Thursday, January 06, 2005

How much is enough?

In his essay "Dilemmas by Their Horns," Larry Eigner writes, "Enough and few enough words from how many," placing his minimalist approach in the context of the language around him, in the context of the social. "There's enough language around (me) so listening gets harder and harder and then impossible, quite a barrier to being adequate," a difficulty Eigner experienced urgently and acutely due to his cerebral palsy (attention difficulties are often associated with CP).

This reminds me of Bill Kennedy's Word essay a while ago in which, if I'm remembering correctly, he suggests that one of poetry's contemporary roles might be to allow a space for focus in this age of rapidly multiplying information.

I've suspected for a while that all poetry is to some degree "found." I think Lee Ann Brown talks somewhere about looking at a dictionary and thinking about all the poems in it.* Of course finding these poems involves much cutting away, much discarding of potential material. Is it possible, then, to think of writing as a negative art and about minimalism** as an extreme form of this?

* One of the things about Christian Bök's Eunoia that I find most interesting is its predetermined lexicon, the fact that it identifies its material as a subset of available words and thus consciously acts out what all writers do unconsciously through their necessarily limited vocabularies.

**Okay, so maybe I'm starting to accept this label I've been stuck with. No.


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