Saturday, June 7, 2008

Laura Elrick- Poetry, Ecology and the Reappropriation of Lived Space

Please read this paper Poetry, Ecology and the Reappropriation of Lived Space. Elrick presents the strongest argument yet for a poetics that get's us off the page and into the world. She helps us question our need or desire to publish in a world overflowing with publishing ventures both small press and otherwise. Small press publishing is not so small. Also, how can we explain the explosion of cultural output in the U.S. that as Elrick shows happened concurrently with the drastic decrease of domestic production of goods? The increase in the number of M.F.A. programs in the U.S. is just one indicator of this trend. She asks why so many young people have turned to poetry during this time? A question that needs asking and begs serious critical self-reflection.

One of my questions is what do we lose when we move away from a text-based poetics? Elrick does not argue for the end of text, obviously but suggests that we look at new ways to integrate the poetic with the social. Literacy is at a low low right now and we need to encourage people to read and to make the tools of literacy accessible. Yes, but, in addition, we can do other things. Generally speaking, most Americans have nearly lost the ability to take in poetry in an oral form. Hardly anyone can recite one full poem by heart. What would happen if we took our disjunction, our polyvocality, our defamilarization of language into a more public realm? Would anyone have the attention span for it? Can we expand our attention spans? Can we exercise those old oral tradition muscles?

I've seen how the average passerby reacts to Rodrigo Toscano's Collapsible Poetics Theater or David Buuk's public performances and it is very often with intense curiosity and a desire to interact. People want to become part of it, they want to join in. That is an excellent sign and something we should consider. We don't need to sell poetry. Most people don't want to buy it and that's. just. fine. From what I can tell though, people do want poetry because we want things that wake us up, engage us in our lives and brighten the edges of things. Maybe what we need to do is just give the stuff away. Give it away like it's not worth anything, like it's just part of being human.

Anyway, read the paper, it's incredible.


Maxwell said...
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Maxwell said...


Thanks for that refreshing start to my pre-mobilization saturday morning. The Sorceress(e) Mme. Elrick made me think in two directions—(1) neuro-science may be the new supportive (albeit homely) cousin of contem-poetics and (2) I will be in my office on Madison Avenue daily at noon, awaiting a wealthy benefactor.

Regards the first: I was dining with a neuro-science researcher from Columbia the other evening (swirls merlot) and he told me about some of the work they're doing. Most interesting: research into the process of 'reinterpretation.' In one experiment, subjects are subjected to a your-aunt-just-got-back-from-italy-length slideshow of travel photos and asked to describe the images. In one image, (wo)men in black garb appear weeping weeping on a lawn. "A funeral," the subject invariably says. And the [insert name of post-flash-gordon-brain-reading device] shows activity in the sensitive weepy areas of the subject's brain. But then—here's the thing—the researcher reinterprets: "No," (s)he says "This is a wedding." The subject nods. When the slide comes up again, the subject says—maybe hesitantly—"A wedding." And the brain-scans show little pangs of pleasure in the brain's pleasure gardens. The experiment reveals (my neuro-scientist acquaintance tells me) that once an experience / image has been reinterpreted, we can never regard / consider it in the same way again...

Reinterpretation. How exactly does it work? how does it work best (under what conditions)? how can we harness its power as poets? Neuroscience—I don't think Elrick wd. want us to [in a post flash gordon way] use science for spectator control, but maybe for more effective spectator / homeric-poet relations?

Regards the second: I really do have something to say about that, but it will have to wait. I've got a lunch appointment.