Thursday, May 12, 2005


In this highly thought-provoking post about competition in poetry on Emily Lloyd's blog (one day old and superceded by several other entries, it's already nearing its expiry date!), the string of discussion went 22 comments before I joined the fun, and touched on such themes as writing to be remembered and the futility of that ambition in a time when we can practically taste that the end is near. Here how I weighed in (with a couple a' tiny revisions):

I'm a VERY late comer to this party. Maybe everybody's already left! But this might be the most appropriate time to say what I've got to say. About writing "to be remembered"... I've pretty well given up on that idea, as achieving it is pretty well completely "out of my control". When I write, it's out of an overriding need to do my best at what I do best, and believe me, if & when I manage it, there's got to be a certain eternity in that!

Felt good, saying that.

Eternity being timelessness.

Yah know what I mean?

That transcendental quality, where even caring about whether I, you, we live or die is part of the beauty.

Whether the "transcendence" is "imaginary" or "real" hardly matters -- it even goes beyond those categories!

But getting back to the categorical, Emily Lloyd's blog is a lively one. Today I've vaulted it up to one of my faves, as a blog to be watched.


A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...


Sometimes I wonder if poets ever worry about being 'useful', rather than 'lasting' or 'eternal' or the like. I'd like to say that I aim to be useful... but I don't honestly know what that word means, in any objective way. So I'm not sure I have any definite goals at all, when writing poetry.


Brian Campbell said...

Useful. Like a can opener or toilet plunger. Is that anything to aspire to? Ah, the utilitarianism of America (Canada included). We're so damned rich, but we've got to feel useful. That usually means, we've got to generate money for the economy.

Are football players useful? Movie stars? Useful or not, they are appreciated. They do fulfil a vital need. And they generate serious amounts of money for the economy. So they don't seem to suffer the existential questions so many poets do...

Is poetry a vital need? To me that's a rhetorical question. To most others, it's not a question at all, because they couldn't care less.

Ah well. Sigh.

I guess the best thing we as poets can do is take that sigh, and make a poem out of it. The greatest sigh poem ever written, the very essence of sigh. Then we'll be finding and fulfilling poetry's vital need. For me poetry -- good poetry, great poetry -- fulfills a vital need indeed.

For others?

Ah well... sigh. Too bad for them. (Sigh... must file that away, under Ideas...should I say Feelings? Ah well. Sigh...)





Thanx for your response, AJP. It's quite a beautiful word, sigh, isn't it? Has real possibilities...

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...

Good points all around, Brian.

I was most taken by your terming a desire for usefulness as an 'existential' one. I don't know that I'd thought of this desire in those terms before, but it seems quite fitting.

All joking aside, I do take the notion of being 'useful' very seriously. Though I'm attempting to begin the transition from political philosophy to (creative) writing, I don't believe I'll ever be rid of the sociophilosophical side of my self. (And I'm kind of happy about that.)

What I mean is this: I consider any form of creative writing -- poetry especially -- to be an attempt at 'convincing'. Poetry is built upon emotion and beauty and such, of course, but it is built equally upon assertions. Any good, poetic metaphor is an assertion, as is an image, and this -- as the Greeks and Romans alluded to -- is what makes poetry so dangerous.

I believe a poet must be conscious of what s/he is saying, if only because of their hightened capacity to convince.

So, when I speak of 'usefulness' -- something I'm always hesitant to do -- I'm also speaking of an existential dilemma. As Sartre said, a writer's metaphysics must proceed their form, etc., and this is true because the writer must know (1) that what s/he wants to say is meaningful and worth saying, and (2) that what s/he has actually said fits their true beliefs. Otherwise, the poet might convince someone of something that they really don't want to.

Maybe this takes some of the fun out of writing; maybe it assumes that the writer is more self-aware than is practically possible. And maybe it's just a goal not worth shooting for, given our current sociopolitical environment (something I believe you've alluded to). These things are possible.

But if there's any objective goal worth shooting for, for any writer, I believe it's making the difference that you want to make.

And again: you've left me with a lot to think about. Thanks for that. I hope I get to see that great 'sigh' poem sometime.

All the best,


A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...

Oh, and by the way: drop by my blog and check out my Prufrock deconstruction, if you have time. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Brian Campbell said...

Your argumentation seems to hinge around a few unspoken assumptions: 1)a notion of relatively static "true beliefs" (I suppose justified, as Plato would say) that we pivot around2)that these can be tranferred holus bolus from writer to reader through language. Images, for instance, are not dialectical constructs, but contain and imply multitudes of possible meanings/experiences/associations beyond any possible conscious apprehension. A poet evolves "beliefs" and himself through treatment of a subject in a poem, through the experience of creating. Beliefs change in the process of growing, and a poem is a growing process. A poem is a kind of organic, living thing, and therefore has a right to simply be. It is not necessarily there to be marshalled in the service of convincing this way or that. You're imposing a polemical necessity on something that is an end in itself. Beware above all of anything that threatens to take the fun out of writing. It will take the fun out of life. To sum up: Confucious say there is no such thing as rape, because woman with dress up runs faster than man with pants down. But he forgot about transvestites, a very serious omission, wouldn't you agree?

Brian Campbell said...

P.S. I will check out your deconstruction. Prufrock seems doing a disappearing act on several blogs of late.

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...


I wanted so badly to respond seriously to your comments... but then I got to the Confucious/Transvestites ending. And now, I just can't do it.

Man, that's funny.