Egocentric Writing

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Michael Zeleny

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Nov 25, 1992, 4:09:47 PM11/25/92
to
In article <1992Nov25.1...@news.acns.nwu.edu>
ma...@casbah.acns.nwu.edu (Marek Lugowski) writes:

>In article <1992Nov25.1...@husc3.harvard.edu>
>zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:

MZ:
>>The point is that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, this
>>is not a personal attack, but a diatribe against the egocentric style
>>of writing, which has nothing to say on any subject unrelated to the
>>personality of its author. Enough said.

ML:
>Perhaps entirely too much said? On the fleeting chance that you mean me,
>personally, although the chronology of rec.arts.poems will show that you
>called all of us douchebags before I reacted to *that* -- I will respond.

No, I certainly do not mean you, *personally*, -- and you would be
well advised to examine the motives you have for presuming otherwise.

ML:
>1. What do you presume to know of my personality? You yourself admitted
>to know nothing but the pixels on your screen. Furthermore, your 3-day
>interaction with me is vehemently hostile at best, hardly conducive to
>exploring personalities, especially as your every move is to offend or
>spar.

Life is strife. I have no knowledge of your, or anyone else's
personality, except to the extent that I enter in a personal interaction
with them. The salient point about writing that I wish to make is that
its *stylistic* purpose is to create an appearance, not to take off your
clothes. More on this anon.

ML:
>2. What is an egocentric style of writing? Elsewhere you write about
>writing for writing's sake vs. spewing life on bystanders. This neatly
>takes out John Donne, Louise Erdrich, Balzac, Henry Miller, Anne Sexton,
>Halina Poswiatowska, and, oh, much smuch of world literature, from oral
>primitive to the so-called Western Tradition. I respectfully submit that
>your studies in logic have clouded your mind, precipitating a calcified
>notion of what writing is and should be. Please don't foist it on the
>world; it just annoys the world and it doesn't help writers write better.
>Elsewhere you write that you burn your poems as soon as you write them
>down. I am crushed that you don't deem fit to extend your kindness to the
>reader with your (self-described) diatribes on the net. It would only be
>fitting if you did. Why do you loathe your poems and prize your opinions?
>Seems sickly.

Logic was not mentioned in this forum, except by you. I have no
interest in discussing Donne, Erdlich, Sexton, or Poswiatowska.
However I shall make some comments regarding Balzac and Miller.

The great thing about Balzac, which makes him supremely interesting to a
professional historian and an idle daydreamer alike, is that he creates
a self-contained universe of characters, which not only impinges on, but
commingles with the contemporary Parisian society. Yet another aspect
of his greatness lies in his transcending of his reactionary personal
values of a would-be aristocrat (which admittedly gave him a privileged
critical view of the bourgeois rapaciousness) and celebrating the
individual vanity and careerism, as well as general energetic
expansiveness of the period, without losing sight of its ugly and
inhumane consequences. In this, Balzac is a realist in a nobler, more
philosophical sense, than that accorded to the same term when it is used
to characterize the nihilist aestheticism of his perfected follower,
Flaubert.

By contrast, Miller creates and presents the inner world of a *single*,
rapacious and concupiscent character, who is, however, most *unlike* his
creator in the most important aspects. Just one of them consists in the
startling fact that, even as he celebrates the extravagating prick and
the optimistic poverty of his picaresque creation, Miller the writer
never forgets to pay a weekly visit to the American Express office in
the Place de l'Opera to meekly pick up his spousal support check from
his philandering (or, more to the point, philogynaeic) wife. Call that
hypocrisy, if you will, -- but remember that hypocrisy, in its original
sense, is the starting condition of all art. Just try to find an
inkling of *that* in the _Tropic of Cancer_.

ML:
>3. You wanted dialectic. Dialectic evaporates on contact with Superior
>Morality. The Spanish Inquisition and Hitler are a bit behind the curve of
>the time; I suggest you modify your stance to get in sync with the world.
>Else, the only dialectic you will get is canned, from Hegel and Marx.
>I don't see why I should waste my dialectic on you if you don't care to
>waste your poems on us. :)

Nonsense. The only dialectic to which I aspire is that of Socrates. To
say that it evaporates on contact with Superior Morality, is to approach
hubris. Incidentally, I neither loathe my poems, nor prize my opinions.
Both serve their purpose to my satisfaction. Neither has to last any
longer than is necessary.

> -- Marek

ML:
>P.s. Dante Alighieri, who, incidentally, was our age, roughly, when
>beginning the Divine Commedy, wrote in first person. How egocentric of
>him! One man's self-indulgence is another's distilled experience. And if
>you really think eschewing ethical relativism implies being rude to the
>natives, I hope you never travel thorugh a strange land with your Superior
>Moral Judgements on your sleeve. Arrogance can have palpable ecological
>costs. Enter relativism, otherwise known as tact/context-sensitivity.

There is nothing intrinsically self-indulgent about writing in the first
person. To understand the self-effacement of Dante, you should pay some
attention to Aquinas. I am traveling through a strange land; so is
everyone else. However, most of my judgments, including all particular
conclusions, are made provisionally; it is only their foundation, which
is non-negotiable and immune from revision.

ML:
>Oh, and why does your working on your thesis preclude you from being nice?
>I would like to find out if this is a requisite of your studies or if you
>are just joshing us. If the former, may we have your advisor's username to
>intercede on your (abused) behalf? They should not drive institutionalized
>scholars so hard -- no wonder you have an institutionalized loathing for
>institutionalized poets. Never mind you are on your merry way to be an
>institutionalized academic. Had you been Useneting in from Chillicote,
>Texas, no advisor, no library, no Chinese restaurants, I could understand
>your uninstitutionalized disdain. But coming from deep in the heart of
>Cambridge, it just glitters like a 22-karat hypocrisy it is... Maybe my
>logic is just shot. Help me out, mate.

My thesis advisor is Hilary Putnam. Feel free to address all gratuitous
_ad hominem_ criticism of yours truly to his attention. However please
note that he is in no way responsible for my views in this, or any other
matter. Perhaps you are confused by the different senses of "thesis".
A good dictionary ought to take care of that.

Please observe the subject header and the cross-posting.

cordially,
mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
"Le cul des femmes est monotone comme l'esprit des hommes."

Marie Coffin

unread,
Nov 30, 1992, 10:16:07 PM11/30/92
to
Philip -- why don't you try reading before flying off at the mouth?
Here is a (very brief) summary of the discussion:

On November 24, Mikhail wrote:

"Eschew the douchebags' trademark propensity for mixing
life and writing! For no one who reads the latter really
gives a fuck about the former, with the possible exception
of the author's mother."



On November 25, Marek wrote:

"What is an egocentric style of writing? Elsewhere you write
about writing for writing's sake vs. spewing life on
bystanders. This neatly takes out John Donne, Louise Erdrich,
Balzac, Henry Miller, Anne Sexton, Halina Poswiatowska, and,

oh, much so much of world literature, from oral primitive to
the so-called Western Tradition."

On November 30, Philip wrote:

"I, on the other hand, don't mind talking about John Donne.
Does Marek seriously believe that Donne's value is of an
autobiographical nature? Or that Freud, who based his
theories on observations of his own dreams and fantasies,
is merely an egocentric old gossip of a fortune-teller?
I disrespectfully submit, Marek, that your logical disability
causes you to utter much pernicious nonsense. Have you
considered the difference between a metaphysical conceit
and the miles of dirty laundry posted on r.a.poems?"

Mikhail said not to mix life and writing. Marek pointed out most of
what we call poetry fails by this standard. He is right. You are
trying to cloud the issue by refuting statements never made. No one
has suggested that Donne's value (or the value of any poetry) is "of
an autobiographical nature". However, Donne did "mix life and
writing", and many would argue that his poetry is the better for it.

If you seriously think that the real-life incidents in Donne's poetry
are "a metaphysical conceit", you need to go back and read Donne and
about Donne. This idea can be justified only insofar as Donne pretty
much invented Metaphysical poetry, so nearly anything he did could be
called a conceit of the style. Or perhaps you are referring to the
ubiquitous use of the first person in his _Songs and Sonnets_, which
some critics consider a stylistic convention influenced by the court
poetry of an earlier age. If so, you should be aware that Donne
incorporated his personal experiences and explored his feelings in
*all* his poetry. Edwin Honig, in his introduction to _The Major
Metaphysical Poets of the Seventeenth Century_, writes:

In Donne we have the fullest conceivable use made of
personal event and style. His poetry gives as much of
a biographical sense of his life and character as we
can get, not only because Donne uses the actual details
and events of his life, but also because he treats
erotic and devotional themes with psychological accuracy,
not merely exploiting them because they are popular. We
know, therefore, what he thought, how he felt about love,
marriage, and religion, and we know what troubled him.

Here are the comments of several other authors on Donne (references
omitted to avoid boring everyone to tears):

The appeal of Donne since the 1920's has been partly based
on his honesty as a writer, the candid reporting of his
emotions...

When the bonds between men seem to have been broken or
to have become inimical to the integrity of private
personality, a private response is the most valuable. We
shall see that just such an impulse underlies Donne's
early poetry and indeed continues to define Metaphysical
poetry. We can readily appreciate how natural it was that
the immediate experience of an individual, especially the
transactions of his private heart, should have come to be
the major concern of poetry for several crucial decades.
This is sufficiently clear, even obvious, to any reader
of Donne.

In the religious poetry Donne explores his feelings towards
God just as, in the secular poetry, he explored his feelings
toward the beloved....In the religious poetry, as in the
secular, profound emotion works upon Donne's intellect not
as a narcotic but as a stimulant.

The presence of the author's personal life is *not* the problem with
poetry, whether on rap or elsewhere. In suggesting that it is,
Mikhail is pointing toward a dead end. Instead of eschewing the
mixing of life and writing, we should be *fostering* this mixing --
and I do mean mixing. Most of the bad poetry I've read falls into one
of two categories: (a) life without writing, or (b) writing without
life. In the one case, you get purple poesy, in the other, grey
verse. As poets, we need to find out what is *important* in our own
experience, and put that in our poetry. T.S. Eliot, who was,
coincidentally, writing about the Metaphysical poets, said

The poets in question have, like other poets, various faults.
But they were, at best, engaged in the task of trying to find
the verbal equivalent for states of mind and feeling. And this
means both that they are more mature, and that they wear
better, than later poets of certainly not less literary
ability.

Here's a Donne poem for you to get started on.


A Hymn to Christ
at the author's last going into Germany
------------------------------------------------------------

In what torn ship soever I embark,
That ship shall be my emblem of thy Ark;
What sea soever swallow me, that flood
Shall be to me an emblem of thy blood;
Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise
Thy face; yet through that mask I know those eyes,
Which, though they turn away sometimes,
They never will despise.

I sacrifice this Island unto thee,
And all whom I loved here, and who loved me;
When I have put our seas twixt them and me,
Put thou thy sea betwixt my sins and thee.
As the tree's sap doth seek the root below
In winter, in my winter now I go,
Where none but thee, th'Eternal root
Of true Love I may know.

Nor thou nor thy religion dost control,
The amorousness of an harmonious Soul,
But thou would'st have that love thy self: As thou
Art jealous, Lord, so I am jealous now,
Thou lov'st not, till from loving more, thou free
My soul: Whoever gives, takes liberty:
O, if thou car'st not whom I love
Alas, thou lov'st not me.

Seal then this bill of my Divorce to All,
on whom those fainter beams of love did fall;
Marry those loves, which in youth scattered be
On Fame, Wit, Hopes, (false mistresses) to thee.
Churches are best for Prayer, that have least light:
To see God only, I go out of sight:
And to scape stormy days, I choose
An Everlasting night.


This poem is an expression of Donne's profound love for God, and of
conflict he felt between love of God and love of 'the world'. His
sailing to Germany was in obedience of his religious duty, and he felt
that God was asking him to give up everything: his home, his country,
his family. He is praying that in giving up "all whom I loved here,
and who loved me", he will grow closer to God: "in my winter now I
go, where none but thee, th'Eternal root of true love I may know."
The poem is baldly honest and perfectly balanced: Donne expresses his
pain and his doubt, and affirms his faith: "yet through that mask, I
know those eyes, which, though they turn away sometimes, they never
will despise."


Marie Coffin

Philip Nikolayev

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Dec 2, 1992, 4:54:51 AM12/2/92
to
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

MC


> Mikhail said not to mix life and writing. Marek pointed out most of
> what we call poetry fails by this standard. He is right. You are
> trying to cloud the issue by refuting statements never made. No one
> has suggested that Donne's value (or the value of any poetry) is "of
> an autobiographical nature". However, Donne did "mix life and
> writing", and many would argue that his poetry is the better for it.

If you want to reduce the surface meaning of Mikhail's proposition
_ad absurdum_, you may say that any creative writing requires a living
individual, and is therefore always 'mixed' with life. This is as
easy as uttering any platitude, but has nothing to do, I think, with
what Mikhail is trying to get across. The presence of autobiography
in much great poetry is another trivial truth which no one in his or
her right mind need question. To complete the pointless circle, you
may say that any idea or work is a fact in the author's biography, and
therefore all writing is in a certain sense autobiographical. This
will also be granted. So what? What value judgements can you base on
these banalities? I think none. On the other hand, Marek's defence of
egocentric poesy implies that 'an egocentric style' may derive at
least some of its aesthetic value from having to do with the actual
events of the author's life, from a mixture of life and writing.
Naturally, this is nonsense.

MC


> If you seriously think that the real-life incidents in Donne's
> poetry are "a metaphysical conceit", you need to go back and read
> Donne and about Donne. This idea can be justified only insofar as
> Donne pretty much invented Metaphysical poetry, so nearly anything
> he did could be called a conceit of the style.

It was not Donne who invented metaphysical poetry, but by Samuel
Johnson, who picked up John Dryden's use of the term 'metaphysics'
with respect to Donne. Strictly speaking, Donne's poetry was no more
metaphysical than that of his predecessors; but it was characterised
by a new style, which led Dryden to say, in his 'Discourse of Satire',
that Donne 'affects the metaphysics' in order to charm the ladies.
This view is completely misleading, but has its aficionados to this
day; and Marek, perhaps involuntarily, sounds like one of them. What
Dryden failed to appreciate in Donne was a new kind of realism,
the _discordia concors_. This realism, indeed, is largely based on
introspection, but derives no aesthetic value from it. (Compare this
to what I say above about Freud.) On the contrary, its power is
intellectual and universal. It is significant that in this century
the public interest in Donne was revived by T. S. Eliot and the
New Critics, precisely because of the 'unified sensibility' they
saw in him.

MC


> Or perhaps you are
> referring to the ubiquitous use of the first person in his _Songs
> and Sonnets_, which some critics consider a stylistic convention
> influenced by the court poetry of an earlier age. If so, you should
> be aware that Donne incorporated his personal experiences and
> explored his feelings in *all* his poetry.

That's all very well. But if you consider how exactly he 'explored'
those feelings and experiences, you will see that they are used
as mere food for the intellect. Otherwise you will be forced to
conclude that some of Donne's poetry is about flea-bites.

MC


> Edwin Honig, in his
> introduction to _The Major Metaphysical Poets of the Seventeenth
> Century_, writes:

> In Donne we have the fullest conceivable use made of
> personal event and style. His poetry gives as much of a
> biographical sense of his life and character as we can
> get, not only because Donne uses the actual details and
> events of his life, but also because he treats erotic and
> devotional themes with psychological accuracy, not merely
> exploiting them because they are popular. We know,
> therefore, what he thought, how he felt about love,
> marriage, and religion, and we know what troubled him.

