Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Letters to... Oh, whatever

Maybe because I e-know some e-people who are starting their non-e MFA's, I've been thinking a little about my own grad schooling.

Here's what I'd say for the benefit of those e-people, none of whom needs my help in the slightest.....

1. Your truest, you-est stories might not be the ones people love or the ones people hate. They might be the ones people don't have much basis for, the ones they meet with a not-ungenerous quiet.

2. If you're made to read or hear stuff about how much work writing is, how much bleeding and torture should be involved, be suspicious. Seriously, why the fuck would anybody ever consider doing something as nuts as fiction writing if it was no fun? Whatever a real good time is, for you, that's what you should be having when you write. Doesn't matter if it all gets thrown out.


伊翊彬彬芷蘭 said...


E.P. Chiew said...

Hello Scott!
May I respectfully disagree with your two above points?

-- I think we are born to agonize over our art and this is healthy. Maybe some of us are more candid about this internal self-realization than others, and perhaps we should be more circumspect, but I think it all adds to the mix.

-- Two, I think (although even here, my thought continually evolves) that agonizing our art is a process by which we constantly ride our joyous creativity and combat the forces and our fear of Time, Space and Death.

I quote the two sources below in grand support (LOL) of my argument:

-- Farewell happy fields
Where joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Posessor; One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time,
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n,
What matter where, if I be still the same....?

-- Milton


From Harold Bloom, the Anxiety of Influence,

"Modern poets are necessarily miserable dualists, because this misery, this poverty is the starting point of their art -- Stevens speaks appropriately of the "profound poetry of the poor and of the dead." Poetry may or may not work out its own salvation in a man, but it comes only to those in dire imaginative need of it, though it may come then as terror.And this need is learned first through the young poet's or ephebe's experience of another poet, of the Other whose baleful greatness is enhanced by the ephebe's seeing him as a burning brightness against a framing darkness.....for all these are visions of Creation gone malevolent and entrapping, of a splendor menacing the Promethean Quester every ephebe is about to become."
(For me, that could just as well speak to the budding/emerging writer as an ephebe.)

E.P. Chiew said...

By the way, the chinese quote in the first comment is advising us to laugh more often, laughter opens up the heart. Also good reminder. :-)

Scott Garson said...

hi elaine!

great stuff....

i'm thinking about the Bloom.... Something like misery may be the starting point for me, but if the misery is active-- there's no sustainable writing out of that.... I can screech on paper when i'm in that state but I'm no poet; hard to make anything good.....

i do think it all has to do w/ influence / comparisons. in my days of having less fun writing, I formalized things more, put it all outside of me. Like, putting in hours at the keyboard, going for a set number of words, towards a goal that i saw in advance and was already evaluating my work in terms of....

if Milton's right, if we can make anything anything {here's my big argument :)}, I say: put desire in the lead....

(that way, even if it all gets tossed in the trash bin, it hasn't been for nothing.....)

E.P. Chiew said...

Hi there Scott:

Yes, I think Bloom makes the argument that budding ephebes have to be able to push their anxiety away (think -- as I understand it -- he laughingly calls it the Covering Cherub, from Blake in a misprision of Milton in a misprision of Ezekiel Chp. 28).

Bloom "summon[s] him first namelessly, as a final name is not yet devised by men for the anxiety that blocks their creativeness. He is that something that makes men victims and not poets, a demon of discursiveness and shady continuities, a pseudo-exegete who makes writing into Scriptures. He cannot strangle the imagination, for nothing can do that, and he is in any case too weak to strangle anything. ....Uncovering the Cherub does not require power so much as it does persistence, remorselessness, constant wakefulness; for the blocking agent who obstructs creativity does not lapse into "stony sleep" as readily as the Sphinx does [here, Bloom defines the Sphinx as Sensibility]."

But Bloom also invokes a continuum, for both art and knowledge. "The poet so stations his precursor, so swerves his context, that the visionary objects, with their higher intensity, fade into the continuum." What I take from his is that perhaps we need to see the artistic journey too as "Pataphysical", a continuum. Each book we write is a heraldic rejection of the book we could have written, or that we did write, and indeed of all other books that came before.

In Bloom's terms, perhaps 'exultation' and 'senescence' set in in equal measure upon our art.

And as you say, misery is the starting point, but I think Bloom will argue that your fighting with your extensive anxiety and misery, the anxiety of wanting to be greater than your precursors, is the sine qua non of your genius work to be.

Nietzsche definitely did not kowtow to anxiety. His definition of 'genius' presupposes a wanton ability to overthrow and reject that "tedious and melancholy business [of] overconcentration on ourselves and what harms and helps us." But even he admits that "every talent must unfold itself in fighting."

ttyl! Been fun thinking about this sparked by your note.

Anonymous said...