Alex and I were talking a few days ago about the idea of interpretation being limitless and is it really limitless; what is interpretation or maybe what is "understanding" and when do you as the audience interpret and when is that not necessarily an option? At first I said yes, interpretation is limitless. He then pointed to the word "bus" (displayed on the wall behind me) and said that I would never think "bus" meant "fish" or "an orange." But what about Stein: she could throw "bus" into any of her poems and I no longer care about the physical object of bus. I do not care where it is going, what color it is or even if a bus really exists. It is not a bus to me, rather it is a sound that is placed next to more sounds that I enjoy. It is here that I think interpretation is not necessary and maybe this is where writers (like those on Possum Ego, get upset). I cannot help but think that it is not an insult to a poem if one does not want to search for the MEANING behind it. A critical discussion can be based around the structure, its ability to exist at the level of language.
There are a number of thoughts that come to me when diving into this topic; words such as "relevance" and "impact" are a few. While reading up on sound poetry I begin to wonder if I am being honest with myself when I say my love for poets such as Stein begins and ends at sound. The beauty of her pieces does not come entirely from sound but the ability to take existing words that have meanings and placing them in an order that destroys these meanings. While I do respect poetry that uses made up words, I do not appreciate it to the same degree as Stein or some of the Language poets for that matter. Without the meaning behind language, there is nothing to fuck with and where's the fun in that? To what degree can language be stretched, distorted, decontextualized . . . ? What is the effect of such things on an audience: frustration, apathy, a call to action, artistic/social/political/ or individual reform? My final project has shifted from my previous idea of Oulipo exercises to one that explores these possibilities. What can poetry, through its freedom to constantly use language in new ways, DO? Is there such a thing as linguistic activism?
This is all very scattered at the moment. I'll add more to the thoughts above at a later date. The creative aspect of this project will consist of a number of new poems varying in length that will somehow decontextualize language. They will be displayed on pieces of paper stuck inside movie rentals, fliers outside stores with tags to rip off (as if buying a car), broadsides in bathrooms and so forth. On each paper/tag will be a link to a new blog where people will be asked to quickly post a response to the poem they discovered. Community and ultimately linguistic activism will be determined according to comment turnout: either people respond to poetry or they don't. The critical part of the project will predominantly evaluate the Language poets and their effectiveness or ineffectiveness to create activism.