Author Topic: Field Notes 5: Criticism  (Read 22335 times)

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #30 on: February 15, 2014, 05:26:49 AM »
Cherie – many thanks for your response to “breeze a synonym for ash”, much appreciated (esp. as one reviewer gave it as an example of my being sometimes “too cryptic” – which perhaps goes to show how subjective these things can be). I also appreciate that you quoted the poem as it first appeared, rather than in the misjudged, slightly revised form in which it appeared in my collection before music.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 04:47:26 PM by Philip Rowland »

Chris Patchel

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #31 on: February 15, 2014, 09:07:14 PM »
For better or worse I’m more obsessed with excellence than most (even other artists and writers find my level of perfectionism excessive). So my ears perk up any time the word is mentioned.

I could loop out trying to list the marks of excellence—  surprise coupled with a sense inevitability, for instance, or an economy & elegance of material & form, etc. (though such qualities are not unique to haiku). So I won’t go there.

At the moment I’m thinking more about excellence as an ethic, and a passion (which I note in many of Peter’s remarks). It’s not uncommon for writers to spend a decade on a single novel. Walt Whitman spent the last 42 years of his life writing and revising his poems for Leaves of Grass. How many are willing to spend years, if need be, perfecting a haiku? Not that time is the only measure of passion for artmaking but it’s one indication.

Haiku writers span the gamut from hobbyists (nothing wrong with that) to serious poets. For publishers I’m guessing it’s often a trade-off between democratic inclusion (which we all appreciate about the haiku community after all) and the showcasing of excellence (poems and poets), so I sympathize with editors who have to navigate those kinds of ongoing choices.

Enjoying the discussion.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 11:42:14 PM by Chris Patchel »

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #32 on: February 15, 2014, 10:37:47 PM »
Haiku and “what thought is like”

I'd like to hear more about the “cult of the unique” mentioned by Tom D’Evelyn (“the cult of the unique has ideological roots that deserve close attention”), though don’t see a strong relation to “the perception of the unique” as a locus or raison of aesthetic arrest – would the young Pound would serve as a case in point? I find nothing ideologically cultish here:

Quote
. . . and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion (Pound, explaining the genesis for “In A Station of the Metro,” 1916).

The need to value the haiku genre, that is, raise its valuation, estimation, has been a central concern of recent criticism, seen in major anthology presentations such as Haiku in English (2013) and Haiku 21 (2011). Reading Blyth, one sees how potent and even primary critical commentary can be for the genre. It may be useful to approach the critical structure of ‘poem + commentary’ again, grouping significant numbers of haiku into thematic sections. Aside from his idiosyncratic (and highly arguable) perspective, Blyth’s influence was bolstered by his comprehensive-encyclopedic approach. Much of the aesthetic savor in Blyth arrives from his commentary -- especially noticeable when it’s stripped out -- the bare translations are usually pretty dull. This begs the question of what, concerning Blyth, actually captivated the Beats, and thus caused “haiku” to become popular.

It's interesting to consider aesthetic arrest, contemplate its power -- just as a phenomenon -- also as formative of taste, or impetus of it. Aesthetic arrest involves force and radiance: magnetism, numinousity, velocity. We use words of kinesthetic force to describe this experience: I'm pulled in, it grabs me, I'm absorbed, enter the poem, am moved -- captivated (captive), captured, taken (away, somewhere), thrown (into, out of); magnetized.

Pound's marvelous storytelling explanation of his “Metro” poem (cf. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/metro.htm) includes zingers like: “Any mind that is worth calling a mind must have needs beyond the existing categories of language.” Hugh Kenner, quoting Pound, indicates the rapid evolution of Pound’s search for new language, in order to depict the aesthetic:

Quote
“An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”: and that is the elusive Doctrine of the Image. And, just 20 months later, “The image . . . is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing.” And: “An image . . . is real because we know it directly.” (Kenner, cf. “Metro” url, above)

One may connote this experience as a form of violence – Paz, quoting Mallarme: “The poet does violence to language in order to purify the words of the tribe.” The wresting of words, language, out of normative, habitual associations is a violence akin to natural force: volcanos, earthquakes. This is not the violence of aggression, yet the term speaks to instrumental destruction (and deconstruction) in creation: a rending of skin, or in contemporary terminology, chaos breakdown in stable systems.

