TO BE FREE OF THE TEETER-TOTTER
The poets who most interest me are the ones who have broken with the training-wheeled dualism that governs so much of Western culture. This infection of dualism affects most poetry written. Today, we get snippets of sense, of broken-down narratives, which often creates humor due to the disjunction. The humor, though, is raised primarily on the satire of the convention of the dualistic mind. It is simply a teeter-totter, this humor. There is no breaking free of the teeter-totter fully. Oftentimes, too, we get outlandish narratives, full of thankful imagination, but ones that still subsist in a dualistic universe. The subjects agree with their objects. Syntax, as always, being the great guiding structuralist. A third component is the tragedy of the author thinking he/she knows what he/she’s talking of. This self-interested “intelligence” is often a real downer in poetry. It tries to fit the universe into a glove, but the glove is the universe, too, and so is the implicit desire to put the universe into the universal glove. What I like is a poetry that is not self-involved, because the self is an ever-changing thing, anyway. There is no way to control it. To write a poetry from a concrete self is often the immediate demise of any writing. And it is the killer, because it is a natural lie, and then the old saw of no one likes to be lied to.
I think of Cesar Vallejo’s Trilce as a great example of what I’m speaking of. The up-down placeholders of sense are absolutely destroyed. It’s what the world really is. It is a freedom. The book is still called a radical poetics, which is actually funny, when it is simply describing the universe in its real state, one of benign randomness, of sorrowful joy. The poets who engage with this energy move with the energy of the universe. There is depth and intensity and disinterested humor. It is precisely this reason that I found Lyn Hejinian’s A Border Comedy to be such a blessed book. As with many very intelligent people, especially those with argumentative abilities, the issue is often of being unable to get out of one’s own way, out of one’s head. Hejinian wrote many fine books before A Border Comedy, but A Border Comedy shines mostly for its constant undoing-ness, its infestations of abandoned thoughts. It is full of disinterested disjunctions, which create the most beautiful humor, and the most searing depictions of the animal wanderer spirit.
Other poets who engage in this environment are Lissa Wolsak, Paul Celan, Hannah Weiner, Leslie Scalapino, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Marjorie Welish. If I was to have a tribe, and I really don’t want to be part of one, because I'm on my own path, this would be mine.