As/Is







8.22.2015


Camouflage


Meta-critical pursuits are what they are. A certain portion of any literary audience will call a meta-critic an egotist for paying careful attention to their own work; however, more discerning audiences will judge meta-criticism based on what incisive quality inheres in it, and whether it digs into the books at interesting angles. I’m thinking of this because my last four pdfs constitute thirty-eight pages worth of work— half of the seventy-five pages of Exile and Exegesis— so that, once the next chunk of work is done, it will be released as more-or-less the Part 2 of Exile. The four pdfs— on Trish, the Elegies, the Gyan Chap, and Dancing with Myself— have left me in a semi-awkward space. I spent a few hours this morning with the Sister Lovers section of When You Bit…, trying to gauge whether it is fertile terrain to work on. I have to conclude that the answer is no— the action, in Sister Lovers, is too much on the surface, and though the melopoeia in some of the sonnets is nice (particularly Big Black Car), and inventive, all the formal inventiveness is surrounded by clunkers. Sister Lovers is much lumpier than Dancing with Myself. As to what else I might work on— I’m having a block with Equations, Opera Bufa, and Chimes— I do not know how criticism of prose poetry is supposed to go, but the hybrid form is disruptive, in many ways, of serious poetry criticism, so that someone will have to invent a way to critique prose poetry the right way, and it may or may not be me. I also have more rich insights into the Elegies, but they’re a bit tired now, and would move towards a sense of overuse if I touched them. The possibility also exists that I could develop a nexus of ideas specifically about Neo-Romanticism— what it is, what it means in Aughts Philadelphia art— and, from Trish outwards, how it will affect how our collective oeuvre will be received in the world.

The cosmic state of being between two places— even in a micro-context like my meta-criticism— is also one which is making America in 2015 an intriguing place. There is a mystery in people which didn’t use to be there, even if it sounds awkward to bring to the surface— what their Internet habits are. The glut of information and operating systems available on the Net make it so that what any individual may know is more surprising then it would have been twenty or thirty years ago. People’s lives are as constrained as they’ve ever been, perhaps more so; but the passkey towards all varieties of data means that more individuals then ever can hold on to their own brains. The surface/depth tension in the Elegies is the surface/depth tension here— people forced by circumstance to bring platitudes to the surface, hiding what really interests them and what they’d really like to talk about. Phenomenology in the age of the Internet is quite difficult, because so much more information about everything is more available then its ever been before, and people have bizarrely shaped brains from bringing dross to the surface yet holding golden perspectives in their minds. So, what the characters in the Elegies do— attempt to infiltrate and take over and co-opt over people’s brains— is now something easier half-done than done in totem. The Internet has manifested a camouflage system which has in it all the Piscean deceptiveness of Neptune’s current travels— and those meant to live as individuals, if only in their thoughts and visions, can now do so unimpeded, even as they may lead lives, as the Elegies characters do, of quiet drudgery and despair. Worth thinking about.