Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Lecture 2: The Work of Poetry (Revision & Process—Oppen & Spicer)
“I try one word and another word, reverse the sequence, alter the line-endings, a hundred two hundred rewritings, revisions—This is prosody: how to write a poem”—wrote George Oppen.
And Jack Spicer spoke of poetry as “transmission,” as “dictation,” from the outside, from an “invisible world”—the poet was a crystal set or radio receiving transmissions from outer space, or Mars. Specifically, West Mars.
A poet may begin with the idea of a poem, or a feeling; a poet may begin with poetic material, as for example the stuff of a notebook. From whatever beginning, a poet makes poems—the poem is the end or goal of writing poetry. (Or one end: poets may work in terms of larger structures as well, such as the series, sequence, or cycle—and these may span across many years and many books. And the book is another end of poetry, a constellation of poems in a meaningful relationship.)
What happens from the moment the poet thinks he or she is writing a poem and that moment when they feel the poem is “done”? What is the process of poetry? What is a poem in the context of a series, a book, a corpus, and a life? Why is it that Oppen doesn’t have an idea of what he wants to do when he writes a poem? (A poem is not made with ideas, it’s made with words.)