Friday, February 11, 2011

A Staff Against the Wolf of Reality

When I tell a friend what I've been creating he teases me that poetry is to fiction as collage is to painting, lovingly sneers that I'm a poet who resorts to collage.

I was asked Wednesday night if, now that Planet will be off to college, I'm considering resuming my academic career. I had been accepted into doctoral programs after finishing my Masters ten years ago but turned them down for reasons I don't regret a minute, but the question rattled me, so long had it been since I'd thought about it.

There is no professional career in it: even if I wanted to work up the ladder from Bumfuck State to Prestigious College, even if I wanted to serve on the committees and publish the required pages to gain tenure and full professorship - and I don't - by the time I finished the doctorate and put myself on the market I'd be a 55 year old in a youngster's cutthroat industry (and a straight white male in one of the few industries where being a straight white male is a distinct disadvantage - please believe that I say that without a ounce of resentment). Have you thought about an MFA, my friend asked? I'd rather catch up to doctoral level on the last ten years I've missed in the motherfucking Lacan factory than pay money to sit in a circle of other would-be poets who do collage, I said.

I'm sure I was thinking I'd pursue another degree five years ago. Five years ago I was thinking, I deal with empty nest by going back to school. It's not that I won't go back to school - I just hadn't thought about it in a while, and I've friends who'd let me audit some Linguistics classes - fuck the degree, yo, but at this point I'd rather a BA's education in Linguistics than a PhD in English - but it's astonishing how the last five years have beat the belief in personal progress out of my rube's faith, cwcf.

After quoting the Elkin I went back and looked at my notes and drafts of my Masters thesis and I do not, could not if I wanted to, write or think like that now. Once a week I make a point to go look at what this shitty blog was saying five years ago and I do not think the way I did then nor want to write polemical grind the way I did then now. (And click to the main page and look at that blegrell.) The only novelists I've read that I've mmwahed in the past two years are Pynchon and Harington and Thomson and Ishiguro; I've started and stopped after 50 pages dozens of novels recommended by smart people. Five years ago once I started a novel I felt morally obliged to finish it.

I've never read poetry better, listened to music better. I think I'm thinking better if better means better entertaining me. Two years ago I would have felt guilty for not going all explication all the time re: today's top story - today I feel guilty for not going explication on today's top story, so ingrained my training - I'm just no longer capable of tickling me a giggle reiterating Point A to Point B over and over.

I hope not to devolve into total self-indulgence in response to the snowballing clusterfuck, but thanks to those of you who I daily depend on to rage at today like today needs raging at. These are the oddest days of my life. I'm am old trained dog, and yes, the thought occurs to me, a poet who does collage is exactly where power wants me, though I've never been more sure that poetry and collage are my best weapons to fight back.


C.D. Wright

one steps forward     under a sifter of light
holding a globe     in ungloved hands     we share
the experience     of dying     in snow     pages turn
on illuminated fragments     we become     aware
of the extremes:     joy     and     revenge     the fierce
confusion therein     one form senses another
when there is pressure     from all sides     and wasn't the light
seminal     tilting towards us     nay,     labial
we knew from the start     the center was within us     this blizzard
of conversation     could go on     for years:     should you

go     should you stay     no shoulds about it     no matter why
the hole was made     the task is not yours     to fill it
why standest thou     so near     to the brink     how old were you
when you first lay down     before the god of love     what was
the objective: a staff     against the wolf     of reality
nay,     to get warm     only to get warm     would you be
let down again     if I said     it were not the one true god
but only a candle     of the same     where were we in the mid-
dle of a phrase:     we froze we fell we went to a gilded hell
I only have escaped to tell you     though I have come to be lost
I do not ask you to lose your own self     in my triangle     only
to keep watch     yea,     to keep watch     over the shaping
of the sky     snow orbiting     all     abide abide


  1. I don't usually visit Deadspin but this is pretty funny.


  2. Thanks, drip, any chance to loathe Little Danny is a good chance to loathe Little Danny.

    I don't understand Blooger's comment. For whatever reason your comment was first weeded out as spam, and when I released it Blooger then said there were two posts when there was only one. Third time this has happened. Whatever.

