so whilst i sober up i will blog a bit. in my last post, adan nodrog noted that i didnt reference her post on relevance. one thing great about her post is that she expands htimsdlog’s quite reductive statement that poetry becomes ‘contemporary’ merely by taking into aesthetic consideration new “information moving capabilities.”
adan nodrog writes “Taking this necessity for interaction into consideration, is there not a sense in which the letter is at least as potent or as obviously relevant/valid a form of writing as all of our nifty formal innovations and grand conceptual gestures? If not more so? Just a question.”
what’s relevant here is the emphasis on a ‘necessity for interaction’ as opposed to ‘technology’.
yesak dammahom (ok, since writing people’s names backwards is giving me a headache, i will now assign everyone nicknames–yesak is now known as the ‘Sonnateer’) also expands on the idea of relevance. he writes:
Off the top of my head, here are a few of the criteria I’m used to seeing for what makes poetry “relevant,” depending on whom you ask:
* social thematics: does the poetry involve issues which are judged to be of immediate importance in the lives of actual people (war, economics, human rights, sexual politics, race, etc.)?
* formal innovativeness: does the poetry signal its departure from past traditions of prosody, formatting, etc., so as to stimulate reader response in significant ways (note that “significant” here is subject to the same sort of interrogation as “relevant”)?
* positioning within a given tradition or traditions: does the poetry situate itself in relation to other poetry or aesthetic practices that have for whatever reason been deemed “relevant” in such a way as to generate interested response (from a given readership, one that is perhaps taken for granted in advance)?
I agree with the Sonnateer that there are many reasons why individuals find poetry relevant (or not) and that some poems are relevant for different reasons. i would say also that poetry is relevant (or not) to the writer for different reasons. the Sonnateer goes on:
“I could go on, but what these criteria have in common is that they all appeal to some relevance-imparting factor whose relevance is in turn dependent on some always-contingent judgment–a judgment which cannot be reduced and limited to a capacity on the part of the poetry itself to demonstrate its relevance autonomously.”
i also agree with this in spirit. tho i would argue that ‘relevance formation’ is much more co- constitutive between the poem and the reader; one doesnt simply appeal and the other impart. but the general point is that we must have a complex understanding of the diverse possibilities of a poem’s relevance to various readers.
before moving forward, please read this comment stream at the Doctor’s blog.
arabrab (now known as Poeta) writes in her comment:
to answer your question(s), i think poetry is as relevant to each person’s life as each person as an individual and a member of communities wishes for it to be relevant. here, i mean for poets, readers, and for people who just want to have art in their lives.
i am starting to get really tired of all of these conversations for their being so heavy-handed and full of testosterone aggression.
poetries exist in plural, in so many places within and outside of “institutional spaces,” in so many different cultures and languages.
yes, poetries exist in plural, just as relevance exists in plural. Poeta is a good model because she presents her work in front of many different audiences–something that Oscar de la Palabra and Heavy Air have also done (prisons, high-schools, universities, slams, classrooms, bookstores, communities, etc); an act that makes real very quickly how different audiences will find different things relevant. in this past month, i’ve read in front of an avant-garde crowd, in a creative writing university class, to a group of MFA students, to my community members at a political event, and at a religious feast day. different people found different poems relevant for different reasons.
htes nosmarba’s (now known as Galileo) comments (both at his blog and in the comment stream) are unfortunately as reductive as the Hatter. Galileo is only able to imagine 2 criteria for ‘relevance’: popularity and accessibility (in terms of meaning). granted these criteria are broad in scope, they are reductively broad because they dont take into account other forms of relevance. i do agree that popularity and accessibility can be criteria for relevance (and powerful ones), but they are just two among many other powerful criteria–and they are not universal (as much as Galileo would like them to be).
Galileo depends on what he calls “settled logic”. anyone who depends on “settled logic” will never be able to form a complex understanding of complex social and aesthetic issues. what becomes visible in the exchange between the Poeta & Galileo is how Galileo always tries to assimilate unsettling differences within a manageable, settled logic.
Galileo writes “Art can no more shrug its shoulders and say “what is, is” than I could breathe through my eyelids.”
Here’s a logic test for Galileo: wouldnt it be settled logically that you could breath through your eyelids since you so easily talk out your ass?