In response to Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems for a class with Charles Alexander
at Chax Press, it seems to me that
the heavy emphasis in ‘projective’ verse
on the breath determining the
line----------is one thing---and the idea of “composition by field”------ another.
How do these two concepts square
with each other. OR MAYBE they don't or don't have too. One concept
seems primarily or even totally visual, and the other
primarily aural, or physico/aural.
The determining idea of breath seems to be
one that can be viewed as ‘descriptive’ of most, or all , poetry?
(e.g., the line stops when your breath stops---seems natural).
by form seems to be a more prescriptive or
methodological concept and
to be more truly inventive and revolutionary.
And aesthetically pleasing.
In his amazingly acute, (as always) essay
on the Maximus Poems, “Undone Business” Charles
Bernstein talks about some of this in a different way:
“Olson’s overly literal insistence on breath and place too often distracts
from the enactment of line and space as facts primarily of a text.”
‘Olson’s “heroic” stance bypasses the syntactic revolution already achieved,
by the star of Maximus, by Stein, Zukofsky and others.’
“. . . the heroic stance translates into a will to dominate language rather than l
et it be (heard). . . “
“ . . . the poem ceases to be an arena of action (or inaction) valued in and for
itself, realized by its own internal necessities (which is my understanding of
composition by field)---and is instead a repository of indications, specially
marked references leading everywhere but…to its own durational integrity.
Maximus is as far from the word-effacing practices of conventional writing
could be. Yet its scattershot of information to often leads away from
acknowledging the specific tonal values of the textual materials at hand
…in its effort to use these materials as tags for Olson’s many
geographic, philosophic, mythopoetic and historical ideas.
“But the promise of The Maximus Poems is to create a collaged “hyperspace,”
such a transubstantiation remains larely theoretical—undone business.”
I am as always, amazed by the brillance of thought and the sharpness
of perception that Bernstein brings to his analyses. Perhaps he should
be the next Poet Laureate?