BLOG: The Trick
We are submitting our apology now for sneaking a little trick into the content of the RAR front page. We wish we could make a claim for our innocence, but we can’t. The act was deliberate. The intention was to flush out the people or perhaps the person in any of us who can’t resist the urge to feel better by correcting someone else. We don’t like to be corrected. We don’t feel correcting our fellow writers and artists has any place in, on or around the RAR community. (We recommend a professional relationship with a good editor for this.) So, we have attempted to correct with our little trick anyone who is inclined to correct while engaging with RAR.
Instead of hanging garlic outside our home, we decided to dangle a little bait – the corpse of a quotation attributed to someone named James Joyce. The full form of the quotation – the words we chose to post and the sentences we chose to post them in are, as we were so politely and genially informed by more than one urbane browser of our site, incorrect. If we are referring to a quotation attributed to the celebrated Irish writer James Joyce, then the verbatim quotation is:
A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
But wait, James Joyce himself didn’t really say this, did he? Stephen Daedalus said it in Joyce’s novel Ulysses Chapter 9 – the Scylla and Charybdis chapter. (You know – arrogant, depressed, unproductive, lost, unhappy, brooding, narcissistic, solipsistic Stephen Daedalus.) How do we know James Joyce himself ever said (or believed) anything like this? Perhaps when he was a young boy. Perhaps in a drunken stupor. Perhaps in a dream. Perhaps on the surgical table as he lay dying. Also, how do we know, in fact, that James Joyce himself did or didn’t say first or later or never the variant of the quote we chose to post:
All my errors are volitional and are the portals of my discovery.
Which do you like better? For us, the genius bit obviously needs to be excised for its pretension. And, we like the idea that the latter form of the quotation brings it into our inner circle – where it can be appropriated and applied to help us listen to the deeper intelligence that often delivers these mistakes to us. So, whether the mistake is more beautiful because it unfolds a deeper, smarter, more meaningful, more devastating, more angry, more lamentable, more tedious, more beautiful truth, or whether it’s there to draw us up short, make us pay attention to it and its surrounding language, tropes and grammar, or whether it is just a hilariously funny joke in its new form that needs to stay – the mistake is often better than the correct and not-so-original form.
And, then there is the thing about leaving a mistake in deference to the muse (in whatever divine trope it presents itself). So, we could be leaving a few errant threads ostentatiously crisscrossed in a corner of our rug, or we could be emphasizing the transience and imperfection of art as in the Wabi-sabi tradition, or we could be painstakingly completing a sand painting that need not be perfect because it is so ephemeral. We have a painter friend who paints gorgeous, ethereal landscapes in gouache on corrugated cardboard. My god that paper is full of acid! These beautiful paintings don’t stand a chance of lasting. But, somehow the impermanence of the surface and the medium seems to contribute to their other-worldly beauty. Should we correct him by teaching him to use oil on panel?
Anyway, James Joyce didn’t say that. And by that, I mean either quote. In fact, it could be argued that none of us are really the source of anything we say. So, I am telling you now that the quotation is correct as it was delivered to me this or that morning by Joyce, my physical therapist, who said it to me while working on my cranial still points. And the typo a few of you found – that was deliberate also. Joyce is a genius. She is an artist at work on my battered body. And that’s exactly the way she said it.
BLOG: The Punctuation Pandemic
One of the most common hand-wringing objections I hear from unhealthy editors is some variant of:
“This poem could use some punctuation”
A poem rarely needs punctuation. Punctuation is an artifice intended to impose a stop or a break on the flow of the written word that is more relevant to prosaic forms. Poetry, as we all know, has it roots in oral tradition, and ultimately it is the sound of the line that provides the necessary rhythm and break. Virulent punctuation in a poem is arbitrary and lazy and is certainly dangerous. It may kill off poetic release – the disintegration of the self that is a necessary to retrieve tropes from the super-unconscious. The poem should sing along with breaths and breaks naturally. The line should resound organically with a rhythm and beat; should read in multiple, contingent ways up/down, backwards/forwards; should fall forward like a cascade or stomp along with the bucket feet of an angry Golem. Punctuation in a poem should be rare, special and surprising. If we are going to put a stop or a break somewhere in the middle of a line, it should be because we want something to stand out – to shout “here I am pay attention right in the middle of a line where I shouldn’t be”. Punctuation at the end of the line is redundant, unnecessary and indulgent. It comes from a desire to bully the reader into submission. Stop your rampant punctuation! You are spreading the contagion!
Oh crap – that’s a lot of shoulds. I have been punctuating too much. Back to birthing poems.