Robert Sheppard

 

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The Necessity of Poetics

 

 

The Identification of Poetics

 

Despite the present prominence of the critic, it is to the poet we must turn for poetics. With few exceptions, those qualified to theorise about poetry are those who write it. And the most effective poetics take the form of an apologia for one particular style of writing – usually the poet’s own. The nature of the apologia can vary enormously – from the brusque practicality of Pound’s Don’ts to the introspective pondering of Valéry – but they are all stratagems of defence, and usually gain in polemical edge for being so. In addition to these qualities we find, in the finest poetics, a profound reserve before the fact of poetry, and a refusal to be dogmatic; after all, the great poems have usually broken laws. (Romer 1982: 63)

 

Thus opens Stephen Romer’s review of Jean-Claude Renard’s poetics with a matter-of-factness that perhaps does not allow for the force of resistance towards poetics (in this country anyway) and perhaps lacks a sense of the speculative nature of poetics itself, but it does acknowledge the kinds of irony and ambiguity that colour relations between poetics and poetry (and writing more generally). It is this tension that I have tried to attempt to delineate in the multiple definitions which follow.

 

I have drawn on my work as a poet writing poetics, my work as a critic studying poetry and, increasingly, studying poetics, and on my work as a teacher of creative writing. While I hope it is obvious from what follows that I regard poetics as integral to writing, it is also my belief that those of us involved with radical poetry need to be impinging more upon the world of creative writing teaching and that the concept of poetics may be our best entry point.

 

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Metapoetics: Definitions of Poetics

 

Poetics are the products of the process of reflection upon writings, and upon the act of writing, gathering from the past and from others, speculatively casting into the future.

 

Poetics is a discipline, though a flexible one.

 

Poetics is a discourse, though an intermittent mercurial one.

 

Poetics is a writer-centred self-organising activity.

 

Poetics is a way of letting writers question what they think they know.

 

Poetics is a way of allowing creative writing dialogue with itself, beyond the monologic of commentary or reflection.

 

Poetics exists for oneself and for others, to produce, to quote Rachel Blau DuPlessis, “a permission to continue”. (DuPlessis 1990: 156)

 

Poetics is not theory in the ordinary rationalistic sense.

 

“Poetics don't explain; they redress and address.” (Bernstein 1992: 160)

 

Poetics is not practice in the ordinary empirical sense.

 

Poetics could be a test of practice; but practice will test poetics.

 

To talk of theoretical poetics is not accurate; to talk of practical poetics is no less accurate.

 

Poetics involves a theory of practice, a practice of theory.

 

Poetics, to take it back to Aristotle, where the category began, is distinguished from theoria or praxis, theory or practice, in the primacy of its activity of making. Poetics is the active questioning, since that time, about how does, how should, how could, art be made.

 

Poetics is also to be distinguished from aesthetics and rhetoric. (1)

 

Poetics and poetry are only etymologically linked, dually from the Greek root poiein: to make. (2)

 

Poetics only makes sense if your sense of art, artifice, artificer, is concentrated on the act of making, rather than self-expression.

 

Poetics is a secondary discourse, but is not “after the event”; it doesn't simply react to making. The making can change the poetics; the poetics can change the making.  

 

The aim of literary criticism, to parody Marx, is to describe writing; the purpose of poetics is to change it.

 

Poetics is born of a crisis - the need to change.

 

Poetics has a history as long as writing, because writing has always changed.

 

Poetics may be textually specific; or it might not be so focussed, not least of all because the “examples” of which it speaks may not yet (and may never) exist.

 

“Poetics needn't be understood as explanations of some prior body of work.” (Bernstein 1992: 154)

 

Poetics is a prospectus of work to be done, that might involve a summary of work already done.

 

Poetics is a speculative discourse, not a descriptive one.

 

Poetics says: look back, look forward, look straight ahead, and cross the page.

 

“One of the pleasures of poetics is to try on a paradigm and see where it leads you.” (Bernstein 1992: 161)

 

Poetics could be a running commentary, but it might overtake, or equally lag behind.

 

Poetics' “answers” are provisional, its trajectory nomadic, its positions temporary and strategic.