Violence in this context is depersonalizing, as is the idea of natural force. Yet this idea of violence is likewise as intimate as consciousness. It's no wonder people feel strongly about certain works of art. Given this context, it may be that all forms of aesthetic arrest, for art, involve a wresting of consciousness, and in this, loss. (Loss of habit remains a loss.) Unlike the sudden “wresting” of romantic love (cf. Helen Fisher, http://www.ted.com/speakers/helen_fisher.html), the “other” of the poem is non-human. A work is a thing forged, become autonomous, self-existent, existing separate from its creator, even if emblematic. Thinking back to Pound, Paz, and other philosopher-poets of modernism, I'm struck by their concerns regarding consciousness and poetry; the notion of the poem is intimately bound into a questioning of the aesthetic.

Reading Pound at the Modernist dawn (or at least morning) -- his adventurous drive to formulate new modes of poetic arrest makes for exciting reading. What he presents to the world as signal discovery seems relevant to haiku, in terms of the wresting, rending, potency of superposition as fusional (emotional-intellectual) complex, vortex, etc. This does all sound rather macho -- both the rending and perhaps the ranting -- so it’s worth revisiting just a few paragraphs prior, to: “a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me” – which may be both Pound’s gentlest and best attempt at description – his longing and need to articulate – his own Ginsbergian Howl, if you will.

It seems that the violence and (therefore) creative power of aesthetic arrest was central to Pound’s conception of social relevance, at the time. Paz developed these ideas and enriched them greatly in his masterpiece (nearly forgotten by the critical mainstream), The Bow and the Lyre. In thinking of the perception of the unique as it relates to aesthetic arrest, there is on the one hand generic archetypal phenomenology. On the other, a specific exploratory drive towards new discoveries of the aesthetic, throughout the arc of modernism -- though which we see advance and agonistic overthrow (of previous concepts, schools, forms). Today we can leisurely appreciate these various “schools” of art which enrich our “emotional-intellectual” landscape. Yet, what of our own time?

When I read

Quote
the galactic aquarium shatters
our arms ending in starfish

Quote
a case of bird skulls
my ears torn by such
little scissors

and

Quote
sunlight through
the thin white blouse she
holds up folds and puts away

Quote
(Peter Yovu, Sunrise, (RMP 2010) qtd. in New Zealand Poetry Society / Te Hunga Tito Ruri o Aotearoa, book review by Sandra Simpson, http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/node/553; link to Yovu reading from Sunrise (THF Readings, 2012): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znJ05U0ngps.)

I’m reminded of Perloff's insistence that the original project of modernism remains incomplete, and is commandingly relevant to our new century. We advance and return, holding mirrors up to our world in its shattering brilliance. These as-if galactic oceans -- as arms at the limit; as "starfish" born; is it this moment fiction becomes reality: these oceans we now fish in according to sailors and whales it's one vast ocean girdling our planet, currently being "torn by such little scissors" as "a case of bird skulls" seems arch enough, according to what I 'ear. “There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure, but security enough to make fellowships accursed.”1

Quote
When I find people ridiculing the new arts, or making fun of the clumsy odd terms that we use in trying to talk of them amongst ourselves; when they laugh at our talking about the “ice-block quality” in Picasso, I think it is only because they do not know what thought is like, and they are familiar only with argument and gibe and opinion. That is to say, they can only enjoy what they have been brought up to consider enjoyable, or what some essayist has talked about in mellifluous phrases. They think only "the shells of thought" . . . (Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916 [my emphasis]).

sunlight through
the thin white blouse she
holds up and puts away

is for our time a relevant response to what thought is like, for haiku. If the search to articulate the aesthetic is a mountain climb, aesthetic arrest allows for the story.


1. Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure" (3:2, 102).

