[-empyre-] changing direction:what is the E-poetry of the future?

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 01:35:44 EST 2009

What I understand poetry to be is dependent on a certain type of subject.

I think this subject needs to have some sense of "literacy"--  that
they are conscious of communication forms and are aware that the use
and reception of these forms can be developed along certain lines.  So
that you can move from a basic literacy: Reading a Coke can.  To a
more advanced literacy: Interpreting the place of that Coke can within
a system of signs.  To a reflexive literacy: Understanding how your
subject position in relation to the Coke can and the system of signs
is only one of many possible readings.

I also think that this subject needs to have some sense of
anticipation and memory.  The play of signs is always torn between
what they have meant to you.  What they could mean to you.  This
conditions the reader to experience language as a vector of change.
By being changed by someone else's language (their poem), the poet is
able to make something meaningful (and by making meaning, I mean,
stabilizing or destabilizing meaning, provided that it produces change
in the consciousness of the subject).

Finally, this subject depends on a community.  That poetry is written
for someone and by someone.  Even if someone is writing for themselves
or maybe they are writing for their dog, there is something inherently
"personal" about poetry.  It expresses some model of consciousness, it
is received by some consciousness.

My biggest concern with the future of poetry is that these notions of
the subject are shifting.  I have attended many lectures about how to
connect with "Millennial" students.  The Millennial student is
"multitasker," they have so many hours a day that they commit to
writing text messages, they do several things at once, they know the
world is messed up but they don't know how to change it, etc.  Well, I
believe the world is messed up and that people feel powerless,
precisely because we cannot focus.  And I think poetry does require
some amount of focus.  You might not have to sit down with the OED to
read a poem, but you do need to engage it in multiple ways (and
whenever I ask a student to sit down with the OED, they always come
stumbling back to class with a destabilized sense of language--Ironic,
no?).  And I have a hard time imagining that poetry can exist without
a subject who is capable of reflexive reading, a flexible range of
temporal consciousness, and an awareness of "the Other."

I don't think these things are all "off" and "on" propositions.  They
exist on a continuum.  But I do wonder if the whole idea of "poetry"
is threatened because "people" are increasingly threatened.



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