 

Poetics offer generative schema.

 

Poetics is more concerned with form than with content, but will not respect that boundary.

 

Micropoetics: whose domain is the text and its techniques; everything below the level of the text.

 

Macropoetics: whose domain is the text and the world: everything above the level of the text. (3)

 

One reason to make your poetics public is to test it, to build a community of writers, or of risk. But the manifesto may be its gateway or its trap.

 

Poetics is contained in, and by, the great manifestoes of art history, both in the sense of being locatable there, and in the sense of being restricted. A manifesto colonizes the field of literary production, rather than opens it up.

 

Poetics can be located in Poe's term “Philosophy of Composition” as long as it composes, decomposes, recomposes that “philosophy”.

 

Poetics involves “how to” (as in “How To Write a Melodrama”) as long as knack plays second fiddle to knowledge, as long as craft stays crafty.

 

A danger of poetics is that it might operate as self-justification, but when it does, it will be settling into argument like someone embedding him or herself into an armchair to bore you with their monologue, reflections. It has ceased dialogue with the activity of making.

 

When poetics stops it becomes theory, retrospective rather than speculative, definitive rather than open to infinitude.

 

Poetics provides a strategy for the writer. To look for truth value in its articulations may be beside the point for the writer, though it might not be for you, particularly if you are another writer. It speaks to a working practice as much as it speaks to you. You can't read a writer's poetics without his or her creative work.

 

Poetics is not about creating equilibrium, but about creating a structured disequilibrium.

 

“Poetics becomes an activity that is ongoing, that moves in different directions at the same time, and that tries to disrupt or problematize any formulation that seems too final or preemptively restrictive.” (Bernstein 1992: 150)

 

Poetics may involve strategic self-deception.

 

Poetics may mismatch the writing that results. It is not necessarily a ground plan.

 

Poetics as snapshots, thumbnails.

 

Some poetics contain a goodly portion of gobbledegook; it may be a strategy to get texts moving, to get the writer creatively into spaces that otherwise might not be accessed, or to divert attention away from the creative act.

 

Poetics may not judge the use of its findings well.

 

“The test of a poetics,” to adapt Charles Bernstein, “is the poetry [writing] and the poetic [writerly] thinking that results.” (Bernstein 1992: 166)

 

Poetics steals from anywhere.

 

Poetics finds things by accident, by mistake.(4)

 

Poetics takes structural homologies from science and philosophy, but also from gardening and pinball, if it needs to.

 

Poetics breathes creative potential into uncreative material.

 

Poetics is not just a discourse, a way of thinking, saying or writing about making, but a discursive practice with rules of its own.

 

Poetics can never offer readings of the writer’s literary works. He or she cannot read his or her own work as a critic.

 

Poetics, of necessity, makes its practitioners creative readers as well as writers.

 

Poetics is a way of reading or misreading texts (in the widest sense) not normally thought of as poetics: to refunction their discourses as part of its own. The infuriating magpie descends upon science or aesthetics, theory or history, rhetoric or popular culture, even the author's own earlier work. All the discourses that are poetics' Others.(5)

 

“Poetics as an invasion of the poetic into other realms: overflowing the bounds of genres, spilling into talk, essays, politics, philosophy . . .” (Bernstein 1992: 151)

 

Poetics doesn't always call itself poetics.

 

Poetics is mercurial enough for writers to not know that they are producing it, to think that they are constructing something else:  a letter, a preface, an apology, a defence, an essay, a memo, a diary entry, even an art work, a manifesto, a job application, a lecture, a description of somebody else's poetics, a conference paper, a witty aphorism, an anthology, an editorial, a biography of the mind, a questionnaire, being tape interviewed, having a drink, making comments between reading texts to a creative writing group, dreaming, reading a book, summarising Western metaphysics on the back of an envelope, pillow talk . . .

 

Poetics could be a commonplace book full of favoured quotations.

 

Poetics could be a sentence from a novel you use as an epigraph to a half-written project, which you remove once the project is completed.

 

Poetics often appears as, results in, hybrid texts.

 

Poetics can appear in the creative work itself, as content, as theme or aside.