Ezra Pound, age 27, 1913 (wikipedia)



« Last Edit: February 16, 2014, 11:05:09 PM by Richard Gilbert »

Field Notes

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #33 on: February 16, 2014, 07:44:32 AM »
Max Verhart

in January last I read in Brussels (Belgium) a paper with the title 'Haiku on the Fringe of Dutch Literature'. The last paragraph read thus:
     "(...) the title of this paper sums it up quite adequately: haiku is at best a tiny spot on the fringe of Dutch literature. But should we be sorry? No - because our goal should not be to give haiku a higher literary status. That status, if it ever happens, can be no more than a side product of what our real goal should be: to write tomorrow better haiku than we did today. To be more critical of the haiku we publish tomorrow then we were of the ones we published yesterday. That's the best we can do. Or stop writing haiku."

Kala Ramesh

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #34 on: February 16, 2014, 10:37:25 PM »
It was lovely to read this thread.
I would like to add my two paise of thought as seen from an Indian angle - which is what I'm most familiar with.

I connect up to ‘criticism’ through Indian music, for I have been a student of Indian classical since I was six years old. And I’ve heard my mother tell my sisters [who were Bharatanatyam dancers] that they need to stand before the mirror and practice their abhinaya – facial expression along with the whole body moving— thereby promoting that critical awareness about one’s own work. I feel this is the most important tool when stepping into any art form.

The first time I came across 'a book criticism’ was when I read the massive introduction written by  Vamanrao Deshpande, an eminent musicologist of his generation for the noted classical singer, Pandit Kumar Gandharva’s book, “Anoop Raga Vilas”(1965), and the ‘criticism’ on this introduction written by noted Marathi writer and educationalist Sharadchandra Chirmulay.

What is criticism? I think, it’s all about bringing a thought into focus, so that readers are brought to notice things which they could have missed otherwise.

Please note: The Sanskrit term for aesthetic emotion is Rasa
A rasika is one who can enjoy the rasa [aesthetic emotion] brought about in any created work. There are treatises that deal with the rasa theory and how this interaction between the artist [one who brings out the rasa] and the listener [a rasika who enjoys the rasa] happens. I think this is the seed for the growth of ‘critical appreciation’

But here I would like to talk about individual criticism or the art of ‘Critical appreciation’ as I would like to call it. I do teach haiku, which is a 60 hour course, to under-graduate students at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune and one of their assignments is *critical appreciation* [as seen from my Indian roots], where they are encouraged to take any haiku poem they like, ranging from the Japanese Masters to the contemporary haiku poets and write a critical appreciation note on it. They came up with astounding and in-depth analysis.

After this and many such discussions on haiku I tell them to write their haiku. Quoting my favourite quote of the month, make it quote of the year: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” – Ernest Hemingway.


Don Baird

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #35 on: February 17, 2014, 01:42:20 PM »
A Thought:

Subjective cannot solve the puzzles of the objective; and the objective cannot solve the puzzles of the subjective - in a likely sense, objective (in the human realm) doesn’t exist - it cannot as long as the human being remains in the realm of imperfection; where is the realm of perfection?  Is a critique meaningless, in particular, imperfect - as meaningless as opinion?  Naturally, if one gives an opinion power by submitting to it, then reality (for that individual) shifts quickly (as fickle as it is) and another set of circumstances occur to ponder - yet, none dealing with “truth,” per se..  Human perception is like a spaghetti sauce; it is an approximation at best - no two are the same even if the recipe is.

Scratching the Surface: 

Critiquing (criticism) is a skewed skill that is incapable of rising above the subjective.  There is no critique of any work that can possibly be an authoritative (cosmically accurate) voice that is lastingly meaningful (factual)..  Opinion will never rise above itself.  It will never be complete and it will never be accurate.  Human perception and bias will remain obstacles to depth-critiquing or for that matter, worthy, memorable opinion.  (I remember Beethoven; do you remember his critic?)  The human character, in its own arrogance, remains oblique - minimally, wonky.  And, critiquing is the “frontal lobe gone awry.”  Neither will ever rise above their flawed existence because they simply cannot.

