Because we are all bombed with the need to compromise, it becomes even more urgent, more awe-inspiring to push for transcendence until the last air from our mouths gets pushed out.
It could be Mayakovsly’s misfortune, that he lived in perhaps one of the more turbulent times and spaces of all time – early 20th century Russia confused after the seeds of a once unguessable idealization finally landed on the soil of their resolute country. Art, and the artist had to confront another condition – an ironic one, because in as much as it was so novel, it was also so much dreamt about it might have worn out — and Mayakovsky apparently was not persistent enough, or optimistic enough to keep on producing art as a weapon, a shield of the producing self against a material setting perfectly in turmoil, a setting asking for only some decades to have a semblance of stability.
To wish to be resurrected for another time – a time when all the failures of his present will have been vanquished by the actualization of what he could only envisioned – is not poetic or cute of Mayakovsky, it’s plainly timorous and pathetic.
He had to pin his hopes on a future that will fulfill his once visions-on-fire, visions crashed by what he had seen in the Russia of his time. Again: the conflicted self, much more an artist, much much more, a bourgeois artist (if you don’t find that a bit redundant or inept), dwindling in the face of her society also in conflict with itself. Mayakovsky was not able to make the necessary, perhaps the appropriate compromises. And he was not able to transcend either. A fine illustration perhaps of the much common debacle in living, even an avant-garde died in the same suffering.
Oh, what a glorious thing to say, and much more to do, definitely: to transcend. Perhaps that is precisely why this art group, Pedantic Pedestrians, does not want to imply that it seeks to transcend art and its current configurations policed by several institutions and apparatuses; or precisely why I still look up, again, to those who recognize that transcendence (social, economic, political, artistic, romantic) is futile in this late capitalist frame, and hence, would do something concrete to alter such frame and abolish the need for transcendence; and lastly, that I suddenly remembered this song by Dreamtheater, who affirmed that the “soul will transcend.”
In itself, to transcend is to make an unavoidable, impurifying move in order to arrive at some purity. To compromise only appears to be the most necessary. But: it only appears. There could be transcendence, there could be non-compromises. Try to look at the successors of the people of Russia which depressed Mayakovsky.
Not in the center of your eye, or mine, or the center of this ruinsome blog post, or the glamour of the television or your tablet.
We cannot talk about where to look, only where to NOT look. Look not in Harvard jeans, or in Godard films, or the sushi or kimchi on the table; not on a male porn star’s torso, not on shopping malls, not on the roads from the rural to the metro.
Apparently, to compromise is a necessary prelude to transcendence.
We have a whole life to lose — and perhaps, perhaps, all wagers begin with this, and all events in life somehow begin with wagers – a whole new life to gain — maybe the life Mayakovsky wanted to gain, but did not.
That is quite a charming phrase actually, “language’s resilience against sense,” coming from the collection of my poet-friend and which is difficult to lead astray from the memory of the signifier-signified. Ironically, the earlier Charles Peirce, once transposed well into the contemporary time, provides a necessary extension of the more famous ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, particularly the latter’s signifier-signified dichotomy. Peirce already formulated the needed inclusion of the ‘interpretant’ that shall mediate between the representation (‘tanda’ o ‘signos’) and the object, what I read as roughly corresponding to the Saussurean signifier and signified. This third term, the ‘interpretant’ is essential for it gives a material grounding to the signifier-signified pair whose analyses mainly revolves within the realms of language and thought (‘sense,’ in Janine’s author’s note). And the expansion of the horizon where poetry (first as thought or sense, and then as language) dwells and springs is complicated when we recall a key facet of its existence: the more material facet of the tangible, breathable world, more closely, the poet who wields the pen, who thinks and who utilizes language.
Hence, I suggest that poetry is more than the already gallant task of prodding language’s ‘resilience against sense,’ notwithstanding how charmingly we put into words such insights. Poetry, with all its encapsulating the poet and her thoughts and faculty and manipulation of language, anticipates attrition and then revival from its perpetuated engagement with the material world. This engagement does not exactly signify language’s resurgence against the material (the world), but its keeping at pace with this material unfolding, either through representing it, or challenging it, or transforming it.
As part of a series of projects my friends and I hope to begin for our art group, I started this “Poetry Re-production” which has long been conceptualized by the group. Here is the concept behind the project:
Poetry Reproduction Concept
This project shall answer a “what” and a “how.” In other words, it seeks to supply answers on questions of both “theory” and “practice.” The idea of poetry has been owned and manipulated by established institutions which undoubtedly advocate a particular way of looking at things. We assert that the dominating ideas of poetry today and the venues wherein these ideas are manufactured and circulated, corroborate in poetry’s elitism – its insulation from the material setting where it is supposedly born and from the people in this setting to whom it is supposedly obligated for their consumption and meaning-making of the given poetic works. This idea of poetry thus also limits its practice, mostly confining it to the privileged few who have studied and “learned” to appreciate and compose poetry.
