Text Etc. - the craft and theory of poetry
October 6, 2006 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Text Etc. is a sprawling, highly engaging, nearly obsessive look at the craft and theory of poetry, including sound patterning, fractal criticism, poetry heresies, brief, clear intros to theorists like Bakhtin, Lacan and Foucault, writing instruction and much more.
posted by mediareport (11 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by sciurus at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Your post got me excited, but the excitement drained away as I read the linked site. There's a lot of useful stuff there, but... well, you find his writing engaging, I find it pedestrian and nearly impossible to focus on over the long haul. He writes like an engineer who likes neat paragraphs and numbered lists and wants to apply a good, sensible, no-nonsense approach to poetry. Which is all well and good, if that approach works for you, but I find it somewhat impaired by his biases. Here's what he has to say about "traditional poetry" (into which category he dumps everything before those evil modernists came along and ruined everything):
Traditional poetry had the greater store of principles. Such things as: Poetry is language organized for aesthetic purposes. Poetry must not only describe but bear witness. A poem is distinguished by the feeling that dictates it and that which it communicates, by the economy and resonance of its language, and by the imaginative power that integrates, intensifies and enhances experience. Unlike discourse, which proceeds by logical steps, poetry is intuited whole as a presentiment of thought and/or feeling. Art is a way of knowing, and is valuable in proportion to the justice with which it evaluates that knowledge.
Most of that applies to all good poetry of any period, except for the last two sentences, which are his personal interpretation and which don't really make sense to me ("a presentiment of thought and/or feeling"?). He has some useful things to say, but I'm afraid I'm not willing to spend the time and energy to hack through his prose to find them. I did like his take on Bakhtin, though.

Oh, and he doesn't seem to realize that there's always been lots of crappy poetry, it's just that time has weeded it out for the pre-modern period. Sturgeon's Law and all that.
posted by languagehat at 8:52 AM on October 6, 2006

Run for political office, for example:
Shouldn't be allowed until we
Sniff the hack’s poetry.
Let poets rule!
Lawyer’s had their chance, most ample.

Please might we see a metered sample?
With rhyming words, show what you can do
Just let’s limit the gasbags to Haiku:

Candidates must write

Poems that prove mental might

Haiku season comes!

posted by BillyElmore at 9:47 AM on October 6, 2006

This is neat. Need more time to look through it but thanks. And god forbid a critic has a "personal interpretation" to offer.
posted by bardic at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2006

And god forbid a critic has a "personal interpretation" to offer.

Jesus. That was not my complaint, but if that's your personal interpretation of what I had to say, more power to you.

Good post, by the way; I think I forgot to say that amidst my cogitations.
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on October 6, 2006

Good as it is to see a site about poetry, the writing gives one the feeling of poking through a refrigerator full of tupperware and dead cheese. You're hungry, but nothing in there looks at all appetizing, and you can't even imagine what sort of alchemy might make it tasteful.
posted by bukharin at 5:00 PM on October 6, 2006

It's been FPP'd before I believe, but a great place for readings from contempo and langpo guys is Pennsound.
posted by bardic at 5:04 PM on October 6, 2006

I did like his take on Bakhtin, though.

Yep, it was those brief bios that initially sparked my excitement; the site really does capture them succinctly and well, which I've found rare. I also was happily stunned at the breadth and detail. And while it's not the *most* engaging writing, I did find pages like this enjoyable - meaty, if a bit dry, but not too academic (perhaps it helps to avoid the workshop section). Anyway, for whatever reason, I like the informative voice of the site.

de gustibus, as always.
posted by mediareport at 5:32 PM on October 6, 2006

Do something outrageous. Buck the trend in ways useful to media journalists needing the good story. Feed the interviewer with the elements of an unusual persona or literary personality. Keep polecats; advise the UN on Third World agricultural developments; become a lap-dancer.^

Ah ha ha ha. That rocks.

This is a great resource. (I'm finding myself disagreeing with a lot of his opinions, but that's to be expected.) Thanks for linking to it.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:30 PM on October 6, 2006

I'm a bit late to this thread, but just wanted to say thanks, mediareport, this is good.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:44 PM on October 7, 2006

Today's poets are still inward-directed, neglecting what interests the common reader. And they tend to use a language of expression — essentially prose — that was developed for other purposes, and that does not readily serve for what formerly made poetry distinctive.

So poets are at fault both for neglecting the interests of the "common" reader and for using language presumably more accessible to the "common" reader. Neat trick, that.

(I'm also divided on how seriously I can take someone who talks about what language is and isn't appropriate for poetry. It's... poetry. The argument seems akin to saying it's not a painting unless it portrays a reclining nekkid white lady or a scene from the bible.)

That said, it was nice (and, I'll admit, surprising) to see some talk of performance poetry, but it seems to be lacking some depth, especially if he's interested in what there is about poetry that could engage the common listener. Shayne Koyczan
recently toured with the Violent Femmes, fer chrissake.

That said, thanks for posting this.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:59 AM on October 8, 2006

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