And so? Our possible interest in what troubled him is caused
by our interest in his poetry. It is silly to argue otherwise,
and aesthetically absurd to see a *direct* relationship between,
say, his exploration of the moods of love and his relations with
women. As a warning against such literalism, you may take all
the ridiculous attempts to reconstruct the day-by-day 'plot' of
Shakespeare's sonnets.

MC


> Here are the comments of several other authors on Donne (references
> omitted to avoid boring everyone to tears):

> The appeal of Donne since the 1920's has been partly based
> on his honesty as a writer, the candid reporting of his
> emotions...

Note that this is not a comment on Donne, but one on the
public's poor taste.

> When the bonds between men seem to have been broken or
> to have become inimical to the integrity of private
> personality, a private response is the most valuable.
> We shall see that just such an impulse underlies Donne's
> early poetry and indeed continues to define Metaphysical
> poetry. We can readily appreciate how natural it was that
> the immediate experience of an individual, especially the
> transactions of his private heart, should have come to be
> the major concern of poetry for several crucial decades.
> This is sufficiently clear, even obvious, to any reader
> of Donne.

This trite cliche', too, is rather sickly-sweet and misleading.
It is very easy to see Donne, retrospectively, through the prism
of the Romantic *homo seriosus*, and to remain oblivious of that
part of him which was a *homo rhetoricus*. True, Donne was no
Sir Walter Ralegh; yet there is no consistent aesthetic of sincerity
in him. I would be the last person to deny that Donne wrote about
things that mattered to him; yet his poetry is personal in a highly
disciplined sort of way. Don't forget to what extent his conceits rely
on irony and oxymoron. These are more often than not so idiosyncratic
as to require of the reader a considerable mental effort, and thus
give his poems a universal value, an objective 'organic form',
if you wish.

> In the religious poetry Donne explores his feelings towards
> God just as, in the secular poetry, he explored his feelings
> toward the beloved....In the religious poetry, as in the
> secular, profound emotion works upon Donne's intellect not
> as a narcotic but as a stimulant.

Stop for a moment here and think why the heck he needs to use
his intellect in expressing his emotions.

MC


> The presence of the author's personal life is *not* the problem with
> poetry, whether on rap or elsewhere. In suggesting that it is,
> Mikhail is pointing toward a dead end. Instead of eschewing the
> mixing of life and writing, we should be *fostering* this mixing --
> and I do mean mixing. Most of the bad poetry I've read falls into
> one of two categories: (a) life without writing, or (b) writing
> without life. In the one case, you get purple poesy, in the other,
> grey verse. As poets, we need to find out what is *important* in
> our own experience, and put that in our poetry.

Firstly, I would venture to say that most great poetry anyone
can read falls under 'writing without life', if by life you mean
faithful autobiography or obscure 'transactions of the private heart';
while most authors on r.a.p. seem to lack both a decent writing style
and a life, for which lack they compensate by the pernicious
posting of what comes across as self-romanticising unfulfilled
fantasies. I would caution you to think twice about the 'significance'
of personal events. No personal event is universally significant
in itself; but as soon as a poem, through an intellectual effort,
attains objective value, its personal context becomes quite
irrelevant to its meaning.

MC


> T.S. Eliot, who
> was, coincidentally, writing about the Metaphysical poets, said

> The poets in question have, like other poets, various faults.
> But they were, at best, engaged in the task of trying to find
> the verbal equivalent for states of mind and feeling. And this
> means both that they are more mature, and that they wear
> better, than later poets of certainly not less literary
> ability.

Oh, must you always argue by misread authority? I hate the term
'verbal equivalent' because it is devoid of content. But pray
ponder this: any undisciplined verbalising of emotions results in
gibberish rather than in poetry; while the authors personal feelings
are irrelevant to the understanding of any worthy poem.

MC


> Here's a Donne poem for you to get started on.

Oh, thank you, Ma'am.

MC


> This poem is an expression of Donne's profound love for God, and of
> conflict he felt between love of God and love of 'the world'. His
> sailing to Germany was in obedience of his religious duty, and he
> felt that God was asking him to give up everything: his home, his
> country, his family. He is praying that in giving up "all whom I
> loved here, and who loved me", he will grow closer to God: "in my
> winter now I go, where none but thee, th'Eternal root of true love I
> may know." The poem is baldly honest and perfectly balanced: Donne
> expresses his pain and his doubt, and affirms his faith: "yet
> through that mask, I know those eyes, which, though they turn away
> sometimes, they never will despise."

Holy Jesus, aren't we back in high school again! Don't you see how
absurd it is to claim that this poem derives its beauty from the
hackneyed conflict of two commonplace loves, complete with the reassertion
of a banal duty? If there were nothing more to it, it would remain
a bit of diaristic doggerel and never become the impressive exercise
in didactic religious verse that it is. [Cheers there, Mikhail!]
Note that the rhetoric of a personal relationship to God, although
greatly emphasised in Donne's poems and sermons, is by and large
typical of the Anglican Protestantism to which Donne converted, and,
being of doctrinal significance, is in fact less personal in this
instance than some might think. Similarly, the line 'Churches are best
for Prayer, that have least light' does not simply express the poet's
'feeling', but is a subtle anti-Catholic jab and even something
of a cliche'. I would like to assume that the poem is indeed in
accord with Donne's actual feelings, but it is meaningless to say
that it is 'baldly honest' or, worse, that Donne 'spews' his life
at the reader, as Marek is pleased to think.

> Marie Coffin

Should you decide to follow up to this, please keep the number
of pointless quotations to a minimum.

Philip Nikolayev
nik...@husc.harvard.edu

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 2:14:05 AM12/2/92
to
In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>
nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:

>[hundreds of lines on poor John Donne]

Phil, why do you think the douchebags would be more amenable to your
instructive reading of Donne than my explanation of Miller and Balzac?

>Philip Nikolayev
>nik...@husc.harvard.edu

John G'alt

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 2:57:30 AM12/2/92
to
>On the other hand, Marek's defence of
>egocentric poesy implies that 'an egocentric style' may derive at
>least some of its aesthetic value from having to do with the actual
>events of the author's life, from a mixture of life and writing.
>Naturally, this is nonsense.
oh, naturally. my cardinal of the kremlin wall, your propensity for
offhandedly spewing opinion as if it shared the demesne of your own reason
_ad-hibit_, merely imparts to the rest of us (priveleged with a text by
Roget) the ambience of your intellectual complacency _ad-ulterated_.

>Note that this is not a comment on Donne, but one on the
>public's poor taste.

note that this note notes nothing, but the noting of the
previous noteworthy note.

>This trite cliche', too, is rather sickly-sweet and misleading.
>It is very easy to see Donne, retrospectively, through the prism
>of the Romantic *homo seriosus*, and to remain oblivious of that
>part of him which was a *homo rhetoricus*.

This obsolete mentality, too, again has recursively manifested itself
within the changing schools of thought, though only *homo genized* when
considered along with the *homo nym* of the Renaissance and the somewhat
more subjective *homo munculus* of La Asocacion Nacional de Edados. It's
far too simple, for instance, to be _ex_post_opiniono_ enthralled by the
quasi-certifiable profusion of barren claptrap so readily demonstrated and
seemingly at will by the DirtyDiaper Duo.


>
>Stop for a moment here and think why the heck he needs to use
>his intellect in expressing his emotions.

***see your lines 1-2 below***


>in itself; but as soon as a poem, through an intellectual effort,
>attains objective value, its personal context becomes quite
>irrelevant to its meaning.
>

me saca canas verdes...
John G'alt
--
John Greenawalt, gt7...@prism.gatech.edu (whooptydoo yes I'm a number)
"When these three are finished, Howard, no one will be able to stop you.
Not ever again. I occasionally speculate on just how far you'll go.
You see, I've always had a weakness for astronomy." (_Fountainhead_)

Marek Lugowski

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 3:31:25 AM12/2/92
to
zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) spews (his) life at the reader:

>In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>
>nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:
...

>Phil, why do you think the douchebags would be more amenable to your
>instructive reading of Donne than my explanation of Miller and Balzac?

An empirical question, forsooth, one that demands Lockian analysis. But
then, we would need to venture to Cambridge's local Stop and Go's, the
aisles which harbor the douches, the feminine napkins and the tampons, for
this is the audience that the Harvard boys explicitly deem suitable to
address with their scholarly and AC (Absolutely Correct) diatribes. So,
indeed, Phil, do you think the Eve Gently Scented will be more amenable to
your instructive reading of Donne than Mike's explanation of Miller and
Balzac? Methinks so. On the other hand, Tampax Extra Slim are bound to
prefer Balzac. I also would guess that the Kotex Minipads are awaiting
more expaunding on the Bengali poetry of the 20th century.

Be sure to tell us what the action is when you two move to household goods.

wodka wyborowally,

-- Marek

Philip Nikolayev

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Dec 2, 1992, 6:17:49 AM12/2/92
to
zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:

> In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>
> nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:

>>[hundreds of lines on poor John Donne]

> Phil, why do you think the douchebags would be more amenable to your
> instructive reading of Donne than my explanation of Miller and
> Balzac?

Hm, all I tried to provide was an instructive reading
of your didactic diatribe against douchebagdom.

> cordially,
> mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
> "Le cul des femmes est monotone comme l'esprit des hommes."

misericordially,
philip nikolayev, nik...@husc.harvard.edu
"The reverse is also true."

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 11:07:01 AM12/2/92
to
Methinks a disquisition on egoless reading, preceded by the common name of
its author, self-interpolated in the title, is not worthy of a rebuttal.

cordially,
mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
"Nothing can be said truly of what does not exist."

Marek Lugowski

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 11:48:25 AM12/2/92
to
In article <1992Dec2.1...@husc3.harvard.edu> zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:
>Methinks a disquisition on egoless reading, preceded by the common name of
>its author, self-interpolated in the title, is not worthy of a rebuttal.

Then why do you rebutt? And what is there to rebutt? Only the facts,
ma'am. Do you get much contention from feminine napkins at the Stop and
Go? Perhaps you deliver your homilies and then examine the directions
imprinted on the packages for changes -- to gauge reaction? Is there ever
any? Do you ever see a burning bush? :) Inquiring minds want to know.

Oh, and Zeleny, try to be intellectually honest with small details, at
least. You know because I told you expressly why I put "/ Marek" in the
subject. It allows both those who want to see my articles and those who
want to avoid them an easy way to identify them -- on newsreaders such as
rn that only allow listing by subject. It wasn't even my idea, but of a
reader. In fact, this is a good practice for all consistent posters and
many rappers already follow some "Subject:" line marking scheme.

Do stop reading your poisonous contempt into every corner of the universe.
It reflects badly on your ethos, the one you so pathetically foist on us
by brute cybernetics and bad manners. :)

stolichnayally yours,

-- Marek

"some say knowledge is something sat in your lap" -- Kate Bush

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 1:00:06 PM12/2/92
to
In article <1992Dec2.1...@news.acns.nwu.edu>
ma...@casbah.acns.nwu.edu (Marek Lugowski) writes:

>In article <1992Dec2.1...@husc3.harvard.edu>
>zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:

MZ:


>>Methinks a disquisition on egoless reading, preceded by the common name of
>>its author, self-interpolated in the title, is not worthy of a rebuttal.

ML:


>Then why do you rebutt? And what is there to rebutt? Only the facts,
>ma'am. Do you get much contention from feminine napkins at the Stop and
>Go? Perhaps you deliver your homilies and then examine the directions
>imprinted on the packages for changes -- to gauge reaction? Is there ever
>any? Do you ever see a burning bush? :) Inquiring minds want to know.

(i) Far from rebutting, I dismissed.
(ii) Your discomfort is rewarding enough.
(iii) I only torture those who can feel pain.
(iv) In your words, I am your worst nightmare.
(v) You give no evidence of an inquiring mind.

ML:


>Oh, and Zeleny, try to be intellectually honest with small details, at
>least. You know because I told you expressly why I put "/ Marek" in the
>subject. It allows both those who want to see my articles and those who
>want to avoid them an easy way to identify them -- on newsreaders such as
>rn that only allow listing by subject. It wasn't even my idea, but of a
>reader. In fact, this is a good practice for all consistent posters and
>many rappers already follow some "Subject:" line marking scheme.

It is an elementary intellectual exercise to figure out why your
ratiocinations for self-promotion are irrelevant to my objection.

ML:


>Do stop reading your poisonous contempt into every corner of the universe.

I judge you marginally worthy of my contempt.

ML:


>It reflects badly on your ethos, the one you so pathetically foist on us
>by brute cybernetics and bad manners. :)

If, by your own lights, you claim a right to judge my ethos, perhaps
you would also judge its prescription to eviscerate you with a flint
knife, as an offering to the Gods of Strife. Should my arrogant
conviction that I can get away with this sacrifice be a sufficient
warrant for me to go ahead with it?

>stolichnayally yours,
>
> -- Marek
>
>"some say knowledge is something sat in your lap" -- Kate Bush

cordially,

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 6:41:35 PM12/2/92
to
Philip -- if you read these posts as carelessly as you read and
studied Donne, it's no wonder you come off sounding like such an
idiot. While it is true that Dryden first used the word
"metaphysical" to describe the poetry of Donne and his followers, and
that Johnson made the usage famous, it does not follow that Johnson
invented this type of poetry. Donne did, and others admired and
imitated him. Since you dislike quotations, I will simply refer you
to Joan Bennett's _Five Metaphysical Poets_.

Furthermore, it was Mikhail, not Marek, who used the phrase "spewing
life on bystanders". It was also Mikhail who said "eschew the
douchebag's propensity for mixing life and writing". As I have tried
to point out, most great writers mix life and writing. Mikhail, in
suggesting that writers avoid this, is giving terrible advice. You
seem to think Mikhail meant something else entirely. Perhaps so. His
inability to state an argument coherently is certainly a point in your
favor on this one. I, however, was concerned with what Mikhail
*said*, not with what you think he might have meant.

>On the other hand, Marek's defence of
>egocentric poesy implies that 'an egocentric style' may derive at
>least some of its aesthetic value from having to do with the actual
>events of the author's life, from a mixture of life and writing.
>Naturally, this is nonsense.

Marek's "defense" implies nothing of the sort. No one has suggested
that aesthetic value springs from literalism. This is another in a
long line of red herrings on your part. Your inability to read what
is written, coupled with your ability to read what is *not* written,
make you a unique addition to this newsgroup.

I hope, for your sake, that you get over the idea that poetry is an
intellectual exercise, and that you learn the difference between
honesty and literalism. The whole point of Donne is the fusion of the
intellect and the feelings. You seem to see the two as diametrically
opposed; in anyone less unattractively ignorant than you, I would call
this "quaint".

>Oh, must you always argue by misread authority? I hate the term
>'verbal equivalent' because it is devoid of content. But pray
>ponder this: any undisciplined verbalising of emotions results in
>gibberish rather than in poetry; while the authors personal feelings
>are irrelevant to the understanding of any worthy poem.

If you had bothered to read my first post to you, you would have
noticed that I specifically rejected "undisciplined verbalizing of
emotions". I suggested that *disciplined* exploration of emotion is
a legitimate goal of poetry. I think Eliot is suggesting the same
thing. If you (or Mikhail) feels that some of the poems posted on rap
are undisciplined in this respect, then say so and offer ways to
improve them. Suggesting that the poets not "mix life and writing"
is, as I have said before, the wrong idea.

