Monday, July 11, 2005

The realm of the abstract

Being too abstract is something I'm often accused of in my poetry. My constant goal is to blend the world of the concrete with the abstract- to fill in some of the void of the abstract with the concrete while not completely uncovering it. I admire the abstract, I am fueled by the abstract. I feel that things that exist too much in the concrete world have a tendency to be boring or overstated. And I am VERY averted to being boring. Some would argue, though,that the abstractions in my poems create a similar effect to boredom- instead of being lost in the realm of the tedious, thay are lost in a world quite the opposite- a world of non-reference, a world that exists not in a vaccuum, but OF a vaccuum. A workshop that I took last semester from poet Chicu Reddy called attention to my abstractions quite often. A lot of times, I agreed with the criticism. Often, I did not. I'm OK with people not always being able to "enter" my poems in the traditional sense of entering a poem. In fact, I'm happier that way.

The fabulous poetry workshop that I am part of (all women, thank you!) met at my house last night for talk about babies, pets, and poems. A fellow group member, Katia Zalkind, said something so profound about my poem that it brought tears to my eyes. She had really put her finger on a pulse in my poetry that I had never realized but knew immediately when she said it, that she was dead on. She said "the images are concrete but the relationship is abstract". That is exactly what I was going for i that poem, and many others, to be honest. Often this is exactly the effect I am going for- the images fill in the void of the relationship, as images do (meaning this in the Roland Barthes sense of the image/love relationship) and hopefully by the end of the poem, the reader can feel the sense both of an absence and presence, both a void and a clarity of vision. How often do we wallow in the void of relationships, clinging desperately to the slip of paper he left on your pillow years ago in a far away world? The relationship becomes the paper, yet it is also everything outside of the paper- the emptiest space of death. I am amazed by Katia's insight into my poem, but I shouldn't be. She lost someone very close to her recently, and often this kind of reality can make someone aware in a sense that the rest of the world is not. It's like you have an open wound that wouldn't otherwise be sensitive, but now the nerve-rich flesh is exposed to the world and everything is experienced in a different way. I felt this way when I had my son. The first three months were filled with a strange awareness of my own sphere of reality (a new sphere, mind you) and a brutality that is unparalelled.
I thank Katia for her insight and hope I can continue to create the sense of abstraction to which she called attention. . .though I'm a little nervous now. It's like now you know everyone is watching. . .

3 comments:

Penultimatina said...

Sorry I missed y'all, but I will echo that Katia is an amazing reader and writer. We're so happy that she is joining the editorial staff of RHINO!

dennis said...

I came across this post only today, so I don't know if you will read this or not, but I was reminded of a quote I read at a Frederick Sommer exhibition this weekend. While it may seem pretentious of me, I wanted to pass it along to you -

"Abstraction is a portable structure within the transitiveness of events."

poetzie said...

Wow, Dennis. That's great. I'll file that one away for future use and rhumination! Awesome.