How to form: Exploring poetry as praxis of everyday life, America as landscape of language
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As the defense of poetry, this project emerges from my long-standing attempt to assess poetic form and language as a mode of thinking, as a constructive site for a new reality. It bears the mark of two intersecting sets of concerns: that of discerning poetic form in its relationship with modernity, and that of responding critically to the efforts of American experimental poets in conditions of the ordinary. How can we posit poetry in our everyday life? In days filled with seemingly meaningless, repetitive activities, how can we create the space of poetry as the critique of everyday life? How can we construct poetic language without escaping to the mystified past or transcendental imagination, or without flying into the utopian future? How is poetic form engaged in the making of a creative arena in our ordinary life? By bringing together some philosophical thinking on modernity and everydayness and a few problematic icons in modern American poetry, this dissertation revisits the works of Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Lyn Hejinian and Theresa Cha and explores the space of poetic language as a realm to mediate and reconstruct our everyday life. The configurations of everyday life as a fluid nexus of thinking and speaking by these poets call into question the ideal of stability and transparency of representation and grammatical structures of language. Focusing on their experiments of poetic form in terms of repetition, parataxis, juxtaposition, and spatial-temporality, I propose that readers be invited to experience the immediate intensity of reading rather than a thematic appropriation. In the process of responding to the questions of how to form, how to experience poetic language in its complex relationships with modern ordinariness, this dissertation remaps the landscape of American poetry as a constellation based on affinity and constructs a domain where thinking and speaking of the self, nation, language, origin and reality are newly questioned and explored in the arena of "thinking with AND." In this space of "thinking with AND," poetry transforms negation into the imagined community of language. Poetry as praxis is hereby reborn as "forms of life."