What does it mean to be experimental? Innovative?
Why would this be important in poetry, especially contemporary poetry?
What makes experimental poetry feminist? Is experimental poetry feminist by nature?
What kind of communities do experimental poetics envision? What kind of poetry do they call for in return?
How do these poets challenge the way we read and what’s the larger purpose, if any?
Why even read or write poetry and does the why even matter?
Intimacy (should probably be defined) (seems to have particular relevance for women poets):
Many of these poets address issues of intimacy – between individuals, groups, and an individual and a group. Thinking mostly of Hejinian (My Life), Berssenbrugge (Empathy), and Mayer (Sonnets).
- My Life questions the idea of a unified, autonomous self and autobiography in general. Collective memory. Gives the reader some authority.
- Berssenbrugge questions the ability of language to convey intimacy. Empathy as a title is important. What’s required in empathy? (how does form fit into her project – she stands out from the other poets with huge sentences)
-Mayer’s sonnets – 1.) no one gendered speaking self, 2.) setting is often in public or moves between public and private, really erasing the difference between them
These poets write so much about collectivity and fluidity between the individual and the group – stands in contrast to the current political climate – us versus them, good/evil, heightened sense of nationalism and rigid individual and groups definitions required by it. So, what’s the political importance of experimental poetry, if any?
-Cariaga: multiplicity of voice, incorporates colonizer’s voice, actually co-opts colonizer’s voice in her poetry, uses different languages, media clips, text from history books
-Kim: uses Korean and English, white space, fragments, images from politics, media, and daily life, looks at the way public life and private life collide, especially in war
-Mullen: incorporates song lyrics, blues rhythms, dialect, slang into her poetry, advertisements, investigates the way race is defined and maintained in
-importance of language in nationalism, in formation of national identity – can connect this to excerpts from Stein’s The Making of Americans
All of these poets question the way we know and how we know. Many of them are resistant to enlightenment ideas of self and logic. They brilliantly investigate knowledge and the way we know, and acquire it, through their form and use of language (can we “know” and take meaning from a list of words, or individual characters?) This kind of poetry is simply the most fun. For someone like Waldrop, what we know and how we know it is intrinsically tied to the political (actually, for all the other poets I’ve mentioned, too, but I’m really thinking about Key into the Language of America). Notley suggests that there are other ways of knowing (she thinks better ways of knowing) than the model provided to us by Plato – her heroine goes into the dark to find knowledge on a reverse Odyssean quest. Berssenbrugge tells us, there’s no light, there’s no dark, it’s all just a fog, so good luck figuring anything out for sure. I don’t think Stein could be left out of this discussion because she was the real mother of all of these poets – they all recognize her and the impact of her work in one form or another. Actually, I’m thinking now about the connection between experiment and knowledge, experimenting with different ways of knowing, through language, different subjects of knowledge (Loy’s investigation of sexuality and feminism through language, etc.)
This leads to a trace question:
Is there a link between these poets? Stein’s play with language opened a space for Loy to look at the way language constructs even human relations, opened a space for H.D. to think about narrative form in general and how fixed narrative locked women into false myths which she then rewrote, connect this to Notley years later, and would Mayer have written her sonnets without Loy, etc. I don’t really like thinking about it like a tree with Stein as the root though. It’s not as determined as that. I like looking at the connections between these poets and how they’ve influenced each other, but it just doesn’t seem right to connect them linearly when they don’t think that time is really linear.
Many of the poets I’ve read write a lot about cities and urban spaces. First noticed it in Loy and I’ve traced it through Fraser, Mullen, Mayer, (others, but can’t remember now). I’m wondering if there’s something important there. What does the city represent? Seems like there’s a long tradition of men wandering the city, observing, and writing poetry about it. Is it important that the observer is female and the city is often ancient? (what I’m thinking about here is 1.) a reversal of Benjamin’s Flaneur and 2.) female observer in movement, in public, instead of static in the domestic space.)