Saturday, July 01, 2006

Documentary Recomendation

If you haven't seen Why We Fight, a relatively new documentary about the American war machine, put it at the top of your Netflix queue. Watch it, and then watch Triumph of the Will, Leni Reifenstahl's classic Nazi propaganda film which documents the 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally. The juxtaposition, while overtly pedagogical, will totally creep you out. Not that you need any reminding, but you'll realize immediately how we write in the shadows of an empire.

Among other things, the films called to mind this statement Charles Wright once made. No matter how you feel about his work, the guy's gotta hell of an ear for truth. Yes, truth.

"Poetry comes, for lack of better words, from the heart (the "foul rag-and-bone-shop of the heart," as Yeats had it), and from the soul—neither a place you can put your finger on, but a place you can surely put your foot in, if you don't watch out. It is a matter of "soul making," as John Keats said. It truly is not a matter of arrangement, of performance, of presentation, or rhetorical dazzle or surprise, though all of those matters may be part of it. It is not the distractions, but the focus. It is not the undercard, but the main event. There is always an emotional half to the equation, but the other half is always craft—you have to be able to say it your way. It's the only time that two plus one makes two—language is half, technique is half, and emotion is half. An emotional value is always involved. Distortions and side events are often interesting and entertaining, but they are not the stillness and fathered attention at road's end. It's not a question of paper, or type-writers, of white space or of dark space—it's a question of what's in your life, and where you want that life to lead you. You've only got one, and you can fill it with whatever you want. You're free and American. But if it is poetry that you want, then don't look for language games, intellectual rip-offs, or rhetorical sing-alongs. It's too often been a matter of life and death to those who really cared. You've got to know, in your heart of hearts, that Keats is right, that it is about soul-making, that it does matter, and that it can make you or break you as a person. It is the main event, as I say, and ancillary to nothing. It's either Atonement or At Onement, but it is one of them."

Is it enough to be an artist and to align one's self with the powers of creation? I used to think so. I'm no longer so sure.


amfine said...

This entry has got me thinking again, of the content of it, as I have been thinking for a long time (or trying to think at)...So I am reading Cioran again and I have dug into his mudholes to find this passage as a transitional reply to this post (all for now): “To preserve the scraps of a vocation and lack the courage to rid oneself of it is an equivocal position, even a tragic one, which wisdom knows nothing about, for wisdom consists precisely in the audacity to extirpate every vocation, literary or otherwise. The man who has had the bad luck to be infected by Letters will retain forever the fetishism of the phrase, some superstition or other from which words alone will benefit. Possessing a talent he neglects or dreads, he will hurl himself without conviction into enterprises or works necessarily abortive, a spoiler suspended between speech and silence, a paltry creature pretending to that glory of the Void refused to whoever expresses himself or attaches himself to his own name. “Real life” is outside the word.”
(from passage titled “Outside the Word”)

amfine said...

“Is it enough to be an artist and to align oneself with the powers of creation?” This question will be taken wrongly up in the head by those who are essentially atheist. Do I want to say essentially? Ha: dubious me. And this question will only be answered, if answered respectably, well…rhetorically, and thus is a very good question. I have been thinking about it for a long time it seems—in other variations—as many as I could muster. But I alas, am a cynic and an optimist at once and can never decide. Because what are/is the powers of creation anyway? Such a phrase as this turns on itself quickly—especially if asked rhetorically. But I take it quite seriously, and appreciate its intentionality and habituation (ality). Grrrr. It is not enough, and it is. It is not enough if only to be aligned and not be moved to create? It is not enough unless you are a zen Buddhist? A monk? I am aligned with the powers of creation therefore I am? What is IT? Is IT enough?

Morgan Lucas Schuldt said...

Oh, I don't mean creation in the biblical or even the relious sense. I mean in the large scheme of things. As in a cosmic sense--I'm adding to the world creatively, not subtracting something from it.