Friday, April 4, 2008

Narcissus as Narcissus

I take my title from Allen Tate's well-known essay discussing his poem "Ode to the Confederate Dead," in which he professes himself to be far from an expert on the poem just because he happened to have written it. As I'm sure it was for him, my use of this title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since there's always something self-regarding about publicly discussing one's own work. But I hope that there may be something of interest and even use in my discussion beyond mere amour propre. My work, after all, is not me, nor are the ideas which inform that work. I hope that the discussion is at least true to the work.

My poetry operates within a literary tradition and a literary language to which I owe my formation as a writer, yet which is not “mine” (as a black gay man raised in Bronx housing projects): I wrestle with this necessary angel and rise renamed, blessed but also lamed. This language, the language of Yeats and Stevens, Eliot and Hart Crane, has both made me possible as a writer and made being a writer an asymptote. It is a language to which I aspire in the act of writing it and being written by it (every writer is as much the tool of language as its wielder). Thus my relationship to my own language (simultaneously mine and not mine at all) is ambivalent, constantly haunted by the questions, “Can I truly speak this language? Can this language speak through me?” Eliot wrote that the poet must always mistrust words, but the problem of language is foregrounded for me in ways it needn’t be for writers with a more settled, if illusory, sense that language is “theirs.”

It’s my intention to inscribe my presence into that language and that tradition, not to “subvert” it but to produce a place of possibility within it. I wish to make Sappho and the South Bronx, the myth of Hyacinth and the homeless black men ubiquitous in the cities of the decaying American empire, AIDS and all the beautiful, dead cultures, speak to and acknowledge one another, in order to discover what, if anything, can be made of a diminished thing (in Robert Frost’s phrase).

I am constantly working toward a poetic mode in which the lyric (a lyric I wish neither to destroy nor to consign to the trash heap of history) confronts its others, both the historical experience of abjection it has traditionally erased and the abjection of language itself that lyric “mastery” attempts to alibi and cover over. I am willing to give up none of the transformative possibilities of lyric, possibilities which have been at worst foreclosed (as pretention, presumption, or prevarication) and at best permitted to lapse in most contemporary American poetry, both the MFA mainstream practicing, ever-unobtrusively, the aesthetics of transparency, sincerity, and personal authenticity, and the Language poets so busy exposing the lying babble of media-speak that they forget the positive, creative possibilities of poetry. Nor am I willing to surrender the necessary and enabling critical-utopian distance of lyric from the society that both produces it and repudiates it, that cannot live up to its own promises. On this uncertain ground, lyric communes with the social text, while historical circumstance is refracted through the redemptive lens of a revised lyricism.

My work surrenders neither lyricism nor lucidity (in critic Charles Altieri’s terms), charting a liminal space of the coincidence of song and thought, enchantment and disenchantment, the somatic and the cerebral. I hope to uncouple what Russell Berman has called the proximity of form and domination, and thereby to salvage what Adorno (following Stendhal) called the promise of happiness (promesse du bonheur) that the lyric has embodied historically and in my own life.

In the tension or dialectic between enchantment and disenchantment, Language poetry falls squarely on the side of disenchantment. It is a negative project of unmasking, unveiling, and undoing. Language poetry is wholly critical, exposing the ideological mystifications and fracture lines of discourse. But I have not given up on poetry as a practice of creation and not just critique, on the productive possibilities of enchantment and lyricism. Thus my commitment to the lyric and the traditional resources it deploys and makes available to the poet. Both Michael Palmer and Ann Lauterbach have said that their commitment to the lyric, to the possibilities of lyricism and enchantment, prevents them from being Language poets, however experimental and interrogatory their work remains.

My relationship to the Western literary canon (which is no single and singular thing) has always been paradoxical: there is both no place already assigned me and more of a possibility of creating a place for myself than the world at large has offered. I have been oppressed by many things in my life, but not by literature, which represents and enacts potential rather than closure. It’s been the fashion for some time to see literature as a social symptom, to think that social conditions and social identity completely determine the nature and value of a piece of writing. But art’s utopian potential lies exactly in the degree to which it exceeds social determinations and definitions, bringing together the strange and the familiar, combining otherness and brotherhood.

18 comments:

Robert said...

