Statement for St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter | Rodrigo Toscano

(Nada Gordon and Gary Sullivan, Editors)



Mexican poet Gabriel Zaid, in a recent essay, calls for a "total
poetry"-that is, a poetry fully integrated into one's work, politics,
love life, recreational pursuits, "daily life," etc.

Do you aspire to have your poetic practice encompass and/or spring
from all aspects of life and experience?

If yes, how and to what extent have you succeeded in doing so?

If no, what kinds of parameters do you set for your poetic practice?

* * *

First, some queries of my own-with "answers" (imbedded polemics) frontloaded. Aren't poets in the U.S. (where most of the forum participants are writing from) already writing "about" everything under the sun? Their cockatoo's, their eminent third-uncle bassoonists, their filmic (gaussy or pixilated) rushing rivers, etc-

And how is this not all "integrated"-or could we ever imagine it not being so in our lives' practices? Already there's no writing that exists at a remove. Who's writing on the third moon of Saturn-is still "integrated."

The word "Total" is (curiously) standing in-is an interloper for, the word Total. [And my apologies Mr. Zaid, whom I haven't met, know next to nothing about, nor have the resources (as yet) for integrating you (the complex of your social being / cultural practice) in the dynamic of the political / cultural / literary environs that this act is taking place in]. So that "total" is the sign, in fact, that is being struggled over, while "integrated" is the conduit for its spillage (something that is basic rhetoric-as old as St. Augustine's "meditations").

The "total" that'd I'd "call for" is the sweeping surge of How'd We Get Here? (or thereabouts, torquing). What forces are shaping this all-called up from way back, as well as their near "total" fulfillment of an imperative (pre-scribed?) Future. That is what we're in contention with (continuously), or complicit with. And often both! The struggle against The Exploitation of our very sinews (in time and space), against Racism, against "divinely inspired" tomfooleries, against anti-woman speech/thought/action.

This is complexity for me. There's worlds of "integrations" around all this. And interruptions. And transformations. Forms-oh-kay. And Con-nyet?

Zaid's "total" strikes me as a very now-frozen total. No, I don't want to see poems read at the Super Bowl Halftime (public executions). Nor do I want the (alleged) "daily" raised to any principle, frankly. Poetry is (can be more of a) directed practice. It's specialized artistry and social practice. In highly complex (capitalist) societies it's almost a science as to how to act on that complexity: A need to measure, calculate-innovate. Poetry can produce abundance of newer meaning, it can be "ever searching", but it is always "integrated" to that other (historic) sense of "total".

And so the question that stands out here is, what does "a call" mean for "integrating" that which is already integrating?

To their credit, Nada and Gary are employing (an excerpt of) Zaid's call as a poetic-political platform for their new tenure at The St. Mark's-as a tone-setter, or rallying instance. Me? I prefer it frontloaded, just like that. And so my (friendly) speculation is that this forum acts to amplify and confederate several related galaxies of American Poetries of which they're key activists. And yet, they're allowing a democratic discussion / instance too, by way of a critical reception to that process. And that's an "integration" one based on common cultural work between us.