thanks everyone for the engaging conversation re: Villa’s use of commas … and congrats to mephis and iseult for getting some points today! remember, if you get 10 points you get a prize, and since mephis is at 8, i need everyone besides mephis to start getting some points so i don’t actually have to give HIM a prize! hee hee … maybe i’ll create another blog identity and start guessing as soon as i post to prevent him! so devious i am.
today was as great as yesterday because the A’s won again!!! work was busy, one 3rd grader was writing a narrative paragraph about a day he spent at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk … he was very proud that he drew a face inside the “o” of “Boardwalk” and said the face was bored because the “board”walk was boring … and he’s like DO YOU GET IT? my students are becoming more like me everyday. (hey jessica, where does this fall in the range of vispo?)
another funny thing at work is that i’ve convinced my students that my last name is “Torchure” … so they call me “Mr. Torchure”. at first it was just to break the ice with them on the first day. but today, when i assigned them their homework (5 narrative paragraphs) one student, exasperated, exclaimed “WHY ARE YOU TORTURING US!” there was a moment of silence. then another student said “it’s because he HAS to torture us, his name IS mr. torchure.” and the other kid was like “ooooh yeah that makes sense. it’s okay then.”
thanks gladys for mentioning Tim’s essays … i’ve read the one in Melus, but not the one in Pinoy Poetics (that’s one book i’ve wanted to read but haven’t yet purchased – do people recommend this book?) i can’t remember if Tim mentions Villa’s relation to Gertrude Stein in regards to the comma, but the rest of this post is about just that.
altho one would locate Villa’s influence in these poems most strongly in e.e.cummings, one could read Villa’s “preface” to his comma poems in “counterpointillism” to stein’s rejection of the comma (i should also mention that stein’s “poetry and grammar” was written around 1930, while Villa’s “Volume Two” was not written until 1949 – so it seems likely he was familiar with stein).
anyways, Let’s look at what stein says about the comma first: HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM ‘POETRY AND GRAMMAR’:
“commas are servile they have no life of their own they are dependant upon use and convenience and they are put there just just for practical purposes […]
I have refused them so often and left them out so much and did without them so continually that I have come to be indifferent to them. i do not care whether you put them in or not but for a long time I felt very definitely about them and would have nothing to do with them.
As I say commas are servile and they have no life of their own, and their use is not a use, it is a way of replacing one’s interest and i do decidedly like to like my own interest my own interest in what I am doing. A comma by helping you along holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it […]
A long complicated sentence should force itself upon you, make you know yourself knowing it and the comma, well at the most a comma is a poor period that it lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath.
it is not like stopping altogether which is what a period does stopping altogether has something to do with going on, but taking a breath well you are always taking a breath and why emphasize one breath rather than another breath. Anyway that is the way I felt about it and I felt that about it very strongly. And so I almost never used a comma […]”
such a contrast to Villa that it’s rather shocking (yes i know im a nerd)! what’s interesting to me here is how stein anthropomorphizes the comma into a servile, colonized subject. the very first sentence in the excerpt above could almost describe a colonial view of the other – a subject that has no value in and of itself, but only exists as use-value.
her response to this grammatical, colonial crisis is to ignore the comma – to refuse it a space within the active life (her continuous present) – this response keeps the comma servile and lifeless. altho her rejection of the comma is anti-colonial (she is against servitude because it prevents the active life of the liberated – but her rejection is NOT postcolonial (in the sense that it doesnt reimagine the colonized).
it is so odd to me: stein was such an innovator but she negatively essentializes the comma and is unable to reimagine its value. THIS IS WHERE VILLA COMES IN.
his “comma poems” are a direct argument against stein – a postcolonial attempt to reimagine the colonized position of the comma…remember in his preface from the post before. he says:
“These poems were conceived with commas, as “comma poems,” in which the commas are an integral and essential part of the medium: regulating the poem’s verbal density and time movement: enabling each word to attain a fuller tonal and sonal value, and the line movement to become more measured.”
Think about how much more AGENCY the once servile comma has in Villa’s conception. stein discards the comma, villa allows it to regulate, enable, and measure. one could push the argument and claim that Villa’s subaltern position contributed to his desire, in these poems, to liberate the comma (but who can prove this?) – regardless, it is clear that Villa will not allow the colonized comma to remain colonized; one cannot omit the comma without the loss being cognizable (forgive me for being a bit allegorical;)
but this sentence from stein reminds me so sharply of the u.s. military’s perspective of my people’s rights on guam: “I have refused them so often and left them out so much and did without them so continually that I have come to be indifferent to them.”
The result of Stein’s conception is indifference; the result of Villa’s conception conception is “a lineal pace of dignity and movement” (that’s from his preface again).
WELL, I HOPE EVERYONE WILL RESPOND…THIS SEEMS LIKE IT COULD BE AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION!!! peace