Chimera Song Mosaic
Friday, March 26, 2004
So cool . . . listening to Jordan's blog through The Jim Show. I guess I should rethink my position on the new new thing. It's just that it intimidates and frustrates me. I think to myself, surely I don't need to learn about this because if it's really important, I'll find out about it sooner or later. You don't know how long I resisted CDs (didn't seem like much of an improvement) or the Internet (ditto--and why do I have to capitalize it? Bow down to technology!) This is such a dangerous position to be in, politically, and I'm trying. But I soothe myself with the idea that it's also a position of poetry (naive, uninformed poetry, but poetry nonetheless): abstract, associative, both analytical and ruminative, meditative and synaptic. Or there are other theories: egoism, self-centificiality (oh yes, that's a new one), Shelleyesque optimism (or Pollyannaesque; take your pick). Both critical and unconditional (I hate "interpreting" poetry; I either like it or I don't, although some critical and interpretive views have enabled me to appreciate that which I did not automatically have a taste for). A lumper and a splitter.

So, to mend my ways, I offer this: coming to our community college campus in McAllen, TX, in April--Jim Hightower! So much fun! This is the result of my political scientist officemate, the fabulous Jenny, who is a throw-a-spanner-in-the-works type and general rabble-rouser. To whom I have been obliged to confess my ridiculous lack of knowledge about political goings-on on numerous occasions.

This is the most open I have been in my blog in long time. I reveal myself. I throw myself out there for disapproval. It feels cleansing. I have never in my life (that I recall) felt so keenly a need for approval: I recognize this in my recent blogging binge, my overly wrought letters of recommendation (for students and faculty), my efforts to organize parties and generally chat-up coworkers, my maddening desire to have the entire English department over to my house for a backside of midsemester party, my presenting a series of poems on my blog. All of these are overt efforts to receive some attention! It's really quite sick. What's next? Feeling sorry for myself? Ahh, my third or fourth favorite emotional state, next to jealousy. Speaking of that, this is the first time in months I haven't wanted to be in NYC or San Francisco or Houston--because I would love to be in Chicago! Who knew AWP was so cool. I was in New Orleans a couple of years ago, and I didn't see anyone I knew (but had a riotous good time). But whom would I see? Whom do I know? (This goes back to the attention-seeking behavior).

And speaking of other things I didn't know: The Orchid Thief is a real book! I'm not kidding; I didn't know this, but apparently everyone else did. I think graduate school really did a number on me because I was so sure that this was the smartest screenplay ever written that I gave myself over to Kaufman completely and let my imagination go crazy. I decided that he wrote the book--or parts of the book--just to write the screenplay, and this gave itself over to a number of complexities that I relished and turned over in my head while pausing numerous times, rewinding, replaying, and explaining my theories to my sister, who had her own theories, and we ended up taking a good five hours to watch the film all the way through.

What I thought Kaufman did seemed, to me, the writer?s ultimate act: sacrifice of his or her art (because, you know, he could have written the book and the screenplay, not one or the other; the book didn't have to die for the screenplay to be born). Also, it seemed highly creative, in the way that creating an entire world seems more ?creative? than interpreting something that is already there (but I could be wrong about this too because maybe the only difference between adapting a novel or translating a poem from another language is that you have to share the credit, which chiefly goes to the original creator?so maybe this is more about owning and selling out than I previously thought).

I was also convinced that the twin was actually only an extension of the screenwriter, representing what he knew deep down he should be doing, what all writers should be doing: selling out. (This works in the same way that there wasn't really a psychiatrist--at least, through most of the movie--in The Sixth Sense.) Anyway, like I said, I applauded Kaufman for taking what seemed like a perfectly good idea for a book and gutting it and exploiting it for the purpose of his screenplay (it should be noted that this situation is not without irony, for books, even nonfiction, non-novels, are generally regarded to be a higher form than screenplays (probably chiefly by the old-fashioned types like me who regard it as such chiefly because it is old-fashioned--perhaps folks who actually regard poetry as right up there, if not the highest form (if such things can be compared with any intelligence)--and because it so cleanly fits into the economy and culture of our society, ever shifting power up and up (away from the screenwriters) to the fewer and fewer (up to the executives), and, in effect, selling out).

