Monday, June 29, 2009

Myself vs. My self

The incredible amount of thought that I think needs to go into writing something like a statement of purpose for the purpose of getting into graduate school is entirely laughable. Consider what this statement is actually trying to accomplish; this is what I am doing with my poetry, this is why I am doing these things, and this is why you should accept me into your creative writing program. How much thought and insight can go into a statement of 500 words or less?

It's a pitch. It's a plea. It's a sorry excuse for the justification of one's passion. How am I to narrow myself down, my work, my only confidence (albeit fleeting and fickle)? I'm honestly not quite sure right now. I think it will be one of those things where I'll write and write and write until I can pull enough from whatever it is I'm writing to fulfill whatever requirements are asked of me. I wonder if I could just write that I write to make people fall all over themselves. I write to make myself want to lick my own ears. I write to bust people's guts to the point they are clawing at language itself! Probably not. I don't even know what that means, but I want to scream it anyway.

I came upon this preface to Frank O'Hara's poems included in Donald Hall's New American Poetry which was comforting on numerous levels:

“I am mainly preoccupied with the world as I experience it, and at times when I would rather be dead the thought that I could never write another poem has so far stopped me. I think this is an ignoble attitude. I would rather die for love, but I haven’t.

“I don’t think of fame or posterity (as Keats so grandly and genuinely did), nor do I care about clarifying experiences for anyone or bettering (other than accidentally) anyone’s state or social relation, nor am I for any particular technical development in the American language simply because I find it necessary. What is happening to me, allowing for lies and exaggerations which I try to avoid, goes into my poems. I don’t think my experiences are clarified or made beautiful for myself or anyone else, they are just there in whatever form I can find them. What is clear to me in my work is probably obscure to others, and vice versa. My formal ‘stance’ is found at the crossroads where what I know and can’t get meets what is left of that I know and can bear without hatred. I dislike a great deal of contemporary poetry—all of the past you read is usually quite great—but it is a useful thorn to have in one’s side.

“It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.”

—Frank O’Hara—From New American Poetry 1945-1960 (Grove Press, 1960), and reprinted in Frank O’Hara: Standing Still and Walking in New York (Grey Fox Press, 1975), both edited by Donald Allen.


justin ryan fyfe said...

yeah i dislike this very much. at least i know that my statement of purpose last year was not a good one.

Anonymous said...

thoughts/ideas are all over the place. this lacks unity and coherence...sorry :(