If, by "the authors personal feelings are irrelevant to the
understanding of any worthy poem" you mean that the poem should be
read on its own, without referring to an autobiography to find out
what the author was up to that day, I agree with you. However, the
author's personal feelings may be quite relevant in that they are
*present* in the poem. 'A Hymn to Christ' is a fine example of this:
the poem itself expresses the author's feelings. One need not look
outside the poem to understand it. It is interesting that you, not
I, appeal to Donne's life to explain this poem.

In closing, I would caution you: do not dismiss the "rhetoric" of the
poem as being "less personal than one might think" simply because it
is Protestant doctrine. One may take a doctrine quite personally, and
it would be hard, after reading Donne, to argue that he did not. A
doctrine becomes a doctrine precisely because a good many people
personally felt it to be valid.


Marie Coffin

sayan bhattacharyya

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 7:21:55 PM12/2/92
to
In article <1992Dec...@IASTATE.EDU> mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

>... it does not follow that Johnson


>invented this type of poetry. Donne did, and others admired and
>imitated him. Since you dislike quotations, I will simply refer you
>to Joan Bennett's _Five Metaphysical Poets_.
>

Isn't it a bit pointless to claim that some particular individual
"invented" a particular style ? Literary style is, I think, like
emergent behavior in complex systems - at a certain age and time
a great many conditions conspire to create the emergence of a style
and it is almost never a solitary happening.

I think I can hear metaphysical poetry foreshadowed (now that was
a mixed metaphor) in the Elizabethans, for example Ben Jonson as
well as in many Shakespearean sonnets. To cite an example,
Shakespeare's "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame" sonnet,
with the incredible pun in the first line and the clever interweaving
of metaphors, seems very metaphysical to me.

If I remember correctly, neither does the Penguin Book of Metaphysical
Verse start with Donne, but with earlier writers...

Harold Bloom, in "The Anxiety of Influence", points to the interesting
fact how often poets sound not like their predecessors, but, strangely,
like their *successors* . I think this is quite true.Shakespeare often
sounds perturbingly like Donne.

>Marie Coffin

-Sayan.

--
Sayan Bhattacharyya | Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.
Artificial Intelligence Lab |
The University of Michigan |
--

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 2, 1992, 9:02:05 PM12/2/92
to
In article <1992Dec3.0...@zip.eecs.umich.edu>,


I like your analogy of complex systems, and I agree that literary style
can be explained in this way, although it's not the only explanation.

The term "metaphysical poetry" is generally used as a label for a type of
poetry that flourished in the late Elizabethean/early Jacobean period.
I agree that many conditions conspired to create this style. However, like
all movements it had leaders and followers. Donne is generally considered
a leader, and sometimes called THE leader, of this movement. Before
"metaphysical" was popularized, the usual label was "the Donne school".

Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, and John Donne were roughly contemporaries, and
Jonson was a friend and admirer (and critic) of Donne. Given this, it's
not surprising that one can detect similar influences in all of them.

"Metaphysical" is also used sometimes to describe poets not of this time
period, but clearly influenced by it. Hopkins is a good example. Here
are a few stanzas from "The Wreck of the Deutschland", which is too long
to post here in its entirety. Fans of Hopkins will forgive me for messing
with the indentation.


(1)
Thou mastering me
God! give of breath and bread;
World's strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

(2)
I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night;
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.

(3)
The frown of his face
Before me, the hurtle of hell
Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?
I whirled out wings that spell
And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
My heart, but you were dovewinged, I can tell,
Carrier-witted, I am bold to boast,
To flash from the flame to the flame then, tower from the grace to the grace.

(4)
I am soft sift
In an hourglass -- at the wall
Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift,
And it crowds and it combs to the fall;
I steady as a water in a well, to a poise, to a pane,
But roped with, always, all the way down from the tall
Fells or flanks of the voel, a vein
Of the gospel proffer, a pressure, a principle, Christ's gift.


Marie Coffin

Greg Nikolic

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 12:50:37 AM12/3/92
to
In article <1992Dec2.1...@husc3.harvard.edu> zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:
>It is an elementary intellectual exercise to figure out why your
>ratiocinations for self-promotion are irrelevant to my objection.

Whoa! Usually *I'm* accused of using big words. Never have I been accused of
being remotely stupid, but at the risk of sounding moronic (untrue) and lazy
(accurate), what does "ratiocination" mean? The rest I got, but holy jeez
talk about complex syntax. Mikhail, is English really your third language?
Never on the net have I seen such a sophisticated and abstract user of it; I
pray to the "Gods of Strife" (whomsoever they may be) that I do not anger you
enough to provoke an ill thought and unjudicious argument...:)

>ML:
>>Do stop reading your poisonous contempt into every corner of the universe.
>
>I judge you marginally worthy of my contempt.

I had to smile at that one.

>ML:
>>It reflects badly on your ethos, the one you so pathetically foist on us
>>by brute cybernetics and bad manners. :)
>
>If, by your own lights, you claim a right to judge my ethos, perhaps
>you would also judge its prescription to eviscerate you with a flint
>knife, as an offering to the Gods of Strife. Should my arrogant
>conviction that I can get away with this sacrifice be a sufficient
>warrant for me to go ahead with it?

I'm dead tired rt now but it makes me feel stoopid to have to reread a
paragraph twice to make sure I grasp the full meaning. Hm. Tip, Zeleny: if
you punctuate your writhing, impressive anacondan examples of verbosity with
very basic, simple sentences you might stagger the unforewarned reader even
further! ;) As in boxing, light jabs mixed with the heavy blows throw your
opponent off guard.

>
>>stolichnayally yours,
>>
>> -- Marek
>>
>>"some say knowledge is something sat in your lap" -- Kate Bush
>
>cordially,
>mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
>"Nothing can be said truly of what does not exist."

Impressedly yours,
Greg Nikolic / gdni...@descartes.uwaterloo.ca

Mikhail, I would be curious to see a biography of yours posting here (however
brief). From what I remember of other postings of yours you seem to have led an
interesting life. I'm sure other netters wouldn't mind seeing it either. You
sound like you were born in Minsk....possible? (complete guess).

Oh yeah. I hate when people stray from the newsgroup focus so I'll write a poem
up spontaneously. A haiku: Tribute to Zeleny

words big long words
twist my little head into
discombobulated shapes :)

*twenty-one gun salute* AT-ten-shun!
(hm. which Red Army unit did you serve in when that sort of thing was
compulsory?)

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 2:24:56 AM12/3/92
to
In article <1992Dec...@IASTATE.EDU>
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

MC:


>Philip -- if you read these posts as carelessly as you read and
>studied Donne, it's no wonder you come off sounding like such an
>idiot. While it is true that Dryden first used the word
>"metaphysical" to describe the poetry of Donne and his followers, and
>that Johnson made the usage famous, it does not follow that Johnson
>invented this type of poetry. Donne did, and others admired and
>imitated him. Since you dislike quotations, I will simply refer you
>to Joan Bennett's _Five Metaphysical Poets_.

Huh? is "metaphysical poetry" a natural kind, or a critical artefact?
What exactly do you expect to prove with another critical reference? If
you wish to use the term in the former sense, _pace_ Eliot, you would
have to include Dante and Baudelaire, two of the least self-indulgent
writers in any language. If, on the other hand, your appeal is to the
latter meaning, then you are only confirming Phil's contention.

MC:


>Furthermore, it was Mikhail, not Marek, who used the phrase "spewing
>life on bystanders". It was also Mikhail who said "eschew the
>douchebag's propensity for mixing life and writing". As I have tried
>to point out, most great writers mix life and writing. Mikhail, in
>suggesting that writers avoid this, is giving terrible advice. You
>seem to think Mikhail meant something else entirely. Perhaps so. His
>inability to state an argument coherently is certainly a point in your
>favor on this one. I, however, was concerned with what Mikhail
>*said*, not with what you think he might have meant.

It is nice to have you admit that your understanding does not transcend
the purely syntactical level. Please don't bother to ameliorate it on
my account. Notwithstanding your evident ignorance of tropes and
figures, there is one tiny factual item you got wrong: you did not, in
any meaningful way, try to point out that most great writers mix life
and writing, even in the banal literal sense of the locution you
manifestly prefer over my original meaning. Instead, you asserted your
claim, substantiating it solely with ill-digested quotations. If that
makes a point, it is only convincing to someone who shares your shallow
approach to textual interpretation. Note that when Phil confronted you
with a substantive factual argument to the contrary, you retreated
behind epithets and name-dropping, once again unable to say anything
meaningful.

PN:


>>On the other hand, Marek's defence of
>>egocentric poesy implies that 'an egocentric style' may derive at
>>least some of its aesthetic value from having to do with the actual
>>events of the author's life, from a mixture of life and writing.
>>Naturally, this is nonsense.

MC:


>Marek's "defense" implies nothing of the sort. No one has suggested
>that aesthetic value springs from literalism. This is another in a
>long line of red herrings on your part. Your inability to read what
>is written, coupled with your ability to read what is *not* written,
>make you a unique addition to this newsgroup.

Nonsense. If you insist on a literalist reading of my claim, taken out
of its context, you have no grounds for objecting to the reading of any
other text in the same manner, nor even for selecting any other manner
of reading a literary text.

MC:


>I hope, for your sake, that you get over the idea that poetry is an
>intellectual exercise, and that you learn the difference between
>honesty and literalism. The whole point of Donne is the fusion of the
>intellect and the feelings. You seem to see the two as diametrically
>opposed; in anyone less unattractively ignorant than you, I would call
>this "quaint".

More useless flamage. Pray tell, what meaning are you trying to vest in
the tired commonplace of "the fusion of the intellect and the feelings"?
Is that how you feel, or what you think, about your own writing? If so,
where exactly does that fusion occur, and how is it expressed in the
language of your copious poetic output?

PN:


>>Oh, must you always argue by misread authority? I hate the term
>>'verbal equivalent' because it is devoid of content. But pray
>>ponder this: any undisciplined verbalising of emotions results in
>>gibberish rather than in poetry; while the authors personal feelings
>>are irrelevant to the understanding of any worthy poem.

MC:


>If you had bothered to read my first post to you, you would have
>noticed that I specifically rejected "undisciplined verbalizing of
>emotions". I suggested that *disciplined* exploration of emotion is
>a legitimate goal of poetry. I think Eliot is suggesting the same
>thing. If you (or Mikhail) feels that some of the poems posted on rap
>are undisciplined in this respect, then say so and offer ways to
>improve them. Suggesting that the poets not "mix life and writing"
>is, as I have said before, the wrong idea.

What you said before amounts to no more than knee-jerk gainsaying.
Address my argument, if you wish to score a point; otherwise kindly get
your poetasting gob back around whichever knob you happen to have handy
at the moment, and leave this discussion to those who care about its
substance. On the other hand, should you uncharacteristically choose to
exhibit discipline and good faith, you might even notice that I never
suggested the illegitimacy of "*disciplined* exploration of emotion" as
a goal of poetry.

MC:


>If, by "the authors personal feelings are irrelevant to the
>understanding of any worthy poem" you mean that the poem should be
>read on its own, without referring to an autobiography to find out
>what the author was up to that day, I agree with you. However, the
>author's personal feelings may be quite relevant in that they are
>*present* in the poem. 'A Hymn to Christ' is a fine example of this:
>the poem itself expresses the author's feelings. One need not look
>outside the poem to understand it. It is interesting that you, not
>I, appeal to Donne's life to explain this poem.
>
>In closing, I would caution you: do not dismiss the "rhetoric" of the
>poem as being "less personal than one might think" simply because it
>is Protestant doctrine. One may take a doctrine quite personally, and
>it would be hard, after reading Donne, to argue that he did not. A
>doctrine becomes a doctrine precisely because a good many people
>personally felt it to be valid.

How do you know that he is being sincere? After all, Donne was used by
every New Critic and his uncle as a model ironist and paradox-monger!
Furthermore, as Phil justly notes, his religious convictions were at the
very least tainted with a fair dollop of opportunism. Now along comes
Marie, and suddenly it's all the expression of "the author's feelings."
Have you perchance been getting personal messages from the hereafter?

>Marie Coffin

Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 8:35:25 AM12/3/92
to
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

MC


> Philip -- if you read these posts as carelessly as you read and
> studied Donne, it's no wonder you come off sounding like such an
> idiot. While it is true that Dryden first used the word
> "metaphysical" to describe the poetry of Donne and his followers,
> and that Johnson made the usage famous, it does not follow that
> Johnson invented this type of poetry. Donne did, and others admired
> and imitated him. Since you dislike quotations, I will simply refer
> you to Joan Bennett's _Five Metaphysical Poets_.

^^^^
Thank you very much for not quoting anything from Joan Bennett's
_Four Metaphysical Poets_, and note that your inability to cite
this simple title correctly reveals a good deal about the accuracy
of your own readings and about your knowledge of the subject, let
alone your reliance on worthless paperback pap for authoritative
interpretations. Bennett's opus is well-nigh the worst lump of
batshit ever produced by anyone writing about Donne. At this
point, I find it rather hard to explain to myself the bizarre
fact that I not only own a copy of it, but actually read most of
its hardwood prose a while ago. Since you derive your understanding
of Donne from this monumental monster of a Cliffnote, I assure
you that on your ineloquent lips the word 'idiot' sounds like
the greatest compliment to me.

I explained to you in my previous posting why the term 'Metaphysical
Poetry' is meaningless and should best be taken as a mere convention.
Johnson did not invent 'this type of poetry', but his interpretation
of what he thought to be a peculiar kind of verse. If this isn't clear
to you, you may well insist that sexual sublimation was invented by
Freud's patients. Another conventional term, 'metaphysical conceit',
is more appropriate because it highlights some significant features
of Donne's style, in contrast to the Petrarchan conceit and the various
cliches of Elizabethan poetry.

MC


> Furthermore, it was Mikhail, not Marek, who used the phrase "spewing
> life on bystanders". It was also Mikhail who said "eschew the
> douchebag's propensity for mixing life and writing". As I have
> tried to point out, most great writers mix life and writing.
> Mikhail, in suggesting that writers avoid this, is giving terrible
> advice. You seem to think Mikhail meant something else entirely.
> Perhaps so. His inability to state an argument coherently is
> certainly a point in your favor on this one. I, however, was
> concerned with what Mikhail *said*, not with what you think he might
> have meant.

There is nothing incoherent about what Mikhail says. The mechanistic,
douchebag-like mixing of life and writing is pathetic, because
douchebags don't think, but spew. Are you suggesting that there is
some affinity between Donne and r.a.p.'s pen-pushers? To satisfy
your obsession with attributions, I'll remind you that Marek wrote,
in response to Mikhail:



"What is an egocentric style of writing? Elsewhere you write
about writing for writing's sake vs. spewing life on
bystanders. This neatly takes out John Donne, Louise Erdrich,
Balzac, Henry Miller, Anne Sexton, Halina Poswiatowska, and,
oh, much so much of world literature, from oral primitive to
the so-called Western Tradition."

From this it follows, quite unambiguously, that he believes
that Donne is 'spewing life on bystanders'.

PN


>>On the other hand, Marek's defence of egocentric poesy implies that
>>'an egocentric style' may derive at least some of its aesthetic
>>value from having to do with the actual events of the author's life,
>>from a mixture of life and writing. Naturally, this is nonsense.

PN


> Marek's "defense" implies nothing of the sort. No one has suggested
> that aesthetic value springs from literalism. This is another in a
> long line of red herrings on your part. Your inability to read what
> is written, coupled with your ability to read what is *not* written,
> make you a unique addition to this newsgroup.

