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

Friday, June 02, 2006

traditional/ism ... justin c, who read with mckenzie on saturday, commented to me that he liked mckenzie because she was 'traditional'. there is something of a continuing battle for ownership of this word (see for example john ashbery's 'the other tradition'.) the term traditional is often opposed to terms such as modern(ist), postmodern, avant garde, experimental - & the poets identifying with these terms regularly distance themselves from the term 'traditional'. yet often these very poets are more explicit in their use of tradition than those who think of themselves as inheritors of 'the tradition'. see for example john tranter's new 'new & selected poems' for his use of pastiche & tribute; or ron silliman's blog, to a great extent concerned with forebears. it all seems to turn on the definite article: 'the' tradition. (even ashbery concedes that his tradition is other (however ironically)). its all very genesis: 'in the beginning was the word'. - not even 'word', but 'the' word (typically its the anti-postmodernists who behave in the most postmodern fashion) . all very christian -- & despite the claim to tradition, obsessed with the notion of originality. whenever i hear a word i reach for a dictionary.

cod: 'traditional: of or based on or obtained by tradition'; 'tradition' 1. opinion or belief or custom handed down, handing down of these, from ancestors to posterity esp. orally or by practice.

2. (Theol) doctrine etc supposed to have divine authority but not committed to writing, esp (1) laws held by pharisees to have been delivered by god to moses (2) oral teaching of christ and apostles not recorded in writing by immediate disciples (3) words & deeds of muhammad not in koran &

3. artistic or literary principle(s) based on accumulated experience or continuous usage. (intriguingly derivation is given as L. traditio /f. tradere: hand on, betray. very harold bloom!?). again ashbery's title seems apt in raising the notion of there being more than one tradition as there are quite different strands in the definition, suggesting different kinds of tradition.

def. 1 'opinion or belief or custom handed down' suggests: approaches to poetry or poetics (ie anti-manifesto; anti-new); inherited forms such as the sonnet.'esp. orally' suggests the tradition of aboriginal songs - (making all non-indigenous poets of australia non-traditional/new/modern); also the transfer of poetry culture to friends/peers/mentees via conversation as opposed to criticism; or, performance poetry.

def 2. 'supposed to have divine authority'/'oral teaching': suggest the classroom, what is communicated from teacher to students (this might be extended to blogs?); indigenous storytelling; muslim culture -- & by extension other religions, or the words/deeds of myths in other communities. the word 'supposed' can be read sarcastically, hinting at pretension to an unjustified authority ..

def 3. 'artistic or literary principle(s) based on accumulated experience or continuous usage' suggests both that experience is culturally cumulative, & also, that tradition may reside in (begin with?) the practitioner: tradition as becoming, or apprenticeship.

to me this opens up the concept of 'traditional' .. it no longer seems something moribund or (narrowly) rhetorical or respectable (i mean this word (un)ironically) or conservative (ditto) but something that is alive, moving from context to context, work to work .. ie is contingent ..

one last definition: 'traditionalism': '(excessive) respect for tradition esp in religion; philosophical system referring all religious knowledge to divine revelation & tradition' . '(excessive)' suggests both pathology on those that subscribe to traditionalism & revolt/heresy by those who would term them 'excessive'. the second part suggests that definitions/ownership of tradition are not open to discussion, but merely received by gods rep.

a lot to sink in/ leave in the sink ..

more on the traditional aspects of duty anon ..


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