Crafting Gentleness

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Slow Poetry

From another blog run by Austin poet Dale Smith, in which he has started to talk about Slow Poetry (SloPo), a way of thinking about poetry that claims affiliation with the Slow City and Slow Foods movements ...

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“I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass,” wrote Whitman in Leaves of Grass. Joseph Harrington observed in comments to my last post how Slow Poetry (SloPo), as I described it, focused primarily on production. But consumption, he points out, is critical too.

Consuming less would provide more room to actually apprehend the valuable works we do read. Whitman’s reverence for loafing, too, is critical to the SloPo movement. Loafing lets us recharge the imagination. We are conditioned to produce, consume, obey. But loafing leads us to evaluate the limits of our own resources and shows us quietly how to expand our appetites through emergent forms. We can rediscover value in the domestic or in landscapes.

Michel de Certeau’s marvelous work, The Practice of Everyday Life, also helps us see how walking in one’s neighborhood can be a radical act. Walking, loafing, drifting afar from the duties of system all aid in the composition of one’s inner life. The poem merely interfaces with us, to help us see a world as words, within their material limits, make it known. J. B. Jackson once noted that one necessity shared by human cultures is a desire to “narrow the distance between ourselves and reality.” Loafing is one means to this and remains one of the key tenets to the open source platform hereby known as SloPo.

Everyone is invited to contribute thoughts and arguments on SloPo at your leisure. Although the official news sources are treating high oil prices as a lifestyle story (how have high gas prices changed the way you commute to work?), the Internet is abuzz with fears of a “Greater Depression.” It is possible we are all going to have to relearn how to live here now without many of the things we are used to having. While I’m not interested in apocalypse—and I don’t think that’s what’s coming—something quite extraordinary is, however, waiting just outside the door. SloPo can help us keep it together. It can prepare us mentally and spiritually for ways to reorganize social spaces and to address the needs of more immediate communities of people who will demand new methods of apprehension when Wal-Mart disappears for good.

If the world slows down as the financial tsunami we are witnessing now slams into our behemoth global systems, how will our work as poets continue? And if big Cap manages to avert another global crisis, proving Marx wrong yet again, how prepared can we be to address that continuation of reality?

posted by Dale

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