I wish that Nilling had arrived prior to the first draft of my Lyric Conceptualism manifesto because there are many lines, many thoughts that complicate and extend the ideas gathering there. She is a model lyric conceptualist. An appreciation of reading. Not an appreciation of reception, but a reveling in process. An awareness and acknowledgement of influence. A rigorous inclusion of others. A call and response to present and historical thinkers. A willingness to move beyond the known. A way of writing what she wants to think about. Not what she knows. A respect for and resistance to the notion of mastery. Of having mastered and let go. Ongoingness. Lastingness. A poetry with a sense of urgency that is defiant in its will to “illustriously useless poesie.”
Heading over to my favourite bookstore in a few minutes. Always a risky proposition…hard on my pocket book, good for the soul. Then The AGO to see the Iain Baxter.
In general, John Updike favored the nice-guy approach to book reviewing, one that favored and coddled the author and limited the reviewer. He had a set of standards—his “rules” of reviewing—that clearly arose out of his experiences as an oft-reviewed author. They go something like this: 1) don’t review books you have any personal connection to; 2) quote the book; 3) quote the book; 4) no spoilers; 5) quote the book; 6) review the book, not the author’s reputation; 7) praise unsparingly; 8) leave tradition, schools of criticism, and political/social ideas out of it; 9) remember that books are meant to be enjoyed, 10) quote the book.
And do check out the On Reviewing columns to the left.
Latest post over at Harriet. I find myself constantly wanting to apologize for not writing a big important boy novel about ideas, or a funny novel about a whimsical girl. Why is that? Everyone seems to have an idea about what a novel should and more emphatically, should not be.
Novels, to my mind, are a way to enter into the minds of people. They are a way of condensing worlds. Not necessarily replications of reality, but versions, slices, illuminations. And they are an opportunity to see the surface and also to tunnel under it. I want to see people in action, yes, but I also very much want to know what they are thinking. I want to see what gets in their way and how they handle it. And as Gertrude Stein points out in Wars I Have Seen, I want to hear about what they are eating, where they are walking, how they are sustaining themselves, what random thoughts appear in a flash, to aid or make more difficult, their journey.
I still think artists are having much more success tackling environmental issues than poets are. Non-fiction writers too for that matter: David Abram, Bill McKibben, here at home Charlotte Gill perhaps. Or, as Darren Wershler Tweeted recently, quoting Lisa Gitelman, “there is no Shakespeare of climatology”: only premodern science has authors in that sense
Here’s an excerpt from my piece on Dennis Lee over on Harriet last week:
What happens when language fails to comfort? This dedication to seeing the thing through, even as one feels loss, or one feels pained by the process, is admirable. And it’s likely how we get to such a fresh approach to speaking about the planet. Christian Bök quotes Lee in his review of yes/no here on Harriet a while back: “it isn’t enough just to speak about the pressure we’ve put on the earth; language itself was under the same pressure, and I had to listen as intently as I could, to discern the new forms it was taking.” There is a deep relationship between language and nature, but also between language and the destruction of nature and of our world. There is a need for equally deep listening by us. How to undo the knot?
In which I recount reading Stein at Poetry Foundation and upon reflection, do so with altogether too many “I”s. Ick. Bad Poet. Bad.
For the record, here is how I chose to read the poem:
Mama loves you best because you are Spanish
Mama loves you best /because you are Spanish
Spanish /or which/ or a day
But /whether or /which or /is languish
Which or /which /is not Spanish
Which or /which not a way
They will be manage /or Spanish
They will be which /or which manage
Which will they /or which to say
That they will /which which /they manage
They need /they plead/ they will indeed
Never to which /which they will need
Which is which is not Spanish
Fifty which vanish /which which /is not Spanish
One of my central questions then, is can we really posit a binary that asserts a lyric impulse, or lyric creativity as opposed to what might be termed non-lyric, or “uncreative” creativity? Is this what conceptualism has developed in resistance to? What are we talking about when we talk about lyric? Lyric, or identity? As Lisa Robertson pointed out recently, they are not at all the same thing.