Digging Deeper: 

Claiming "this or that" is excellent is frivolous with the exception of amusement.  A critic and ensuing opinion seems to be nothing at all inherently; it is the recipient, surrendering power, that gives the critique salt.  In a very real way, excellence doesn’t exist - only opinions do; and opinions may or may not have value.  Once again, that depends on who is receiving the notion (opinion) and whether or not they buy into it with psychological money. 

A Story:

I’ve mentioned, over the years, numerous times - the story of Beethoven and “his” critic.  Beethoven composed his first symphony.  He gathered an orchestra for its premiere performance.  A particular critic was there - one who writes for the local news (so to speak).  The critic hated the music and dissed Beethoven’s efforts with the shrill of a cicada.  He talked about the opening; he discussed thematic material, approach, development and the rest.  Years later, Beethoven introduced his 5th symphony.  The same critic was still working his harmonica of opinions saying (approximately) that the symphony motifs are repetitious and boring, continuing on and on, how there was nothing worthy presented in this new symphony. His closing query was, “why is it that Beethoven cannot write something so profound as his first symphony?”  The critic had forgotten his scribblings years back about Beethoven’s 1st symphony and now openly celebrated it as a masterpiece - overlooking the petite fact that he said he hated the first symphony and was appalled.   At least, the critic has left us with a humorous story regarding the painful approximation of reality and perception and the human’s ego thinking it has something important to say.

Almost a Summary: 

At best, it seems that the things of life - all things - are illusionary on their best cosmic day.  Is it that we, the humble servants of the All, can somehow tune into “this is judged to be great or miserable” and the opinion is miraculously true?  Is there truth regarding the quality of poetry?  Is there truth that this art is “good or lousy?”  Throw paint from a ladder to a canvas; throw words into a poem; throw notes onto a page: is there an inherent, definable “this is good, this is bad”, “‘this is excellent, this is not?”  Jackson Pollack found himself the first American artist with an authentic international appeal.  Was his art “excellent or not?”  Did his tossing paint onto a canvas mean anything other than he could do it with passion?  Was Debussy not Mozart?  Was Schoenberg not Beethoven?  Were any of them excellent?  Does it matter?  And if so, which critic, which critique is correct - the yea or nay of artistic efforts?  Is it, at the finish line, that critiques will remain in the bondage of human imperfection and will never rise above it . . . as it cannot.

Final Thought: 

The question is being offered, “what makes a poem excellent?”  And I’m saying, who is to claim it is excellent or not?
« Last Edit: February 17, 2014, 06:29:43 PM by Don Baird »
I write haiku because they're there ...

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eluckring

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2014, 02:15:16 AM »
Kala,
thank you very much for introducing me to the concept of rasa/rasika.

and I also really appreciate that quote from Pound that Richard has offered:

Quote
When I find people ridiculing the new arts, or making fun of the clumsy odd terms that we use in trying to talk of them amongst ourselves; when they laugh at our talking about the “ice-block quality” in Picasso, I think it is only because they do not know what thought is like, and they are familiar only with argument and gibe and opinion. That is to say, they can only enjoy what they have been brought up to consider enjoyable, or what some essayist has talked about in mellifluous phrases. They think only "the shells of thought" . . . (Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916 [my emphasis]).

All of this makes me think that perhaps, it is time for Judge Grenier to make an entrance:

http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf

It fascinated me that Grenier was removed from the latest
edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology,
presumably to make room for some new additions, or...

We celebrated here in Los Angeles by doing a reading of all the poets
that were removed from this latest edition--47 in all-- including
Charles Bukowski, Amy Gerstler, David Antin, Diane Wakoski,
and Jerome Rothenberg.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 09:36:15 AM by eluckring »

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #37 on: February 22, 2014, 05:05:05 AM »
What, me worry? a comment on criticism

I'd like to comment on what Eve wrote (below quoted). Also, thank you Kala for adding to the conversation on aesthetic arrest -- you bring up the topic of self-critique also -- I recall that Denise Levertov advised (perhaps in The Poet in the World, 1973) for the poet the development of a "second reader" an internal as-if reader, as if autonomous and independent of the "1st author" -- who "reads" your work objectively, so to speak, as a critical move. (I think of this as a life-work -- it's a familiar concept in the arts, no doubt.)