 

Every literary work is a statement of poetics itself, as a formal statement about its own form, a model for itself, as it were.

 

When poetics absorbs a writer's politics, cosmology, philosophy, religion, it becomes most luminous and individual, but less communal, less of use, perhaps even to the writer him or herself.

 

Writers who say they have no poetics should logically find no continuity between any of their existent texts, but also no change. That they do is the inauguration of the discursive practice of poetics.

 

Poetics disappears at moments of intense creative fruition, until the next moment of critical reflection and change.

 

A test to see if you've produced explicit poetics is to ask of your discourse about writing: is this literary theory or literary criticism? If the answer is no then it might be poetics. (If the answer is yes, it might still “contain” poetics.)

 

Poetics is an intermittent discourse, and when it is found in literary criticism, it is revealed there rather than contained.

 

Poetics could re-read the literary canon (or any literature) as it re-reads everything else.

 

Poetics could be a bridge back to literary criticism, built upon the making of texts rather than upon its rhetoric or effects.

 

“Resisting the institutionalization of interpretation”, says Charles Bernstein, “is a motivation for poetics . . .” (Bernstein 1992: 157)

 

Poetics could shape the way we read work.

 

Another danger of poetics is that it could present the ideological imaginary to pre-judge reading, to offer preferred reading strategies of literary works to readers, as Jerome MacGann says of Romantic Ideology. (6) This can be countered by keeping poetics speculative, to avoid the armchair monologue. Or in formal terms, by keeping the documents open to future readings, by use of hybrid or discontinuous forms, to internalise the poetics into their presentation.

 

Poetics should be written (and read) with an awareness of its function in the creative process.

 

Poetics should be studied as such.

 

Poetics can stop being absorbed by the metalanguage of literary theory or criticism by asserting its own claims as a discourse, a language game with its own players, rules and purposes.

 

Poetics in hybrid, fragmentary, collage, playful, jokey, patapoetical, forms avoid cooption into the explication of the writing that results.

 

Poetics' function is both oriented towards, and in, new form.

 

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Scrolling from Aristotle to Nomadic Poetics

 

Poetics has a long history: from Aristotle, through Horace, into (in English anyway) Sidney, Puttenham, Dryden and Pope (both in verse), onto Wordsworth's “Preface”, Coleridge's Biographia, the assertions of Shelley's Defence, some of Keats' letters. Onto: Henry James' essays and Prefaces, and D.H. Lawrence's spirited defences of both free verse poetry and the modern novel – to summarise the contents page of a possible volume of historical poetics.

 

In the twentieth century the discourse has proliferated, particularly in the manifestoes and documents of the great Modernist and post-modernist movements from Dada to Situationalism, from Negritude to Neo Hoo-Doo, from Stein's “Lectures” to Du Plessis' feminist poetics (7), and, more individually, in literary interviews, to which I shall return.

 

A well-known collection such as Allen and Tallman's The Poetics of The New American Poetry (1973) collected documents ranging from Pound's group manifestoes to Frank O'Hara's patapoetical one-man movement statement “Personism,” from Lorca's essay on “duende” to Olson's influential “Projective Verse” essay. America, as if asserting its cultural autonomy, seems particularly attracted to the discourse, from the Imagists to the Language Poets. In Britain this has not been the case, certainly since the Apocalyptic Manifestoes of the war years. To think of Basil Bunting's dust jacket disavowal of meaning in poetry alongside the critical corpus of his mentor, Ezra Pound, is emblematic.

 

I say “Britain”, but the example of Anglo-Welsh David Jones, in his essays and prefaces, or Scot Hugh MacDiarmid, particularly in his poem “The Kind of Poetry I Want” (1961), points to another cultural dimension. MacDiarmid was capable of producing the speculative discourse I am circumscribing here, and interestingly, embodied it in a poem.

 

Is there something essentially “English” about a refusal to theorize in poetics, as in other areas? Is it philosophical empiricism (which matches the continuing lyric empiricism of the dominant post-Movement verse culture itself) - or is it the geopolitical centrality of the English imagination, and its refusals of the necessity of poetics, the defensive and normative restrictive practices of the colonial centre? It may well be that a declaration of independence (cultural or poetic) generates more necessity than an act of union!

