I've been thinking over my thoughts about why writing matters. Publication and ego boosts and smoozing are all part of it. But perhaps, at least for me, not the core.
The large claims of syntactic disruption advocated by some of the language writers (Charles Bernstein in particular) in order to confront and unseam the structural politics that limit freedom is quite convincing. I don't think syntactical disruption is the only way to challenge the structures of oppression, but I do agree that merely advocating a "liberal" politics via "liberal" content no longer works. It's a 60's strategy whose time has come and gone.
Now it's time for tactics rather than strategy. Moving in the enemies (not enemy's) camp. Restructuring how meaning is conveyed from within the very structures themselves. In other words (as all those fancy French theorists point out) there is no outside with which to critique systems of oppression. Certainly the continuation of the romantic system of individual retreat (i.e. this is MY individual authentic experience and MY self-expression) is no longer viable since such a system is firmly entrenched in our commercialized culture.
So, what I am getting at here is freedom. That loaded word that has been reconfigured to mean war. But freedom is not a given to be defended (was it ever?). Freedom is not the ability to express your self (whether high or low culture). What is an expression of the true self? Most mainstream/school of quitude poetry reinforces (via structure if not content what we already believe). It's like Nietzsche's take on mainstream Christianity as nihilism. Freedom is worked out as a continual revolution against systems of oppression. Yet, how can the claims of the language folks be tested? We are not in a better political situation (the 80's are here again as a return to the white washed years of the 50's). If more people read and worked through the various writings of Bernstein, Susan Howe, Hejinian etc. would the political situation in America change? Paradoxically, we may be back to the individual experience of freedom rather than mass freedom.
So why write? Well, in my better moments I find it vital. Not as self-expression. Not even for immortality (while my ego lurks I don't think it really is a prime motivation. There are more sure ways to gain immortality). For me I am in constant search for both experience (as I noted yesterday in my post) and freedom. Or to put it better: the experience of freedom (not to be confused with the freedom of experience) Freedom as a movement, not a static enterprise.
So the conflation of the avant garde tradition (perhaps even including the Romantics in their day) with making it new as a repackaging of the old is not what IT's about for me.
I've read a little chapbook from Ugly Ducking today. It's called The Blue Book by Daniil Kharms. Kharms was part of the Russian Futurists who wrote in a daily way. A dairy of sorts (note the loaded associatin of diary with flowery self-expression as in Victorian as in gendered via the modernism of Eliot/Pound)
One of the entries really caught my attention:
"To have only intelligence and talent is too little. One must also have energy, real interest, clarity of thought and a sense of obligation."
Yes, a sense of obligation. Even clarity is co-opted by the supporters of structural oppression (Ted and Billy etc.)
Clarity like freedom has become a vacuous term!