Re-reading Grenier's Scorpion Prize essay, I keenly feel the hole left by the Roadrunner Haiku Journal hiatus. Scott and Paul succeeded in soliciting notable literary figures outside of haiku to select and judge Roadrunner issues, brilliant! One witnesses the genre, reflected through their own biases, as well. Quite educational. Grenier's humor is refreshing, in part because his playful pose at ignorance sparkles with gleaming insights, like Disney elves.

Something Eve discusses is the omission of Grenier and others in the "latest edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology" (2nd ed., 2013). I have the 1st ed. on my shelves, and was surprised to read this. The following is a "Riposte" essay, addressing the matter. It's wide-ranging:

"Ripostes"
Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, by Paul Hoover, ed.
Review by Michael Robbins (July 2013): http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/246092

This essay ably demonstrates not only excellent criticism, but also some of the reasons why criticism is vital in arts culture. Within are longstanding issues in contemporary criticism: canonicity, institutions (& -alities), academia, in-groups, posturing, poetry versus ideology. The critical voice and the scope of criticism determines, over an era (in 15-20 year chunks, lately), how we will learn as students, how textbooks will be created, whom will be included, whom and what left out. "Value" is ascribed, achievements are are lauded, and as seen in Robbins, critics along with poets are taken to task for their foibles, misfeasance, lack of talent or "taste." I believe this would include Paul Miller's first definition of "criticism," of the two he quoted earlier -- so let's not be too shy:

Quote
1) indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way
 2) form and express a sophisticated judgment of (a literary or artistic work)

Several posters in FN have commented that critics are problematic, doubtful in value, or even unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth, as a blanket statement. Consider the situational role and importance (anthologized, widely discussed, socially networked) of Helen Vendler's notable 2004 Jefferson Lecture at the National Endowment for the Arts, "The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar." A paragraph in her lecture reads:

Quote
If the arts are so satisfactory an embodiment of human experience, why do we need studies commenting on them? Why not merely take our young people to museums, to concerts, to libraries? There is certainly no substitute for hearing Mozart, reading Dickinson, or looking at the boxes of Joseph Cornell. Why should we support a brokering of the arts; why not rely on their direct impact? The simplest answer is that reminders of art's presence are constantly necessary. As art goes in and out of fashion, some scholar is always necessarily reviving Melville, or editing Monteverdi, or recommending Jane Austen. Critics and scholars are evangelists, plucking the public by the sleeve, saying "Look at this," or "Listen to this," or "See how this works." It may seem hard to believe, but there was a time when almost no one valued Gothic art, or, to come closer to our own time, Moby-Dick and Billy Budd.

A more recent example of the critic's role in preserving cultural memory (and relevant to haiku studies) might be Marjorie Perloff's short article, "Take Five" (April 2013), published on "the centennial of 1913, that annus mirabilis for avant-garde poetry." I'm also reminded of Hugh Kenner. From his obit (2003) written by close friend William F. Buckley:

"[Kenner] was among the finest writers of critical prose in America. He was one of the few commentators whose books and articles cause delight and stand as literary achievements in their own right..."(National Review, 4 April 2008; print pub., December 2003)

From The New York Times: "Hugh Kenner, the critic, author and professor of literature regarded as America's foremost commentator on literary modernism . . . [was best known] for his pioneering guide to English-language literary modernism and for his books "Dublin's Joyce" (1956), "The Pound Era" (1971) and "Joyce's Voices" (1978) ... In these works and others he employed the techniques proposed by the writers themselves to define new standards by which to judge their work. . . . Over time his prose style grew increasingly graceful, witty and accessible, prompting C. K. Stead, writing in The Times Literary Supplement, to call him "the most readable of living critics." (25 November 2003)

