Saturday, March 28, 2009

Williams: edited on Sunday

Once again considering the latest from Ron's fabulous blog:

This time it is a passage from Williams, whose Spring and All I haven't read:

(W)e are beginning to discover the truth that in great works of the imagination A CREATIVE FORCE IS SHOWN AT WORK MAKING OBJECTS WHICH ALONE COMPLETE SCIENCE AND ALLOW INTELLIGENCE TO SURVIVE


When in the condition of imaginative suspense only will the writing have reality . . . – Not to attempt, at that time, to set values upon the word being used, according to presupposed measures, but to write down that which happens at that time –

thoughts of Ferlinghetti here - poet as tightrope walker, although really this sounds very journalistic

To perfect the ability to record at the moment when the consciousness is enlarged by the sympathies and the unity of understanding which the imagination gives, to practice skill in recording the force moving, then to know it, in the largeness of its proportions –

It is the presence of a

This is not “fit” but a unification of experience

That is, the imagination is an actual force comparable to electricity or steam, it is not a plaything but a power that has been used from the first to raise the understanding of – it is not necessary to resort to mysticism – In fact it is this which has kept back the knowledge I seek –

yes. I usually think of mysticism as a possible, one of many, starting points, but too often its made into a finishing line, end in itself

The value of the imagination to the writer consists in its ability to make words. Its unique power is to give created forms reality, actual existence

This separates

Writing is not a searching about in the daily experience for apt similes and pretty thoughts and images. I have experienced that to my sorrow. It is not a conscious recording of the day’s experiences “freshly and with the appearance of reality” – This thing is seriously to the development of any ability in a man, it fastens him down, makes him a – It destroys, makes nature an accessory to the particular theory he is following, it blinds him to his world, –

diary entries may actually prevent writing then? They may prevent good or interesting writing. I'm thinking of hyper-realistic indie films - Kevin Smith comes to mind. Then here is what actually happened, then here, then here..commodity-fetishism makes more sense in this light - nature as accessory to theory, the theory being - these stories are Real and we need Real because we need to punk the liars. Well, sometimes you do, although personally I don't see how Kevin Smith films served anybody but the people who starred in them. Except Chasing Amy -that was clever! But if Williams really thinks this is true how is it then science can be "completed" through works of the imagination, when in science you need a conscious recording of the day's experiences


The writer of imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a world which he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he.

A word detached from the necessity of recording it, sufficient to itself, removed from him (as it most certainly is) with which he has bitter and delicious relations and from which he is independentmoving at will from one thing to anotheras he pleases, unbound

and the unique proof of this is the work of the imagination not “like” anything but transfused with the same forces which transfuse the earthat least one small part of them.

Nature is the hint to composition not because it is familiar to us and therefore the terms we apply to it have a least common denominator quality which gives them currencybut because it possesses the quality of independent existence, of reality which we feel in ourselves. It is not opposed to art but apposed to it.

I suppose Shakespeare’s familiar aphorism about holding the mirror up to nature has done more harm in stabilizing the copyist tendency of the arts among us than

the mistake in it (though we forget that it is not S. speaking but an imaginative character of his) is to have believed that the reflection of nature is nature. It is not. It is only a sham nature, a “lie.”

Of course S. is the most conspicuous example desirable of the falseness of this very thing.

He holds no mirror up to nature but with his imagination rivals nature’s composition with his own.

He himself becomes “nature” – continuing “its” marvels – if you will

this last part on Shakespeare is very interesting because it really walks into the discussion about art-as-commodity, toward which I think marxist critique can be useful. When the mirror is held up to nature long enough, eventually one sees a beast gazing back, but there is still innocence in something like a still-life painting of fruit, or what-have you. There is a continuum of appropriation of "the natural" then. I think an artist or writer should attempt to be conscious of what they think their reader can be responsible with. Many folks would just prefer to avoid the kind of caretaker/codependent complexities which can emerge from wrestling with this by accepting the "sham" as good enough. I'd rather shop at IKEA, for example, if its convenient, because it just takes too much work to be conscientious of where all these products come from and who's getting paid what to make them. I tend to think nature's quality of existence is not independent from us but interwoven with us. IKEA has begun to understand this also, now working on a more eco-friendly product line.

Recently re-read Philosophy of Furniture by Poe and thinking of the vast difference in associations between feng shui practitioner and interior decorator. The first is very fluffy, new agey and graceful while the second is stiff, flamboyant and/or judgmental. Either way, does my home need a caretaker who can come tell me how to cure my living space of the sickness of bad taste? There is nothing about IKEA's "imagination" that rivals "nature's composition with its own." But that's why people shop there. Since I am not an interior decorator I don't care much what happens in the world of furniture, but if I happen to write a book that goes on a coffee table, do I want it to blend in with the table or stand out? :::::HOW TO SURVIVE INTERNET ACCIDENTS: worst-case scenario, by Doug:::::

Good question. Would they sell Spring and All by Williams at IKEA? Why not? More likely they would sell Shakespeare, because the Bard today is comparatively conservative, even sham-esque, to say, nearly everything coming out of Japan.

I think there's likely an entire fleet of design people who take a similar attitude toward writing - instead of thousands of writers hammering away at their personal idiosyncratic texts, why don't they just take one text that they figure will sell - or has already sold - ten thousand copies and then everyone just pull together and make lots of those?


Some aspects of San Diego theater tend toward family values in this way. I notice the more morally-policed show as a family of four arrives for a total of $50 for the evening. (2 adults at $15 and 2 kids at $10) but if I go to the edgy and groundbreaking theaterful of couples and homosexuals now its just $12-20 per pop, so I already know family-friendly theatre will make me more money. The thing is, on professional level, I have _already_ made this kind of thing.)

I worry about a similar force happening in letters, the IKEA-ization of letters, because really who can say when someone else's writing has "become" nature?

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