10 February 2009

Allen Grossman & Mark Halliday

[from Allen Grossman and Mark Halliday's The Sighted Singer: Two Works on Poetry for Readers and Writers, Johns Hopkins, 1992]

Mark Halliday:

If I'm sitting with a student who has written a poem that I think is not good enough, whether I reveal it directly and candidly to that student or not, what I'm really doing as I try to coach that student toward what I claim is a better version of that poem is trying to help the student find the most mature and healthy version of himself or herself that is compatible with the subject or scope of the poem that he or she has written.

Allen Grossman:

In my view, the student and the teacher of poetry come together because of a common requirement that there be more access to the world that ordinary language, and discourse of another kind than poetry, affords. Consequently, the student and the teacher have a common and reciprocal agreement that two things are the case. One, that our capacity to make statements about the world requires a supplement; and two, that the poetic means for facilitating such statements is available to be searched, and inquired of by everyone.

In the doing of teaching of this kind my authority derives, as I understand it, from the nature of the poetic text, and not from any accumulated experience on my part, or for that matter on the student's part, of any other reality as such. My conception of the poem is that it is required of the poet. . . . Hence, my conception of the poem itself is as an artifact which is the result of a supplement to human powers . . . And what I regard students and teachers as investigating, and as intending to gather among their personal resources, is precisely those aspects of the poem which intervene, interpellate, hail, call to, summon, from the "outsideness" of the poem to both parties, teacher and student, reader and reader, by calling from outside, constitute a difference as between the experience of either party and the new knowledge which the poem supplies.

Consequently, I am not, together with the student, checking the reality that is supplied by the poem against my experience or the student's experience of reality. I am checking the poem as an act against its own hypothesis of origins.

. . . I am convinced that the authority of the teacher as a teacher of poetry derives solely from his or her practice of the art or craft which is the subject matter that brings teacher and student together, and which in my view is the same for all persons.

. . . Look, what we are seeking when we revise a poem is the fullest possible realization of the text as a poem.

. . . God help us if the wisdom of poets as persons becomes the criterion for the goodness of poetry. But in fact, it cannot. I argue for the specificity of the instrument and the inherent danger of invoking it. We wish as teachers to make an apprentice to the sorcerer who knows the spells which regulate the art.

. . . I write with the intention of discovering new knowledge about the system of representation itself.

The Sighted Singer: Two Works on Poetry for Readers and Writers

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