It is, of course, quite logical that you should express such
admiration for the reading abilities of your fellow r.a.p.'ists,
given that most of the time you have no idea what you are talking
about. But try to transcend this limitation, and observe that
Marek is gallantly defending his, your and every other semi-literate
songbird's right to 'spew life' in public, and invokes Donne's
poetry as a precedent. I, on the contrary, propose that you folks
leave Donne alone, and confine your golden showers to the privacy
of direct email. I also suggest that if you absolutely must follow
up to my postings, you should respond to them directly, the way
I do. I am not in the lest interested in reading new and revised
versions of your endless loose gibberish, where you quote me out
of context. I warn you that I will ignore any such exercises
in aggressive cowardice.

MC


> I hope, for your sake, that you get over the idea that poetry is an
> intellectual exercise, and that you learn the difference between
> honesty and literalism. The whole point of Donne is the fusion of
> the intellect and the feelings. You seem to see the two as
> diametrically opposed; in anyone less unattractively ignorant than
> you, I would call this "quaint".

I'll grant you that your own poetry is not even the faintest semblance
of an intellectual exercise, and that your notion of the intellect
is as narrow as your own residual rationality, but I am not prepared
to excuse the enterprise of extending such limitations to great
poetry, such as Donne's. I'll leave it to others to figure out
what 'the whole point of Donne' may be, but will repeat that is
is a hollow and pointless platitude to talk about a synthesis
of thought and feeling in his poetry without bothering to explain
what kind of synthesis it is. Keep in mind that Donne's conceits
are characteristically based on false syllogisms; each of them
is an argument containing a logical flaw. This fact, it has been
shown, is essential to Donne's poetic wit and style. What do you
make of it?

PN


>>Oh, must you always argue by misread authority? I hate the term
>>'verbal equivalent' because it is devoid of content. But pray ponder
>>this: any undisciplined verbalising of emotions results in gibberish
>>rather than in poetry; while the authors personal feelings are
>>irrelevant to the understanding of any worthy poem.

MC


> If you had bothered to read my first post to you, you would have
> noticed that I specifically rejected "undisciplined verbalizing of
> emotions". I suggested that *disciplined* exploration of emotion is
> a legitimate goal of poetry. I think Eliot is suggesting the same
> thing. If you (or Mikhail) feels that some of the poems posted on
> rap are undisciplined in this respect, then say so and offer ways to
> improve them. Suggesting that the poets not "mix life and writing"
> is, as I have said before, the wrong idea.

I have stated before that in my view most of the stuff posted
on r.a.p. is beyond the hope of any meaningful improvement.
But at the moment, we are talking about great poetry, and
you seem to have committed yourself to uttering a host of
banal slogans. Here is what you said in your previous posting:
'As poets, we need to find out what is *important* in our own
experience, and put that in our poetry.' My point is that
*nothing* is inherently important in your experience, nor in
Donne's, nor in my own. All you can do is use your experience
as food for the intellect. You don't understand the first thing
about Eliot if you assume that he saw individual experience
as essential to poetry. He emphasised the 'unified sensibility'
which he found in Donne; and pray don't tell me that this refers to
simply to a fusion of thought and feeling, because then I'll
ask you what Eliot means by 'sensibility', and you won't be able
to answer.

> If, by "the authors personal feelings are irrelevant to the
> understanding of any worthy poem" you mean that the poem should be
> read on its own, without referring to an autobiography to find out
> what the author was up to that day, I agree with you. However, the
> author's personal feelings may be quite relevant in that they are
> *present* in the poem. 'A Hymn to Christ' is a fine example of
> this: the poem itself expresses the author's feelings. One need not
> look outside the poem to understand it. It is interesting that you,
> not I, appeal to Donne's life to explain this poem.

No, the speaker's feelings are important solely because of the *way*
they are present in that poem. Unlike you, Donne doesn't simply
'put' his emotions there, but constructs didactic images which
are meant to come across as conveying his feelings. Those images
are interesting, and without them the feelings are common as dirt.
Whether he *actually* felt anything of the sort in his 'private
heart' is only of secondary interest to anyone interested in his
writings.

> In closing, I would caution you: do not dismiss the "rhetoric" of
> the poem as being "less personal than one might think" simply
> because it is Protestant doctrine. One may take a doctrine quite
> personally, and it would be hard, after reading Donne, to argue that
> he did not. A doctrine becomes a doctrine precisely because a good
> many people personally felt it to be valid.

It is so like you to fail to notice that I don't 'dismiss' the rhetoric
but praise it, and to counter with yet another platitude which shows how
precious little you understand about Donne's life. I am not interested
in questioning the ultimate sincerity of Donne's Anglicanism, but will
simply point out that he abandoned any public display of Catholic sentiment
in the 1590s, well before he accepted the Church of England, and quite
possibly because he and his family suffered a good deal in the days of
Elizabeth's anti-Catholic campaigns. In 1615 he converted to Anglicanism
and consented to be ordained as a priest, with much reluctance and at
the express bidding of king James. This needn't be relevant to a sound
reading of 'A Hymn to Christ', but confirms that in interpreting a poem,
it is wrong to rely on assumptions about the poet's 'real feelings'.
It is much more interesting to note that Donne was profoundly influenced
by both doctrines, and that in the final analysis his poetic technique
indeed owes much to his Anglican scholarship. I don't claim to be an
expert on Donne, but it is sufficiently plain to me that it is rather
pointless to discuss even what little I know about him with you, Marie.
Any other takes?

> Marie Coffin

Philip Nikolayev
nik...@husc.harvard.edu

Don Zirilli

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 11:03:03 AM12/3/92
to
In article <1992Dec3.0...@husc3.harvard.edu> zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:
>>In closing, I would caution you: do not dismiss the "rhetoric" of the
>>poem as being "less personal than one might think" simply because it
>>is Protestant doctrine. One may take a doctrine quite personally, and
>>it would be hard, after reading Donne, to argue that he did not. A
>>doctrine becomes a doctrine precisely because a good many people
>>personally felt it to be valid.
>
>How do you know that he is being sincere? After all, Donne was used by
>every New Critic and his uncle as a model ironist and paradox-monger!
>Furthermore, as Phil justly notes, his religious convictions were at the
>very least tainted with a fair dollop of opportunism. Now along comes
>Marie, and suddenly it's all the expression of "the author's feelings."
>Have you perchance been getting personal messages from the hereafter?
>
This question seemed an obvious opening for me. I have, in fact, spoken to
Donne about this very issue, since he is a favorite poet of mine. He told me
that he was quite sincere in what he wrote, the problem being that the poems
themselves are subversive and ultimately undermine what y'all have termed
"Protestant doctrine". As a bonus, I here present a poem which Donne
channeled through me (and which I muddled by connecting MY life to HIS poem--
regardless, it is a good example of fusing intellect and emotion).


Technical


Technically a carnivore can eat itself.
My nose is older than my hair.
I have eaten the babies
of trees and pomegranates.
I faced suicide with indifference.
I laughed at sufferers.
I cried at ballroom dancing.
I danced fat and naked.
I prayed for protection.
Technically the sky is liquid--
it takes the shape of its container.
Technically birds are drowning.


John Donne c/o Posthumous O'Toole
12-3-92


Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 9:05:49 PM12/3/92
to
nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:

> mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

Oh, I guess I have to apologize for being unaware of the updated
version of Bennett's mutton-headed exercise, with its additional
chapter on Marvell (1964 edition). I found it at the library today.
More of the same mock-scholarly nonsense. But the most amazing thing
is that she leaves her thirty year old baloney on Donne, Vaughan,
Herbert and Crashaw practically intact.

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 6:56:39 PM12/3/92
to
In article <1992Dec3.0...@husc3.harvard.edu>, zel...@husc10.harvard.edu

(Michael Zeleny) writes:
>
> PN:
> >>Oh, must you always argue by misread authority? I hate the term
> >>'verbal equivalent' because it is devoid of content. But pray
> >>ponder this: any undisciplined verbalising of emotions results in
> >>gibberish rather than in poetry; while the authors personal feelings
> >>are irrelevant to the understanding of any worthy poem.
>
> MC:
> >If you had bothered to read my first post to you, you would have
> >noticed that I specifically rejected "undisciplined verbalizing of
> >emotions". I suggested that *disciplined* exploration of emotion is
> >a legitimate goal of poetry. I think Eliot is suggesting the same
> >thing. If you (or Mikhail) feels that some of the poems posted on rap
> >are undisciplined in this respect, then say so and offer ways to
> >improve them. Suggesting that the poets not "mix life and writing"
> >is, as I have said before, the wrong idea.
>
> What you said before amounts to no more than knee-jerk gainsaying.
> Address my argument, if you wish to score a point; otherwise kindly get
> your poetasting gob back around whichever knob you happen to have handy
> at the moment, and leave this discussion to those who care about its
> substance. On the other hand, should you uncharacteristically choose to
> exhibit discipline and good faith, you might even notice that I never
> suggested the illegitimacy of "*disciplined* exploration of emotion" as
> a goal of poetry.

Mikhail, you're getting confused again. You didn't *have* an argument.
You did a little pulpit-pounding, rap style. You told everyone to eschew
mixing life and poetry. Tell me, how can one do a disciplined exploration
of emotion in poetry, but keep life out of it?


Marie Coffin

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 3, 1992, 7:23:33 PM12/3/92
to
In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu

(Philip Nikolayev) writes:
> mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:
>

> Thank you very much for not quoting anything from Joan Bennett's
> _Four Metaphysical Poets_, and note that your inability to cite
> this simple title correctly reveals a good deal about the accuracy
> of your own readings and about your knowledge of the subject, let
> alone your reliance on worthless paperback pap for authoritative
> interpretations. Bennett's opus is well-nigh the worst lump of
> batshit ever produced by anyone writing about Donne. At this
> point, I find it rather hard to explain to myself the bizarre
> fact that I not only own a copy of it, but actually read most of
> its hardwood prose a while ago. Since you derive your understanding
> of Donne from this monumental monster of a Cliffnote, I assure
> you that on your ineloquent lips the word 'idiot' sounds like
> the greatest compliment to me.
>

In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu


(Philip Nikolayev) writes:
>
> Oh, I guess I have to apologize for being unaware of the updated
> version of Bennett's mutton-headed exercise, with its additional
> chapter on Marvell (1964 edition). I found it at the library today.
> More of the same mock-scholarly nonsense. But the most amazing thing
> is that she leaves her thirty year old baloney on Donne, Vaughan,
> Herbert and Crashaw practically intact.
>
> >> Marie Coffin
>
> > Philip Nikolayev nik...@husc.harvard.edu

Well, don't strain yourself with that apology, Philip. If I were to
take your tone, I might suggest what this reveals about the accuracy
of *your* readings on the subject, but that would be petty. My
understanding of Donne has been aided by many sources, but is "derived"
from none.

In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu
(Philip Nikolayev) writes:

> I explained to you in my previous posting why the term 'Metaphysical
> Poetry' is meaningless and should best be taken as a mere convention.
> Johnson did not invent 'this type of poetry', but his interpretation
> of what he thought to be a peculiar kind of verse. If this isn't clear
> to you, you may well insist that sexual sublimation was invented by
> Freud's patients.

You are, as usual, going off on tangents, and boring ones at that. We
started out talking about Donne, and it was you who first brought up
the word "Metaphysical", which had nothing to do with the discussion.
I can only surmise that you wanted us all to know you could spell it.
Now you apparently want to discuss whether or not it's a good label
for Donne's poetry. That doesn't interest me: I use it as a conventional
and convenient term for a particular style of poetry.

> Another conventional term, 'metaphysical conceit',
> is more appropriate because it highlights some significant features
> of Donne's style, in contrast to the Petrarchan conceit and the various
> cliches of Elizabethan poetry.

Yes, I've noticed your fondness for "metaphysical conceit". It's a
lovely phrase; please use it as often as you like. As a label for a
type of poetry, it is unfortunate in that it focuses attention on the
incidentals. You seem to think the conceits of poetry are the most
important feature. That is what I would expect from someone who
refers to feelings as "food for intellect". (Hmm...it also makes me
worry more and more about how Mikhail doesn't have any feelings.)

> PN
> >>On the other hand, Marek's defence of egocentric poesy implies that
> >>'an egocentric style' may derive at least some of its aesthetic
> >>value from having to do with the actual events of the author's life,
> >>from a mixture of life and writing. Naturally, this is nonsense.
>

> PN [Actually, I wrote this, but I guess Philip liked it. ;) -- mc]


> Marek's "defense" implies nothing of the sort. No one has suggested
> > that aesthetic value springs from literalism. This is another in a
> > long line of red herrings on your part. Your inability to read what
> > is written, coupled with your ability to read what is *not* written,
> > make you a unique addition to this newsgroup.
>
> It is, of course, quite logical that you should express such
> admiration for the reading abilities of your fellow r.a.p.'ists,
> given that most of the time you have no idea what you are talking
> about. But try to transcend this limitation, and observe that
> Marek is gallantly defending his, your and every other semi-literate
> songbird's right to 'spew life' in public, and invokes Donne's
> poetry as a precedent. I, on the contrary, propose that you folks
> leave Donne alone, and confine your golden showers to the privacy
> of direct email. I also suggest that if you absolutely must follow
> up to my postings, you should respond to them directly, the way
> I do. I am not in the lest interested in reading new and revised
> versions of your endless loose gibberish, where you quote me out
> of context. I warn you that I will ignore any such exercises
> in aggressive cowardice.
>

If by directly, you mean quote every word you said, forget it. It's
considered common ettiquette on the net to omit the endless quotation
of irrelevent tripe.

Marek does not need to defend our rights, thank you. He was trying to
point out your and Mikhail's logical inconsistencies. You claim that
rap-ers inclusion of "life" in their poetry is fundamentally different
from Donne's inclusion of "life" in his poetry. But when I invite you
to point out specific instances, you decline.

>
> No, the speaker's feelings are important solely because of the *way*
> they are present in that poem. Unlike you, Donne doesn't simply
> 'put' his emotions there, but constructs didactic images which
> are meant to come across as conveying his feelings. Those images
> are interesting, and without them the feelings are common as dirt.
> Whether he *actually* felt anything of the sort in his 'private
> heart' is only of secondary interest to anyone interested in his
> writings.
>

What you seem to be ignoring is that without those "common as mud"
feelings, the images would simply be curious artifacts. Once again,
your problem is in your inability to read. As I have already stated,
I am not suggesting that we worry about how Donne was feeling. I am
suggesting that one of the functions of poetry is to explore feeling.
Whether or not Donne felt a particular thing on a particular day, the
images in which he conveys feelings are realistic, even when they are
fantastic. They strike the reader as "fundamentally true". Either
this occured by accident, or Donne *knew* what he was talking about.

By the way, no one who has actually read Donne could blanketly refer to
his images as "didactic". Some of them are, others obviously aren't.

> It is so like you to fail to notice that I don't 'dismiss' the rhetoric
> but praise it, and to counter with yet another platitude which shows how
> precious little you understand about Donne's life. I am not interested
> in questioning the ultimate sincerity of Donne's Anglicanism, but will
> simply point out that he abandoned any public display of Catholic sentiment
> in the 1590s, well before he accepted the Church of England, and quite
> possibly because he and his family suffered a good deal in the days of
> Elizabeth's anti-Catholic campaigns. In 1615 he converted to Anglicanism
> and consented to be ordained as a priest, with much reluctance and at
> the express bidding of king James. This needn't be relevant to a sound
> reading of 'A Hymn to Christ', but confirms that in interpreting a poem,
> it is wrong to rely on assumptions about the poet's 'real feelings'.