From The Guardian: "[Kenner] produced some of the most perceptive accounts of literary modernism ... Kenner adapted his critical style to suit the particular author under scrutiny, following Dr Johnson's observation that literary criticism must be regarded as part of literature or be abandoned altogether. His work avoids academic jargon, and draws on a massive range of influences, seeing connections and parallels in unlikely places. In a Los Angeles Times review, Richard Eder said of Kenner's proactive approach that "he jumps in, armed and thrashing. He crashes [literature], like a partygoer... You could not say whether his talking or listening is done with greater intensity." (28 November 2003)

Sound exciting? It is! Great criticism is an art, is "regarded as part of literature." Good criticism (like good philosophy, good love, the best learning or craft practice) can transform a life. Open you up, enlighten, inspire, ignite a passion for passionate understanding. Good critics (speaking here of rasa, as Kala states it) are not irrevocably to be placed a class separate from poets (Bashō himself made his fame as a critic, with Kai Ōi [The Seashell Game], "a judging of the Left and the Right," at the age of 29, if it matters). Though (as with any art form) there seem few in a given era who demonstrate a sustained level of excellence. Fewer yet who vibe with you (as with poets, eh?) -- the patient difficulty is in finding them.

Vendler mentions Melville's Billy Budd; the manuscript was discovered in the 1920s by Raymond Weaver, a professor at Columbia, of whom Allen Ginsberg, his student in the 1940s, said "was the only professor who had integrity" (American Scream, Jonah Raskin, p.xiii). In the 1980s-90s, Ginsberg, in multiple roles as world-traveling poet, scholar-professor, and critic, taught Melville -- which is to say, taught in the lineage of Weaver (cf. Expansive Poetics 11 -- Herman Melville and Mind, Mouth and Page 1 -- Williams). Poet/professor/critics are numerous; in North America, two recent luminaries would be Anne Carson (b. 1950; professor at McGill, Princeton; MacArthur Fellow, etc.) and A.R. Ammons (b. 1926-2001; a Cornell professor for 34 years).

Unless one has that experience of aesthetic arrest in reading a critic, has that experience of dwelling, contemplating, thinking new thoughts, deepening -- does the critic remain relatively superficial, a statuesque icon on an elitist stage? Some snobby book or movie reviewer let's say -- condescending or smarmy. Yet if one does delve into the near-canonical likes of Barthes, Benjamin, Kenner, Paz, Perloff, Vendler (some of the names mentioned in this thread), might something wondrous await in the form of illumination, fire, real heart? As Kenner puts it:

"'The life of the mind in any age coheres thanks to shared assumptions both explicit and tacit, between which lines of casualty may not be profitably traceable. . . .The life of the mind in any age -- there are common themes, and they have different languages." (interview by Harvey Blume, Bookwire, March 2001)

Common themes -- different languages. Let's stretch a bit. To be or not become, more well-informed. It's irrelevant to me whether "learned" exists as a final goal or backstop -- what matters is the learner, and the learning. And if we are to live in a post-apocalyptic world, possibly (according to current entertainment media) populated with vampires and zombies -- said to be impossible but they may find a way -- that I might huddle in some tallow-lit hut, and talk about The Kenner and his marvelous ways, perhaps read from this page 259 scrap of his; you know, the pages that are left.

Kala,
thank you very much for introducing me to the concept of rasa/rasika.

and I also really appreciate that quote from Pound that Richard has offered:

Quote
When I find people ridiculing the new arts, or making fun of the clumsy odd terms that we use in trying to talk of them amongst ourselves; when they laugh at our talking about the “ice-block quality” in Picasso, I think it is only because they do not know what thought is like, and they are familiar only with argument and gibe and opinion. That is to say, they can only enjoy what they have been brought up to consider enjoyable, or what some essayist has talked about in mellifluous phrases. They think only "the shells of thought" . . . (Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916 [my emphasis]).

All of this makes me think that perhaps, it is time for Judge Grenier to make an entrance:

http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf

It fascinated me that Grenier was removed from the latest
edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology,
presumably to make room for some new additions, or...

