Sunday 26 June 2016

The Mind's Motifs

Michael Prior discusses his preference for poetry books that are eclectic rather than conceptual:
I wouldn't exactly say I'm wary about books that begin as conceptual projects (there are so many excellent, conceptually focused or "project"-based books) but in general, I tend to prefer a collection’s eclectic approach, its arbitrary, temporal origins (a poet’s most engaging poems written during a given period). I like to see a mind’s motifs and predilections not only in conversation, but also in heated argument—and in my experience, this seems to happen more surprisingly when a poet hasn’t set out to write a “project,” but rather, when individual poems, written without pretense of future assembly, end up in restless dialogue. Of course, I’m being a little facile: the boundaries between collection and project are undeniably porous: where does one end and the other begin? I very well may have written a book that could be categorized as a project, but while drafting the poems in Model Disciple, I avoided thinking of the book that way because I was worried that a conscious conceptual focus might influence the sort of poems I was writing, or, ultimately, which poems made it into the book: I was afraid that if I were writing toward a set of thematic and theoretical end goals, I would distract myself from saying what I needed to, in the way I needed to.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I've been in contact with an MFA artist in London's Royal College of Art who feels mostly defensive and frustrated because most of his fellow students are so good in defending their work "conceptually" whereas he's working without a plan and intuitively. The academic environment has tended to commodify creation by focussing on its discourse rather than discovery, on cover blurbs rather than content. The affect this generally has on artists and works in all forms of art has been to make neat conceptual frameworkks for their ideas to perculate and to be contained resulting in uninspiring, technically proficient but dull finished works (as if a computer had generated a series of algorhythms to produce the work). This tendency towards marketable "concepts" easily explained like a salespitch in two line summary statement..."this book is about grief and loss as filtered through the eyes of a concentration camp survivor's recalled dreams." Pithy, poignant and saleable but often deadly boring or predicatbly illustrative writing that's rooted in a despised marketing technique that pits demographics to purchasing power with the explicable obfuscations normally reserved for vague discussions on "WHAT IS ART". That insidious and naive approach to art-making may result in initially lucrative returns but in the long run it has nothing to do with art nor poetry which comes from a deeper and need I say it, unlucrative-driven insight, nor the discovery of meaning, nor the intuitive free-wheeling form that any art should be allowed to take before being packaged for consumption..if you buy into that approach then it's your own bloody fault for becoming a product rather than a vision. For good examples of this phenomena, one need only go to a few Atwater poetry readings of some small press publications...listen to the introductions that are often savoured as enlightening and then listen to the work being read. When technique becomes content it's usually a good sign that perhaps you're listening to something churned out.