Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tending to Concrete Formalism - Revisiting Premise

Some visiting of definitions or set-up. Premise.

This is not a blog of form or formalism per se. It is supported by a notion or two arriving through an understanding of forms manifested in concrete, or visually cued terms. Not all forms manifest an outward visual sign or cue, but some do. Quite a few, and it seems to me that, my work aside, there is a lot of work being done that carries significant interest in form as realized in or signifying the visual.

Against this composite is work that offers itself as one-of-a-kind, or singular. Either realized and posited as unique, or random and non-reproducible. On the other hand, I admit to being formally inclined as a poet, painter, and as a person. I like to see an artist sit in a form and see what they do with it. I have been heavily impressed by such as the sonnet form (Shakespeare and Petrarch) and the odes of Horace and Keats; the paintings (or are they writings...) of Pollack. But even Corot revisiting his mist-bound woods, or Scalapino touching again and again with deictic terms.... So I found double acrostics then moved to the block form. I am there still, occasionally drawing, occasionally splitting my lines out.

I like the formal then what is not formal for the sake of why we employ form, or what it says about us. I like - I appreciate - an artist who is willing to face the camera. "This is an ode." Let the experience, the comparisons,  the doubts and/or deliverance commence.

I have never thought to try to be comprehensive, or strictly unique, or indispensable. It doesn't concern musicians - I'm thinking of George Coleman now - who may render their most beautiful music on some given night, lost all but to the impressions it created. Why should it concern me, if I am true to the effort?

So, form insofar as recognition forms a part; concrete inasmuch as there is the coloring of series. That series must end, humility. I love the epic poem, of course (one on block verse even better) - for the human effort to realize over time and suspend the inevitable, the end. But, to pick up the instrument again - pen, computer, brush. This is what I hope concrete formalism implies in effect if not immediately to the reader's mind.

So, what's new? What's been happening with me?

Well, it's not like I make myself write or paint or draw, one way or another. Work occurs in the usual way. I certainly dwell or inhabit the block form, perhaps because I feel ownership, or a mission in it. Getting the block form to function as I wanted it to as, as poems, took a couple years. That was an honorable apprenticeship following years of working in other forms and free verse. I hope I have shown range in the block form. I would love to believe that my work in the form exhibits more range than any other's work in the form. I say that to be honest and to make a point about form - concrete and otherwise. Though, the reasoning, the justification, should be self-evident. No one asks of a tree its reason to be. So a poem, a drawing, lines, color, shape. A gesture, a kind word. If received, is complete.

My comprehension in this manner has informed an evolving approach to publication. A few years ago I decided to publish my work myself via The books, and there are now 23 of them, have always carried a drawing on the cover but have since dropped such conventions as the table of contents and poem titles. Again, one need not know the species of a tree to recognize a particular tree's existence. So, I am in control, which is the least of my concerns. It is only just, given my reach in the professional sphere, which is ostensibly naught, except for the kind attentions of close friends.

What do I gain in publishing the way I do? Every book is a strictly private endeavor. It can be public (it is certainly informed by what is public) but on a case-by-case basis. Before adopting this practice, this strategy, I spent years seeking publication in the usual way. I assume you know what I mean. Then, in 2008, with eight (or was it twelve?) realized manuscripts in hand, I simply stopped writing as I could not support continuing to write with so much unpublished work. I did get back into cycling in a big way, I must say! But the frustration was, in fact, insupportable. I bought a laptop. I discovered I set up this blog and a parallel Facebook group.

I may never be known or famous. But my work is...out there. Somewhere. Here or there. If only under an ISBN number. For the fact of whoever reads what I have done, here or in books, I have done my work, in a newish manner perhaps, but in a very traditional sense, after all. One that anyone should recognize and accept. I won't say admire. I have no perspective on what's memorable in anything I do, or in who I am, except as my friends and family are happy.

In that, I am happy.

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