This question stemmed from a tweet by Boston’s Spece:
“Politics, confessionalism, identity poetics—refuse. Literary merit. That is all. #iupampo #w00t”
Celebratory in his fire is the Spece-monsta! If you don’t believe he’ll turn that flame upon you, say something. Watch the leaves and stuffing you kept about yourself to stay warm catch fire.
And then, when you’re full nude and bearing the cold of nature yourself without crutch, start again.
I start here.
Shift to synonym: severity, strictness.
I see boundaries surround the Poet. Those same dark basketball fans that were unlit on my court.
Spece suggests rigor before society.
Take those unseeable fans, and turn them into the stones of a monastery (they serve the same function: actionless wall).
Take the poem as task. Scrub and scrub, not seeing the floor turn any lighter shade, only see it getting wet and wet again.
Others, though, they will come to that room and see the difference, the hours of grime’s festering that you’ve erased.
The gratification for the scrubber is in the next day’s soreness. The way over days and days of scrubbing one’s body becomes the essential scrubber. Technique improves; power.
Soreness, yes. And clarity.
A poem that has been scrubbed with rigor will leave these.
“One should interrogate [. . .] wherein [. . .] he (currently) deems his best work.”
Get that isht out of the parentheses.
The water that flows into your writerly stream now must be drunk to quench your need to write.
Oh, I’m going to move upstream where there is a greater flow so I might drink more.
Oh, well you are a fool—you can’t drink faster unless you practice drinking.
Access to more water means that and no more.
There is a time to move streamsites. Best if it is not of your accord that you move. Let rump becomes irate in its position. Let the pen dry up. The exterior world reflects your stagnation and waits for you to notice.
At that point, with a groan or scratch (or as we age—a moan), we move. And though the work we do is interrupted, we gain two things.
Rest and education.
Apply to poetry.
Spece puts forward the sestina, which form he may’ve drifted from.
Let’s say I arrive at the sestina streamsite.
I can’t squeeze the syllables correctly.
It looks like a form-poem (bad) and disguises its content in a gaudy costume.
It’s too obvious and mono-purposeful.
Then I write it again and again and again, scrubbing the form, knowing the floor, until my pen runs out of ink.
Then I move to another site. And at each, I gain its heights faster because of how I’ve learned the process of learning from the sestina though the form where I am now is essay, is epic or painting or sketching or speaking aloud, sweeping the garage, laying seed, making a bed.
So, I’m sorry for saying it: every process begets another until you die and become bone.
The poet as bone then. Or the Poem as bone, perhaps?
I think there is something there. I’ll try to break apart my thoughts as they are Legion.
I am bone. I have set.
My use is not endless, but I am useful, very useful, in certain situations. (Prying open doors, for example).
I continue to do, as I am, again and again and again until I am worn through or break.
One person Spece mentioned in his initial draft to this question is the businessman poet.
Eventually a poet turns to the world to inquire whether it likes her work enough to pay him for it.
(Note, I do not say a poet asks the world; very often they never ask. They look to their work and say no, it is not enough, and keep their words, their title, at home.)
For those poets who do sell their work—how quickly do they reproduce their success? How quickly do they ossify (thanks, Joseph) in style, and become print-artists who do not seek expansion into newer forms? Is there something in producing the same work again that is inartistic?
Think Warhol. Duchamp. Tom Clancy.
Perhaps the danger here is in placing the poet as the matter and not the maker.
When walking Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science and staring up at the bones of our in-house Tyrannosaurus, the room reeks of its power.
Paying creedence to the Rex (as to Dickinson, G.M. Hopkins, &c), I can study him. Learn his name, know his bones.
Not seek to supplant him, no. His power is different than mine, right? Atmospheric, almost? In that just stepping into the Rex’s proximity, the room is taller and more dinosauric, so that anything I did in the room would acquire that attribute (the speech I give there is a dinosauric speech and the food I eat there is a dinosauric portabello on rye).
So how do we pay that credence? How do we stand eye-to-eye with the Rex, so as to know him and keep releasing his power (Poetry, after all) into today?
My suggestion is to not remove our bones from our body until we die. To not try to die in a museum but to live and fight and write until the wood closes over us, then the soil, then years and years of compaction and weather and erosion until someone, some digger, uncovers us, scrutinizes our bones, tries to understand how they fit together and made something he might have been had he been born when we were.
Certainly it seems to lend an accidental element to his wandering spade. But you don’t get to make yourself an Integral Poet. It requires another hand.