Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sofistikated or sophisticated?

I've read a Tong Hoagland essay from Real Sofistikashun (2006, Graywolf Pr. ISBN: 13-978-1-55597-455-8) which talked about surface pleasures in poetry and art. He compared Henri Matisse to Stein, Palmer, Bernstein and some others with regard to how they use what he calls the effect of 'polka dots and pattern' to create simple, but somehow intriguing poems. He talks about their heightened sense of music and disregard of meaning and the referant. I can see that as a valid argument, but I'm not sure most of those poets would be happy with that summation of their work. I think they would see their work as reaching a higher meaning, perhaps more in tune with the reader's subconscious mind rather than diregarding meaning altogether. To be fair he did mention Michael Palmer as one person who somehow seems to transcend both spaces. I think Palmer's work is a natural progression of 'language' based poetry, he is using the techniques the underlying philosophy of the movement and hinting at wider themes, wider ideas. He just does it better than the others.

It was an interesting argument and I certainly don't disagree with anything he said, langauge poetry as well as Matisse do a carry a weight I think, it is subtle and ever-changing, but the work exists because it is a testament to the artists intention and attention whatever that may be.

I wrote some more history today. This time based on the section headings of Michael King's Penguin History of NZ: Prehistory, Settlement, Consolidation, Unsettlement, Posthistory. Cool titles for poems. I hope the body can live up to the head.

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