Friday, December 9, 2016

Random Comment Against A Poetic Manifesto

Wallace Stevens said reality exerts a pressure against which the imagination pushes and to which it must adhere. Stevens's aesthetic anxieties warned that poetry became flighty and lost energy the less it referred to reality. His historical anxieties, fueled by a world at war and a society encumbered by an inordinate practicality, warned of a climate in which reality easily crushes the life out of poetic imagination. Today we face a world of fake news and demagogues  that seem to threaten the very pressure of reality, the communal space we live in, through the spontaneous creation of lies. In other words, political discourse has ceased to adhere to reality and has become reckless. In such a moment it's tempting for poets to resort to a new realism in an attempt to render poetry's necessary fictions harmless within a larger public discourse of lies. One is tempted to create a manifesto of such a new realism to which poets could subscribe and continue work safely, thereby turning up the pressure of reality in fear that its adversarial power is in danger of slacking. Then we would somehow renew the energy of imagination in poetic contention with reality. But the poet's reality is never really threatened, and such a manifesto is redundant to the poet's task, which remains the seeking of and agonistic grappling with whatever is real.

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