Monday, March 30, 2009

Something to think about

This hegemony of content over form in the mind of the critic is at the very heart of the uselessness of mainstream poetry criticism in America; in turn, the reaction to talk about the fact of form without any reference to its possible purposes or effect on a reader is a glaring flaw in much criticism that appears in smaller journals and on blogs, particularly ones that are primarily interested in so-called “experimental” poetry that foregrounds its own formal innovation. --Matthew Zapruder
Form and content. Content and form. i'm trying to think of how i discuss both. Do i fall into this trap? There is a temptation to discuss some poets in terms of form (Olson, for example), and others in terms of content (lyric poets, generally). Some poets intertwine the two: Ron Siliman's Ketjak is a long poem where the content really is the form -- a series of seemingly unrelated sentences placed paratactically that repeat, doubling in number, in each new paragraph. Whew. Siliman's form is meant to draw attention to language, to undercut the desire of the reader to form a continuous narrative when presented with something that looks like prose. The poem is politically motivated: Siliman wanted to distance language from capitalism; to de-commodify it. In other words, the "exchange" of language for meaning is disturbed because the referent of any particular sentence cannot be connected to the ones that comes before it. In short, its disconnected (but in a really fun way). While some readers have a hard time connecting with Ketjak, some knowledge of Siliman's project can really increase the sense of playfulness that comes from the work.

i'm off topic. In terms of criticism, how can a critic (or a reader) overcome this hegemony of content over form without falling into the trap of ignoring or reducing the content of the poem?

What do you think, the Internet?

No comments:

Post a Comment