This is misleading at best. Donne was encouraged by the king, as well
as by several other people, to take holy orders. Donne certainly
considered this for several years before making a decision. Historians
and biographers disagree about the extent of James's influence in Donne's
decision: opinions run the gamut from negligible to overwhelming.
There is also no clear evidence as to why Donne hesitated. What, in any
case, does this have to do with the emotions expressed in the poem? Are
you implying that Donne didn't actually feel the things he expressed?

My *interpretation* of the poem does not rely on any assumptions about
Donne's feelings. I do think that Donne was an honest writer in this
instance, but my interpretation would be the same in any case. If you
will recall, I posted the poem as an example of Donne fusing his life
and his poetry. The fact is that he did write the poem on the
occasion of his sailing to Germany, and there is independent evidence
that he thought he would not return from the trip.

> It is much more interesting to note that Donne was profoundly influenced
> by both doctrines, and that in the final analysis his poetic technique
> indeed owes much to his Anglican scholarship.

Interesting to whom? That he was influenced by both doctrines is obvious
to anyone who knows anything about his life. His poetic technique was
also influenced by the fact that he studied law. So what?


Marie Coffin

Ozan Yigit

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 9:37:34 AM12/4/92
to
Michail Zeleny writes [amongst other things]:

My thesis advisor is Hilary Putnam.

Poetic justice. :-]

... oz

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 12:51:17 PM12/4/92
to
In article <Byo5K...@undergrad.math.waterloo.edu>
gdni...@undergrad.math.waterloo.edu (Greg Nikolic) writes:

>In article <1992Dec2.1...@husc3.harvard.edu>
>zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:

MZ:


>>It is an elementary intellectual exercise to figure out why your
>>ratiocinations for self-promotion are irrelevant to my objection.

GN:


>Whoa! Usually *I'm* accused of using big words. Never have I been accused of
>being remotely stupid, but at the risk of sounding moronic (untrue) and lazy
>(accurate), what does "ratiocination" mean? The rest I got, but holy jeez
>talk about complex syntax. Mikhail, is English really your third language?
>Never on the net have I seen such a sophisticated and abstract user of it; I
>pray to the "Gods of Strife" (whomsoever they may be) that I do not anger you
>enough to provoke an ill thought and unjudicious argument...:)

Dare to aspire to consummate mastery of your tongue, brother! Just
cast off these tired shackles of miserable logophobia, and come into
the joyous fold of phallogocentricity! Fear not thine mighty
precursors, for they shall bestow themselves in the most excellent
manner, welcoming thee into perfectness and elocution. Verily I tell
thee, whosoever taketh it upon himself to liberate his winged mind
from the bonds of vice and varletry, shalt unfailingly find consummate
fulfillment and eternal bliss.

ML:
>>>Do stop reading your poisonous contempt into every corner of the universe.

MZ:


>>I judge you marginally worthy of my contempt.

GN:

>I had to smile at that one.

You have my benevolent and munificent permission to uncurl your lips now.

ML:
>>>It reflects badly on your ethos, the one you so pathetically foist on us
>>>by brute cybernetics and bad manners. :)

MZ:


>>If, by your own lights, you claim a right to judge my ethos, perhaps
>>you would also judge its prescription to eviscerate you with a flint
>>knife, as an offering to the Gods of Strife. Should my arrogant
>>conviction that I can get away with this sacrifice be a sufficient
>>warrant for me to go ahead with it?

GN:


>I'm dead tired rt now but it makes me feel stoopid to have to reread a
>paragraph twice to make sure I grasp the full meaning. Hm. Tip, Zeleny: if
>you punctuate your writhing, impressive anacondan examples of verbosity with
>very basic, simple sentences you might stagger the unforewarned reader even
>further! ;) As in boxing, light jabs mixed with the heavy blows throw your
>opponent off guard.

I shall attempt to follow your advice, next time I come across a
worthy opponent. Given the incalculable tragic loss of martial spirit
and dignity, effected by the brutal destruction of their officer corps
in Katyn, I do not expect him to be a Pole.

>>>stolichnayally yours,
>>>
>>> -- Marek
>>>
>>>"some say knowledge is something sat in your lap" -- Kate Bush

>>cordially,
>>mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
>>"Nothing can be said truly of what does not exist."

>Impressedly yours,
>Greg Nikolic / gdni...@descartes.uwaterloo.ca

GN:


>Mikhail, I would be curious to see a biography of yours posting here (however
>brief). From what I remember of other postings of yours you seem to have led an
>interesting life. I'm sure other netters wouldn't mind seeing it either. You
>sound like you were born in Minsk....possible? (complete guess).

Gome now, m'lad, haven't you heard of the Death of the Author? We
phallogocentrists are beholden to the universal, and repudiate the
particular; we joyfully cast away our paltry individual distinctions,
aspiring only to solitary flight to the Solitary. What biography
could you ask for, beyond these idle musings on disconnected subjects?
Do you sincerely expect us to have lives which transcend these glowing
pixels?

GN:


>Oh yeah. I hate when people stray from the newsgroup focus so I'll write a poem
>up spontaneously. A haiku: Tribute to Zeleny
>
> words big long words
> twist my little head into
> discombobulated shapes :)
>
>*twenty-one gun salute* AT-ten-shun!
>(hm. which Red Army unit did you serve in when that sort of thing was
> compulsory?)

I refused. Non serviam.

cordially,
a masterless samurai,
mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
"You don't know me from the wind"

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 4:07:13 PM12/4/92
to
In article <1992Dec4.2...@canon.co.uk>, wac...@canon.co.uk (Tom
Wachtel) writes:

> Greg Nikolic writes:
>
> > Mikhail, I would be curious to see a biography of yours posting here
(however
>
> spare us! i would -much- rather see sheila's grocery list. bet it would
> be funnier.
>
>
> see, i wanted to buy some apples. just apples. i think they
> are nice. and if you dont think they are nice, then i dont mind
> but you should think about it. well, bananas are ok also. which
> reminds me. i think it is great to think about whether or not
> singularities think of themselves as singularities. how can
> they? (i think...) if they think at all they cannot be
> singularities as thought is a complex process. also peas,
> potatoes and tomatoes, which rhyme in england. at the checkout
> i will ask the person, if it is a person, what they think about
> this. then i will go home. before that i will buy some other
> things. which reminds me. but i am too lazy.
>
> --
>
> Tom Wachtel (wac...@canon.co.uk)

Tom, you li'l devil, cut it out! Can't the poor girl have *any* privacy?
Anyway, you forgot the creme rinse....


Marie Coffin

Michael I. Lichter

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 4:01:06 PM12/4/92
to
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:
>Mikhail has, so far, declined to explain what he means by "life".
>If life means a "hysterical bucket of awful passions", I might
>agree. It seems likely to me that hysteria and poetry don't mix
>well. But I hesitate. I recall quite a few poems with buckets in
>them; none were hysterical. You never know, it might work.

Offhand stab:

a hole in the bucket
--------------------------------------

a breach!
i'm leaking leaking
don't go go don't go!
hands? oh if i had hands
i'd plug myself up but but
oh mother, please love don't
leave oh don't hurt me i
how can you oh i hate you please
oh it's going going oh me!
my love hurt me hold me don't
say no no no oh no oh dear loss!
oh win must win victory life
black bleak oh going going
oh help me! oh anything anything
save me oh god oh please oh
hurts gone over oh
damn god leave
me oh despair
oh no
no!

Michael Lichter
December 4, 1992

Danny-Boy

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 3:56:53 PM12/4/92
to
In article <1992Dec...@IASTATE.EDU> mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:
>In article <1992Dec04.1...@watson.ibm.com>,

>bil@burka..aix.kingston.ibm.com (Igor Belchinskiy) writes:
>> In article <1992Dec...@IASTATE.EDU> mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin)
>writes:
>> >
[blah blah blah]

>Mikhail has, so far, declined to explain what he means by "life".
>If life means a "hysterical bucket of awful passions", I might
>agree. It seems likely to me that hysteria and poetry don't mix
>well. But I hesitate. I recall quite a few poems with buckets in
>them; none were hysterical. You never know, it might work.
>
>
>Marie Coffin


I wrote a poem once, one line (intentionally a haiku)
(to be sent to the dada-ist haiku guy, but didn't becuase it
wasn't 6 or 7 lines long)

"this bucket of cold water"

What is so suprising is to have "this" in it.
I suppose you could say that a person is assumed when you
have merely "bucket of cold water" because who the else hell
is there to discuss coldness or buckets or water or give wrods,
but I thought it had more people in it because of this,
and it was fun to be daring like this and throw objectivity into
everyones face. Ha! Ha! Whoop Whoop! No more objectivity today
you bastards! Here you have a SPEAker! and he is pointing to
a bucket! (not to mention that he might spill it! or he could
be dipping his fingers in it (to see if it is indeed cool)
or maybe he is just watching condensation) I don't know. I could
have said pale, but that makes me think of a dented metal bucket.
I am such a cliche. I wanted wood and bucket made me think of wood
more.

I do seem to remember reading an actual poem with bucket in it though.
and it was nice. I remember feeling it fondly.


(btw, for future references, an innocent catholic-boy stare is hereby
defined as how mark taranto looks.)
--
I am always wrong. Don't believe me ever.
stark raving sane she...@wam.umd.edu

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 4:53:34 PM12/4/92
to
In article <oz.723...@yorku.ca>
o...@nexus.yorku.ca (Ozan Yigit) writes:

>Mikhail Zeleny writes [amongst other things]:

MZ:


>> My thesis advisor is Hilary Putnam.

OY:
>Poetic justice. :-]

Do you believe that people must agree in order to be able to understand, or
even learn from each other? I asked Putnam to be my advisor because he
understands and appreciates my work, and is very generous with constructive
criticism. Civilization is, among other things, a way of founding harmony
on principled opposition and individual differences. In the meantime, I am
looking forward to seeing you contribute something more substantial than
amusingly acerbic remarks and archiving notices.

>... oz

Annette Dexter

unread,
Dec 4, 1992, 7:05:21 PM12/4/92
to
zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:

>No explication will suffice for the reader incapable of recognizing the
>difference between explicans and explicandum. The original missive in
>this thread contains copious paraphrase and elaboration of the meaning
>of "life". As an approach to egoless writing, the aspiring author might
>commence by composing a coherent, meaningful message wholly bereft of
>personal pronouns and singular names, or such proxies for the same, as
>prosopopoeia and apostrophe. The result should be compared to the
>common epistolary style.

I'm sorry mate, but you come closest to the definition of a
fuckwit, of any netter I have ever met.

I hope your dick shrivels and falls off. Then you could stop
all this wanking.

Annette

Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 5, 1992, 4:20:28 AM12/5/92
to
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

[deletia]

> In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>,
nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:

PN


>> Oh, I guess I have to apologize for being unaware of the updated
>> version of Bennett's mutton-headed exercise, with its additional
>> chapter on Marvell (1964 edition). I found it at the library today.
>> More of the same mock-scholarly nonsense. But the most amazing
>> thing is that she leaves her thirty year old baloney on Donne,
>> Vaughan, Herbert and Crashaw practically intact.
>>

MC


> Well, don't strain yourself with that apology, Philip. If I were to
> take your tone, I might suggest what this reveals about the accuracy
> of *your* readings on the subject, but that would be petty. My
> understanding of Donne has been aided by many sources, but is
> "derived" from none.

But I have no problem with petty quibblings, and will therefore point
out to you that your inability to distinguish between good and bad
sources is indicative of your analytical incompetence, whereas
my ignorance of the mouldy steak pudding of an authority which you
recommend suggests nothing whatsoever about me.

> In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>,
> nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:

PN


>> I explained to you in my previous posting why the term
>> 'Metaphysical Poetry' is meaningless and should best be taken as a
>> mere convention. Johnson did not invent 'this type of poetry', but
>> his interpretation of what he thought to be a peculiar kind of
>> verse. If this isn't clear to you, you may well insist that sexual
>> sublimation was invented by Freud's patients.

PN


> You are, as usual, going off on tangents, and boring ones at that.
> We started out talking about Donne, and it was you who first brought
> up the word "Metaphysical", which had nothing to do with the
> discussion. I can only surmise that you wanted us all to know you
> could spell it. Now you apparently want to discuss whether or not
> it's a good label for Donne's poetry. That doesn't interest me: I
> use it as a conventional and convenient term for a particular style
> of poetry.

Far from going off on a tangent, my paragraph above was written
in response to your banal prattle about Donne being the
inventor and leader of a Metaphysical Poetry. I'll repeat to you
that 'Metaphysical Poetry' in your sense of this inconvenient
term does not exist. Note also that *you* were the one who used
*this* term, and I only referred to that in trying to explain to
you why it shouldn't be employed, or at least not without being
rigorously defined.

PN


>> Another conventional term, 'metaphysical conceit',
>> is more appropriate because it highlights some significant features
>> of Donne's style, in contrast to the Petrarchan conceit and the
>> various cliches of Elizabethan poetry.

MC


> Yes, I've noticed your fondness for "metaphysical conceit". It's a
> lovely phrase; please use it as often as you like.

Which is precisely the term that I used in the first place.
It is indeed a good phrase, but you have no clue as to what it means.

MC


> As a label for a
> type of poetry, it is unfortunate in that it focuses attention on
> the incidentals. You seem to think the conceits of poetry are the
> most important feature. That is what I would expect from someone
> who refers to feelings as "food for intellect". (Hmm...it also
> makes me worry more and more about how Mikhail doesn't have any
> feelings.)

I'll remind you, to make up for your failing reading skills, that
Mikhail wrote that he had no feelings which your ilk could insult.
This is true of anyone with real feelings and a real intellect.
I won't argue that conceits need necessarily be the most important
feature in any poetry; but I deliberately tried to focus attention
on this particular device in Donne, precisely because of its function
as a meaningful barrier between each poem's sense and so-called 'life'.
If you aren't aware that the metaphysical conceit is a *central*
stylistic feature in a lot of Donne's poetry, get the heck off the
line; if you are aware of it, shut up about it being unimportant.

[deletia]

PN


>> I also suggest that if you absolutely must follow
>> up to my postings, you should respond to them directly, the way I
>> do. I am not in the lest interested in reading new and revised
>> versions of your endless loose gibberish, where you quote me out of
>> context. I warn you that I will ignore any such exercises in
>> aggressive cowardice.
>>

MC


> If by directly, you mean quote every word you said, forget it. It's
> considered common ettiquette on the net to omit the endless
> quotation of irrelevent tripe.

Well, I'm glad my warning has had at least some effect. You are doing
quite well. But keep in mind that besides the etiquette of the net
there are also certain formal rules pertaining to any serious
discussion which aims at establishing some truth; one of them
is to keep the context of the dialogue as complete as possible,
and to include not only my own arguments, but also your own previous
statements, lest you or others should again be tempted to accuse me
of going off on tangents. When you feel you must take out certain
passages, please indicate deletions. Speaking of 'irrelevant tripe',
I have not problem whatsoever with the fact that you have successfully
edited out all my specific questions and challenges concerning Donne's
technique. There if really no reason I should expect you to be able to
answer any of them; but I feel within rights to remind of them
from time to time. So how about the role of the false syllogism
in Donne, and Eliot's concept of sensibility?

MC


> Marek does not need to defend our rights, thank you.

You may thank *him* all you like. I am not concerned with what
Marek needs to do, but only with some of the things he does on
the net, consciously or unconsciously.

MC


> He was trying
> to point out your and Mikhail's logical inconsistencies. You claim
> that rap-ers inclusion of "life" in their poetry is fundamentally
> different from Donne's inclusion of "life" in his poetry. But when
> I invite you to point out specific instances, you decline.