 

With respect to the more adventurous British poetry, Eric Mottram (1925-1995), in his still-uncollected essays, delineated a poetics, although his polemics often obscured its positive aspects and it certainly belonged to the years of the British Poetry Revival (1960-1975) rather than to the so-called linguistically innovative poetries which followed. (8) However, he did drag poetics out of dozens of recalcitrant poets in his taped interviews, chiefly in the context of “Poetry Information” evenings at the ICA and the Poetry Society during the 1970s. It may well be that the interview might be considered a uniquely British source of poetics, though it is undoubtedly a reactive form.

 

One recent example of partial changes in attitude is Denise Riley's 1992 edited volume Poets on Writing, which contains a rare number of essays of poetics as well as a selection from Veronica-Forrest Thomson's important Poetic Artifice. But tellingly, Tom Raworth provides a selection of poems from Eternal Sections under the inviting banner: “The State of Poetry Today” in a typically British refusal to discursively tackle that very issue! 

 

The only reason to make a personal poetics public is to share with others, either collectively as a manifesto, or agonistically as position statement - in either or both cases it is a social fact, and implies at least community of exchange or risk. These have not been the favoured British options; there is little explicit work (although it doubtless exists, implicitly, as private meditation and notebook jottings, etc.). This is why the work of the Contemporary Poetics Centre is crucial, and why the pedagogy of creative writing seems central to me.

 

I want to focus on one well-known text to give a flavour of poetics, an example of the revelation of poetics in literary criticism. T.S. Eliot's essay “The Metaphysical Poets” (1921) contains this memorable passage, which describes the multifaceted complexity he located in John Donne, but in terms which are obviously constructing the poetics of “The Waste Land,” which he was then composing. The slippage from Donne to typewriter is a giveaway.

 

A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter falls in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes. (Eliot 1975: 64)

 

This is only one revealing example in Eliot’s work, as J.C.C. Mays has pointed out: “When he writes about tradition and the individual talent, he described how his allusive method works; when he wrote about a dissociation of sensibility taking place in the seventeenth-century mind he described the subject of his own poetry; when he wrote of the objective correlative in Hamlet, he defined its method.” (Mays: 115)

 

Two recent examples in my own research area of American language poetry and British linguistically innovative poetry are Allen Fisher's Necessary Business (1985) and Charles Bernstein's “The Artifice of Absorption” (1986) (Bernstein 1992: 9-89). Without repeating analyses published elsewhere, (Sheppard 1999b) these two formally hybrid texts constitute exemplary metapoetics.

 

Fisher's text is an essay collaged into interviews with poets. In it, or rather, through it, he manufactures a poetics for himself, one that others may use and develop (including myself! See Sheppard 1999a). Similarly, Bernstein, who presents a verse-essay, plays off the conventions of the essay (footnotes and quotations) against the conventions of poetry (chiefly linebreaks) to produce an oddly associational and playful “patapoetics”. It refuses to settle the arguments it presents, chiefly through a monstrous proliferation of new critical terms and manifold examples. It is also comic!

 

Both documents keep the arguments open by their dispositions in form. They refuse the essay discourse they approximate and, most importantly, they demonstrate and embody their two authors' poetic practices, the collage of Fisher and the playful mixture of discourses found in most poems by Bernstein.

 

Bernstein himself provides a further model that it is worth acknowledging. After two decades of consciously producing poetics outside of the academy, he now fronts the Poetics Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo, which favours an “interdisciplinary approach to literary, cultural and textual studies”. (“Poetics” 1999: 1)  It focuses upon poetics as “an unruly, multisubjective activity”. (“Poetics” 1999: 3) Reference to the massive Electronic Poetry Center website the program administers (http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc) reveals it as a model institution, for its many poetics documents. (Nigel Wood is currently constructing what may turn out to be its British equivalent.)

