parts and wholes

finished Burger's Theory of the Avant-Garde last night. I've been pondering the non-organic versus organic (language as artifact). Burger says,

"The organic work intends the impression of wholeness. To the extent its individual elements have significance only as they relate to the whole . . . in the avant-gardiste work, on the other hand, the individual elements have a much higher degree of autonomy and can therefore also be read and interpreted individually or in groups without its being necessary to grasp the work as a whole."


"The organic work of art seeks to make unrecognizable the fact that it has been made. The opposite holds true for the avant-gardiste work; it proclaims itself an artifacial construct, an artifact. To this extent, montage may be considered the fundamental principle of avant-gardiste art."

I can see these practices of the historical avant-garde being played out in contemporary poetry. LIke any attempt to define, there's always holes. But I wonder if Frank O Hara would be considered as part of the move toward artifice in the historical avant-garde? I did this I did that seems to cover up the artifice. Although, a lot of his poems highlight their artifice a lot more. Ah ha. But the more organic work gets anthologized.

Maybe, that's part of the frustration of teaching anthologies. quick nibbles. An emphasis on the organic. A move away from language as constructed, as an artifact.

A lot of my students, despite a lot of information on process, continue to feel the need to create a story of self-expression for every poem. It's very very difficult for them to move beyond the idea of art as natural self-expression. They liked "The Day Lady Died" because they could see it as an expression of Frank O'Hara's feelings.

I think an attempt to connect poetry to the concerns of other art forms might be helpful next semester. Maybe Poems for the Millennium is a good idea for context, ground. Then I can have them read various contemporary collections of poetry.

More coffee . . . waking up at 5:30 am makes all this typing feel dream-like. I'll have to look at this again later to see if it makes any sense.