John Ashbery is often thought of as from the New York School and as a language poet. In his short poem “Thoughts of a Young Girl,” from his book The Tennis Court Oath he divides the poem into the thoughts of a young girl and the narrator’s thoughts of a young girl. The reader isn’t given much prompting of the two kinds of thought. However, we can see by the quotation marks in the poem that these are someone else’s words. The reference to “the tower,” and the submission of “to show you I’m not mad,” (even with its double entendre) and “You were too good to cry much over me” help us hear a woman’s voice while “Signed, The Dwarf” cinches the idea of ‘the other.’ (14)
In the second section of the poem there are no quotations, so the reader hears the poem’s persona narrate the role of women over the “centuries:” “She always knows / How to be utterly delightful.” By calling to the girl (his persona?) “Oh my daughter, / My sweetheart, daughter of my late employer, princess,” hurrying her arrival, Ashbery’s persona constructs its identity via multiple perspectives and then suggests desire for matriarchy. The poem’s lines seem to fold back upon, and almost nullify, themselves, each invoking the unpresentable. The multiple perspectives within each section of the poem, the two perspectives of the sections themselves, the suggestion in the title, and the construction of the poem that reveals the process of consciousness are evidence of the differend in his poem.
Ashbery is not the only differend. His book The Tennis Court Oath, did more to promote language poetry than he will acknowledge. If fact, he has mentioned that the book should never have been published. Never the less, it’s fair to say that the book is an interesting document for language poets who take Olsen’s manifesto, with his idea of composing by “field,” seriously in their effort to represent the self as a construct and to reveal the process of consciousness as a venue to remind us that the only conventions we have are the ones we make.
The rage and sadness waking each morning were mysterious for a long time, but as these emotions became more conscious to me and a part of my morning, I have attributed them to a lack of an audience for my writing (as is the fate of American poets). In time, I would enter the shower each morning and say to myself, “Okay, you are alone, angry, and sad; what are you going to do about it today; what steps will you take today to move away from or use these emotions; what projects will you work on.” That is when a plan for the day is devised. By the time I am out of the shower, I have adopted a plan for the day and a different attitude, at least temporarily, that allows me to find the absurd in my life and any expectations I may have for it, so that I laugh about my life and expectations for the rest of the day.
By nightfall and bedtime, I attempt to hold on to some small success (a new poem, an encouraging rejection letter, an idea for a poem) so that I might fall to sleep easily. When I do fall asleep, I wake after about four hours and in the twilight of the half sleep and half awake, I work out problems in poems or compose the first lines of a new poem. The hour or two of semi consciousness allows the play of my conscious and unconscious mind to assist me in my writing. At first I would keep a pencil and notebook by the bed, but after learning what was important in my life, I would remember without prompting what I was working out and how I did so. I can’t say enough about this seemingly negative waking and its usefulness as a tool for creation and problem solving. A similar experience can be had if one takes naps in the middle of the day. The twilight between consciousness and unconsciousness promotes creativity.
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I'm a pessimist Because of intelligence, but an optimist Because of will. - Antonio Gramsci
Literary people may wonder why France has to Voltaire and the US has not had one yet. I am here to correct That notion. We have lived in his shadow for 86 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8GSalDF71c . (The only other person in the USA who might be Considered is Toni Morrison, but she is subtler and without the international scope.) Yes, there will be a Voltaire-like statues in Cambridge and perhaps in other American cities someday, fatto che democracy to come. If General Lee and his gang can secede via memorial statues to rotaries, Noam's monument Should occupy commons. Examine His list of book publications in the areas of linguistics and politics. He may lack the sense of irony found in his French predecessor (and Thus the humor). He speaks truth to power for the rest of us. His Candide could be Manufacturing Consent , or American Power and the New Mandarins , or For Reasons of State , or On Power and Ideology , or Necessary Illusions . Noam's works as a philosophe are His books on linguistics.
To be an American Voltaire, one must be Able to think for oneself. So it may be easier to think of Chomsky as Huck Finn to our being Tom Sawyers. We become lawyers to devise of ways to exploit each other and to cheat the system. (Kant Wished moderns to be adults.) He continues down the Mississippi on the raft with Jim, (with or without sex) where one parses freedom from mainstream media-fed ideology. What! Let us stop our ba-baing a moment to honor our black sheep, our conscience (what we know but hope to ignore), the Ubermensch, America's Voltaire, Noam Chomsky, so That We borrow His advice on our way to the democracy to come .
