The more abstract

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb?

The more abstract

Postby Antcliff » Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:58 am

There is a familiar distinction in painting between the more of less abstract. This is conventionally taken to mark the difference between works that represent recognisable objects and those which do not. Typically the idea is that when the representational features are booted or muted, other virtues step in....the delights of colour and the delights of a jogging imagination and other things.

It is natural to wonder if there is some counterpart of this in poetry. I suspect the comparison would be with meaning and linguistic representation. In the more abstract case it does not matter, or matters less, what the words mean. Overall meaning goes out in favour of more stress on the delights of sound and jogging imagination and other things.

And yet there is a striking asymmetry. Abstract painting became popular amongst those who liked painting. But the truth is that the sound/word ensembles in poetry that might be akin to more abstract painting have never had much of a following even in poetry. Still, does anybody have any favourites in that sort of area?

For example (almost randomly picked...it may not be a good example), this sort of thing. For all I know it may be intended to have an overall meaning, but it seems clear that the pleasure to be derived from it is unlikely to come from that source...but from sound and the jogging of the mind. I note that PG, perhaps with very good reason, has never had much of this despite being a contemporary forum. Ihttp://mollybloompoetry.weebly.com/tim-allen.html



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Re: The more abstract

Postby Firebird » Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:51 am

This is an amazing coincidence Seth, as I was only just thinking about this exact comparison this weekend when I was at an exhibition of Howard Hogkins paintings. Will comment more later. Just thought in let you know.

Cheers,

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Re: The more abstract

Postby Antcliff » Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:23 pm

Firebird wrote:This is an amazing coincidence Seth, as I was only just thinking about this exact comparison this weekend when I was at an exhibition of Howard Hogkins paintings. Will comment more later. Just thought in let you know.

Cheers,

Tristan


Coincidence indeed. :D The question has started to occupy me after working on some rather abstract photos involving seaweed. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, Tristan. Mine are only somewhat vague and developing. I don't know that much about Hodgkin I must admit.

My own rather shaky thoughts were perhaps involved with the question of whether there could be a poetry counterpart to what is sometimes called "Biomorphic Abstractionism" in the visual arts.....being the fancy label for more abstract works derived from the shapes/settings of biological forms.

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Re: The more abstract

Postby Firebird » Fri Aug 04, 2017 9:23 am

If poetry were to become abstract in a similar way to art (where representing accurately the physical form of objects is pretty much left behind and the main focus becomes the way abstracted shapes and colours interact to express emotion and feelings) I believe much of form, literal and metaphorical meaning and syntax may have to be left behind by poetry and replaced by a type of sound scale, where the rhythms and sounds of words are chosen for no other reason than the emotions/feelings they evoke. It may also mean that word boundaries are broken down too. Sound is the poets pallet as colour is for the artist. To be honest, I'm not really sure this completely sound based poetry could ever exist effectively, because I do not believe most people experience the sound/rhythm of words as vividly as they experience colour. Maybe it could work for poets though.

Sorry if I'm sounding a bit convoluted. Just some thoughts.

Cheers,

Tristan

PS. Your link in your first post isn't working.
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Re: The more abstract

Postby Ros » Fri Aug 04, 2017 10:03 am

That makes sense, Tristan.

Part of the issue is what a poem is: this is a quote from Don Paterson:

Poetry also retains its unique and near-magical property: it is the one art form
where its memory and its acquisition are one and the same thing. The memory of
the symphony, painting, film or novel, however vivid, is no more than that: a
memory, or at best a very partial recovery. ... to remember a poem is the poem.

A poem isn't so much a representation of a thing, even to the extent an abstract work of art is. It's a device for being remembered. I think that means it needs its form, its meaning, because if you reduce it to a sound-scape where the words mean little, and the way they fit together doesn't mean anything greater than their individual meanings, I think you've lost what a poem is.

There are types of poetry that do this - some is known as Linguistically Innovative Poetry, I pinched this from https://thecurlymindblog.wordpress.com/ ... ssue-no-7/

sea

sample of mint leaf ÷ matrix equation ÷ the end of the season

÷ relatively peaceful ÷ a raised stone basement ÷ beyond the

clouds ÷ performance and precision ÷ the science of human

history ÷ seen to be sympathetic ÷ this pathway is

suppressed ÷ boob tube inanities ÷ wrecked off the coast ÷

completely in lowercase ÷ eternal dream ÷ group stage ÷

coach of the dragonflies ÷ superparticular ÷ all animals be

stunned ÷ the variegated pink ÷ determiner of shoe sizes

~~~
There is some sense here but for me nothing overall, and I can't see how it is supposed to work. Possibly this isn't a good example of what Seth is talking about, as the emphasis doesn't seem to be on the beauty of the sounds but rather the linking of images.

Maybe we should have a go at writing some poems that are as abstract as we can make them while still retaining the sense of beauty of the best abstract art?
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
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Re: The more abstract

Postby Antcliff » Fri Aug 04, 2017 5:15 pm

Interesting thoughts, Tristan and Ros. Thank you.
Pondering.

Ros, in passing I can't say I accept this doctrine of Paterson's as it stands. It seems to fall to a simple objection. If you remember something it must have existed before you remember...that is what remembering is rather than, say, "imaginatively conjuring up". Which would seem to imply that if act of remembering IS the thing then the thing could not in fact be remembered. Possibly a better formulation of the idea would be that, with poems, if you fully recall the poem you can experience the poem...unlike other art forms? (Even jokes?) That might still serve your (later) argument that the poem is lost. Hmm.

Still, not all abstract art is COMPLETELY unrepresentational. (Perhaps there must always be some element of representation.) So poems like that could still have some meaning. I suspect that class interest me more. Pure sound poetry would, I suspect, just be rather feeble music. What little pure "sound poetry" I have heard counts as that.

Will be returning.

In the meantime.....

Maybe we should have a go at writing some poems that are as abstract as we can make them while still retaining the sense of beauty of the best abstract art?


Yeh, sounds like a fine idea. Even if all that emerges is a lot of "linguistically innovative" noodlings, we will have taken PG on a fun trip. Might be time for a bit of beret wearing.


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Re: The more abstract

Postby JJWilliamson » Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:19 pm

Ros wrote:Maybe we should have a go at writing some poems that are as abstract as we can make them while still retaining the sense of beauty of the best abstract art?


Why not try it out in a competition to see where it takes us. Would nonsense poems fit into this category?
I've dabbled with some abstract metaphors before and they've generally received mixed reviews.
However, knowing that the writer is following this line as a deliberate strategy would help the reader
to focus on aspects beyond the expected norm. That would be interesting and could well mark the beginnings
of a new movement. :)

I'm not sure if the reader could cope with umpteen lines of abstract poetry, though. :D
Perhaps it IS time to find out.

JJ
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