Sunday, September 22, 2013

ModPo 2013 #11 Us, Here, Detained: On Corman's "It isnt for want"

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Note: I am currently taking a course on called Modern and Contemporary American Poetry taught by Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania. I will be posting my thoughts on the course discussions here.

Cid Corman, "It isnt for want"

It isnt for want 
of something to say-- 
something to tell you-- 

something you should know-- 
but to detain you-- 
keep you from going-- 

feeling myself here 
as long as you are-- 
as long as you are.

I was thoroughly confused by this poem at first. And, once again, I credit the video discussion for clearing things up for me. This is one of my favorite poems for week 2. I think it's really important and really relevant to me as a writer. 

What a revolutionary idea: content is not the point, self-expression is not the point. While these things are clearly important, the relationship trumps all. This really blew my mind. It also explains how pieces of work get into the Canon. It is the relationship between the work and the critic, the academic (or whoever chooses what gets into an anthology) just as much as it becomes the relationship between reader and writer. Everything is relationship. Gigabytes of content are produced out of pure relationship on social networks. Wattpad is a thriving community of readers and writers (no matter how wanting some of those works might be for me, a particular reader). 

I had an interesting conversation about the Wattpad aesthetic with a friend of mine. Will these popular pieces of content outshine well-written content? What makes them compelling? I responded with "Well, the writer had something really exciting to share, maybe. That's why people are excited by the content." What I didn't take into account was the reader. Something in what the writer produced sparked, detained the reader and it is half as much about the reader as it is about the writer. 

This is an epiphany for my own writing. The instinct to detain is something to remember. Even if it is only detaining myself... it is detaining a reader, nevertheless, and that will keep the work read. 

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