Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some Feeling for a Form

The formal grounds for how one writes are one thing, the emotional grounds another. To write about concrete formalism using technical, hierarchical terminology – to speak in building blocks – negates the facts and effect of the experience that put those blocks in motion. It would be like constructing the shell of a train, pistons and all, but neglecting to provide a boiler. I have come far enough to say that I write in the block form to work with and against form. That it provides me with a non-enculturated structure with which I can do as I please. But there is more to say, more that means more than speaking of the “influence” of double-acrostics, etc. What means more is what feelings drive the choices or choice seeking as a poet, and to seek the cause of those feelings. Then I will have built something like a functional platform for understanding my own work.

I write in the block form for the same reason any poet writes in the form they write in – it brings me alive. The block form forces decisions for word choice and arrangement. It challenges me. What makes me write poetry is that the effect of a block form poem is the effect I want to see in my poetry. That effect is at the edges of the lines, at the beginnings and ends, in a constant flux between terminal endings and elision. A secondary battle is in use of punctuation versus use of line endings, strophe endings, and word phrasing as punctuation either instead of punctuation marks, or with punctuation marks.

This sounds technical, but the point I want to lead to is how the block form poems are realized at their boundaries, at the edges of the poem. Once I realized this condition of the poems, I realized that I am drawn to work – writing, painting, music – that exists at various boundaries or edges of experience. I myself, through nature or course of habit, tend to live at the edge of my life, on balance, losing balance, recapturing it. Testing those boundaries, again and again.

An attitude, a philosophy, a personality, informs a choice of form. This cannot be news. But it is news to me to make this connection which explains why I developed this form to suit my personality. I had thought I would have more to say on this topic, but I believe I have said all I need to. Certainly, the reader does not need a list of the “edgy” works I am drawn to, nor proof of my own edgy personality. I can point your way to any number of friends who will attest to that! The point of this writing is to explain an idea (the emotional behind the form choice) as it applies to Concrete Formalism. There is more to be said I believe on why authors are so willing to ascribe influence while shy to name motive. I will address that topic another time.

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