My Vocabulary Did This to Me

The ground still squirming. The ground still not fixed as I thought it would be in an adult world.

– Jack Spicer

This is what I will do today; I will try to find a way, a path, an opening … into the work of Jack Spicer. It seems like the most important assignment, I’m not yet sure why, but it might have to do with thoughts like these:

Spicer accepted that the poet’s job is to write not what he thinks he wants to write but what the poem insists that he write, which might turn out to be precisely what the poet didn’t want to write. It was a process that required “trying to distinguish between you and the poem.” His faithfulness to this notion led him to include the lines that other poets leave out, the stammers and interruptions, the irretrievable false starts (“I dreamed last night— / This is false in any poem”), the embarrassing cackles and groans from the sidelines. The odd effect of this was to make his work seem more and more like a form of realism, a voyage among real mental events. This was not to be confused with automatic writing.

– G. O’Brien

This is where I will start:

Richard Long: WALKING A LINE IN PERU (1972)

Why I also chose to present Richard Long on this page? Well, I suppose its just another result of total unpredictable and incomprehensible randomness  …

3 Comments Add yours

  1. birds fly says:

    This is interesting. Given Spicer’s philosophy on poetry, I wonder how much revision he did. Have you come across anything about that? Some writers and poets affect a “spontaneous” style when in reality they are diligently editing and revising in the background before the poem/story/essay is ever published. Bukowski is a classic case of this misconception, I think. The difference is that Bukowski, to my knowledge, did not discuss his craft in the way that Spicer did, so any misconceptions about how he worked resulted from readers’ interpretations of his public persona. In Spicer’s case, if he did think, as O’Brien says, “that the poet’s job is to write not what he thinks he wants to write but what the poem insists that he write” then careful revision would contradict this philosophy. A first draft of a poem is clearly the most “pure” draft when considered in this light, for any subsequent drafts often involve a reshaping and manipulation of the text to better reflect what the poet wants to say. Including “the stammers and interruptions, the irretrievable false starts” implies that Spicer did not revise much, if at all. I would hope this is the case (I do really like his philosophy), and not that he purposefully interjected these lines as mere stylistic flourishes.

    1. Sigrun says:

      I am yet to know, but will hopefully learn – will be posting more in the next couple of days.

  2. The idea that the poem insists it be written–in its own way, not in the poet’s original conception of it–has been observed by other poets, too. It’s not that unrelated to Faulkner’s “kill your darlings.” Furthermore, this injunction implies that there IS revision. I learned many things from master poets whom I studied with, and this is one thing I learned: if the poem is better once you’ve revised your initial idea out of it, then the poem is better. Period.

    If you still want to say what you tried but couldn’t say, compose another poem!

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