Alexis Orgera was kind enough to comment on my "THINKING ABOUT...." post, and as a result we've had a good conversation (via email). With this in mind, I asked Alexis if it would be okay to post some of what was said here and she agreed. What follows is Alexis' comment on my post and a portion of the conversation which ensued.
Orgera: Ok, but when does a poem become too self-indulgent? And can we talk about Notley, b/c I need a "way in."
Hart: Maybe you could tell me specifically what in my post made you think about that, and I'll be happy to address it.
Orgera: Hmm. I think I was reacting to #15 "deliberately absurd dis/connections as a way to work in spit/e of oneself." Though I agree with most of what you say before this: resistance as a sort of active, deliberate recklessness, the point is the poem, the desnos quote, I begin to bristle when we talk about being deliberately absurd. I think this is because I feel like poetry only happens as a natural result of opening up oneself to whatever needs to arrive. That sounds cheesy and whatever, but I feel like an act of deliberate manufacturing makes craft a crutch rather than allowing craft to be the below-ground river. Maybe I'm full of shit and grubbing with semantics--especially because what I was really thinking when I wrote the comment was: I can't read "in the pines." I think it's self-indulgent which is sometimes forgivable if the language is alive and flowing in some way which I can't see in it. To me, self-indulgence has nothing to do with subject matter, rather it's about whether or not you can actually communicate something in a sonically soulful way. ie. poetry is not prose. I'm not a theory person. I don't like writing out of theory, but I do love craft coupled with passion and, as you say, a pushing against one's own boundaries to explore new territory. Now, of course, there's my whole notion of apophenia. Making connections where connections might not be thought to exist. Is that deliberate absurdity? Or is it training your mind to see the connections in everything? In the end, I'm not really disagreeing with anything you said, it turns out, but thinking about what it all means.
Hart: I think what I was trying to get at is the notion that "poetics" is always about the poet (it's a way of seeing that sets the grounds for proceeding), but in the act of writing it has to be about the poem, i.e. getting the self out of the way, so as to be able to open "oneself to whatever needs to arrive." In the moment of writing, one has, first and foremost, to listen to what the poem wants to do--where it wants/needs to go. So at the same time one is getting out of the way, one's managing intelligence has to remain a "shell self" to navigate and articulate the poem's motion and trajectory. It's a balancing act, but one that requires first becoming a fly on the wall, and the "deliberate absurdity" stuff reflects the fact that for me this is a rather violent process. In other words, I'm not very good at stepping quietly into the ether for the sake of the poem, so I have to trick myself into it (by any means necessary), and this often involves undermining, sabotaging, or otherwise flying in the face of my own impulses, interests and desires for what the poem should be. Otherwise, no poems get written. I guess the larger point is that we often have to give up what we know and expect (or what we think we know and expect) in order that good poems get written at all. That Alice Notley poem is significant for the fact that it manages to be a sonnet in spite of the vastness of its hurricane. Additionally, as my friend Kiki Petrosino pointed out, the poem is a lament, it's crying. Now crying can be self-indulgent, sure, but my sense is that this poem, and Notley's poetics, is ferocious. One of the things that I think is so marvelous about it is that it seems to be urgently trying to communicate, while being simultaneously indifferent to whether we understand the communication--the point being that it's enough to FEEL its urgency...
Alexis: Re: getting the Self out of the way for the poem, its violence. I see the deliberateness in that. I think that the poems I've written in the last year or so have been such a process of "purging" almost, an automatic logic, that I forgot about the work it usually takes to be free of expectations going in. I'm finding it again, though, as I sit down after a period of dry months. I sit at my desk, say fuck, and stare at the page and/or screen, depending. So, yeah, I guess we are agreeing here! Oh, and lastly, crying can be self-indulgent, but it can also be terribly beautiful.