Reginald, I share your commitment to the lyric. It reminds me of Larry Levis' essay "The Gazer Within," where he says, "The moment of writing is not an escape, however; it is only an insistence, through the imagination, upon human ecstasy, and a reminder that such ecstasy remains as much a birthright in this world as misery remains a condition of it."

Andrew Shields said...

Reginald, I recently read "Fata Morgana," so at least from this reader's perspective, the answer to your questions ("Can I truly speak this language? Can this language speak through me?") are a resounding yes and another resounding yes. Thanks for the beautiful, compelling poems.

John Gallaher said...

I rise renamed. Quite nice, my friend.

Diane K. Martin said...

Geez, Gallagher, you missed it by half:

I wrestle with this necessary angel
and rise renamed,
blessed but also lamed.



Nice, Reginald.

JimK said...

I second that, Diane.
How can that go away?
Better not.

Kristin said...

Form alone doesn't a poem make, and meaning alone won't work either. Having read Fata Morgana, your poems walk the line masterfully. They're an inspiration that push me to reach further in my work. It frustrates me that you, and other poets, have to defend lyric poetry, and that there are categories into which poets must be pigeonholed and ostracized, much the same as other arts. Hopefully the pendulum will swing the other way soon.
Kristin

Silver Downes said...

Robert,
I am very sorry for your loss, and send you lots of light and strength for you and your memories of Reginald. He will continue to be cherished.

Sincerely,

Tisa Bryant

sexy said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,A片,A片,情色,A片,A片,情色,A片,A片,情趣用品,A片,情趣用品,A片,情趣用品,a片,情趣用品A片,A片,AV女優,色情,成人,做愛,情色,AIO,視訊聊天室,SEX,聊天室,自拍,AV,情色,成人,情色,aio,sex,成人,情色免費A片,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛情色文學,色情A片,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,言情小說,愛情小說,AV片,A漫,AVDVD,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,成人交友,成人電影,成人貼圖,成人小說,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人遊戲,愛情公寓,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色小說,成人論壇免費A片,日本A片,A片下載,線上A片,成人電影,嘟嘟成人網,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,微風成人區,成人文章,成人影城A片,A片,A片下載,做愛,成人電影,.18成人,日本A片,情色小說,情色電影,成人影城,自拍,情色論壇,成人論壇,情色貼圖,情色,免費A片,成人,成人網站,成人圖片,AV女優,成人光碟,色情,色情影片,免費A片下載,SEX,AV,色情網站,本土自拍,性愛,成人影片,情色文學,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人貼圖

Kevin said...

牙醫,植牙,矯正,紋身,刺青,創業,批發,皮膚科,痘痘,中醫,飛梭雷射,毛孔粗大,醫學美容,seo,關鍵字行銷,關鍵字自然排序,網路行銷,關鍵字自然排序,關鍵字行銷seo,關鍵字廣告,部落格行銷,網路行銷,seo,關鍵字行銷,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,自然排序,部落格行銷,網路行銷,網路爆紅,牛舌餅婚紗台中婚紗,腳臭,腳臭,腳臭,腳臭,腳臭,腳臭,腳臭,中古車,二手車,中古車,二手車,高雄婚紗,搬家,搬家公司,服飾批發,團體服,街舞

s said...

搬家公司 月子中心 seo 關鍵字廣告 關鍵字 google關鍵字廣告 關鍵字行銷 網路行銷 通姦 徵信社 外遇 桃園房屋仲介 桃園房屋買賣 桃園房屋 醫學美容診所 淨膚雷射 雷射溶脂 飛梭雷射 微晶瓷 植髮 團體服 團體服訂做 醫學美容診所 肉毒桿菌 肉毒桿菌瘦臉 醫學美容 整型診所 美國月子中心 徵信 徵信公司 出軌 清潔公司台北搬家公司 整形 韓風整形 整形 韓風整形 老人癡呆症 情緒管理 訂房網 線上訂房

s said...

宜蘭民宿 宜蘭住宿 網路訂房 宜蘭飯店 新娘祕書 清潔公司 植牙 裝潢 室內設計 油漆粉刷 油漆工 油漆工程 洗鞋加盟 洗包包加盟 洗包包 創業加盟店 早餐店加盟 開店創業 創業開店 結婚金飾 鑽石婚戒 通水管 通水管 通馬桶 抽水肥 包通 馬桶不通 通馬桶 通水管 清水溝 沙發 室內設計公司 室內設計 室內裝潢設計 裝潢設計 澳門自由行 搬家公司 搬家公司 台北搬家公司 新竹搬家公司 桃園搬家公司 香港自由行太陽能熱水器 三久 櫻花牌熱水器

s said...