Another note of subtlety from my primal perspective of Adaptation: presenting a book that appears to actually be a good book as appendage to the plot (o pedestrian narrative!) of a film is akin to presenting a song in a film about a fictitious singer, and the questions tease and strum: is it a good song? is it a real song? if this is a real song, if it were conceived in a moment of real production of real art (by a real artist?), would it have a greater chance of becoming a real real song, a good song? would people sing it? would it be on the radio?

Kind of like looking at (rereading) your own writing for the first time.

This brings me to my conclusion about Adaptation and The Orchid Thief: I liked my assessment of the film better before I knew the "truth." So this one tiny example perhaps proves a theory that has been bouncing around in my head for some time: that (sometimes) creations (ideas, poems, interpretations, stories) are better from the naive mind, the feral mind, the uninformed (and unformed) mind--that perhaps something that gets in the way of creativity is information (facts, dates, statistics, other's opinions, reality). It is often impossible for me to grasp something that I have not probed and processed and questioned myself, sort of like learning things the hard way. I often have (what I think are) sparks of insight, only to find out that other people have known it for years. But what about a spontaneous re-knowing of it, or learning of it? Not to erase history, not to start from scratch in all things, but in some things to delay knowledge in order to foster originality (of course, this whole theory can be refuted by the theory that no one really has an original idea in the first place, that all ideas stem from somewhere, nuggets from overheard conversations, images that process as rhetoric, tunes whistled in a vacuum. But if no one acknowledges the idea's inception, the why the obsession with ownership?).

Why the obsession with authenticity?*

Why the obsession with thoroughness? (And the now commonplace idea: if I never read (future tense) The Orchid Thief, is it a real book? Haven't I already read parts of it by watching and listening to Adaptation? Isn't that enough to say you have "read" the book? Have I read Underworld just because I know one of the sections is labeled "Cocksucker Blues"?)

As a break from too much thinking and a chance to get outside and play, consider this game Marisa and I devised today (and will copyright directly so that no one can claim our original idea): pick two coworkers who are absolute opposites in every way (and maybe even dislike each other) and image them going to a conference (like AWP!) together (they may or may not share a room). You can even pick your own counterpart. It's fun. And if they ever have AWP in Hawaii (like APA, the sellouts, have done), I am so there.

*If you don't believe me, look at this stuff I copied from Kristen's Spam Poetry blog (her project is explained on the site if it's not obvious to you). I think Kristen is pretty cool (her project, at least), but others . . . (I removed the identifying parts of the posts and moved some around, which is a blatant plagiarism hopefully in the spirit of her project and appreciative rather than offensive. Posts are separated by random spaces. Oh, the poem in question from 2/13/04 is pretty cool too):

{begin quotation marks here}

This is totally lame and the idea's
been done to death. The problem
here is that poetry is an exercise
of one's understanding of the language
and creativity ability to use it. You
don't have to have either of those
strengths to do this. You're
simply regurgitating, not CREATING.

Who are you pfft!? Some great poet?

Who are you pfft!? Some great poet?

[. . . and some . . .:]

Hey, great concept. I'm totally jealous I didn't come up with it; i guess my poetry is just the plain old usual kind. Keep it up, this is so interesting!

[ . . . and others again . . .:]

What a load of utter cack!

that other poster's right...poetry
means you actually USE the
tools you claim to understand...
like the English language.

you don't have to understand
ANYTHING by copying and
pasting shit

By copying spam ( words written for you ) you're not 'writing' anything like you claim up there in your site description.
At least be honest about it or don't describe it at all since it's so obvious only some souless hacks could generate such utter nonsense...What is spam? It's words no one wants to read? Much like this um....poetry ( and that word is used incredibly lightly in your case ).

thats not poetry. bush is cool, but not dumb. who do u think got us thru the terrorist war huh?

[ . . . and then it comes: the positive regard, followed by the offer to "sell out":]

Wow, it appears that you have angered more than a few! Congratulations! As the true goal of the poet is to stir the emotions of others, I'd say you are a great success! Besides, look at the crap you have to work with-- why the meer constraints alone are enough to make all but the most daring poet run away, perhaps sticking his pen in his eyes in hopes that he never has to read again... (okay, so I'm picking on you, but it is in fun)

The fact is: I am a fan. Perhaps it's been done before but I've never seen it, and to those who detract from you, I hope they all get a million SPAM E-mails tomorrow. Please come see me at my blog and contact me about an interview at my magazine. -J***, Publisher ***Magazine

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