I am not terribly keen on exposing all your multitudinous thoughtless
little lies, but I will pay some attention to this one. You have
never invited me to do any such thing. Should you indeed invite me
to the task, I may deign to cite and discuss particular instances and
practices of douchebagdom at greater length, while Mikhail has
already done so, and not without charm.

PN


>> No, the speaker's feelings are important solely because of the
>> *way* they are present in that poem. Unlike you, Donne doesn't
>> simply 'put' his emotions there, but constructs didactic images
>> which are meant to come across as conveying his feelings. Those
>> images are interesting, and without them the feelings are common as
>> dirt. Whether he *actually* felt anything of the sort in his
>> 'private heart' is only of secondary interest to anyone interested
>> in his writings.

MC


> What you seem to be ignoring is that without those "common as mud"
> feelings, the images would simply be curious artifacts.

Why this contempt for logos? Do Plato, Einstein or Nabokov
simply present curious artifacts? Logic and style both have their
only source in the intellect.

MC


> Once again,
> your problem is in your inability to read. As I have already
> stated, I am not suggesting that we worry about how Donne was
> feeling.

Why then did you babble about the 'transactions of his private heart'
as a source of aesthetic value? If you go on showing this practiced
ability to forget what you write or cite, I volunteer to resolve
the problem when necessary by reminding you.

MC


> I am suggesting that one of the functions of poetry is to
> explore feeling. Whether or not Donne felt a particular thing on a
> particular day, the images in which he conveys feelings are
> realistic, even when they are fantastic. They strike the reader as
> "fundamentally true". Either this occured by accident, or Donne
> *knew* what he was talking about.

Consider a third possibility: he meant to come across that way,
and therefore constructed those emotions by way of a literary exercise.
All three are entirely possible, though not equally likely; and
all three are irrelevant, because the ring of 'fundamental truth'
about the poem makes it a didactic text rather than an 'exploration
of emotions'. The value of psychology for poetry is at best marginal.

MC


> By the way, no one who has actually read Donne could blanketly refer
> to his images as "didactic". Some of them are, others obviously
> aren't.

Yet another lie, but this time you forgot to delete enough. I was
talking specifically about the poem which you posted (see a few
paragraphs above). But that isn't too important, because all worthy
poetry is didactic in the sense that it seeks to perpetuate good and
to oppose evil. May I, in turn, ask you *why* you seek to explore
your emotions in poetry?

PN
[...]


>> I am not interested in questioning the ultimate sincerity of
>> Donne's Anglicanism, but will simply point out that he abandoned
>> any public display of Catholic sentiment in the 1590s, well before
>> he accepted the Church of England, and quite possibly because he
>> and his family suffered a good deal in the days of Elizabeth's
>> anti-Catholic campaigns. In 1615 he converted to Anglicanism and
>> consented to be ordained as a priest, with much reluctance and at
>> the express bidding of king James. This needn't be relevant to a
>> sound reading of 'A Hymn to Christ', but confirms that in
>> interpreting a poem, it is wrong to rely on assumptions about the
>> poet's 'real feelings'.

MC


> This is misleading at best. Donne was encouraged by the king, as
> well as by several other people, to take holy orders. Donne
> certainly considered this for several years before making a
> decision. Historians and biographers disagree about the extent of
> James's influence in Donne's decision: opinions run the gamut from
> negligible to overwhelming. There is also no clear evidence as to why
> Donne hesitated.

It may be uncertain why Donne hesitated, but it is known quite reliably
that he only accepted the deal after James I had made it clear that
he would only promote him within the Church of England, while Donne
aspired to a secular career.

MC


> What, in any case, does this have to do with the
> emotions expressed in the poem? Are you implying that Donne didn't
> actually feel the things he expressed?

In a passage which you forgot to delete (see above), I tell you
explicitly that all this is irrelevant to the meaning of the poem.
It is, however, relevant, to this meaningless commonplace of yours,
to which I had responded and which you suitably took out:

In closing, I would caution you: do not dismiss the "rhetoric" of the
poem as being "less personal than one might think" simply because it
is Protestant doctrine. One may take a doctrine quite personally, and
it would be hard, after reading Donne, to argue that he did not.

I simply draw your attention to the likely possibility that Donne may
have been influenced by careerist considerations in converting
to Anglicanism.

MC
> My *interpretation* of the poem does not rely om any assumptions
> about Donne's feelings.

I haven't seen any interpretation.

MC


> I do think that Donne was an honest writer
> in this instance, but my interpretation would be the same in any
> case. If you will recall, I posted the poem as an example of Donne
> fusing his life and his poetry. The fact is that he did write the
> poem on the occasion of his sailing to Germany, and there is
> independent evidence that he thought he would not return from the
> trip.

Well, you see, you are gradually becoming more cautious about
insisting on 'mixing life and writing', which wouldn't make any
sense in the context of Donne. 'Fusing', though meaningless, is
an appropriately non-committal word. Donne may have indeed felt
that he wouldn't return from his trip across the sea; but how exactly
is this 'fused' with the poem? The speaker prepares to leave England
and to sail across the sea, which is described as an emblem of Christ's
redeeming blood; this departure is enacted as a sacrifice; then he
speaks about Jesus as a jealous lover, who forces him to give up his
loves without freeing his soul from feeling; the final stanza contains
a rather bitter prayer for death, which would liberate the speaker from
earthly love, and seal 'this bill of my Divorce to All, / On whom
those fainter beams of love did fall.' The story of his trip has as
little to do with the meaning of this poem as the poem itself has with
the history of that diplomatic mission to the German Princes.

>> It is much more interesting to note that Donne was profoundly
>> influenced by both doctrines, and that in the final analysis his
>> poetic technique indeed owes much to his Anglican scholarship.

> Interesting to whom? That he was influenced by both doctrines is
> obvious to anyone who knows anything about his life. His poetic
> technique was also influenced by the fact that he studied law. So
> what?

These things should be interesting to anyone who is professedly
concerned with Donne's poetry or with intellectual history. Too
bad you only seek to explore trivial emotions.

Michael Zeleny

unread,
Dec 5, 1992, 2:55:40 AM12/5/92
to
In article <dexter.723513921@aries>
dex...@aries.scs.uiuc.edu (Annette Dexter) writes:

>zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:

MZ:


>>No explication will suffice for the reader incapable of recognizing the
>>difference between explicans and explicandum. The original missive in
>>this thread contains copious paraphrase and elaboration of the meaning
>>of "life". As an approach to egoless writing, the aspiring author might
>>commence by composing a coherent, meaningful message wholly bereft of
>>personal pronouns and singular names, or such proxies for the same, as
>>prosopopoeia and apostrophe. The result should be compared to the
>>common epistolary style.

AD:


> I'm sorry mate, but you come closest to the definition of a
>fuckwit, of any netter I have ever met.
>
> I hope your dick shrivels and falls off. Then you could stop
>all this wanking.

That's the spirit! Now, if you want to help shrivel my dick, the line
forms to the left. On second thought, if you have the sallow skin,
buck teeth, and potato-sack ass, so common among lower-class English
women, don't waste your time on waiting.

> Annette

Tom Wachtel

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 7:57:38 AM12/6/92
to
Marie Coffin writes:

> agree. It seems likely to me that hysteria and poetry don't mix
> well. But I hesitate. I recall quite a few poems with buckets in
> them; none were hysterical. You never know, it might work.


in this my hysterical bucket
behind the shed a bucketful of tears
bickering over brother brothels and heaving hovels
digging the bucket and spade
and staying splayed, in case, playing with my bucket
and avoiding the obvious rhymes
I had a porpoise of a time
and I kept my hysteria right down there
in the bottom of my bucket
screaming redder than a wheelbarrow
all hollow, all harrowed, all hallowed

--

Tom Wachtel (wac...@canon.co.uk)

Tom Wachtel

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 8:04:07 AM12/6/92
to
Michael Zeleny writes:

> No explication will suffice for the reader incapable of recognizing the
> difference between explicans and explicandum. The original missive in
> this thread contains copious paraphrase and elaboration of the meaning
> of "life". As an approach to egoless writing, the aspiring author might
> commence by composing a coherent, meaningful message wholly bereft of
> personal pronouns and singular names, or such proxies for the same, as
> prosopopoeia and apostrophe. The result should be compared to the
> common epistolary style.


can't talk the this for the that
getting a new head for my old hat
not me nor mine nor can eyes see
hope my breath is tall and thin
and rings like a bell at the top
cut me razor sharp and bluntly slit
gun for gut and gin for wit
splish for splash and slash for slick
talk to me like that
then I will talk to you

--

Tom Wachtel (wac...@canon.co.uk)

Tom Wachtel

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 8:45:04 AM12/6/92
to
Michael Zeleny writes:

> the joyous fold of phallogocentricity! Fear not thine mighty

the elder case, too brash, too brisk
before a consonant? tsk tsk!

> I shall attempt to follow your advice, next time I come across a
> worthy opponent. Given the incalculable tragic loss of martial spirit
> and dignity, effected by the brutal destruction of their officer corps
> in Katyn, I do not expect him to be a Pole.

no officers, no gentle men?
a french polish veneer
it's not quite clear
and it was a while ago

> Gome now, m'lad, haven't you heard of the Death of the Author? We
> phallogocentrists are beholden to the universal, and repudiate the

and...git me on my wagon
and i will surely roll
with a gilly-gum-gally
and shilly-may-mally
and a banjo here to hold
and tobacco here to roll
and I'm alright in the middle of the night
with my pony and my dog

> cordially,
> a masterless samurai,
> mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
> "You don't know me from the wind"

this is tempting...but I just hate that cheap easy stuff, don't you?

--

Tom Wachtel (wac...@canon.co.uk)

Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 9:45:26 AM12/6/92
to
wac...@canon.co.uk (Tom Wachtel) writes:

>> cordially,
>> a masterless samurai,
>> mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
>> "You don't know me from the wind"

> this is tempting...but I just hate that cheap easy stuff, don't you?

You don't.

> Tom Wachtel (wac...@canon.co.uk)

Philip Nikolayev
nik...@husc.harvard.edu

Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 12:42:46 PM12/6/92
to
Marie mistakenly brought up Eliot as a proponent of personal
emotion in poetry. Lest anyone be misled into believing that
her claim has anything to do with reality, here are a few
excerpts from Eliot's works on the subject of emotion and experience.

'What is the experience that the poet is so bursting to communicate?
By the time it has settled down into a poem it may be so different
from the original experience as to be hardly recognizable. The
"experience" in question may be the result of a fusion of feelings so
numerous, and ultimately so obscure in their origins, that *even* if
there be communication of them, the poet may hardly be aware of what
he is communicating; and what is there to be communicated was not
there before the poem was completed.'

'The emotion of art is impersonal.'

On 'the transition from the merely felt to the objectified': 'It is
neither wholly unconscious nor capricious, but is more or less a
willed change.'

'The poet has, not a "personality" to express, but a particular
medium, which is only a medium and not a personality.'

Poetry is not 'an expression of personality, but an escape from
personality....It is in this depersonalization that art may be said to
approach the condition of science.'

'A work of imagination is never simply personal. So far as we consider
it as *only* personal--i.e. significant only to the author--we explain
it not as imagination but as the product of pathological conditions.'

'It is not in his personal emotions, the emotions provoked by
particular events in his life, that the poet is in any way remarkable
or interesting. His particular emotions may be simple, or crude, or
flat. The emotion in his poetry will be a very complex thing....And
emotions he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those
familiar to him. Consequently, we must believe that "emotion
recollected in tranquility" is an inexact formula. For it is neither
emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning,
tranquility. It is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the
concentration.'

Ponder these vis-a-vis douchebagdom.

Philip Nikolayev
nik...@husc.harvard.edu


Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 9:03:35 PM12/6/92
to
In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu
(Philip Nikolayev) writes:
> Marie mistakenly brought up Eliot as a proponent of personal
> emotion in poetry. Lest anyone be misled into believing that
> her claim has anything to do with reality, here are a few
> excerpts from Eliot's works on the subject of emotion and experience.

Actually, I brought up Eliot as a proponent of the view that the
Metaphysical poets were trying to express, among other things,
their feelings. I was also trying to point out that Eliot apparently
thought that trying to find "verbal equivalents" (that's just to annoy
Philip) for feelings and experiences was a "worthy" goal of poetry. But
I suppose that point is a bit subtle for Philip.

This collection of quotations is amusing, particularly in view of
Philip's previous remarks about quoting out of context. For the readers
of rap: the bits and pieces that Philip pasted together may be found
in Eliot's essays, chiefly "Tradition and the Individual Talent". I would
encourage anyone who is interested in poetry to read this thoughtful piece,
although I do not, in saying that, claim it to be "the last word" in poetic
criticism. The lines from Eliot I quoted in a previous posting are from
"The Metaphysical Poets". Both essays may be found Eliot's _Selected Essays_
(New Edition) of 1960.

I will add two things about "Tradition and the Individual Talent". First,
although Eliot says that "emotions which he has never experienced will serve
[the poet] as well as those familiar to him", he does not suggest that the
beginning poet start out trying to work emotions he has never experienced
into poetry. Just a cautionary note. Also, nowhere in this essay does Eliot
do anything so idiotic as suggest that the poet should "eschew mixing life
and writing"


Marie Coffin

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 6, 1992, 9:41:55 PM12/6/92
to
In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu
(Philip Nikolayev) writes:

> I won't argue that conceits need necessarily be the most important
> feature in any poetry; but I deliberately tried to focus attention
> on this particular device in Donne, precisely because of its function
> as a meaningful barrier between each poem's sense and so-called 'life'.
> If you aren't aware that the metaphysical conceit is a *central*
> stylistic feature in a lot of Donne's poetry, get the heck off the
> line; if you are aware of it, shut up about it being unimportant.

Yes, the conceit is certainly ubiquitous in Donne and other "metaphysical
poets". A stylistic feature may appear frequently without being the most
important feature of the poem.

What's actually more interesting (to me, and possibly to other readers
of rap) is that you see conceits as a "barrier" between life and
sense of the poem. Thanks for sharing that. Perhaps you'd like to tell
us why.

> When you feel you must take out certain
> passages, please indicate deletions.

Ok, I've deleted stuff here and there.

Speaking of 'irrelevant tripe',
> I have not problem whatsoever with the fact that you have successfully
> edited out all my specific questions and challenges concerning Donne's
> technique. There if really no reason I should expect you to be able to
> answer any of them; but I feel within rights to remind of them
> from time to time. So how about the role of the false syllogism
> in Donne, and Eliot's concept of sensibility?

The role of the false syllogism doesn't strike me as terribly
important. Eliot's concept of sensibility *is* important, but not, I
think, particularly relevant to this discussion. If you feel
otherwise, I'm sure you will feel free to post at length about it.

> > He was trying
> > to point out your and Mikhail's logical inconsistencies. You claim
> > that rap-ers inclusion of "life" in their poetry is fundamentally
> > different from Donne's inclusion of "life" in his poetry. But when
> > I invite you to point out specific instances, you decline.
>
> I am not terribly keen on exposing all your multitudinous thoughtless
> little lies, but I will pay some attention to this one. You have
> never invited me to do any such thing. Should you indeed invite me
> to the task, I may deign to cite and discuss particular instances and
> practices of douchebagdom at greater length, while Mikhail has
> already done so, and not without charm.

Well, don't feel too bad. You inability to read may be correctible. In
my second posting, I said

"If you (or Mikhail) feels that some of the poems posted
on rap are undisciplined in this respect, then say so and
offer ways to improve them. Suggesting that the poets not
'mix life and writing' is, as I have said before, the wrong
idea."