  3. @drip, heh.

    I never got my masters and though we do have an MFA program here, I'd rather just write my garbage on my own. The thought of teaching is the thought of one of those hellish circular things.

    Is there really that much of a you suck/no, you suck between novelists and poets? My 'novelist' pal seems more in tune with that genre, but isn't dismissive of verse. Don't really know too many in the English dept. here, so my anecdote likely reveals nothing.

  4. Personally, I don't see what gaining a PhD in Poetry (or its relations) would gain you, other than the parchment and whatever social projection and ego-salving that may afford.

    And I hear you on the novels. I too used to feel an obligation to finish one that I opened, and with rare exception I followed that. Now, I almost can't be bothered.

    Auto-didacticism seems scorned in our meritocratic society, but to me it's more interesting, and makes for more interesting people with more interesting perspectives.

    Whereas the academic grind tends to confine, fetter, and blinker.

  5. I don't get the blogger thing, either. It's why I comment the way I do. On the Blogger sites, if you have a google thingy it requires me to use my name, which I don't want to do, because I say any stupid thing that comes into my head and I really don't want to have to think. Anyway, it may be me, it may be blogger, whatever. Maybe it was because of the link.

    On the degree, if it is fun and cheap, maybe. When I turned 50 I realized I was running out of reading time and made 2 resolutions: 1. I wasn't going to finish anymore shitty books. 2, I was going to read mostly Nobel Literature winners. It works for me. and really, fuck l'l dan and Maryland's 2d best team.


  6. The PhD I could have pursued would have been in Cultural Studies with an emphasis on pomo fiction in general and American pomo fiction in particular.

    MFA programs - gah. I blame Raymond Carver for the billions of $$$ thrown away by rubes.

    GOB was teasing me (mostly) re: fiction v poetry, though certainly there are many (including in my heart of hearts me) who consider the ability to build a system in fiction a far more daunting task than building a system in poetry.

  7. Sounds like an interesting study, but not an interesting category, if you get my drift. Writing is expressive, but reading it is doubly interpretive and subjective, because it involves the reader trying to grasp whatever the writer was suggesting, and the more "artistic" (circa 2011) something is, the more impossible to grasp its message... the obfuscatory nonsense is often impressive to career academics, for reasons I don't get.

    I don't know what making a "system" of it would do for me, if I were a student, but I suppose others have minds that organize differently and would want someone to explain a framework or system of fictional prose/poetry.

    And maybe I just misunderstood what the system-building referred to, and this is an Emily Littella moment.

  8. You didn't misunderstand - I tend to think of novelists and poets in terms of their entire work or rather, their entire work as one system of work - the most obvious being Harington's Stay More novels. I can see the system, see how and why it's built, how it functions, I just can't build systems myself. I can (or could once) write about Pynchon, I just never could have written the novels.

  9. Al Jazeera is amazing. The joy on faces, holding their children on their shoulders so they can remember. Maybe I'm not rubish enough but it makes me very happy too.

    My advice -- completely unsolicited -- is what I say to everyone in every field. Only go to Ph.D. school because you love doing it. And when you stop loving it, stop going.

    That's from somebody considering another career change.

  10. Yes to Egypt, but I'm the type of person who five minutes after United wins a trophy who'd stop celebrating and wonder is this *all* there is while simultaneously worrying how United is going to do it again.

    You and I are in complete agreement re: PhD.

    Rumor has it Rafa Benitez is almost done with Inter Sucktucky. Badger him into cooking us dinner.

  11. Once I got my B.A. (in Econ, if anyone needs to know), I was done with collage.

  12. I'm surprised it took eleven comments for that considering how many typos I had to fix in the post on those two words.

  13. Excellent on the Rafa Benitez dinner. I'll work on the left side, you work on the right.

  14. collage / college = one of my favoritest puns, BDR.