 

This site inevitably includes details of what has been called Cyberpoetics: how the now not so new technologies may be used in literary creation. These and other documents may also be found in the two-volume Poems for the Millennium, which Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris edited. (Rothenberg and Joris 1998: 871-829. See also Sheppard 1999c.) That the experience of editing these volumes was itself an act of poetics is evidenced by Pierre Joris’ recent Towards a Nomadic Poetics which, like Necessary Business, was published by Allen Fisher’s own Spanner press. Its millennial appeal to a nomadic sense of “moving & connecting all contents, languages, bodies, machines” (Joris 1999: 29) may indeed stimulate some cutting edge discussion. I have seen an unpublished piece by Adrian Clarke registering a difference or two with Joris. Whatever the arguments for a nomadic poetics, it is clear that poetics, as I have defined it, has always been nomadic.

 

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Credo of a Writing Studies Coordinator

   

I believe all students of creative writing should be inaugurated in the activity of poetics, since it is, of necessity, a self-sustaining part of all writerly process, born of the critical need to change practice. I believe the higher education student should be enabled to make this discourse in its most explicit forms and, to some degree, to study it.

 

I am often worried, in my teaching at Edge Hill, by what might be called student dependence upon workshop activities. This is perhaps an inevitable state among students whose only experience of writing creatively has been within the undergraduate subject area, especially as skills and technique teaching produces wonderful, but temporary, results, products that often surprise student and tutor alike.

 

But, equally worrying, I have occasionally found something similar in more mature writers, coming onto the MA in Writing Studies, particularly those I uncharitably call “workshop junkies”, who are capable of producing varied and interesting work, but often only as a response to a stimulus. They seem to possess no integral urgency, as though they are shells of performance, particularly in the experiential and supportive atmosphere of the workshop.

 

An involvement with poetics might allow both categories of student to project, to integrate the skills and techniques into an ongoing practice that is concerned with change. The satisfaction with the product might grow into the self-questioning of the process, for these students to interrogate what they are taught more explicitly and continuously. It would particularly enable work in linguistically innovative or explorative forms, but poetics is important for all writers, I believe. (9)

 

The most important justification for poetics, is that, writers, once armed with a speculative impetus, as well as a battery of skills and techniques, should have the confidence for independent growth, to possess, or “own” as the jargon now has it, “a permission to continue”. (DuPlessis 1990:  156) To become independent learners so that when the waterwings of workshops and courses and peer appraisals and deadlines and assessments are removed, they will become their own teachers, their own peers. No longer Students “taking” a course in creative writing, they will have become Writers. (10)

 

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Some Conclusions

 

I have glossed over a number of works of poetics in this piece; it has been less my desire to evaluate Sidney, Eliot, DuPlessis or Joris, than to situate them in a continuous, continuing discourse, that may be both studied in its own right and developed in terms of creative writing learning (inside and outside the classroom). It would be easy to take issue here and there: but that seems almost beside the point, if we fail to read those ideas doubly. We must recognise, as Mays did of TS Eliot, for example, the relation of poetics to writing inherent in what are still too willingly taken to be literary critical constructs.

 

Read in this new way these ideas lose nothing of their power - a discourse is a power construct, of course - but neither do they achieve a measure of invulnerability. They simply need to be discussed in the spirit of poetics, where use and permission, experiment and play, are as important as philosophical cogency or the (mis)matching of concept and product. Finally, I hope that any study of poetics is concerned not just with furthering the study of poetics, but also with the active production of poetics as a speculative discourse for writers in order to further the arts of writing.

 

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Notes

 

1. “Poiesis,” writes Gerald F. Else, of Aristotle's Poetics, “is the actual process of composition . . . is the activation, the putting to work of poietike.” (Aristotle 1970: p 79)

 

Poetics is not Aesthetics. Aesthetics is a contemplative analytic of art: what is art? what is beauty? what is the sublime?

 

Poetics is not Rhetoric. Rhetoric is to do with the laws of composition, not with the lore (or lure) of writing.

