On Complexity: C. D. Wright
hyena uses sweet words to inveigle the stork1
You asked, and i am writing you with chronic tardiness and informality, in far short of a thousand words, what do i make of complexity, and i submit the more our lives are governed by the great mixmaster of egoistic, material and technostructural forces the more distorted the whole business of living and creating has become for me to be undone by a work of art nowadays i seek a transient clearing in which i am compelled to rely on next to no references; i have to find it on my own and i may or may not choose to share it, so fearful i am of someone trying to stuff my wee opening with pre-frozen servings of praise and censure, and i am still wanting to get my eyes peeled by what they alone are seeing and my hair pulled by what its individual roots are feeling and my mind bent by the weirdness of its wiring, and i am at the exact same location with regard to making anything resembling art, subordinating itself to the nomenclature of poetry, anyone calling oneself called to write poems amid all the earth noise we're putting out there; my relationship to art changes, and i would not have it fixed; for example i recall i didn't like mr. donald judd's work until about ten years ago; then i started finding when i was in a big name-brand museum my entire anticipation was built around getting to those boxes; they just seemed to be enough; i saw them as whole, selfless, and quite useless except to behold; that's all and that's an eyeful; and i could name a few living poets who currently strike that tone with me, but i won't, not right now as i am feeling protective of and protected in their spaciousness, and that is a space i aspire to occupy privately, that whatever space i might come to take up in my own book of books have a singing inside; it is not that complexity is overrated it's that it is overcomplicated; it's not that obscurity is too obscure it's that the subfusc grows moldy if it isn't exposed to a change of air; it's not that the language is exhausted it's that we run down; it's not that the edge won't cut anymore it's that the cuts are getting thinner; it's not that art is artificial it's that the artists get outright seditty; it's not that literary reputations are not inevitable it's that they're invented; it's not that theories are not beautiful it's that they're feeble; though we have opposable heads the legions of poets composing our blue sheets will have to orchestrate the lucid intervals and be prepared to fill them with eye-peeling, hair-pulling, mind-bending language, and don't even get me started on form, but if i were an engineer i am sure i would want to have built the brooklyn bridge even if it half-paralyzed me as it did the builder; the mere mention of which sends me to rockbridge county where there's a photographer who sees the cleavage in the ground; she sees the writing in the trees; she sees the light in the blackwater, the trunk leaking, the columns disappearing; there's another down the road in monroe who can throw her blackdrop up over the door to the death chamber and render the map in the backroads of a face nailbright; there's a poet in the desert who tweezes the glittering particulars of the species from mounds of dead cells and arranges them along the hairline fractures of our souls (if there is such an immanence); in montreal there's a long tall poet who quits her job at the trainlines "to receive the calibration of air in the immense hall of the station"; then there are the stalwart waldrops; there is never enough time to sort it all out so some of us get laggard; just at the rarest opportunity to shift deeper into the miraculous, we hit the wrong answer button; we turn our slender chances into drool; just when we thought we were being conducted to a single point for a specially set-aside purpose; it is not so complicated but it isn't simple either; I like to come and go through different doors more than I like to throw my weight against the same one every time only to discover it was never locked; and I like to change the locks once in a while too; but it isn't just about keeping it interesting for the Author or Dear Reader; it is about how differently things actually are if you come and go by different portals; long live la difference; as for transcendence, well baby, that's the sun's job—
1Title from student in Peter Guernis' ESL class.
-Originally published Crossroads, Spring 2000