MICHAEL D. MAIN :: GUEST VIEWPOINTS
on LITERATURE and LANGUAGE
"Is Language dying?" I was asked recently. I do not think that Language itself is dying; I would say, rather, that the uses to which we have put language have "expired" the capacity of our ability to evolve as capable and worthy beings in and of Language. And I do feel that, as of this present moment, we must both inhabit and employ language with superior skill, or we will perish. It is the method by which we arrive at new insight as well as solve crucial problems. Here, where we find ourselves at this juncture, we cannot continue down the path in whose assumed guide posts we have placed overweening trust.
The commodification of phrase, corporate marketing, and thus, co-opting of meaning, the substitution of ersatz "power" words for authentic signifiers . . . as we all know, this phase of decay had already reached its height decades ago. So what of today? What we now witness are the mundane acts of unceremonious burial. No skill exists even in these empty husks of ritual: only numbed fingertips. To put it another way, the vehicle in front of yours is always a hearse, and the corpse inside it is a rubber balloon. At the traffic lights, you are able to stop and rub your palms across the balloon's surface. And we can all utter sordid laughter at these mordant squeals. The "word" has been eviscerated into the spare, stripped "letters" of text messaging. This messaging is typically not communication at all; rather it is a "twitch" that occurs in the body of the communicator after the death of the engaged awareness of authentic language play. Just as if it were an unattended dead body left to become bloated in the sun, the expended shells of Word lie stinking all about us, crowding our consciousness, limiting awareness, making us look straight ahead to avoid the pain of really having to fully inhabit the "scenescapes" of the killing.
Here in America where I live and work we have seen poetry suffer a similar fate this past half century. Formalist habit, as it decayed for decades in the half-life of academic "rigor", has led to a death march of practitioners into the sea. A march of ever greater numbers, I might add. And I do of course choose to say "practitioners" here, and not "artists". But I would maintain that if we determine to look to it, then Language itself can from its own side re-inform our intentions, revitalize our capacities, and reenergize us toward wholly new practices. We have seen to the heart of "the Market" (reality as product, poem as prize, as object of objective production, as graft token of careerism, as a sold commodity exchange message, conference ticket stub, or tenure-track granting missive. And we have become wholly blind. Art must involve urgency. At the very least. But we have here only business. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
So can Language make us see, enjoin us to live again? I do believe it can. Its power is inherent, from its own side as it were, and, in a real way, Language comes as a gift, a boon to our kind of species in this particular type of universe. Ours is a form of cosmos in which, due to its unique Quality of Voice, we once found, millennia ago, ourselves not only standing, but speaking. The human mind, one might guess, is an envelope. Language might exist as the always unread but ever extant letter inside of it. Today this envelope is filled with detritus. It is the role of the Language Poet today to empty that betrayed and compromised envelope, to draw upon the potential of letters that have not yet been printed on papers of custom, habit, and fixed cruelty. By "cruelty" I mean to say the vitriolic force of phrases which, though they have brutal power to persist, nevertheless always come up short . . . words which insist on purchasing tenure even as they steadfastly refuse to signify and inform with authority and vitality.
Bringing the reader to fuller realization and appreciation of such realities implies a need for seemingly violent upheaval and transition in the art qua language stream— and so I feel that placing music and mirth into the flow of texts is a means to mediate this fury into expressions of seismic, linguistic play.
Such play takes place in an existentially manifest ‘surfaced loop’, the loop of the text composition itself which is “surfaced” on the display or the page wherein, even though the surfaces of the verse line may, by turns, rotate inside out and outside in, there will nonetheless remain a sense of poise (if not security) in which the reader can be carried on the mother’s back of the living artifact, the vehicle, the poem . . . an art form whose implicit promise toward each reader is not to break apart into insignificance, nihilism, fear, or despair.
In the pieces which comprise ”(In)Sens(e)lms“, my third book project, for instance, I am working to seize and manifest poetic language as it appears spontaneously in consciousness prior to the point where the internal ‘censor’ of socio/cultural grammar and lexicon “formats” language into ‘approved’ forms of expression.
