impersonal poems


There is a tendency today to “animate” poetry and use it as a bridge between life-worlds. To me this would be akin to thinking about metamorphosis, about the changing forms that life takes. It is an effort to reconstruct the power of metamorphosis in an age where everything seems to have stabilized in categories that presuppose a distinction between life and death. The idea of metamorphosis is somewhat transversal to this.

I think this approach is very fruitful, but I am also tempted by another route, that instead accentuates the thingness of things, their meaningless necessity. This maybe is a different kind of kinship, one that is predicated on silence, rather than animation. Things are the way they are. And they are meaningless, or void of “human meaning” (Wallace Stevens, Of Mere Being).

This is also what French poet Francis Ponge tried to articulate, in his Parti Pris des Choses. In Ponge, this is the effort to elaborate formulas that are clear and impersonal (My creative Method, in Méthodes, Gallimard 1961, p.35). A way for him to come out of the “old humanism” he writes (Ibid p.36).

This to me is also a way to sidetrack interiority, or personhood, and even in some way subjectivity. All these folds seems to be gripping existence in such a way as to leave no respite for what is not meaningful, for what cannot be linked to a self, even a disjointed one.

One element these approaches have in common is the way in which they find a logic, in what otherwise appear either irrational or unnamable. (see Lapoujade on the idea that Deleuze was interested in “aberrant movements”). So for me Ponge, and Stevens, and others are not at all trying to name the unnamable, but precisely the opposite, they list what is there, what is already there, what can be named, but will not be subjected to an interiority. (Oulipo also in this way).

I call this the impersonal, or “passages into the impersonal.”

There seems to be such a demand for “sense” for “feeling” that is to say a demand for recognition (who am I?). And poetry is part of that. Poetry as what gives sense.

Passages to the impersonal might be related to such drives/desires, but they do so in a way that suggests that there is no sense, no meaning, if not what is constructed in poetry, via poetry, or through other means.
This is also a way to reinterpret the conundrum between the usefulness and the inutility of poetry, between its consumption and its inconsumability.

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