Why bother / cling to uselessness

by Feng

Poetry when it lives takes language back to its roots, makes us consider the oppression that is often embedded in the etymology of the word and its practice upon the tongue; often exacting and difficult, poetry requires an encounter which puts the poet’s intention and ego and persona as much at risk as anything else.

This is precisely why poetry matters; though it may go unnoticed as a whisper in the noise, poetry has the power to speak and be heard at some other level where American conversation seldom reaches. The fear of feeling is how Rukeyser explained America’s reluctance for poetry. But that capacity for feeling, for the word to reach another from another, to feel one’s self flowering open in the presence of a space that allows and accepts feeling and empowers the unnamed experience, is precisely why it is impossible to say poetry is at a dead-end.

My advice for young poets trying to find their way in the current poetry scene is to resist, resist fashion, resist careerism, resist cultivating poetry as if it were a brand; cling to the “uselessness” of poetry, its marginality, its difficulty, its complex joys, because poetry’s use is a human use…” – R. Seiferle from Huffington Post

This little excerpt I bumped into (while scrounging around on the internet for Nicki Minaj videos) comes somewhat close to what I blurrily think is my own purpose as poet. I put a line through the unessential parts, and the bit that is left is the bit that I agree with most.

My poet friends and I have been discussing isolation and impotency a lot this week… Everyone knows that readers of poetry are few in number compared to the audience of other art mediums… but I suspect that readers have always been few… I don’t think it is useful to talk about big words like Art or Purpose or even Human unless there is a lot of defining terms and setting up all kinds of frames, which can make it a nice little evolution or exchange like mixing spit, and that is very exciting to me.  I’m too ignorant and myopic to understand exactly what Poetry is in America or the world these days, or any “days”, and I doubt that anyone knows… Honestly, I don’t care about what anything “as a whole” means.

Time for a digression. C and I were talking about feelings and how overwhelmed she gets sometimes by the full spectrum, positive to negative… I remembered how I worry all the time about not having enough feelings. Now I have come to think that I do not actually feel that distinctly. I’m good at coming up with nuanced descriptions of what I feel when I want to, but I think I am for the most part, a severe Borg of some sort. My default mode is probably anxiousness or quiet receptiveness… and I do get jolts of joy sometimes… and moderate depression… a lot. But take what I just said with a huge ass grain of salt, because there are definitely huge wads of time memory in which I have been crazy infatuated, and I have no way to talk about that kind of mode. When I am just fine, though, I seem to have a very practical outlook which keeps me from getting knocked out by feelings… The thing is that there are few things that are worth caring about. Very few. So few that I am known for my near-infinite calm “reserve” and incredible loopiness that I am slowly working to mold into a more critical floatiness… What does this have to do with poetry? Everything and nothing. I embarrass myself a lot in class when I try to talk about what I’m trying to do with my poems. I say things like “when I think about a feeling, I stop feeling it” or “stripped down” or “it’s about not knowing” or “why is it called a blowjob?” and everyone goes quiet.

I think I am a monster who is insanely interested in silence… and all this gilded stuff is what I eat or explode to get at what is impossible to “get”. Poetry often gets in my way… actually…and (speaking only for myself) I never try to deny the alienating nature of what I do… I cling to the “uselessness” in that I believe in the weird drive of poetry towards the limits of self / knowledge. There are lots of strata and obviously poetry has many different purposes. Where I’m at, poetry has become foremost a delightful torture of language / consciousness. It’s not even about self-awareness… more like… self-bewareness. Bewareness. Bareness.

The current project I am working on right now does not directly seek to “reach out” in any normal sense of the term… I have written poems with the intent of expressing certain feelings (I appreciate lyricism and narrative!), but what I am doing now is, while still feeling, more unlikely to invoke an easy empathetic reaction. The discomfort is deliberate… but I am tired and it is Xmas, so I will elaborate on these thoughts later. Some highlights this year? Yes. Dad bought me Judith Butler books, and the family listened to Kanye West’s new album at dinner instead of crappy Christmas songs… and I got to see Black Swan. Finally, this song…