We celebrated here in Los Angeles by doing a reading of all the poets
that were removed from this latest edition--47 in all-- including
Charles Bukowski, Amy Gerstler, David Antin, Diane Wakoski,
and Jerome Rothenberg.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 11:12:17 AM by Richard Gilbert »

Chris Patchel

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #38 on: February 23, 2014, 02:11:28 PM »
I have split thoughts (as usual) about the topic of haiku criticism. I often want more from it, and conversely find some of it a stretch (which comes off like overcompensation for a haiku inferiority complex). But reading the latest book reviews in the winter issues of Frogpond and Modern Haiku confirms another general impression. Though the haiku world sometimes feels small and self-contained we’re fortunate to have a good many excellent poets who can wear a critics hat equally well, making conscientious assessments and providing insightful windows into haiku collections. There are exceptions on occasion—mismatched poets & reviewers, uncritical praise (love the Hemingway quote above), and reviews that miss completely. But even those are often corrected or balanced by other reviews.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 10:30:05 PM by Chris Patchel »

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #39 on: February 23, 2014, 06:57:24 PM »
I'm reminded of the "seminal" (Seminole) essay by Hillman 'Disappearance of the Word, Appearance of the World,' ( which claims there was no definition of the sentence per se until...) and of the many (17?) books of non-grammatical poems of Bruce Andrews: both of which and all of which were presumably written in the name of the proletariat or for the freeing of the purblind proletariat with its resignation to the misunderstanding of its language ( a man/woman who speaks a language knows that language).  There was no other occasion for this work and I have to admit that I was in graduate school around the time these guys were writing and studying neo-Marxist criticism and frankly no one ever mentioned any of their names (although this might have been an oversight).
All very fascinating and impressive to be sure.
But a 5' tall basketball player cannot dunk; a 7' player can.
One nail can join a number of pieces of wood (whatever) depending on how thick.
A box of nails or boxes can built a house.
All of the remarks are outstanding, but why do you seem to imply that they relate to haiku as opposed to poetry and if haiku needs a criticism, which it surely does, why doesn't that come from the poems rather than be imposed upon the poems?
Can you place any of the haiku written in historical perspective or is haiku out of this world?  I don't mean a history of the changes or accretions added to the form. I mean is there a historical dimension, a social dimension to haiku or is it outside of time?
Views was written with Shirane in mind, who claimed that until ELH had developed a depth significant enough to warrant a criticism it couldn't be taken seriously. Rather than doing individual readings of poets, or the opus of a poet, Views actually locates the socio-historical-psychological depths of the haiku extant. That was its contribution and unfortunately only Johannes Berg saw fit to review it.  It was promised a review in one of the other "illustrious" haiku journals, with a 9 month wait (to give it the time it so richly deserved), but alas it was the editor's fault, I was told, that kept it from ever being reviewed there.  Seems to me I am not being pevish.  Seems to me that a person's art and their character are one and the same. Without a real character, what can we expect expect excellence in artifice.
In one of the last issues of Rr, the Scorpion Prize was awarded by Craig Dworkin, who, for my money, is America's best living critic. He found all the neo stuff to be cryptic minimalism (which doesn't bother me, since this is how I take it) and awarded the prize to a haiku (please refer to his comments; I'm simply to lazy to quote).
« Last Edit: February 23, 2014, 07:09:34 PM by JGalmitz »

