reading revival: a poetry book blog

reading revival is devoted to promoting australian poetry books and related discussion through reading one book - firstly, duty by geraldine mckenzie. i will choose a new book roughly every 3 months

Thursday, May 11, 2006

when i say something about poetry to strangers - inevitable if they want to know 'what i do' - & i might mention teaching ('how can u teach poetry?!') - a view recurs: isnt it all about taste? ie isnt what my child writes as good as shakespeare? what does 'good' mean here? the judgment, valid enough at first glance, is based on the fact that my childs writing gives me more pleasure than shakespeare's. this i think is based on a different notion to reading than mine. you read something in the way you might scratch something or clean something. i am thinking rather of reading as a practice, that doesnt have distinct temporal boundaries (well god knows cleaning exists forever) - it doesnt stop really - i am always reading - i dont mean i have the words ive read that day present in my mind, but the books are present to me - can my childs writing sustain my interest on a daily lifelong basis? maybe it can. again it comes back to conversation, what i read expands in different directions, circulates .. something my childs & other great writing have in common is the element of surprise - if we are ready to admit it - if we love the writer, think we know them - but then they write something unexpected - even if its an unexpected word.

the taste attitude: it assumes were all educated cultured beings already, that theres no skill required in reading - & by extension writing - its the democratic experience - someone who never reads poetry (has in fact no taste for poetry) - reads some doggerel somewhere & likes it - isnt their experience as valid as the parents/ reader of shakespeare / duty? but what were talking about isnt experience as sensation - the verb version - but experience as knowledge & skill - the noun version - there are two versions of this attitude - the postmodern & the reactionary
- perhaps both think my childs take on a text is as valid as derridas/baudrillards/barthes' - its the word valid that bothers me - its like a licence, that has nothing to do with the real experience of reading - am i sounding very oldfashioned? or merely traditional? opinions arent conversation any more than remarks are literature. if anyone has another take on my child vs shakespeare im interested.


At 8:38 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

via email from jeff s:

I have Michael. Another take on your child and Shakespeare. For some time I
have been looking at, a way of talking partly due to the fact that I paint,
people you make works that may not necessarily be found within institutions
no matter how liberal they may define themselves, or how inclusive, or post.
And not just not be found within, but may not be able to be accommodated
there at all, even with these institutions amazing capacity to subsume
anything that appears within their grasp. But if these works do find there
way into such a space they may sink or swim, who knows. Works like your
child's. In the book, Family Art, Philip Pacey suggests that work made
within the family, primarily for the family may be a "strong but gentle
agent provocateur which does not seek to overthrow but merely to limit the
reach of those powers it itself is threatened by." Work made by your
daughter holds a significance that may be labeled as sentimental. But for me
it is this very sentimentality that is the works significance, its capacity
to affect, however you like to read that word. The sentimental objects
placed under a homemade cross with flowers and perhaps a poem that make up
roadside memorials contain memory, stories, relationships that we do not
necessarily have access to driving by, but they may still demand our
attention and sympathy as well as our involvement and consideration. These
personal displays of sentiment, of love and grief in a public domain
question that very domain, and our participation with the site allowing for
a slowing, if not of the vehicle at least of our avid thinking making for
the recollection of one's own sentimental journey. One's love. So perhaps it
is not your child vs. Shakespeare, but rather their intersection that
becomes of interest. The question then is not one of validity, of one being
more valid than another is but rather that there is a being-with both. A
nearness that allows an opening towards an other, be it the intimacy with
and knowledge of your child, or the field that Shakespeare plays in.

At 5:57 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

thanks jeff - very interesting - & takes the question to a completely different level - the issue of sentiment .. often i think people are being sentimental about themselves - about how tough they are - how contemporary - or even how sentimental they are - if there was a way to show the shakespeare resister that s/he cd like it in a different way - i sometimes imagine when im reading poetry i dont like - or hearing it - that i love the person to shift my feeling about it - it being the experience more than the work - deliberately letting sentiment enter - maybe i shd have tried that with matthew barneys new film..


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