thoughts as I read the Argotist Bruce Andrews interview
1) Chance is largely talked about in literature because of Dada, and it comes up in the Cage heritage, which comes to us as contemporary writers pretty much with the great example of Mac Low. Whereas intentionality ... the author is trying to nail down the meaning of the work ahead of time. So, chance seems to be referring to a method of composition, while intentionality seems to be referring to predetermination, predestination, closure ... which in the classroom becomes official close reading, where the professor gets up and explains authoritatively what the text means and gestures toward what the author meant to say ...
Yes and no. Chance outside the classroom, close reading inside it. Chance as method, intentionality as madness. Not opposites, so much as complements Andrews wishes to be outside of?
My work is not purely chance based, and I have some work which is more open to techniques like chance than others. See confetti from yesterday. But I think there is something important to mention about chance in a well designed, continually designed project, and that is that chance is about the inevitability of the intent to create, which alone is an intention. Even folks who are not interested in meaning are interested in making. Part of what makes me different from these purists is that then I make some attempt to "tuck in the ends" during the process: to unearth and enhance meaning -- what's there versus what's mine. I AM interested in meaning. I design my projects that way. I wonder if I designed a project to evade all meaning. How would I execute it?
The question as of last night: should I write some poems "after" the confetti? I have written a new poem "after" the XPress rug mat.
2) So in other words the level of openness to the reader has to be the level of reduction of closure of the text. The closed text is the one that is all caught up with author intentionality, in its traditional usage.
There is a traditional usage of intention, closure, reading, meaning, which both Andrews and I think many poets are evading. But even formal poets, who write in very closed forms, constantly have this evasion, particularly when syntax and grammar are altered in favor of form. Is poetry ever all that closed? It is ever all that reader-friendly? When we read very closed works, say detective fiction, aren't we reading for the failures of (traditional lit crit) intentionality? What the author revealed that he didn't mean to reveal?
Thus, I don't think it is fair that pure openness -- pure chance -- if possible, is opaque or not open/friendly to readers; I don't think pure closure, pure intention, if possible, is more user friendly.
3) So I was making the case that there’s intentionality in the way I choose material with an eye toward enlivening and capacitating the reader, but that’s not the same thing as having intentionality ahead of time about what the work means.
So, I guess I'm saying, even the 80s Iowa poem about walking across a cornfield getting ready to get divorced, maybe with a gun for ducks, is a poem about going into the unknown. It is a question. Which poems are answers?
4) your job is to create this edifice, this autotelic text, as if it means by itself and doesn’t require the reader to get on board, and if the reader does have some interest in getting on board then they have to pay tuition to take the class to be told what things actually meant as if the lecturer is ventriloquizing the author
So much venom for the explainers. Anyhoo, he continues,
Mac Low’s work—he would often append elaborate notes to his work, detailing the process by which the works were generated, so that the reader would be brought into the process but not the realm of the significance or the value of what they were actually reading
Working backwards, MacLow did do that, as did Cage. The notes didn't help in any way to understand the work, glean its meaning. Just kind of like, I worked hard at this, even though I didn't bother to generate the text or write the program myself. And some of the work is more meaningful than the rest.
explanation is a great time saver
some authors know more about what they are doing than others -- why, what it means. some authors are better critics -- even or especially of themselves, their influences, sources -- than others.
there is still a great fear (less so now, but perhaps that isn't very justified) of not knowing very much about one's work, poetry in general, etc. when involved with the academy that Andrews comes to later talking about anti-intellectualism
what was the number) conceptualisms
Uh, I was just reading something about Sol LeWitt and conceptual art publishing. Good 'ol Hartford. As you know, I do think of some of my work as largely conceptual, but I think the product is important, and I do think that usually the lion's share of the concept is easily deduced (i.e., logically) from the product. Reader as detective? anyway, but I diverge from the main neo-conceptual writers (esp. as anthologised) in many ways.
And I do think he gets the workshop poem wrong. Not necessarily that it was a big thing in the 70s, but the workshop poem WAS the 80s, and a lot of what's published out of the programs isn't workshop poetry but a sort of new workshop poem which is partially process-based, more open, a response to widespread criticism of the workshop poem.
about paper cutters: more soon