Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tuesday - Postmodernist poetry - Owairaka

Between Greenlane and home
maybe a park
maybe the Domain
yes, that's it
Mount Albert.

Who's Albert?
Oh that's right
Victoria's husband
He was stuffed.
No I mean literally,
She was so crushed when he died
She had his body stuffed so he could still
look like part of her life.

And Owairaka?
I never knew what that name meant
Until today
I stood at the summit, reading the plaque
matter of fact we got the name wrong
it's um
Te wai or raka? Can't remember
for sure
but it meant the sacred water of
who was a tohunga.

it's cold this morning
walking should warm me up
but I don't know where the path is
I follow the nearest thing
what a view
dogs run,
followed by their people.
Cold hasn't
kept them away

This is the same bench I
when I got here.
I'm seeing it from a different perspective
many things in life like that
kinda funny.
sort of.

Today's lesson:
The Writing Experiment Chapter 8
Postmodernist poetry, avant-garde poetics.

Didn't enjoy this one as much, because a) it was about poetry, not music, b) it's got a lot of academic stuff in there, and doesn't draw on popular culture, and c) I don't enjoy poetry as much when it's not set to music!

Postmodernist lyric
One of the key characteristics is the split self. "Once we start to use words, language inevitably takes on a life of its own which is not identical to the feelings we are expressing."

In other words, our words are not us. Traditional poetry has sort of assumed that they are true representations of us.

But in postmodernism the idea of who I am, a single, unified self, is splintered. Psychoanalytic theory comes into play here: "a human subject emerging from the Oedipal process is a split subject, torn precariously between the claims of the conscious and subconscious."

There's also the famous (?) Lacanian mirror stage, when (apparently) an infant sees themselves in the mirror and feels joy at recognising themselves, but also despair that they'll never be totally at one with that image.

In other words, we don't speak with just one voice, not one of us. There are many sides to people.

This is nothing new, but in postmodernism it's emphasised and treated as normal, rather than something to be solved or cured.

The book then gave a few examples of the use of "split self" in poetry, the most vivid one being of a character who's body says go here, and the mind says, okay, I'm just along for the ride.

Subversion of voice is another PoMo (postmodern) thing. To avoid poetry becoming overly "confessional, self-indulgent or self-aggrandising." Subverting your voice is like talking about love and starting to get all misty eyed, but then cracking a bad joke. Surprising the reader/audience.

Or it's using a perspective that is alien and disjointing. Lots of that here.

Then there's the more political dissident lyric, using art for politics' sake. Because postmodernism believes that every piece of language is political, even if it's not intended to be.

There were some pretty good examples here, including one that gives the view of sexual exploitation from a disabled person's view. Postmodern poetry is often used to address taboo issues.

I only just started the avant-garde language part of the chapter; I needed to get back to the office and had an itchy eye. Not sure what the eye was about.

What I read was interesting, the theory and history of avant-garde literature.

The term comes from the military, meaning a vanguard, symbolising the first group of people to lead a movement. Avant-garde arts began in the early 1900s, with visual arts like surrealism and dadaism, and poets like Gertrude Stein and Andre Breton.

Then in the 1980s and 90s there arose in the USA "Language Poetry" and in the UK the slightly different "linguistically innovative poetries".

These groups of poets argued that "language had been fetishised, commodified and consequently devalued, and that in order to change the world we have to radically change the way we use words."

They believed it was necessary to make language unfamiliar, so we could see it and be consciously aware of how we use language.

Postmodern poetry is very political and can't be viewed as separate from the Marxist and Freudian ideologies driving it.

Question for me: if I disagree with those Marxist and Freudian ideologies, can I still use the methods of postmodernism? Or is the message, the what, so wrapped up in the how, the delivery, that it's impossible?

Guess there's only one way to find out... ;)


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