vendredi 25 septembre 2009

A Few Publications and a Performative

A little updating. The most recent issue of Prick of the Spindle includes two of my poems and a host of edgy, poignant stuff. The poem that mentions Tunguska is a poem that I've revised substantially every two years for about six years. The other one is about the razed St. Thomas housing projects in New Orleans that is now a particularly useless Walmart.

Also, a poem of mine will be forthcoming in The Colorado Review, either this fall or in the spring.

My first essay publication, dealing with my favorite topic--professional wrestling, will appear in this fall's Louisville Review. It mentions suplexes in a swimming pool, the retirement of Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels at a house show in Baton Rouge.

One interesting thing I've been reading about is the supposedly performative aspect of poetry, a proposition based in reaction to/against Austin and Searle's speech act theory. In Austin's posthumous work, How to Do Things with Words, he describes a number of performative utterances, i. e. words that enact what they say. Examples would include naming ("I hereby name this boat the Mademoiselle Fazie."), loving ("Duh I love you."), and betting ("I bet you that more people will attend a Cajun party than a party in the USA."). One notable act Austin puts aside is poetry. If an apparent speech act arrives in a poem, you can bet that Austin would consider it "false." Searle prefers to call it "pretend." While speech act theory is actually as old as the desert fathers, if not older, Austin's presentation had its value, namely in a type of codifying of the phenomenon and an introduction of the topic to nonCatholic audiences. The ommission of poetry by him and subsequently by Searle, though, is shortsighted.

I propose that poetry itself be considered a type of speech act, albeit one that takes a bit more preparation than either christening or gambling. One thing that it does not need more of is convention. Speech acts are only felicitous or successful, as Austin tells us, when done according to certain socially defined conventions. Likewise, poetry does not operate well too far from conventions, especially if one considers that language is a huge set of historically determined conventions.

What poetry does not do is pretend. As my professor for my Theory of the Lyric course, Jonathan Culler, asks, what would Keats be pretending to do when he addresses the wind in "Ode to the Western Wind?" Although I'm not sure what he is really doing, let alone pretending to do, I can wager a guess. In the act of his poem (whether the reading or presentation of it, and I err on the side of reading here), the poem enacts its own creation, specifically the creation of a world where it is appropriate to apostrophize the wind or exist in surreality or experience the sublime. This might stretch the definition of poetry a bit, but why not?

OK, enough poetics for today. Maybe tomorrow you will get rap.

dimanche 20 septembre 2009

Get Me Out of this Monastery

One interesting thing I can do now that I am in grad school: The other night I had an inconsequential dream which was basically a mirror of a waking wish fantasy. I woke immediately afterwards and told myself, well that's a pretty straightforward dream, wish fulfillment in plain terms and images. And then I reminded myself that that was not what Freud what want me to think! So I re-evaluated my dream in the span of a minute or so, searching for spatial analogies, linguistic slips, condensation, displacement. Afterwards, I completely reinterpreted my dream, not only problematizing the initial wish fantasy but also arriving at a completely unrelated tension. Satisfied with myself, I fell back asleep and forget everything.