> MC


> > Once again,
> > your problem is in your inability to read. As I have already
> > stated, I am not suggesting that we worry about how Donne was
> > feeling.
>
> Why then did you babble about the 'transactions of his private heart'
> as a source of aesthetic value? If you go on showing this practiced
> ability to forget what you write or cite, I volunteer to resolve
> the problem when necessary by reminding you.

I didn't. You used the phrase "transactions of his private heart",
which phrase I consider odious. Nor did I say a single word about the
"esthetic value" of this poem. You are certainly welcome to remind me
of whatever you will, even though your own inability to read makes you
unsuited to the task.

> MC
> > I am suggesting that one of the functions of poetry is to
> > explore feeling. Whether or not Donne felt a particular thing on a
> > particular day, the images in which he conveys feelings are
> > realistic, even when they are fantastic. They strike the reader as
> > "fundamentally true". Either this occured by accident, or Donne
> > *knew* what he was talking about.
>
> Consider a third possibility: he meant to come across that way,
> and therefore constructed those emotions by way of a literary exercise.
> All three are entirely possible, though not equally likely; and
> all three are irrelevant, because the ring of 'fundamental truth'
> about the poem makes it a didactic text rather than an 'exploration
> of emotions'. The value of psychology for poetry is at best marginal.
>

Well, this is interesting, but once again with regard to you, not the
poem. Why does the ring of 'fundamental truth' make the poem a
didactic text?

> MC
> > By the way, no one who has actually read Donne could blanketly refer
> > to his images as "didactic". Some of them are, others obviously
> > aren't.
>
> Yet another lie, but this time you forgot to delete enough. I was
> talking specifically about the poem which you posted (see a few
> paragraphs above). But that isn't too important, because all worthy
> poetry is didactic in the sense that it seeks to perpetuate good and
> to oppose evil. May I, in turn, ask you *why* you seek to explore
> your emotions in poetry?

Thank you for giving us your definition of "worthy" poetry.
Interesting, although not generally held, as I'm sure you're aware.
Why must a poem perpetuate good and oppose evil to be "worthy"? In
what ways exactly *can* a poem "perpetuate" good? Suppose the poem
"seeks" to perpetuate good and oppose evil, but in fact fails to do
so. Is it still "worthy"? And how about a poem that perpetuates good
accidentally, without "seeking"? Is it more worthy or less so? How
do you draw a distinction between the "seeking" of the poem and the
"seeking" of the poet?

> May I, in turn, ask you *why* you seek to explore your emotions in
> poetry?

To annoy Mikhail, of course.

> MC
> > What, in any case, does this have to do with the
> > emotions expressed in the poem? Are you implying that Donne didn't
> > actually feel the things he expressed?
>
> In a passage which you forgot to delete (see above), I tell you
> explicitly that all this is irrelevant to the meaning of the poem.
> It is, however, relevant, to this meaningless commonplace of yours,
> to which I had responded and which you suitably took out:
>
> In closing, I would caution you: do not dismiss the "rhetoric" of the
> poem as being "less personal than one might think" simply because it
> is Protestant doctrine. One may take a doctrine quite personally, and
> it would be hard, after reading Donne, to argue that he did not.
>
> I simply draw your attention to the likely possibility that Donne may
> have been influenced by careerist considerations in converting
> to Anglicanism.

Yes, he certainly may have. So what? It certainly wasn't "careerist
considerations" that made him concerned with religion, since strong
religious influences can be found in his earliest poems. Nor was it
"careerist considerations" that inspired him to write "A Hymn to
Christ", which was not published until after his death. Furthermore,
the feelings and concerns expressed in the poem are very reminiscent
of those in #14 of the "Holy Sonnets", which begins "Batter my heart,
three person'd God; for, you", which was written *before* Donne took
orders and possibly before he became an Anglican.

> Well, you see, you are gradually becoming more cautious about
> insisting on 'mixing life and writing', which wouldn't make any
> sense in the context of Donne. 'Fusing', though meaningless, is
> an appropriately non-committal word.

Why thank you: fusion is the word I have been using all along,
although you probably didn't notice. "Synthesis" was your suggestion.

> Donne may have indeed felt
> that he wouldn't return from his trip across the sea; but how exactly
> is this 'fused' with the poem? The speaker prepares to leave England
> and to sail across the sea, which is described as an emblem of Christ's
> redeeming blood; this departure is enacted as a sacrifice; then he
> speaks about Jesus as a jealous lover, who forces him to give up his
> loves without freeing his soul from feeling; the final stanza contains
> a rather bitter prayer for death, which would liberate the speaker from
> earthly love, and seal 'this bill of my Divorce to All, / On whom
> those fainter beams of love did fall.' The story of his trip has as
> little to do with the meaning of this poem as the poem itself has with
> the history of that diplomatic mission to the German Princes.

There you go again. I didn't suggest that the story of the trip
contributed to the *meaning* of the poem. I offered the poem as
an example of the mixing of life with poetry, since it seems clear
that Donne used the actual events of his life as an integral part of
the poem. In fact, I specifically stated that exploring the meaning
of the poem, one should *not* worry about how the author was feeling
on a particular day. Nor should one attempt to keep one's life or
feelings out of one's poetry.


Marie Coffin

Danny-Boy

unread,
Dec 7, 1992, 11:19:57 AM12/7/92
to
...blah blah

>thought that trying to find "verbal equivalents"
...blah blah


this is interesting, why don't you talk about this more?


I like to make x equal a something, and then try to define it by
showing how things are related. it is somewhat like saying x is
propertional to smelling paint.

I found the concept of verbal equivalent interesting and it is NOT
fair of people to bring up something like this and not even talk
about it.
Why? different hows? What? (nevermind the order. What is probably
more interesting to me than why right now. yes, definitely. What is
more interesting.) I also suspect that linguistics would fit in
here somewhere, but don't know enough to through it in myself.
could someone else through in a connection for me? Because I don't
know enough to make a connection myself. If there isn't a connection
then make one up for me.

I also have another idea, It would be fun to not write a poem but
to write a table of contents of a book of poems.

Table of Contents

1. smelling paint

2. an essay on the use of modern imagery -- John True (cf the sky was television
coloured etc)

3. lying about names

4. In praise of using acceleration and words -- Tom Wachtel

5. In praise of not using words -- Tom Wachtel

and so forth. of course, this is only bare assed. I should find page numbers
instead of boring consecutive integers. I should also present more
interesting titles. pardon me for dullness.

Igor Belchinskiy

unread,
Dec 7, 1992, 12:18:38 PM12/7/92
to
In article <1992Dec4.1...@husc3.harvard.edu> zel...@husc10.harvard.edu (Michael Zeleny) writes:
>In article <1992Dec...@IASTATE.EDU>
>mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:
>
>>In article <1992Dec04.1...@watson.ibm.com>,
>>bil@burka..aix.kingston.ibm.com (Igor Belchinskiy) writes:
>
>
>IB:
>>>Dunno what's considered under "life" label (and the next evident step
>>>is collection of everything including emotion, poetry, whatever to
>>>that more-than-life life reducing any imaginable answer to absurd)
>>>but if the life is understood as hysterical bucket of awful
>>>passions, than Donne or Eliot, Mandelstam, Brodsky may give an answer.
>>>Or look at the reason of Nabokov's dislike of Pasternak (at least, one of
>>>them).
>
>MC:

>>Mikhail has, so far, declined to explain what he means by "life".
>>If life means a "hysterical bucket of awful passions", I might
>>agree. It seems likely to me that hysteria and poetry don't mix
>>well. But I hesitate. I recall quite a few poems with buckets in
>>them; none were hysterical. You never know, it might work.

That's the point! Buckets aren't hysterical. Hysterical bucket is
against "the deep bucket (i.e. truth) of life". And see below.

>No explication will suffice for the reader incapable of recognizing the
>difference between explicans and explicandum. The original missive in
>this thread contains copious paraphrase and elaboration of the meaning
>of "life". As an approach to egoless writing, the aspiring author might
>commence by composing a coherent, meaningful message wholly bereft of
>personal pronouns and singular names, or such proxies for the same, as
>prosopopoeia and apostrophe. The result should be compared to the
>common epistolary style.

1. Dunno if the deadborn generic stream above should be considered as
"an approach to egoless writing" or rather an exercise in grammar restrictions
guide by not quite coherent AI ice with evident bug manifested in reversed
weight estimate function for words frequency as substitution of value,
but at least it illustrates the differencies between summer and winter
fools in the sequel to Donne's bells line as well as between breathing
full-of-life striking buckets and dull buckets of unpoetic soap opera
hysteries not to mention the gulf between meaningful words-anchors and
monotonous complicated kasha with raisins of bad digested quotes and
referencies.

2. Names became new words. Platonic, Rablesian. Now Mandelstam. Nabokov.
Do people need microscope and scalpel every time they eat?

3. Names prove. And much better than any artificially pompous drivel
from not quite self-sufficient yet self-praising bear with pretensions
whatever color he prefer :-).

4. Words aren't absolute channel of communication in this world.
And - suprise - there were people who had something to say but
abstained from spewing words (cf. Aldous Huxley "Devils of Loudun").

>>> -igor
>>Marie Coffin


>
>cordially,
>mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
>"Le cul des femmes est monotone comme l'esprit des hommes."

-igor
"Nashe Vam s kistochkoi"

Igor Belchinskiy

unread,
Dec 7, 1992, 12:43:21 PM12/7/92
to

4. Words aren't absolute channel of knowledge or communication in this world.

And - suprise - there were people who had something to say but
abstained from spewing words (cf. Aldous Huxley "Devils of Loudun").

Words are more of crutch kind.

Tom Wachtel

unread,
Dec 7, 1992, 2:56:15 PM12/7/92
to
Philip Nikolayev writes:

> Tom Wachtel writes:
>
> >> cordially,
> >> a masterless samurai,
> >> mikhail zel...@husc.harvard.edu
> >> "You don't know me from the wind"
>
> > this is tempting...but I just hate that cheap easy stuff, don't you?
>
> You don't.

Hahahahaha... I don't?


--

Tom Wachtel (wac...@canon.co.uk)

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 7, 1992, 2:43:18 PM12/7/92
to
In article <1992Dec07.1...@watson.ibm.com>,


Igor -- this is beautiful. Truly. I believe I detect the influence
of Hopkins (the masterful craftmanship that went into "hysteries",
"refernecies", "differencies", "breathing buckets" etc.) as well as
that of sheila, although who, as donz has so perceptively asked, can
out-sheila sheila?

Thank you for posting it twice; many a poet has been done in by false
modesty. However, I think you need to reformat the margins, and I would
suggest for a title "but abstained from spewing words". Just don't forget
to underline it. Also, "words are more of crutch kind" is so like Keats,
it deserves to have its own stanza.


Marie Coffin

Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 8, 1992, 1:53:47 AM12/8/92
to
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

[...]

> Actually, I brought up Eliot as a proponent of the view that the
> Metaphysical poets were trying to express, among other things, their
> feelings. I was also trying to point out that Eliot apparently
> thought that trying to find "verbal equivalents" (that's just to
> annoy Philip) for feelings and experiences was a "worthy" goal of
> poetry. But I suppose that point is a bit subtle for Philip.

> This collection of quotations is amusing, particularly in view of
> Philip's previous remarks about quoting out of context.

My remarks pertained to your quoting *me* out of context;
and I cited Eliot simply in order to *set up* or at least point
to a correct context with respect to your randomly selected
quote about 'verbal equivalents' (whatever that might be),
a job which you should have done yourself if you cared a whit
about your own statements, or had a coherent position in the
first place. But I am not surprised that you didn't do so,
because this context definitely undermines your programmatic
slogan. To clarify this, here is one further quotation from
Eliot: 'The business of the poet is not to find new emotions,
but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into
poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions
at all.' This is no ordinary 'expression' of the kind you advocate.

> For the
> readers of rap: the bits and pieces that Philip pasted together may
> be found in Eliot's essays, chiefly "Tradition and the Individual
> Talent". I would encourage anyone who is interested in poetry to
> read this thoughtful piece, although I do not, in saying that, claim
> it to be "the last word" in poetic criticism. The lines from Eliot
> I quoted in a previous posting are from "The Metaphysical Poets".
> Both essays may be found Eliot's _Selected Essays_ (New Edition) of
> 1960.

I encourage anyone seriously interested in exploring Eliot's position
to read his dissertation, 'Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy
of F. H. Bradley' (London, 1964). You, too, Marie, should read it
and disabuse yourself of the dripping bush about which you go on
beating. Don't try to understand all of it; just get his basic
principles straight.

> I will add two things about "Tradition and the Individual Talent".
> First, although Eliot says that "emotions which he has never
> experienced will serve [the poet] as well as those familiar to him",
> he does not suggest that the beginning poet start out trying to work
> emotions he has never experienced into poetry. Just a cautionary
> note.

Another, and perhaps more depressing, cautionary note: Eliot also
says that you can't afford to be a 'beginning poet' after 24.

> Also, nowhere in this essay does Eliot do anything so idiotic
> as suggest that the poet should "eschew mixing life and writing"

Everything in this essay suggests that you can't do something
so idiotic as mixing life and writing. Quite contrary to your
self-fulfilling _idee' fixe_.

Philip Nikolayev

unread,
Dec 8, 1992, 8:34:11 AM12/8/92
to
mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

> In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>,
> nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:

[...]

MC


> Yes, the conceit is certainly ubiquitous in Donne and other
> "metaphysical poets". A stylistic feature may appear frequently
> without being the most important feature of the poem.

There is no such thing as 'the most important feature' of any
worthy poem although some features may be more significant than others.
In Donne, the conceit is certainly much more than merely a stylistic
feature; it is very often *the* organising structure of everything
that you take to be his 'feeling' and 'experience'.

> What's actually more interesting (to me, and possibly to other
> readers of rap) is that you see conceits as a "barrier" between life
> and sense of the poem. Thanks for sharing that. Perhaps you'd like
> to tell us why.

Notice that I said 'so-called life', and I said 'a meaningful barrier'.
Conceits, as complex metaphors, have no significant referents in the
trivial flow of experience, and it is impossible to reconstruct,
explain or justify their meaning on the basis of it.

PN


>> When you feel you must take out certain passages, please indicate
>> deletions.

MC


> Ok, I've deleted stuff here and there.

You are welcome to your frivolities, and I am welcome to mine.
I am responding to you in this thread for the last time, unless
you say at length something interesting and learn some pertinent
manners. The final word is all yours.

> The role of the false syllogism doesn't strike me as terribly
> important.

Perhaps Donne himself doesn't strike you as terribly important;
at any rate, I can't find any other reasonable explanation for that
remark. Are you irreparably unable to come to grips with the fact
that the most salient feature of Donne's poetry is its Wit? I
mentioned the logical structure of his conceits by way of giving
you one sensible clue which you could put to use if you really
wanted to challenge my insistence on the intellect, because that
structure is consistent with Donne's traditional doctrinal assumption
about the imperfection of human reason. Verily, you are no fun.

> Eliot's concept of sensibility *is* important, but not,
> I think, particularly relevant to this discussion. If you feel
> otherwise, I'm sure you will feel free to post at length about it.

