April 14, 2009

On Shooting Unicorns

Don't you hate it when you reply to a post and can't tell whether or not your reply took? Whether or not it's lying in a pile somewhere waiting for approval? You waste all that time and energy and burn out brain cells you really can't spare...for what? Bah.

Anyway, I wanted to add a piece of Agnes to the "They Shoot Unicorn Structures" discussion over at Rodney Koeneke's blog Modern Americans. Since I can't tell whether or not my reply took (either time I tried) and since mental masturbation is a terrible thing to waste, I'll put my response here. Ha! Take that, you smelly computer gods!

Note: This version might be slightly different than the one I posted (or tried to post) over at Modern Americans because I think I twiddled with that one after I pasted it in the reply box. What can I say; I'm a twiddler. The "troublesome" quote by Barbara Guest that's under discussion is first in bold. The second bolded quote is Rodney.


"The structure of the poem should create an embrasure inside of which language is seated in watchful docility, like the unicorn. Poems develop a terrible possessiveness toward their language because they admire the decoration of their structure."

Y'all make my brain itch. Let's break down this quote's sloppy structure. (The picture of the unicorn makes things more confusing.)

Poem has (is) structure. Structure (should) make/have an embrasure (window/opening in a fortification, usually used to fire cannon). Does embrasure normally make folks think of a corral? I'm thinkin' castle. Fortress. Will that flimsy fence protect the unicorn from a dragon?

Language is a unicorn (magic decoration) inside the structure/fortification/poem, gazing out the embrasure/opening.

Poems are possessive of their language/unicorn/magic because they admire magic decorations.

Poems are selfish. Some poems don't like unicorns and prefer to keep their cannons--which are also language. Sometimes the cannons explode, and then you have L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y.

If someone comes along and collects the bits and pieces of iron, stone, tapestry, and princess guts from the explosion and uses them--along with the white kitten he found in a storm drain, the thistle he picked up on the side of the road, a ripe dog turd, a bag full of question marks, and the tuna sandwich leftover from lunch--to build a unicorn, that's Flarf.

I couldn't get through the link, so I have to guess about context. (That's always fun.) Perhaps in this quote Barbara Guest defines language as what it suggests (the meaning, feeling) to the reader. What does the docile unicorn suggest to a reader? What does the cannon suggest to a reader? And what would a fortification built out of unicorns rather than built to house a unicorn look like? There are just too many questions and not enough Calamine! You probably shouldn't stand too close.

"How do you read the passage: criticism or endearment? And does the notion of "poems of terrible possessiveness toward their language" ring true, as either praise or diss? Ideas/examples?" (Rodney asks)

Criticism or endearment? Praise or diss? Of what--poems? Must it be one or the other? (I think someone named a fallacy after that notion.) Perhaps everything depends on whether or not one finds curmudgeons *terribly* sexy. Does the idea of a poem's possessiveness of its language ring true? Yes. No diss. No praise. Just fact. A unicorn is not a cannon. Except on Thursdays.

Now, look at my hand. What's holding it together? Do you see any typos? How about unicorns?

And hello.


Thank you for your attention. We now return you to your regular scheduled meandering.


Paul said...

Hello. There is nothing I can add to your superb confabulation of the hippo critical.

Agnes said...

Funny you should mention hippos...

Paul said...

Hippos, unicorns, academics talking about poetry, they all look the same to me. Maybe I should head over there and check your comment worked.

Agnes said...

Dang it, Paul. I went over and checked. How come your post stuck and mine didn't? You got a magic unicorn in your pocket?