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Saturday, 10 March 2007


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Well, let's talk about why he didn't.... Seriously.

Rich Puchalsky

It may not work within an academic article, but I think that it's a valid poetic technique. I often write something that has some element of politics-of-the-moment in it, knowing that by the time anyone reads the poem, the moment will have passed. But that gets away from the presumption that political poetry is supposed to have an effect as such, and universalizes it. Because the truth is that decades later the same thing will probably be happening in some form. The "War of the Gulf" is many wars, after all.

Well, at least I think that the technique would work if I could write better poetry. Here's a sample that attempts to use specificity-within-universality (written before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, I think):

The Hostage Crisis

The woman and child
Held by strangers who don’t even know their language
Are political pawns
The leader of their guards,
The colonel,
Leaves a ransom note
“If you want your family released, turn yourself in”
The guards laugh, salute

When the husband shows up
The colonel boasts to the media
-- We got the criminal from the old regime! --
And they publish it
Job well done, soldier

No surprise it worked
Who’d want to leave their wife and daughter in Abu Ghraib?
The colonel smiles, gazes fondly at Old Glory
How I love this country

Another day, another hostage crisis
Seems they might not yet be ready for democracy

If we are very lucky
Then there is no God to judge us

The Constructivist

If you liked Words of Light, you gotta get his Emerson book! There's an impressive Emerson renaissance going on lately--Fresonke, Newfield, and A.H. Patterson have all written great Emerson books in the last decade, and those are just the ones I had the time to read....

N. Pepperell

Scott - I'm curious if you could spell out your objection a bit more here? I'm not asking this because I... er... object to the objection, but because I've been wrestling with the issue of how distilled my own formal writing often is, when much of the provocation for my thought is often quite embedded and contextual. On the one hand, distilled writing abstracted from the various idiosyncratic concerns that led the author to those particular ideas has the benefit of exposing the ideas to readers who are unlikely to share the same experiences - making it possible to test the validity of the ideas in a broader context. On the other hand, it tends to present an odd picture of how thought unfolds - a picture that, I sometimes worry, can help convince readers that the production of ideas occurs in some rarified and disconnected realm, difficult for most people to access... At any rate - mainly random musings, and perhaps not at all related to your reaction to this passage. I was just curious...

The Constructivist

Heh, on your update, I'm glad to count myself as someone who's now been reading you long enough to tell when you're NOT lashing out at someone (even yourself) unjustly. What do I get?

Scott Eric Kaufman

Adam and CR, chill with the chilling!

Constructivist, money being what it is right now, all I can offer is this bag of sticks. (C.O.D., obviously.) I haven't read much recent Emerson criticism, actually, but it's because (wait for it... wait for it...) I really dislike reading Emerson. His prose has a soporific effect on me, which is strange, since I mostly adore (mostly) long mellifluous sentences.

Rich, it certainly is a valid poetic technique -- and given the tenor of this article, that may justify its inclusion. Maybe the fault is mine, then, inasmuch as I read the article as I would a work of criticism, when it's really more of a Benjaminian riff.

N.P., for the most part, what bothers me about it is the casualness, the looseness of the referent and its potential to trivialize a work. I mean, we all know that we write in a fraught world; but the world's always been fraught, the pressure of the present's always acted upon us. We can either treat that as we would our subject -- with the careful attention to detail it's afforded in our work -- or we can write an article for our immediate audience. (Which, given the speed of academic publishing, is little more than a guarantee of immediate obsolescence.)

Eileen A. Joy

Scott--I did not realize that "Words of Light" started out as an article; what I was referring to was a book published by, I believe, Princeton University Press. You might check that out as well. Cheers, Eileen

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