 

2. Poetics within literary studies is used by structuralists like Todorov (Introduction to Poetics), or by Bakhtin (The Problem of Dostoyevsky's Poetics), or even Harold Bloom, to speak of a theory of making that properly belongs to literary criticism. (It is common to read of the poetics of the novel, or of feminist biography, in this sense.) Poetics has also found many uses to describe various non-literary or even non-artistic kinds of making: in psychiatry to describe the making of self (autopoesis); in musicology to describe the compositional (poietic) dimension of music. Titles like Bachelard's The Poetics of Fire adorn philosophy shelves.

 

3. Bernstein writes: “Equally at play in the context of poetics is the political and social situation, including the social configuration of poetry [writing] in terms of distribution, publishing, capitalization, jobs, awards, reviews.” (Bernstein 1992: 157) In theory I would extend the realm of macropoetics to cover these areas, but for the sake of this argument I will leave them aside.

 

4. Looking for a book to put the slips of paper containing the above “definitions” of poetics safely in, I took down one containing some uncollected essays by Robert Duncan. One, entitled “The Poetics of Music: Stravinsky” (1948) begins with a slightly overpassive definition but one which reminds us of the term's use in the other arts: “Poetics is the contemplation of the meaning of form: it is what is common to painting, music, sculpture and poetry. Poiein, Stravinsky reminds us, means to make. We might keep in mind that in the days of William Dunbar the poets were the Makaris.” (Faas 1983: 335)

 

5. Poetics at one limit is apoetics, formulations that deconstruct poetics, as the continuous lower case typography on the extra titlepage of Bernstein's A Poetics suggests: “ a p o e t i c s”. (Bernstein 1992: vii). In this sense, poetics must eat itself!  At another limit is anti-poetics, a discourse that accompanies the practice of not, or no longer, writing, as in the pronouncements of Laura Riding (see Seymour Smith 1970) or John Hall's “Writing and Not Writing” (in Riley 1992: 41-49).

 

6. MacGann argues that “Literary criticism too often likes to transform the critical illusions of poetry into the worshipped truths of cultures”. (MacGann 1983: 135) In poetry, “we can to a degree, observe as well our own ways of thinking and feeling from an alien point of view. That alienated vantage, which is poetry's critical gift to every future age, permits us a brief glimpse at our world and our selves.” (MacGann 1983: 66) Perhaps a similar critical function for the writer of contemporary poetics might reside in the historical poetics outlined above.

 

7. These documents and more may be found in Rothenberg and Joris  (1995; 1998), but heed my warning about manifestoes in my definitions!

 

8. But see also Eric Mottram’s Towards Design in Poetry (1977; reprinted many times and currently in print) for an extremely wide-ranging and less polemical investigation of poetics.

 

9. Of course, creative writing students often are already encouraged to produce an explicit discourse to accompany their writing, but this is not poetics (though it might contain it.) It is - again, this is my experience - usually a retrospective trawl through the already used, even discarded, writing processes, and is often of no further use to the writer, and it is often revealingly called a “commentary” or a “reflection.”

 

At worst some MA students, in particular, think the function of commentary is to use literary theory to produce an analysis of their work as though they hadn't produced it themselves, instead of reading the theory as a possible poetics. Writers, in any case, are notoriously bad at reading their own work. It has been cogently argued by Dr Victor Sage in an unpublished paper that it is impossible for students to criticise their own work in this alienating way so that the poetics becomes prescriptive. Indeed, that writers deliberately misread their own work in the service of speculating about future works is a constituent of poetics.

 

One advantage of the term poetics in the pedagogic situation is that it is as old as writing. It seems to me that a recent term, such as Graeme Harper's post-structuralist tinged “Gramography”, might be said to contain and reveal poetics, particularly in his sense of the “opening up of trajectories of thinking rather than fencing in of reflective opportunities” (Harper 1997: 21) but it is principally concerned with “the practice and the theory of creative writing” as a subject with a professionalized pedagogy still to be developed. (Harper 1997: 27) Whilst not opposed to Gramography, poetics is a writer- (student-) centred term and activity, aimed at reducing student dependence, outlined earlier. More crucially, my sense of the necessity of poetics is in its continued operation for students beyond the pedagogic situation.

