It’s bad enough when it’s brilliant
November 14, 2007
I listened to Ginsberg read and fail at his own poem, aloud; this flat recitation of thoughts a generation removed. You could tell he’d chewed over the words until they were strangers, but still felt obligated enough by their brilliance to make some show of enthusiasm. It was like one of those of end of relationship fucks that are more resentment and habit than release; where you’re tracing the lines hard enough the paper tears.
And halfway through this listless Howl it occurred to me how little province we have over our genius, or even ordinary thought, once it moves into the world. We are anchored in a static frame of reference, dependent on the person we were at the moment of creation; not only having lost possession, but any pure capacity to experience the work. There is no ambiguity, no reinterpretive subtlety: we know definitively what it is not. And once we move from the initial frame the meaning slips, until we’re left with a vague appreciation of technique and nostalgia, and little else.
Where this becomes troubling is how quickly our Selves can become artistic representation. We project the same mannerisms, and tell the same stories in the same places, because the behaviors used to have some relevance to us…when our identity was predicated on novel experience. What began as a seeking reactive being, gradually becomes this performance of formerly effective behavior. And the longer we inhabit these old clothes, the more they become costumes; the more we become characters with only momentum for narrative…until even that is gone.