Thursday, March 26, 2009

More self doubt and Kinsella

Firstly, a few more thoughts on the travel piece I wrote. I said yesterday that it comes down to the readers expectation, which seems to hold true. The problem being that all readers have different expectations. Everyone seems to have a different view on where the line between fiction and non-fiction should be drawn. Should there be a line? Should we just accept that fiction is inherent in any kind of non-academic writing.

Someone said yesterday that it crosses the line when the writer 'knowingly' makes something up to form a narrative. But I would argue all writers (except maybe honest academic writers, but we are sticking to 'creative non-fiction' here) knowingly fictionalise at least a small element of their writing. They might put a pause in a conversation (seems like a forgivable thing), they might make up all the words in a conversation but keep the general idea (I can live with that), they might say the colour of the sun was burnt orange, when it was more like a dull yellow, they might say a character existed who never did (seem to be pushing it for me). Which one of these people have crossed the line if any?

I think the only way to answer that is that all of them have or none of them have. And as a writer, a non-academic writer, I think to think none of them have. I hope that writers and readers are moving beyond the fact-monopoly on truth. I like to think we are moving into a new post-modern (or whatever else you want to call it) era of writing that encourages questions as much as answers. When a historian says, this is what happened on this day at this place, I like the idea that writers can now say this is how I felt, this is what the people might have said, this is where your imagination as the reader comes in, this is where you must question what happened, where you must add your own fiction to this story.

Shit, that was a bit of a rant. And on the actual reading...

I've read some more of John Kinsella and I can see where his 'experimental' tag comes from. He writes some poems (the newer ones with variable indenting of each line) where they are like a tirade of spiraling linguistics. Some of the words are quite unusual and I think for that reason some people might see him as a language poet, although I definitely get the sense he is still trying to 'tell us something' in which case I think he goes beyond the language poets. Michael Palmer does the same kind of thing really, he does have a narrative in his work, it is just that it is heavily concealed(?) behind the language. Language comes first and rightly so.
Deprived, as in waste or wastage
    seed scatterings
where shattered stalks dropped and winnowed, a district

I hope I reproduced the line indents properly there. I think in general I prefer, plainer, everyday language in poetry. Maybe because my vocabulary is quite small and I don't feel as involved in the poem if it had plainer words. I don't think that is a problem with Kinsella though because he uses such beautiful music and alliteration that the meaning is inferred and they do seem on the tip of understanding, like you've seen it before or something like and that connection is almost there, but not quite. A nice place to be in a poem.

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