Jejudo, South Korea
"Meaning" is a word that, obviously, has meaning. But it doesn't really mean a lot."
--I agree, but I'll take a good piece of intentional doggerel over one more 'important' poem, a poem that, while certainly sincere, doesn't say anything new. Perhaps a better word is comprehensible? Certainly, we have a school of thought where meaning can be subordinated and even eliminated to the pure sound of language itself (Basil Bunting says something like this.), but I suspect that the more eloquent it is (as opposed to the more shocking it is), the more people will find meaning there. It may not persuade you, it may not persuade me, but as long as people are willing to take the time to explain it, I'll try to listen and try to 'get it'.
--I contrast this approach with the culture of silence that permeates so much 'elite' views of what poetry is supposed to do -- the 'knowing smile' approach. I suspect many of these listeners or readers are more interested in the clever jingle than they are the synthesis of meaning and sound (and why do we have to synthesize something that was already wedded together in the first place?).
--The problem here is that they assume that if it sounds good, it must be important (In itself, this is fine.), or more importantly they act as if it were important with no attempt to define what that importance is; in fact, they often denigrate those who have the courage to admit that they don't understand or the courage to describe it. I think this is a mistake. Simplistic or not, your attempt to describe Romeo and Juliet was a nice, quick description that shows many of the things I see and that all this talk of universals obscures.
"I still think, when you describe writing as a social exercise, that you are unduly assigning motivation to the writer." Interestingly, in an earlier post, you differentiated between "someone who writes a weekly grocery list and someone who gains pleasure from the manipulation of a language."
--Perhaps your right, but when someone in the course of a conversation says, 'I write' or 'I'm a writer' I find it hard to believe that he or she doesn't want to share with someone. True, it may not be me and that's okay, but look at Serenity's point about the beads. She may not care if someone dislikes it (she may not care if I like or dislike it), but she makes it very clear that she cares if somebody likes it. I see no difference between that statement and the statement that 'I'm looking for a target audience' and that makes it social.
--I once knew a young woman who told me she wrote, I asked to see her stuff, she said, "No," I asked why, she said, "Because I'm going to be discovered just like Emily Dickinson, I'm not going to be read until I'm gone." Okay, but that belies the question, doesn't it? She wants to be read, she just doesn't want to be read by me and she doesn't want to be read now.
--She also follows the myth of Dickinson. Dickinson did indeed send her work to publishers for assessment.
--As someone who, several years back, spent practically every morning practicing my Chinese characters, I completely understand the use of pen to paper as a mnemonic device, but I'm not going to call myself a writer and I'm not going to say I write as a result. If I said I practiced calligraphy, on the other hand, I think that would open me up to a specifically social intent.
"the latter writes with the intention to be read."
--I really never saw this as controversial (Go figure, huh?) as I thought I wasn't so much attempting to define writing as an 'objective' thing, but trying to narrow the field to describe that moment when someone says, "I write." I certainly have written more poems than I've ever shown people but that's not because I didn't at one time intend for them to be read as I simply changed my mind (and wish that on a number of poems I had shown that, well, I hadn't. ).
--So, I guess my question to you Ron is when you were writing those unread stories, those unread poems, was that the intent -- to leave them unread? When I write something, and again by writing I mean the manipulation of language to create something new (stories, poems, essays), I always feel like I'm writing to someone, I have a vague picture in my head of someone 'out there' who will read it. True, there are practicing exercises, there are mnemonic devices, there is writing produced in trance-like states, but, honestly, I don't think that's what people mean when they say, "I write". In fact, the first two points are ways of distancing yourself (Don't judge this as a piece of writing, judge it for it's specific purpose). The third is a more interesting case. While no doubt many will take 'credit' for that writing, won't they also distance themselves by saying, 'that wasn't me, it just happened,' or 'that was my unconscious speaking,' or even, in extreme cases, 'that was someone else writing through me.'
--How can you take credit for something that you won't take responsiblity for?
PS Serenity and Toad, not ignoring your comments but it's taken me a couple of days to integrate all that's been said so far and I thought the best point to begin was with some of Ron's points. Believe it or not, I see this a lot more clearly with all that's been said. Whether or not I'm getting my point across is of course your decision.
[This message has been edited by Brad (06-28-2002 05:35 PM).]