Monday, March 22, 2010

Who is to say? I'm so totally unhip, uncool, and apparently out to lunch

What’s missing from this discussion is experience, time, context, distance…who is to say what is making a thing, or nothing happen? Who is to say what is making meaning? Who or what will hold up? Who is to say what comfort is? Who is to say? It seems everyone is too close to the mirror to have any real sense of the bigger picture.
The latter comment, dropped into a comment stream discussion (on Jake's blog) about Canadian poetry seems to have me hanged as sarcastic and intimidating. Amazing. It was cheeky, that's true. And admittedly it did come out of the blue. But then so do statements such as "Any asshole can make something happen..." and language like "I've praised" or "I've denounced" so and so's poetry or "there’s no doubt that Auden considered his own poetry to be Ariel dominated" and so on. Also, one wonders what the difference between condescending and sarcastic is?

Really, the older I get the more humble I get. The poets I respect most come to poetry and poetics with layers of questions, layers of wonder. The comment streams are filled with totalizing arguments and primping of opinions and swagger. Opinions, these posters argue, are intended to be solid, bullet proof. One idea decimating another. It's just not interesting to me. And it doesn't invite discourse outside of the few in the discussion. And so often it's the same few doing the discussing.

And so often, when I do insert a different perspective, or way of expressing, it's treated with hostility.

To me exploration is much more inviting than arguing for a single reading/opinion.

In what universe is wonder intimidating? I just don't get it.

So why bother? Well, I like the idea of discussing with non-like minded people. I'm not one for remaining entrenched in my camp. I don't have a camp. It's easy to discuss amongst like-minded folk. I don't have a posse I call up to come and defend my opinion. I guess that's why the comment streams congeal around like-minded people thinking they are having disagreements... A disagreement is larger than a quibble about a reading of a poem.

And tactics like dumping that little post in are ways to simply toss a mirror into the conversation. To say there are other folks out there, and they might have something to say as well.

Still, I do offer my apologies to those who I have misread.


VanessaP said...


voxpopulism said...

Hey Sina.

My my, all this commuting between feet are getting tired.

As I've said one-on-one, I agree that such reformulating questions are important. However, the thing about mirrors is they're impermeable, the rhetorical equivalent of a stop sign, of taking one's ball and marching home. Sometimes conversations need a stop sign, but I'd argue that we were humming along nicely, and though we had hit a few bumps, most of the drivers were still faced in the right same direction.

And I agree that arguments should be aware of their own subjectivity. But where's the end of that? Doesn't a relgious belief in subjectivity (and relativity) not take us to a place where argument becomes impossible? What would folks like you and I do if that happened? My preference is for skepticism in face of all things, including skepticism.

In the interim, I'll take arguments that are aware of their own subjectivity, but that still, as that anonymous Vox Pop visitor put it today, show their work. A subjective argument that stands up to criticism, that flexes and bends, is better than one that crumbles. I still believe that we can argue persuasively about subjective stuff. And I'm still willing to be persuaded. Desperate to be persuaded, really.

Yours in unhipness,

Lemon Hound said...

Actually I emphatically disagree that it's a stop sign.

I'm waiting to be persuaded as well.

I can wait.

Daniel Zomparelli said...

I've found that a certain comment stream for a certain poetry foundation blog is always too murky to put my feet into, so I usually don't. But Lemon Hound's comment stream is always quite the opposite, so thank you for this space you've created.

PS. I think you're cool.

voxpopulism said...

Hmm. Then what's the road beyond it look like? Would you like to take a crack at reacting to your own questions? I'm not saying "answer them" per se, as I know that'd be against your reasons for asking them. But, in a more holistic way: What would you suggest to follow them?

And I throw that out to the whole Lemon Hound readership, which I know is different than the Vox Pop readership. I'm interested in seeing if anyone can do anything with Sina's questions.

Lemon Hound said...

"show their work..."

Is another subjective statement...but really let's just agree to disagree on this. I'm out of time for the subject, and sort of think 5 years of blogging might have put a little context for my approach.


Lemon Hound said...

Seriously? What's the road beyond?

Maybe a poem is next. Or a bit of constructive retreat.

A bit of time?

Another post?

Doh. There I am with questions again.

But seriously, things aren't all chronological and orderly. At least not in my world.

voxpopulism said...

That's fair. But, respectfully, six months of doing the same has showed me that it's hard not to grow exhausted by this constant arguing over things I care so much about. And, if I was to expand that six months by a ratio of 10, I'd be likely to lapse into the occasional shorthand, bitterness and flippancy of approach. And I would want a friendly fellow blogger to gently alert me to when s/he felt that was happening.


Lemon Hound said...

Bitterness and flippancy?

voxpopulism said...

Subjectively speaking, of course.

Lemon Hound said...

"it's hard not to grow exhausted by this constant arguing over things I care so much about...."

It's not so much the fact of disagreement, but the how of the disagreement. What is an acceptable way to disagree, and what isn't.

Also, to my mind, there is the matter of time. For me a discussion goes on much longer than a comment stream. Any tidying up or tucking in seems quite temporary.

The ideas play out.

Which is why I don't understand needing to resolve or "bring to an end."

I can understand needing to come to some kind of common ground.

But I'm okay with that being temporary.

voxpopulism said...

Me too. And it always is (even in the big picture conversations you're referring to). I find myself often making points contrary to ones I've made previously. And believe both.

Complicated stuff, this poetry.

Lemon Hound said...

p.s. thanks Daniel.

Wouldn't say I always achieve the level of welcome I would prefer be here...

It is complicated, Jake.

James said...

Dear Sina,

I think it's safe to assume from your post here that you did not intend your last comment on Vox Populism to be taken as sarcasm. That's all you really had to say. I just honestly couldn't tell (and I tried).

Sometimes these discussions escalate out of misunderstanding and then the parties involved depart in silence, frustrated or insulted, without clearing the air. So in the spirit of better days and friendlier conversations, let me say that I sincerely apologize for the misreading and for any offense you may have taken.

So, hopefully, we're cool.

All love,
James Langer

Lemon Hound said...

Thanks for writing. Tone is difficult to read, as the previous post here on LH regarding Rhea Tregebov attests.

I'm running out the door, but again, very happy you stopped by here. I would seriously rather be cool with you, and all, so my apologies for escalating where really, there needn't be.


voxpopulism said...

Internet: A potential cause of, and solution to, all misunderstandings between people.