That was another clue to the same effect, and again you neglected it.
Eliot speaks of unified 'states of mind and feeling' in Donne and
others, but he also says that 'a state, in itself, is nothing whatever'.
What is to be made of this? His concept of sensibility, by and large
taken from Bradley, emphasises what he perceived as the *essential*
unity of thought and feeling. The latter term is to him practically
synonymous with sensation. He sees his favourite poetry as an
expression of truths witch cannot be articulated in purely rational
terms, and looks back to an Anglican golden age in which sensation and
thought were blended (and inseparable) as real and ideal, and which was
lost through a 'dissociation of sensibility' occasioned by Milton and
those after him. This is a 'critique of pure reason' of sorts, if you
wish. That is why in 'The Metaphysical Poets' he is so appreciative
of what he describes as 'a direct sensuous apprehension of thought'
and a 'recreation of thought into feeling'. This has nothing to do
with any mechanistic lumping together of emotion and reason, but defines
a very special kind of feeling, which Eliot percieved and pursued along
with Pound and a few others. Try as you may, you'll never be able to
find a single distinct 'emotion' in Eliot which might be regarded as
narrowly 'personal'.

MC


>> > He was trying
>> > to point out your and Mikhail's logical inconsistencies. You claim
>> > that rap-ers inclusion of "life" in their poetry is fundamentally
>> > different from Donne's inclusion of "life" in his poetry. But when
>> > I invite you to point out specific instances, you decline.

PN

>> I am not terribly keen on exposing all your multitudinous
>> thoughtless little lies, but I will pay some attention to this one.
>> You have never invited me to do any such thing. Should you indeed
>> invite me to the task, I may deign to cite and discuss particular
>> instances and practices of douchebagdom at greater length, while
>> Mikhail has already done so, and not without charm.

MC


> Well, don't feel too bad. You inability to read may be correctible.
> In my second posting, I said

> "If you (or Mikhail) feels that some of the poems posted on rap
> are undisciplined in this respect, then say so and offer ways
> to improve them. Suggesting that the poets not 'mix life and
> writing' is, as I have said before, the wrong idea."

I have no inability to read which you might correct. That passage
contains no 'invitation' to 'point out specific instances' of any
kind. What you suggest that Mikhail and I 'say' has been said a
thousand times and more; and there is no point to improve that which
is positively dead or try to make it seem more alive.

MC
>> > Once again,
>> > your problem is in your inability to read. As I have already
>> > stated, I am not suggesting that we worry about how Donne was
>> > feeling.

PN


>> Why then did you babble about the 'transactions of his private
>> heart' as a source of aesthetic value? If you go on showing this
>> practiced ability to forget what you write or cite, I volunteer to
>> resolve the problem when necessary by reminding you.

MC


> I didn't. You used the phrase "transactions of his private heart",
> which phrase I consider odious. Nor did I say a single word about
> the "esthetic value" of this poem. You are certainly welcome to
> remind me of whatever you will, even though your own inability to
> read makes you unsuited to the task.

You have failed to show a single instance where I misinterpret or misquote
anyone, yet you go on and on with this _tauri excretio_, either in bad
faith or in sheer dimwittedness. Or perhaps you again 'fuse' your
overflowing emotion with your lack of intellect. I refer you to one
of the critical chestnuts which you cited as an authority in your
initial posting.

[...]

MC


> Well, this is interesting, but once again with regard to you, not
> the poem. Why does the ring of 'fundamental truth' make the poem a
> didactic text?

By virtue of the distinction between fundamental truth and trivial truth.

[...]

MC


> Thank you for giving us your definition of "worthy" poetry.
> Interesting, although not generally held, as I'm sure you're aware.

I am not particularly interested in what is generally held.
Platonic philosophy is not generally held either.

MC


> Why must a poem perpetuate good and oppose evil to be "worthy"?

Because the only meaningful definition of worth (apart from the one that
involves equivalence in filthy lucre) equates it with moral value.

MC


> In what ways exactly *can* a poem "perpetuate" good?

By being consistent with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,
which are the same thing.

PN


>Suppose the poem "seeks" to perpetuate good and oppose evil, but in fact
>fails to do so. Is it still "worthy"?

No.

MC


> And how about a poem that perpetuates good accidentally, without "seeking"?

In theory, yes; but accidental beauty occurs very seldom in art, if at all.

MC


> How do you draw a distinction between the "seeking" of the poem and
> the "seeking" of the poet?

The former expresses the latter metonymically.

PN


>> May I, in turn, ask you *why* you seek to explore your emotions in
>> poetry?

MC


> To annoy Mikhail, of course.

I'd bet you fail.

[...]

PN


>> Well, you see, you are gradually becoming more cautious about
>> insisting on 'mixing life and writing', which wouldn't make any
>> sense in the context of Donne. 'Fusing', though meaningless, is an
>> appropriately non-committal word.

MC


> Why thank you: fusion is the word I have been using all along,
> although you probably didn't notice. "Synthesis" was your
> suggestion.

Ok, you've been using it all along, but all along you've failed
to explain what it means.

[...]

PN


> There you go again. I didn't suggest that the story of the trip
> contributed to the *meaning* of the poem. I offered the poem as an
> example of the mixing of life with poetry, since it seems clear that
> Donne used the actual events of his life as an integral part of the
> poem.

In my very first response to you, I outlined the gist of what you say
here as a possible objection which one could raise to Mikhail:
some great authors use some facts of their biographies in some
of their writings. I can see how someone with an insipid unimaginative
mind such as yours could attribute to Mikhail the contrary nonsense;
what I fail to understand is why you have spent so much long-winded
effort defending your trivial inconsequential misunderstanding.

[...]

Marek Lugowski

unread,
Dec 8, 1992, 12:54:19 PM12/8/92
to
nik...@husc10.harvard.edu (Philip Nikolayev) writes:
>mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:

>[...]

>MC


>> Well, this is interesting, but once again with regard to you, not
>> the poem. Why does the ring of 'fundamental truth' make the poem a
>> didactic text?
>

>By virtue of the distinction between fundamental truth and trivial truth.

And who is the arbiter of fundamental truth? A fundamentalist, of course.

Must we belong to your congregation, accept Lord Plato, Our Savior, and
drink the blessed Grape Juice in order to save our poetic souls? Else
we are damned to the bucket of hysterical poetry.

What is a trivial truth? Trivial in mathematics means obvious, of the
simplest case. Since you claim to be a follower of Sweet Lord Plato, a
mathematically trivial truth should edify you, for then by induction,
deduction, analysis, and combinatiorial means you could show other truths.
(If truths exist, that is. :))

But you appear to know little of Plato (or his holy book, mathematics) whom
you hark to so much, which is so typical of many fundamentalists and their
Lord. :)

>[...]
>
>MC


>> Thank you for giving us your definition of "worthy" poetry.
>> Interesting, although not generally held, as I'm sure you're aware.
>

>I am not particularly interested in what is generally held.
>Platonic philosophy is not generally held either.

And neither are fundamentalist views. Life is large, life is big. For
every Harvard boy with silly perversions of Platonism there are hundreds of
exciting, different people, alive, creative, culturally different, from
Australia to Alaska, form Tibet to Romania, from Western Kentucky
University to Wellesley College. It takes supreme ignorance coupled with
perfect lack of wisdom that comes from *conceit* borne of too much
schooling in one vein -- to dismiss the Planet in favor of a sectarian view
of poetry (and morality).

>MC


>> Why must a poem perpetuate good and oppose evil to be "worthy"?
>

>Because the only meaningful definition of worth (apart from the one that
>involves equivalence in filthy lucre) equates it with moral value.
>

Listen to yourself speek. "filthy lucre." An appeal to what? Disgust?
We are looking at sugar with a newly aware moral horror... This rhetoric
sounds very much like fire and brimstone. When you have nothing to say,
you belittle the correspondent or talk of "moral values". It has probably
not occured to you that moral values differ like languages do, and that
some very nice people, Taoists, for example, are amoral. Perfectly so.

>MC


>> In what ways exactly *can* a poem "perpetuate" good?
>

>By being consistent with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,
>which are the same thing.


Capitaliizng these things is a good indicator or pompousness and affectation
of the Dead Poets. Either that, or you are indicating classes in an
object-programmign language. In that case, I think you inherit from
Intolerance and Coercion-to-Faith, not Plato, or Truth, or Beauty or the
Beautiful.

>PN


>>Suppose the poem "seeks" to perpetuate good and oppose evil, but in fact
>>fails to do so. Is it still "worthy"?
>

>No.

Please note that the concepts of good and evil are inventions. As is the
idea of the Law. Take a trip across cultures to see different engineering
solutions and appreciate variety. If there is anything *I* would
capitalize it is that: Variety.

>MC


>> And how about a poem that perpetuates good accidentally, without "seeking"?
>

>In theory, yes; but accidental beauty occurs very seldom in art, if at all.
>

Obviously some people are more beauty-impaired than others.

Where are all those people who argued that a poem knows more than its
author? :) Or all those who ever wrote something only to notice interesting
aspects after the event? Unconscious writing: bad poet. No donut.

-- Marek

Marie Coffin

unread,
Dec 8, 1992, 5:01:48 PM12/8/92
to
In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu
(Philip Nikolayev) writes:

> Conceits, complex metaphors have no significant referents in the


> trivial flow of experience, and it is impossible to reconstruct,
> explain or justify their meaning on the basis of it.

I have no idea what might be meant by "the trivial flow of experience"
(Are you calling all experience trivial, or trying to distinguish between
trivial experiences and importance experiences, or are you just running
off at the mouth again?), but it seems to me that it is exactly on the
basis of experiences that one can interpret the meanings of metaphors.

> Are you irreparably unable to come to grips with the fact
> that the most salient feature of Donne's poetry is its Wit?

As a matter of fact, I *am* unable to come to grips with this "fact".
Calling it a fact is ridiculous, and even as an opinion, it's barely
justifiable.

> I mentioned the logical structure of his conceits by way of giving
> you one sensible clue which you could put to use if you really
> wanted to challenge my insistence on the intellect, because that
> structure is consistent with Donne's traditional doctrinal assumption
> about the imperfection of human reason. Verily, you are no fun.

Sorry to spoil your fun. I sure do humbly appreciate all the little
clues and hints scattered throughout your prose, but Donne's
"traditional assumption about the imperfection of human reason" is
not the salient feature of his poetry either.

> > Eliot's concept of sensibility *is* important, but not,
> > I think, particularly relevant to this discussion. If you feel
> > otherwise, I'm sure you will feel free to post at length about it.
>
> That was another clue to the same effect, and again you neglected it.
> Eliot speaks of unified 'states of mind and feeling' in Donne and
> others, but he also says that 'a state, in itself, is nothing whatever'.
> What is to be made of this?

I make of that the worst piece of would-be scholarship I have ever
seen. Eliot may at some point have written "a state, in itself, is
nothing whatever", but it certainly didn't appear in his essay on the
Metaphysical poets. Forgive me for not taking very seriously
a fragment of a sentence provided wholly without context, and which
may, for all I know, be a reference to the political situation in
England.

> MC
> > Why must a poem perpetuate good and oppose evil to be "worthy"?
>
> Because the only meaningful definition of worth (apart from the one that
> involves equivalence in filthy lucre) equates it with moral value.

Excuse me? Philip, you'd better go lie down and put a cold compress to
your fevered brow. If you actually mean what you just said here, it's
no wonder you can't seem to understand a word I say. You're off your nut.

> MC
> > In what ways exactly *can* a poem "perpetuate" good?
>
> By being consistent with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,
> which are the same thing.

God, this has got to be the most hackneyed phrase I've ever heard you use.
I honestly thought even you were above this sort of thing. My apologies
for overestimating you.


> PN
> >Suppose the poem "seeks" to perpetuate good and oppose evil, but in fact
> >fails to do so. Is it still "worthy"?
>
> No.
>

> MC
> > And how about a poem that perpetuates good accidentally, without "seeking"?
>
> In theory, yes; but accidental beauty occurs very seldom in art, if at all.

So, basically, your definition of the "worthy poem" being one that
"seeks to perpetuate good and oppose evil" pretty much sucked,
didn't it?



> MC
> > Why thank you: fusion is the word I have been using all along,
> > although you probably didn't notice. "Synthesis" was your
> > suggestion.
>
> Ok, you've been using it all along, but all along you've failed
> to explain what it means.

Rather than refer the reader to the dictionary, as some people would,
I shall do it for you:

"a merging of diverse elements into a unified whole"


> In my very first response to you, I outlined the gist of what you say
> here as a possible objection which one could raise to Mikhail:
> some great authors use some facts of their biographies in some
> of their writings. I can see how someone with an insipid unimaginative
> mind such as yours could attribute to Mikhail the contrary nonsense;
> what I fail to understand is why you have spent so much long-winded
> effort defending your trivial inconsequential misunderstanding.

Yeah, you're right, Philip. It was awfully careless of me to assume
that by "life" (as in "eschew mixing life and poetry") Mikhail meant
anything like "the sequence of mental and physical experiences that
make up existence", or "biography" or "spiritual existence" or "a way
or manner of living" or "a vital or living being" or "the period of
existence" or "human activities" or in fact any of the other meanings
of the word "life". Clearly, I should have "imagined" he meant something
else entirely. Not to worry, I have learned my lesson with regard to
Mikhail, and shall no longer assume that he uses words meaningfully.

It was also reprehensible of me to assume that you brought up
"metaphysical conceits" in your first posting to Marek because you
thought they were in some way relevant to the discussion, rather than,
as you have made abundantly clear in your following posts, to show off
a term you thought no one else would know. I thank you for making it
obvious that (a) your arguments are unscholarly in the extreme and
(b) you bring up irrelevancies at the drop of a hat. This information
will help me in "interpretating" your future postings.


Marie Coffin

Danny-Boy

unread,
Dec 8, 1992, 6:36:57 PM12/8/92
to
In article <1992Dec...@IASTATE.EDU> mco...@IASTATE.EDU (Marie Coffin) writes:
>In article <NIKOLAY.92...@husc10.harvard.edu>, nik...@husc10.harvard.edu
>(Philip Nikolayev) writes:
>
>> Conceits, complex metaphors have no significant referents in the
>> trivial flow of experience, and it is impossible to reconstruct,
>> explain or justify their meaning on the basis of it.
>
>I have no idea what might be meant by "the trivial flow of experience"
>(Are you calling all experience trivial, or trying to distinguish between
>trivial experiences and importance experiences, or are you just running
>off at the mouth again?), but it seems to me that it is exactly on the
>basis of experiences that one can interpret the meanings of metaphors.

Look, some of this discussion would be more palatable if you
made comments without making insults.

When I read a sentence that contains "trivial flow of experience"
I assume the author means that parts of experience are trivial.
Why is this hard to accept? You disagree. Do not say you don 't
Know what he is talking about and then throw mild insults at him,
(oh, you are just babbling. You say nothing important.)
Instead, say, I disagree with your assumption that experience
can be catagorized into trivial, nontrivial. for these reasons,
a b c. etc.

Or you could just say underline that part, and say, "I disagree" and
then go on to the meat of the discussion. whatever that is. John
Donne, apparantly.

>> Are you irreparably unable to come to grips with the fact
>> that the most salient feature of Donne's poetry is its Wit?
>
>As a matter of fact, I *am* unable to come to grips with this "fact".
>Calling it a fact is ridiculous, and even as an opinion, it's barely
>justifiable.

It might be likely that he used "come to grips with the fact" becuase
it is an idiom or whatever you call it. You are having a vehement
reaction against an idiom. If it is. Or maybe not.

Maybe it is your philosophy to declare that any word chioce is not insignificant
and shapes and manipulates the way you think. If that is so, maybe you
are justified in reacting strongly. it is significant to you.

If it is, is it in any way relevant? I did not think you were discusing
anything to do with implied philosophies in word choices. Leave it out
and be relevant.


I apologize for not being relevant.

Danny-Boy

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Dec 9, 1992, 9:18:24 AM12/9/92