Little Emerson

11 August 2005

Curtis and the Art of Silent Blogging

chagall - I and The Village
I and the Village

Curtis Faville ought to have his own blog. Of course, it’s easier for him to play off of the prolific Silliman. Someone unjustly said Curtis might be compared to the Ed McMahan of Johnny Carson fame, but I frankly don’t see Ron smiling in Johnny’s way, tapping away with a pencil. Certainly, it would seem Curtis does not laugh to the beat of one-liners. Curtis’ latest drop of wisdom—and he is to my mind one of the few people who can intellectually stand-up to Ron in both fact and fiction—concerns Ron’s obsession with community formation as some sort of golden key to success in poetry. (Success meaning, I guess, being read and known and admired by others.)

Curtis writes in response to a comment to Ron’s post of 9 August on the effects and/or significance of poetry contests (including winning and loosing):

I'm the last person with any "cred" but for my money you don't need a "scene" or a "book" to substantiate your work. Anyone who tells you differently...well, they have their agendas. My favorite poets of the 20th Century were mostly loners, if not in fact, then aesthetically, tinkering away in the wilderness. Think of Wallace Stevens. Carlos Williams. Zukofsky. Ronald Johnson. Poetry is NOT a social act, nor an "administrative" one (as Ron puts it).

Be an interesting person, and an interesting writer. Leave the schmoozing and the social-climbing to the carpetbaggers and stock-jockeys. They deserve each other.

Earn your living in the real marketplace of employment, or inherit. It'll make you a better writer in the end.

I’ve always felt naïve about making claims such as Curtis’, though I cannot help but be suspect of movements and schools and social cliques of any sort. There is a certain lack of purity in the movement / school concept where what seems to matter most is the poetry of the group and not poetry itself. Most manifestos, written and unwritten, tend to prove this as they set forth agendas or sets of rules (even rules of thought) that create exclusivity. But they are, of course, great promotional tools for some ways of thinking in poetry. Even general groupings such as LangPo or SoQ promote a sort of collusion between individuals to further specific interests that are often outside of poetry as art. Even simple sentences from people I admire such as “I cannot handle another dog poem or Wordsworth walk poem or rain poem, flower poem, a poem about a painting...” indicate fine prejudices that develop into exclusivity memes adopted by groups. Surprising what a statement from a leader can do for a follower. God forbid angel poems in spite of Rilke.

Though I cannot define in words that poetry of surprise, strangeness and originality that we seek, I wish to think that we can sense it. To paraphrase from Ron’s own The Chinese Notebook you ought not be content from just having others think of you as a poet. Whatever that means, or rather: “What if there were no other writers? What would I write like?”


  • Amen.

    By Blogger gina, at Thu Aug 11, 07:59:00 pm  

  • Curtis often has perspectives worth reading or at least scanning through, and I'm suprised by how often I both agree and violently disagree with him in the same post. In the part you quoted, I agree with him about individualism being important to one's development as a good, original writer, but I disagree with the absolutism of his tone. It just adds to the either/or myth of lone artist vs. schmoozy community artist, which I don't think is so clear cut or even constructive. Plus Curtis often takes on a nasty, rapid-fire combative tone that turns me off personality-wise.

    But your own points about the problem of movements championing their own works and activities to the exclusion of others are well taken.

    By Blogger pam, at Fri Aug 12, 11:17:00 pm  

  • Good to see ya round these parts, Gina. Guess I’m sermonizing again. :-)

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Tue Aug 16, 10:15:00 am  

  • Hi Pam,

    I won’t be defending Curtis anymore than I would defend Ron. They are both making absolutist statements in the context of group formation and they are both being sincere in their opinions. I seriously appreciate that and much of what they have to say. Sometimes, as you do, I must take their views with a grain of salt, but I certainly like how they interplay and meander in their posturing, coming together, crisscrossing. Their opinions are usually strong, not many of which you find hanging from the fence now here now there. That’s welcome and refreshing in the “I agree with you blogging world”. And why not, oftentimes I love not agreeing with either of them.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Tue Aug 16, 10:16:00 am  

  • Yes, Curtis has plenty to say that I find provocative in terms of learning and listening. I've learned a lot by letting my vociferous self back off and just listen to what he has to say.

    Best Wishes,
    chris *the bully* (hee hee, or so i hope...) murray

    By Blogger chris, at Wed Aug 17, 06:52:00 am  

  • It certainly is easier to disagree with Curtis than to fight other battles, real or imagined. As for “bully” I think that’s a cool nickname for you. You’re so harsh and unbearable! :-) Do people actually know you to fear you so?

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Thu Aug 18, 10:31:00 am  

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