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"I couldn't fall asleep that night. This was the start of the nightmare that tormented me all through my childhood." -Danilo Kis
I tossed and turned sweaty late one night having not been able to get to sleep because I was wondering about the night sky, my birth, my being, and my death. I must have been seven. If my dad had been an astronomer or a biologist, I may have become a scientist, but I have no regrets there. I went downstairs, woke my parents, and told them of my thoughts. My dad was a working-class guy and simply dismissed me with, “go back to bed and go to sleep.” I went back to bed, but of course, could not go back to sleep until the sun came up and then it was breakfast time. My wondering became bedrock and my dad’s response confirmed for me that this is where my identity, separate from his, lay. The experience was vital to setting me on my path to poetry.
Over the years, I noticed two disruptive behaviors that I was able to turn into positive for me. The first was my mood when I woke up every morning. My isolation as a writer and my lack of an appreciative audience brought this mood on. I woke feeling very alone, very angry and very sad. I say alone and not lonely, because it wasn’t that I was in need of a friendship or a lover. It was the existential experience of being alone, heightened by isolation. I look at my past isolation now as in large part due to the large gulf between mainstream ideology that makes up our culture (and others as well) and the literary life of a poet (or at least this one). Coming to this conclusion makes sense and explains how the rhythm of my creative process acts as an engine in my mind.
Wisdoms vs Problem Posing (Reworked from “Reading Wisdoms” published in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing)
Concentric spheres of influence may help explain the relationship among Mick Jagger’s lyrics to “As Tears Go By,” W.B.Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium,” and in her essay “Reading the World,” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s concept of the West as “disc jockey of an advanced technocracy:” “the most recent technology” as a means of denying freedom by distracting populations. The earlier song lyric is folk wisdom charged with insight or reminder of the primary code; the poem is an argument for cultural wisdom by a member of that culture attempting to breach empirical order with an universal transcendence; and the essay is an explanation of the collusion of science, technology, and capitalism presented as post-colonial and critical insight from someone who might be said to be outside the culture, outside the lyricist’s and poet’s sphere of influence. In her book In Other Worlds, Spivak suggests that the capitalism’s slave-citizens are generations of children doing things they think are new. Perhaps she is someone with badly needed critical or radical insight that may seem a clarion call to the folk but who is in reality announcing a need for a paradigm shift.
Spivak, who is Indian, does not make a saw from a hammer in her analysis. What she may be doing first is pointing out the process for making a hammer a saw. However, more importantly her articulation of a process that isn’t the manufacturing of quaint cultural wisdom into a more universal tool as it is a global insight regarding an economic system (becoming more and more universal) perpetuating an illusion to keep the children playing, the generations at their song, the adult worker enslaved. Her insight isn't wisdom because it isn't problem-solving but problem-posing. She brings a consciousness from outside of a culture. The idea of the same song using different technology is different from “generations at their song” or “children doing things I use to do” in that it points out a laboratory to the white rats in it, not a trick of nature but a man-made artifice. Making conscious the problem of a techno-capitalism as something other than creative play, “a vague evil,” Spivak makes conscious that the latest spatio-temporal discoveries are the magical realms of “pure science.” The more lab rats educated to the thought that they are slaves, the more they want freedom from the lab.
It seems to me that any person in America wishing to declare him/herself oriented and educated should need to demonstrate knowledge of conventions and demonstrate an ability to move among them using them. Before anyone specializes in a discipline of study or before he/she enters the workforce he/she should show an ability to put two ideas together and articulate the implications of doing so. Writing would probably be the medium most commonly used. However, I would not discount any of the arts. The critical thinking strategy of “connective thinking” (or strategies that assist students in making meaning of two or more ideas) has proven to be the lesson most profound to me as a teacher of writing across the curriculum. The skill of making meaning fosters in concrete thinkers the ability to abstract. Students who can abstract begin to think for themselves.
The students who succeed in making connections among ideas within and between disciplines are beginning to demonstrate the power of inductive reasoning. Each student goes on to create a meaning-filled world for him/herself. Crafters of general education curricula have been paying diminishing lip service to the arts and humanities and haven’t had a coherent understanding of the value of inductive reasoning. Each one of us either creates the world around him or herself or has it created for him/her by others. Since our world is filled with competing creations, it is vital that each student creates individual meaning from the competing creations and therefore an individual place in the world. Schools that apply serious time and effort in this kind of project, so that every student succeeds at beginning to establish connections between ideas, have students who begin to understand conventions. If every educated person knew how to be comfortable outside conventions, every educated person would have the opportunity to make his/her life a creative project.