Mary (maryturzillo) wrote,

Theories of style

I've been following Josh Gage's discussion of creating poems (, and I just posted this:

Josh, we talked about the art of writing as either a clear window or a beautiful screen, and your discussion above brings this question to the fore again in my mind.

We are talking about moving words around to create an effect. That's cool. But the effect comes after the words. It's not about something in the dark that the poet can feel and tries desperately to translate into mere words.

What if your aim is starting with the Thing in the Dark and trying to use words the best way you know how to get the Other to understand?

Is poetry about the art of making beautiful patterns with words, or is it the art of using the words to get a feeling or experience or concept from one human being to another? I think these are two different ways of looking at the art of poetry.

I admit I like shuffling words around to see what happens. It's rewarding and often emotionally arousing, both to myself and to a potential reader. But as a writer who at one time was infatuated with confessional poetry, I try to make language a vehicle of what's in my head and limbic system. The subject of the poem exists, at least to some extent, before the poem exists. Nicholson Baker (you know the book) says think of the best thing that happened in your day, and that's your poem.

A love of window-pane, transparent writing sometimes results in very spare language. (E.g.. never use a latinate word if a common English one will do,) But it can also result in very dense writing. The challenge is to make it work on all levels, emotional, intellectual, auditory, etc. Truth before beauty, but beauty whenever the poor poet can achieve it.

I think using Asimov's dictum as a representative statement of this stance last week was maybe a poor choice on my part. Asimov was not a stylist.

So here's another writer's statement of the same stance. This is Jack Kerouac, and I think it's okay to quote, because it's for scholarly purposes:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty "essentials".

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
4. Be in love with your life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

I was going to point out which principles particularly emphasize what I'm driving at, but the truth is, they all do (except maybe for the one about not getting drunk away from home).

Just something to think about.
Tags: josh gage, kerouac, style theory, windowpage vs stained glass
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 1 comment