This project of “translating” poetry is concerned on how ordinary people come into terms with poetry. First: what is poetry to them and second: how do they “create” their very conception of poetry. They will be asked to make several lines of “poetry” out of a short verse shown to them. When an initial result has been culled, these made poetries will then be passed on to other people who will be asked to do the same. Hence: a continual reproduction of poetries done through the varied re-presentations and reinterpretations of people on a verse presented to them. All of the products will be exhibited to betoken the kind of poetries that are thought of and more vitally, created by the everyday people who at the first place should be the ones creating and reading these poems.
Meanwhile, these are the photos of the poem I used and the first two poems made out of it by random people I approached among the public during my first time to actualize this project:
Unless (self-)proclaimed writers of the world start to work their butts off and keep on breathing the fogs and investigating the widespread squalor around them and then weave words into fragments and fragments into stories then stories into stimulations, these indictment most probably from the typography camp is surely to ring with veracity.
No one can dispute against the visuality of the age but not too many have consistently and strong-mindedly lashed back against the postmodern celebrations of superficiality and (feigned) facility. It appears like everyone is kowtowing to the visual predominance, where as we shall have observed, the multimedia image is the queen. And in this hodge-podge, no illusion of equality can be preserved; for the written word is flinching at the margins, displaced by the audio-visual and even in its own terrain (the print/written), it is now being harassed by the looming stalwart in the typography.
True, I get the idea. A certain posture, a certain tincture of color, a certain shape or bend size can make words speak more than they stand, letter after letter. The connotations though are not that rich: huge size can easily mean dominance, a striking color can mean solid emphasis and so on. This is not to downplay typography. It is a welcome development, arguably an early success in venturing within the thriving of the visual. Plain words are bland and mostly disengaging if they come right by themselves. And with the physical contortions they have introduced, typography really is on the right path if one of its aims is to enliven the dull written word. But at this point, the written word should not just recoil. No thanks to the elitism and commercialism of the publishing “industry” in general and all its consequences on what comes out of the written world, the written word finds it harder to launch a spirited resurgence amidst this current trend.
The individual writer must recognize these overall contexts outside her that can certainly set the parameters for the upshot and probably the potential impact of her works. Will they gain the nod of publishers and make a way into the mainstream streets? Will they be appreciated by the general public and to what extent? To the extent only of a passing success or up to the extent of future recognition and more writing ventures? The writers must strive harder; keep hitting their heads against the rock-solid parapets against creative written outputs and keep at pace with the visuals. We bow to this: the power of the word now accepts the immense help from the visual manipulation, but that should not hold us back from infusing more and more inventiveness less on the visual aspect and more on the word itself.
Hanging by the bridge, we lost the caricature that we thought is everything to have in our time. Then times are smooth and we dedicate poetries to people; the times are turbulent and then we throw away our verses. In the fringe of companionless, stormy nights and repeating anxieties, poetry, wonder, creation can rise like bullets emerge from a truculent strafing. To be back on track, we must walk a step. Poetry is travel. When one weeps in the corner over the known contiguity of rats, there is no chance for poetry.
The afternoon is inhaling us. And its chest we fill with our loudmouth of whines and skinny perspirations. In its heart, we are gobbled by patties of bloody meat and a shrine of peso dollar euro meccas. Until we are spent, until we are diving in frigid quick sundaes and we are fat enough to be eaten just like Hansel in the fairy tale. The city breathed us in and from its mouth, we go out restless and dusty.
Reading poetry should be just like how travelling should be – the journey matters more than the destination. I was reading Muriel Rukeyser’s “Then I saw what the calling was” and it felt wonderful to make a single sentence interpretation out of a thirteen-line poem.
The poem goes:
All the voices of the wood called “Muriel!”
but it was soon solved; it was nothing, it was not for me.
The words were a little like Mortal and More and Endure
And a world like Real , a sound like Health or Hell.
Then I saw what the calling was : it was the road I traveled,
time and these colors of orchards, gold behind gold and the full
shadow begin each tree and behind each slope. Not to me
the calling, but to anyone and at last I saw : where
the road lay through sunlight and many voices and the marvel
orchards, not for me, not for me, not for me.
I cam into my clear being; uncalled, alive, and sure.
Nothing was speaking to me, but I offered and all was well.
And I arrived at the powerful green hill.
And what did I make out of this verse? The road may not beckon us at all times but we can still always proceed. We can be “alive and sure” even in decisions to tread which are hardly motivated by external prompts or initiations but by our internal will or confident instinct. Is not that what the etymology of experience is telling us: to go faring even in the face of peril? To go and see and feel for ourselves the howling of foxes and the rustiness of old thorns because life gets real when it does not just stay in our heads?
How poetry becomes not just a breath, but a humongous cloud of air in spaces where suns have recently become oblivious; how in expanding a simple thought, we do not frown just as in redundancies, but delight at occupying “verbiage.” Arriving at the message, poetry can always make us feel fancy at the manner by which we get there.