 

10. If students are taught explicitly what poetics is and does, and to situate themselves in a field of cultural production, through non-literary critical exercises like Reading as a Writer, and even to study a particular writer's poetics, if they are asked to use and feed these activities into a writer's journal and in the self-assessment process, and if this has a more pronounced role in the explicit recording and developing of poetics, any “commentary” or “reflection” that results will be automatically more poetics-oriented, and more use to the writer.

 

But we could go further. The hybrid and intermittent nature of poetics outside of the pedagogic environment suggests new possibilities for the making of hybrid texts within it, particularly for the production of works which heal the creative writing-literary theory split. This might seem to contradict my demand for an explicit study and production of poetics as a bracketed discourse, but I think it can also (perhaps at an advanced stage) open itself to the existing condition of much poetics, such as Bernstein and Fisher. Their forms are as explorative as much creative writing itself.

 

I accept that the wild body of poetics might need taming for the purposes of assessment but I have read (and assessed) commentaries that were as creative and hybrid as the creative work. (A theorist such as Gregory Ulmer with his experiments in applied grammatology in the production of the “mystory” in Teletheory [1989] demonstrates a similar hybridity in the production of critical texts.)

 

Finally there is the question of self-image. In producing poetics, one always speaks as a writer, explicitly identifies oneself as a maker of literary works. It is itself an act of self-definition embedded in a process of self-organisation, that makes a permanent mark upon the page.

 

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References

 

Allen, D., and Tallman, W., (eds.), 1973, Poetics of the New American Poetry, New York: Grove Books.

 

Aristotle, (trans. Else, G.F.), 1970, Poetics: Michigan: The University of Michigan.

 

Bernstein, C. 1992, A Poetics, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

DuPlessis, R.B., 1990, The Pink Guitar, Writing as Feminist Practice, New York and London: Routledge.

 

Eliot, T.S., 1975, Selected Prose, London: Faber and Faber.

 

Faas, E., 1983, Young Robert Duncan, Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press.

 

Fisher, A., 1985, Necessary Business, London: Spanner.

 

Harper, G, 1997, “Creative Writing in Higher Education: Introducing 'Gramography'“. Writing in Education, Summer 1997, Number 12.

 

Joris, P., 1999 Notes Towards a Nomadic Poetics, Spanner 38.

 

MacGann, J., 1983, The Romantic Ideology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

 

Mays, J.C.C., “The Early Poems” in Moody, A. D., 1994, The Cambridge Companion to TS Eliot, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Mottram, Eric, 1977, Towards Design in Poetry, London: Writers Forum.

 

“Poetics”:“Poetics at Buffalo”, http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/poetics/prog.html: 1 March 1999.

 

Riley, D. (ed.), 1992, Poets on Writing, Basingstoke and London: Macmillan.

 

Romer, S., 1982, “Correctives”, PN Review 27: p. 63-64.

 

Rothenberg, J., and Joris, P. (eds.), 1995, Poems for the Millennium, Volume One from Fin-de-Siecle to Negritude, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

 

Rothenberg, J., and Joris, P. (eds.), 1998, Poems for the Millennium, Volume Two from Postwar ro Millennium, Berkeley and Los Angles: University of California Press.

 

Seymour Smith, M., 1970, “Laura Riding's 'Rejection of Poetry'“, The Review, no. 23. 

 

Sheppard, R., 1999a, Far Language, poetics and linguistically innovative poetry 1978-1997, Exeter: Stride Research Documents.

 

Sheppard, R. 1999b, “The Poetics of Poetics: Charles Bernstein, Allen Fisher and the poetic thinking that results”, Symbiosis, 3:4. 

 

Sheppard, R. 1999c, “The End of the Twentieth Century: Twentieth Century Blues 63,” unpublished hybrid text.

 

Ulmer G. 1989, Teletheory, New York and London: Routledge.

 

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An earlier, pedagogically oriented, version of this text was delivered as a paper at the Creative Writing Conference 1999 at Sheffield Hallam University, and was first published in the Proceedings of the conference. Ship of Fools published a shorter version, emphasising practical uses for students, in 1999, solely for distribution amongst Writing Studies MA students at Edge Hill College of Higher Education, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK..

 

February-March 1999 / August 2000