Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"I Study the Craft"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #43
    What, exactly, does "I study the craft" mean?

    In my experience, it means one of three different things, depending on who is speaking.

    If English majors say they "study the craft" they mean they examine the products of that endeavor as opposed to those features specific to it.  They are superfans, Monday morning quarterbacks who might think they can coach an NFL team without knowing what a Bang 8 is.  Their favorite question is "what does this mean?"  Why?  Because if you remove the technical there isn't much left beyond the interpretive.  Their measure of a work's value is how much classroom discussion time can be wasted guessing at its references and influences.  Derivative hypertext trumps the modern masterpiece.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #44
    Creative Writing majors will, not surprisingly, focus on the elements common to all writing:  grammar, eloquence, continuity, logic, effectiveness, storytelling, clarity, et cetera.  They study the subjects of the craft, rarely its objects.  Unfortunately, even when discussing poetry they do so without referring to the elements specific to that art form (e.g. sonics, meters/rhythms, forms, et cetera).  For example, they will pontificate for hours about metaphor without realizing that metaphor has no more to do with poetry than syllogisms or dictionary definitions.  They are simply a way of conceptualizing something.  Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" is chock full of them.  Does that make it poetry?

    Both groups are inspired by Convenient Poetics and dominated by Content Regents, the difference being that Literature scholars work in all dimensions, tracking influences through time.

    To my knowledge, the only people who study the elements of the craft are the onliners.  Among many other advantages, this allows them to engage in the serious technical criticism that defines them.  It allows them to detail the difference between free verse and prose [with or without linebreaks], between the poetic and the merely profound.  And, no, it isn't largely a matter of opinion.

     The catch is that, in venues ruled by ConPoets and Content Regents, neither quality nor qualities matter.  In such forums a subjective reality pervades where technique doesn't matter because it doesn't exist [in the minds of those present].

     More on this later.

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