Friday, January 09, 2009

written word sorcery

"...By altering, remixing, or randomly arranging elements of text (the metaphors, the syntax, the very value of the words), we draw attention to the role that language plays in the communication of meaning and the representation of realities. Mastery of language involves not only having a good vocabulary, but having an understanding of where our words come from (not where historically, but where within us) and how they resonate for us. Thus the value of knocking words out of their "natural" contexts.

Are we masters or slaves of our language? Is it the function of poets to exploit the "magical" powers of language, while at the same time seeking ways to liberate themselves and others from those same powers? Is a poet a magician, pulling marvelous things out of thin air, and then showing an enchanted audience the clever means whereby they had been tricked? Well certainly not all poets function this way. (...).

There are many models of the human mind, and many theories about the origin, function, and acquisition of language. There are many scientific, metaphysical, and philosophical rationales for the existence and purpose of human life and consciousness. Regardless of which of these things you have adopted, it is indisputable that language has been essential to our efforts to understand ourselves and the realities we encounter in everyday life. Everything that matters to us comes from language. Our myths, our religions, even the little lies we tell ourselves to make existence less frightening and meaningless.

In poetry, the pragmatic function of language as a pure medium of social communication breaks down. In poetry, words are chopped up, blended, fermented, distilled, and new meanings, new messages, new magics emerge. In the beginning was the word, right? The word is the domain of the divine, and a master of words is a master of the creation of reality, and the one who makes dreams and illusions manifest before the eyes of all."

--Part of an old poetry manifesto I was party to the authorship of, back in March of '01. This philosophy still informs my attitudes about writing though, so I reprint it here as much for your benefit as my own, to keep these things in mind.

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