熱水器 省電熱水器 衛浴設備 節能減碳 電熱水器 中古車 義賣 義賣活動 二手車 環保袋 環保袋 環保袋 十分瀑布 台北旅遊網 月子餐 飛梭雷射 太陽能熱水器 太陽能 三久太陽能 三久 身體檢查 健康檢查 台北民宿 平溪 景觀餐廳 薰衣草花園 花園餐廳 螢火蟲 渡假村 鐵道之旅 團體服 滷味 滷味加盟 滷味批發 滷味食材 滷味宅配 滷雞翅 滷雞腳 健康滷味 魯味 加盟創業 慈善慈善機構 公益彩券

s said...

健康食品 慈善基金會 公益團體 愛心捐款 捐款 美白 皺紋 減肥 禿頭 醫學美容 電波拉皮 雷射溶脂 肉毒桿菌 玻尿酸 痘疤 婦產科診所 室內設計 埋線 內分泌失調 黃體不足 針灸減肥 坐月子中心 婦產科 月子中心 全身健康檢查玫瑰花束 盆栽 網路花店 花店 鍛造 樓梯扶手 欄杆 鐵門 採光罩 清水溝 通水管 通馬桶

部落格資訊站 said...

馬桶 馬桶不通 國外旅遊 國外機票 團體旅遊 直航機票 簽證熱水器 蘭花 化糞池 抽化糞池 便宜機票 國內旅遊 抽水肥 太陽能 水管不通 洗水塔 消毒 通水管 通馬桶 馬桶 馬桶不通 上順旅行社 五福旅行社 大興旅行社 天喜旅行社 天福旅行社 日本旅行社 日本旅遊 日本機票 日本自由行 日本訂房 包通 抽化糞池 抽水肥 水管不通 洗水塔 自由行 訂房 雄獅旅遊 汽車美容 汽車美容 三久太陽能黃金價格查詢 貸款 信用貸款

部落格資訊站 said...

房屋貸款 剖腹生產 姓名配對 星座 星座運勢 算命 素食料理 素食水餃 開運印章 風水 外遇 徵信 壁癌 屋頂防水 屋頂隔熱 抓漏 油漆 徵信社 外遇 徵信 徵信社 外遇 徵信 徵信社 外遇 徵信 徵信社 外遇 徵信 徵信社 外遇 徵信 徵信社 清潔公司浴室 漏水 舊屋翻新 裝潢 防水工程 壁癌 健康飲食 台北素食餐廳 吃素 團購美食 水餃 素食素食食譜

部落格資訊站 said...

素食餐廳 交友 婚友 婚友社 婚友聯誼 愛情公寓 相親 相親銀行 聯誼 命理網 姓名學Hook and Loop 婚禮佈置 情人花束 新竹花店婚友聯誼社 愛情會場佈置 氣球佈置二手車健檢 醫學美容 淨膚雷射 汽車美容 法拍屋 水餃 清潔公司 塑膠袋批發 塑膠袋工廠 實驗動物 到府坐月子 坐月子 坐月子中心 坐月子餐 孕婦 月子餐 到府坐月子 中古車 今日金價 坐月子中心 坐月子中心台中 坐月子中心台北 台北人力銀行

部落格資訊站 said...

金價查詢 月子餐 月子中心 坐月子餐 月子餐外送 月子餐食譜 統一發票9 10月 金價 統一發票9 10月 找工作 統一發票7 8月 求職 1111求職人力銀行 104求職人力銀行 104人力銀行 統一發票5 6月 104人力銀行 104求職人力銀行 塑膠袋 統一發票1 2月 金價 黃金價格 金價查詢 黃金買賣 環保袋 肉毒桿菌 黃金 統一發票3 4月 坐月子 sum中古車 1111人力銀行 104求職人力銀行 1111人力銀行求職 黃金價格查詢 中古車買賣 塑膠袋 統一發票9 10月 塑膠袋批發 中古車 中古車買賣消防公司 地板施工 網路廣告 網路行銷

finding said...

徵信社
徵信