Friday, December 01, 2006

A note before teaching Langston Hughes again

Every poem is critical, an act of criticism before Criticism.

Every poem is rhetorical. Poems can be especially rhetorical in their lack or evasions of rhetoric.

Beyond a content or structure per se, the formal qualities of language objects fulfill or bear a critique. These forms are both cultural, historical and personal (involving a personality or person as complex).

The sound and rhythmic values of poems are especially meaningful. They may in fact be *all* the meaning of the poem really is "in the end". Nothing is denoted, conveyed, messaged so much as it is timed, sounded, sensed, measured, rhymed, spaced. In this the poem fails or doesn't fail to become articulate--meaningful, and valauble as such.

I am struck by a lyrical tradition in respects to the above. The Anglophone ballad at some point needs to be broken. There are many complicated reasons for the need of this breaking, not least of which is the oppression of so many singularities who account for liberation struggles and struggles for recognition, representation, power.

To derationalize, to stutter, to cry, to say saying, to break, to shatter, to make shudder, to unmeasure, to unwork, to make ex-centric, to make caesuras, to intensify, to hybridize, to over-determine are some of the various responses to this lyric necessity.

After Nathaniel Mackey, Susan Howe, David Lynch, and others, I am interested in an over-determination of "the voice" (if only a "voice blown from print"[Zukofsky], the printed and/or written word as Pneumatological). This question can be called one of ventriloquism and/or (lip-)synching of perceived authorized language uses. In doing the voice(s) as such too well, by imitating it/them too accurately, one over-determines its construction, bringing into relief fictions of authority, discipline, domination, identity. To accurately observe this synching may involve "over" sensitivity in Jalal Toufic's parlance; or an attention to "discrepent engagement" in Mackey's.

Reading Hughes again (and Reznikoff and Rukeyser) specifically, have also thinking about words as documentary eruptions--as eruptions, or events, of historical specificity (as opposed to non-historcity: traumatic structures, structures of ontological rupture). Much of Hughes' and Reznikoff's language (as a language of document, and "lived" speech) manifests such eruptions. How a word used particularly can form a pivot or hinge-work in time. How it can puncture. How in its opaqueness it can stare at us--not so much a blindspot, as a winking back or smudge on an otherwise too-lucid glass of progress and memory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Im tired this poem bores me im going to look up some emo stuff that will be much better