I am looking for what I might call an “LDI” – a ‘Language Dance Imprint’- which sings at the very foundation of consciousness as mind is experienced in its moment-to-moment linguistic advance to a personal conceptual reality. It would be an error to define this as a “dream state”: it is, if anything, the reverse, a kind of enlightenment state where the sentient being is alive and writhing on the floorboards with language roots that are sprouting up from the timbers.
My aims are toward stimulation, rejuvenation, and the repair of linguistic awareness, leading to re-energized and newly valid intellectual and literary cultures. My coinages of new words are expressions, I believe of a consciousness as mind is experienced in its moment-to-moment linguistic advance to a personal conceptual reality.
If we attempt to demonstrate the failure of language merely through the pathos of an ‘anti’ stance that employs comic, else lethal instantiations of our own failed language, if we cease to believe that language is an adequate instrument of expression and human communication, we summon horrific realms of isolation, and, ultimately, we are left to command our own utter ‘disuse’ as human beings.
Perhaps this is the goal: to compel a retraining of the critical sensibility towards greater complexity and a broader contextualization, or rather a new idea of context, seen in maturity as something neither imprisoned simply inside the language of a text, nor outside it in society.
Copyright ©2012 by Michael D. Main through Howling Dog Press; All rights reserved in print, broadcast, and through electronic publication.
MICHAEL D. MAIN, LINKS:
1. A Recent Interview, Sweden
Tidningen Kulturen : Med Kulturen Som Perspektiv
Litteratur | Portratt | August 20 2012 | Skrivet av Freke Räihä
2. Michael D. Main Author Web Site: http://www.michaeldmain.com/
3. Ygdrasil: A Journal Of The Poetic Arts (M. Main as Featured Poet | April 2011 Issue) | "Whomanids" Module Of "Quintet For The Apocalypse" :http://www.synapse.net/kgerken/Y-1104.pdf
4. Reader Support Blog For "Quintet For The Apocalypse"
Visit the content-rich Reader Support blog for Quintet For The Apocalypse here: http://apocalorigami.tumblr.com/
5. Michael D. Main's SoundCloud Channel | Audio Reading Of "Quintet For The
6. Michael Main reads from the Introduction to "Quintet For The Apocalypse" on his Author Channel:http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPHTDPYCa9XauufSCfPSnVQ
7. POETS & WRITERS Author Registry Page:http://www.pw.org/content/michael_main
8. Language Ltd & Forthcoming | Michael D. Main Facebook Public Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Language-Ltd-Forthcoming-Michael-D-Main/164437506931936
9. Michael D. Main | The White Book | Blog:http://michael-main.tumblr.com/
The "Best Of" writer Michael D. Main's "Facebook Profile" aphorism postings of 2009 - 2011 are here collected by the
author. This with a view to greater and more mindful clarity of both communicative intent and coherent presentation. Each segment of content has been carefully evaluated for its potential relationship to all of its
cousin posts, then subsequently arranged by thematic relationship. The result is this writer's informed alternative to the daily background noise and adverbial "discharge" that too often attempts to be swapped for
quiet, sustained, and intelligent reflection in the social networking milieu. Those who desire a broader perspective as to the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings (or “backstory") to what informs a writer's
formally published poems and books will most appreciate this approach.
10. Follow Michael D. Main on Twitter: Search for "Michael D. Main" [MichaelDMain] of Newport, Oregon USA.
11. Michael's Poetic Work | Journal Publications | 2009 - 2012:
Mad Hatters' Review Issue 13: http://www.madhattersreview.com/issue13/poetry_main.shtml
OMEGA 7 (pp. 174-177): http://issuu.com/howlingdogpress/docs/omega7fromhivethismind
JIVIN' LADYBUG: http://mysite.verizon.net/vze8911e/jivinladybug/id98.html
THE TOWER JOURNAL: