"The name of this game isn’t who picks the winner, but rather who picks the judges." So writes Ron Silliman in his most recent defense of poetic diversity.
Ain't it always been so...
Late night associations... Laura Riding and Simone Weil. If I had found either of them in my youth they would have changed my life. Probably not for the better--though in Riding's case, it might have short-circuited a lot of bad poetry. The "Poetry of Quietude" shielded me from her acquaintance.
Life and art--a deep subject for both of these extraordinary women. Weil has been on my horizon for many years (see, Theology of Anorexia), Riding, more recently. Hard pressed to say what it is that draws me to their words, again and again. What makes me think that it would not have been healthy meeting before I'd a better sense of my own limits, my own voice.
Weil is humorless. Riding... less so, though hers is not so much humor, as a kind of dry, ironic wit.
This posture and this manner suit
Not that I have an ease in them
But that I have a horror
And so stand well upright--
Lest, should I sit and, flesh-conversing, eat,
I choke upon a piece of my own tongue-meat.
I read Laura Riding, and look at my earlier poems, and think: this must be what an anorexic sees when gazing in the mirror at her body.
(I've posted three older poems in this blog, and linked another, if you can find them...though the link is more off-stage).
In my youth, I might have been weak enough to follow in their wake. I mean, in my life. A year after graduating from high school, I gave away most of my cloths, dressed exclusively in denim shirts and worker's cotton slacks. My repudiation of the consumer culture... and this, in 1962? You can see how vulnerable I was.
Though perhaps not. The problem is, I can't resist the urge to play... never could be as serious as these two. And yet... Their gravity draws me, not into their orbit--sling-shots me into a direction I would not have taken had I not encountered them.
Riding stopped writing poetry when she was 37. Weil gave herself up to her disease, her holy anorexia, even younger.
Laughter keeps us going longer. The truth, without the deceit of humor... or of art, is deadly.