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #40 on: February 23, 2014, 08:35:05 PM »
As an aside: I thought of all the Daoists Zhuangzi was the relativist, believing that a human being being limited and knowledge being limitless, a human being could never hope to approach transcendence.
One last word, before the posse comes: The moderator of this site, one of the few who actually listened to my 2 hr diatribe about haiku, pointed out to me that while most people who used cameras took snapshots that did not disqualify those who practiced art with a camera.
I did not reply. What he had said was evident. And, I did not want to say that unlike photography, haiku had not produced anywhere near the number of masters of art as photography had, as this would have been an unhappy state or condition for both of us.
If only one, and the one most suited in my opinion, to step outside of haiku and find a publisher and establish the art as equivalent to any other poetry would have been John Martone (as he is a poet writing haiku, not a haiku poet), then and only then would others have been added in time, based on the standard he had set and things would have been different now.
So endeth my piece and I expect so sharpen the blades of those who believe in cutting. As I find ambiguity to be the one and most significant cut available in the English language, the one means by which to stop thought in its tracks, and as those who believe in Orientalism, regardless of the fact that the Chinese (I believe Zhuangzi was Chinese) have only, and in small degree, acknowledged some excellence in the work of Basho.  It was not merely their hatred of the Japanese that kept them from this bestowal of approval- after all scholars are scholars- but perhaps it is because compared to the greatest of Chinese philosophers and poets the Japanese forms were renditions in the first instance and all qualified poets studied and wrote in the Chinese style and language first, before beginning their own practice.

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #41 on: February 24, 2014, 07:08:54 AM »
I hope this last post of mine is not the kiss of death.
I say this, not as wish-fulfillment-but as my experience has been that whenever I say something it ends up being the end of the long line of thoughts that preceded it.
I hope that is not the case.

Gary Hotham

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #42 on: February 24, 2014, 10:34:26 AM »
24 February 2014

1/ re Galmitz last post: "I say this, not as wish-fulfillment-but as my experience has been that whenever I say something it ends up being the end of the long line of thoughts that preceded it."

OK. I'll let Galmiz not be the last for now.  Unless he posts again.  And then maybe someone else can save him from the end.

2/ re Galmitz: "Views was written with Shirane in mind, who claimed that until ELH had developed a depth significant enough to warrant a criticism it couldn't be taken seriously."

It does put the critic in the role of a god who has the last word.  Not that we shouldn't have them or that criticism is a bad thing but that their ability to discern is not necessarily of the highest standards.  One should always listen to the critic with a grain of salt.

3/ re Galmitz:  "And, I did not want to say that unlike photography, haiku had not produced anywhere near the number of masters of art as photography had, as this would have been an unhappy state or condition for both of us."

But photography has been around much longer than haiku - haiku in English anyway.  So why wouldn't there be more masters of art in photography than haiku.  Otherwise I thought Yovu's comment about   practicing art with the camera that others used for snapshots was a good one to remember about the English language haiku.  The genre can be used to produce much better art than the haiku for a party snapshots one sees.  So don't give up on it.

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #43 on: February 24, 2014, 11:22:02 AM »
Thank you, Gary, for your comments and salvation.
As to photography being around much longer than haiku, it's not quite accurate.
If we recognize Alfred Steiglitz as the man most influential in admitting photography into the modern art world, we can see some of his early "art" photography beginning around 1894.
Pound's Station of the Metro was published in 1913. Not that great a difference in time from 1894.
And, I would say, without proof, that Pound's poem Metro remains and probably will always remain the greatest English language haiku written. 
As to haiku being a religion- something taken up by others and kicked into infinity- I can only say God help us. It seems to come mostly from non-Orientals, that is, those whose religious background comes from the monotheistic religions, because with their statements come a lot of sound and fury and in the East, well, the Dao doesn't care.
Anyway, thanks bro.  I still write haiku occassionally and enjoy doing so.  Why not?

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #44 on: February 24, 2014, 11:34:33 AM »
Just a short note without gloss:
when a poet, writing in whatever form or genre (hey, wait, I thought the idea of genre had been dispensed with decades ago {which would make this whole section obsolete} uses words and images that are so distinct and cannot be used again without recall of the original - BLACK BOUGH -  for instance, you know something is going on there.  I mean what else do we see when we look at trees in rain and snow and and and Black Boughs and u can't use the phrase and you can't find a suitable substitute.
So much like Williams's "glazed with rain water." Such a line will always be at your tongue in your hand at your penpoint and you can't use it it belongs to someone else already.  That's poetry.
And for those with the temerity to have claimed that Williams's first line "so much depends" was dispensible ought to go back to school or else study or read a bit deeper.  The whole fucking poem depends on depends.
Much as "there was a jar in Tennessee" by Wallace Stevens.
Love
Jack