Monday, March 31, 2008

CA interviews Rachel Blau Duplessis

Philly poet CA Conrad offers up a fabulous discussion here about women's writing, poetry, Wordsworth, appropriation and so much more in an interview with real bite.
I was always trying for a poetry of thought. Experiment, for me, is not a formal tic, some avant-garde glaze or fashionista look. It is a processual question of writing some thinking into the page in the medium of language. Further, for me there was no (one, single, unified) "woman's language," woman's imagery, women's mythology, etc. Those notions seemed a generative mythos for writing, and certainly with issues about mythology I was at times interested in the possibility of telling what I and others then called "the other side of the story." (Now I would say—why did we think there were only two "sides"?) One could be inspired by thinking of some female specificity and absolute uniqueness, but it was not fully accurate to the material reality of cultural products. Good for production; not accurate for a critical reception is my finding.
One continues to wonder why women's writing doesn't generate the kind of online discussion it should...(the excellent Dim Sum essays for example...)and I think this interview offers up some answers in terms of the work that happens in the poetry itself not outside of it, of how so many women approach poetry and poetics. Which is to say it isn't a poetry or a poetic that is about swallowing and regurgitating with great force. Or a position of defense. Or of closing down and open lines of defense. A defense of poetry or even of self. Rather it is a poetry of will and social reality: of change. It is a poetry that marches out into the middle of the field. "I want the world to change," Duplessis argues:
"I do not seek directly to bring this change about by my art "Poetry is not, nor should it be, a mode of propaganda, but it is part of ideological and discursive practices, and it offers information, conviction, knowledge." (Blue Studios, 5) This it accomplishes particularly in form and texture constructing a helixed looping between aesthetic and social conviction.
This poetry of subversion which is, in some ways an act of faith and an affirmation of thought over "knowledge," is something that keeps coming up for me. Recently I witnessed an unveiling of intent in the discussion with Lisa Robertson and Christine Stewart here at the University of Calgary. Briefly, Christian Bok was wanting Robertson to explain her lack of desire for a pointed poetic. She was describing a poetry of submersion/subversion, a germination that relies on chance in some way, not seeking a particular outcome (more or less, I wasn't taking notes...). Bok was arguing that this position added to the general irrelevance of poetry, which goes against one of his stated objectives, which is to make poetry more relevant, more essential even, as an art form. The cross-conversations were illuminating however, for we seemed not only to have stumbled upon a poetic differance, but on gender as well...

Duplessis again: "Let me respond, rather than answer. I don't write to express myself. I write to examine 'it.'" An examination of "it" means not a staking owning and remaking. It isn't about mastering and defending. Women's language inflected poetry seems to me about engagement and not within the framework of war, or pillage...
There is a lot of "it" out there. This is what my poetry does. That I have standpoints emerging from my social locations (class, religious culture, gender, national origin) is a true statement; that I make intricate weaves of these elements is true; that I can learn more about any social location and respond to it if sufficiently moved is also true. I begin by setting out from myself, as you say—precisely, because by beginning I get beyond the boundedness of "self" into something more. As for "me," –forget "me" or "I." It's as if we are yearning toward a new pronoun to understand something else than what subject positions emerge from the pronouns we already know and use.
Many more thoughts on this...and delightfully jumbled which I'll not apologize for.

Thanks CA, and Rachel for a concise reminder of what poetry can do, does. If you haven't picked up Drafts, or Pink Guitar, do so.

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