Al’s thoughts on the challenge of aleatory poetry
Aleatory poetry—poetry made by imposed procedure, by severe rule or constraint, etc.—complicates the traditional idea that a poem is a thing of words that more or less directly expresses what a self thinks and feels. What if that which the poet thinks and feels gets invested in a process by which a poem then gets made? In that case, the process might be the thing that expresses what that self hopes or desires!
In ModPo, we’ve said all along that our attention will be focused on the how of poems, not so much the what. We don’t typically read and admire Emily Dickinson’s poems because of their stories or themes (as gripping as they can be); we are impressed and delighted by how Dickinson goes about saying what she says. We can think of the week 9 poets (and for that matter, the weeks 8, 9, and 10 poets) as taking the idea of the importance of the how to the next step. It could be said that Jackson Mac Low is all how and little to no what.
I am moved by the way Mac Low planned, organized, constrained the mourners who joined him on stage and produced those sounds (a word music) in order to honor the occasion of the death of their friend (Peter Innisfree Moore). Often I’m not moved by the result of the collaborative work (the result being, well…the poem) but I am always moved by the procedure, as by the idea of the (communitarian) procedure.
HERE is a video (8 minutes) on chance and mourning.
So it’s Thursday of week 9 of ModPo 2018. Take a few minutes to listen (or re-listen) to Jena Osman’s “Dropping Leaflets.” You will be grateful, I think, that you did. HERE is the audio. Then go HERE and discuss it with your ModPo friends.