. great to see you jumping in. you and everyone else here can respond to all or part or none of any post in the discussion forums.

for me, once a writer throws their poetry to the masses. it's a done deal. when we/i say the poem no longer belongs to the poet, we're talking about intent, the text always belongs to the poet and plagiarism should be taken really seriously less everyone steals everyone elses work and claim the text their own. the poet can't tell us what we see, can't tell us how to read it. can't tell us we're missing something. the poem now belongs to me. (to read, dissect applaud etc, but not to steal)
I'm not sure what you mean by intent. It seems like you're saying that intention is concerned with how the writer wants a reader to respond to a poem, but this kind of intention can be relinquished and probably has been by many writers, e.g. , writers who realise they can't control what a reader thinks, and so want the poem to 'stand out on its own.' This is why I think intention serves a more fundamental purpose in the writing process and encompasses more than just how the writer intends the reader to react.

The more I think about intention, in poetry at least, the more I start to realise how random/arbitrary it is.

And thank you, wow this is a friendly forum!
the intent we see as the reader, what we think they were trying to convey/say to those who read the thing. only the writer can truly know their intent. as an analogy, i'd say reading a poem is a bit like translating from one metaphorical language (that of the writer) to another language (that of the reader.) if it works, the writer can see it translated well, if it doesn't he can do an edit. also. lets not confuse intent with knowledge writers themselves. big hugbig hugbig hug

see this (the text in bold)is really where a comment bears no relevance to the discussion. you understand enough of what she said to respond. we do not have grammar police in the discussion forums, if you can understand what's said, simply reply or do not reply. i have read every post in the thread and understood most of them (all those with bad diction i understood. the workshos are for grammar police this area isn't

(11-08-2013, 12:52 AM)jdeirmend Wrote: [ -> ]If you're going to expect a comprehensive response to what you write from me, I would kindly invite you to make it a habit to read, re-read, and edit your posts. I don't mean to be presumptuous in saying this. We obviously share interests, and from what I could get out of what you wrote, you seem to have a lot to say that is relevant and interesting. The way your thinking was presented, however, seemed haphazard, which discouraged me from responding.

I would like to engage you in a discussion on these matters, please rest assured -- I would just need you to display some more control and deliberation in your diction for me to be truly interested.

Again, I don't mean to be off-putting, just honest.

Best regards,
James
The whole discussion makes me think of the "interactive" book of poetry by my old friend martijn benders, "wold! wold! wold!"
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