Poetry is a Reading of the World: Ammiel Alcalay, Part Two

Ammiel Alcalay: Part Two

Excerpts from Alcalay's "Local Politics: The Background as Foreward" from his book Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays 1982-1999 publshed by City Lights Books:

"...my experience in presenting unknown or marginalized literatures has taught me that an extremely wide net needs to be cast in order to create the conditions through which such work can find a productive space in Amercian culture, a place where poets and writers can get to it and begin relating to distinctly new forms, idioms, sensibilities and experiences as part of their own vocabulary. Casting such a net has meant turning into a kind of full-service bureau through which I could both help create the conditions for reception of works and then carry those works over in a variety of ways. Within these different roles, my work has spanned a range of cultural, political, and historical concerns. As someone barely born here (in larger historical/chronological terms), much of my work has involved the process of both finding and losing my "self" within the gaps I find in American discourse, gaps primarily having to do with either the lack or the suppression of any tangible global political and historical space or consciousness, however these end up getting defined.

Part of the difficulty of working through such a situation is that I feel as if I have embarked upon an enormous journey only to come back to where I started from: in my case, a distinctly American language and American idiom, only to wonder what happened along the way........

Two crucial geographical areas and states of mind on this map have been the Middle East and the Balkans; involvement in these areas has meant confronting deep pockets of resistance to change of any kind, in both expected and unexpected places.....

Poetry, and language perceived or filtered through the sensibility of poetry's value, still resists the marketplace, no matter how hard some may try. As Jack Spicer wrote: 'A poet is a time mechanic not an embalmer....Objects, words must be lead across time not preserved against it...' The connection between words and world, as well as the consequences of such connections, is something we must never lose sight of; as Adonis, one of this century's greatest poets has written:'The writing of poetry is a reading of the world and the things in it, a reading of things charged with words, and of words tied to things....Language, viewed from this perspective, is not a tool for communicating a detached meaning. It is meaning itself because it is thought. Indeed, it precedes thought and is succeeded by knowledge....Poetry, according to this definition, is more than a means or a tool, like a technology; it is, rather, like language itself, an innate quality. It is not a stage in the history of human consciousness but a constituent of this consciousness' (xii-xv).

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