Sunday, January 25, 2009

Form (Hejinian)

Also while perusing the Language of Inquiry I found the following discussion of form which I think does a better job than I have done explaining my strongly negative reaction to Josh Corey's claim that Ariana and Lara's poems were without form (free, unrestrained). So much discussion of form makes it seem like it restrains the "vitality" or impulse behind art. I think it's the form that generates that vitality.

"The relationship of form, or the "constructive principle" to the materials of the work (to its themes, its conceptual mass, but also to the words themselves) is the initial problem for the "open text" one that faces each writing anew. Can form make the primary chaos (the raw material, the unorganized impulse and information, the uncertainty, incompleteness, vastness) articulate without depriving it of its capacious vitality, its generative power? Can form go even further than that and actually generate that potency, opening uncertainty to curiousity, incompleteness to speculation, and turning vastness into plenitude? In my opinion, the answer is yes; that is, in fact the function of form in art. Form is not a fixture but an activity."


Blogger K. Lorraine Graham said...

Hi Johannes,

I love that quote, especially the final sentence, "Form is not a fixture but an activity."

I agree with you that Ariana and Lara's poems have form. It's difficult to imagine what a poem "without form" would be, since words and bits of words and shapes and sounds are forms.

I like to think of the form/structure of a poem and the content of a poem as being in a kind of dynamic tension or resonance with each other, and the energy of a poem maybe comes from that particular tension.

4:40 PM  
Blogger konrad said...

To me there is something interesting/fishy about the negative characterization of "raw materials" in that quote. It's so un-, in-, empty.

I'm not sure that there is such an origin, where you get the material for your poem shipped in from elsewhere (the unconscious, the street, Spicer's "radio"), and then go on to manufacture some poems and eliminate waste products.

Any stuff we ever get comes with form, because we're all already in a super-formal situation to begin with, from the sun and space, a nice warm planet, the physical environment and the biological makeup of our bodies, to the culture and education we receive or reject.

I much prefer the formulation of "liberating limits" (if not its alliteration). Perhaps this rests on a plumbing analogy: the narrower the pipe the more force the fluid will have that moves through it. It's that increase in force that propels the writing somewhere. I guess that makes language a kind of incompressible fluid that either moves through us in wide deltas, or pools in clear lakes or stagnant ponds, or comes gushing out of a firehose, or trickles along like a ... ahem, .... babbling brook.

12:40 PM  

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