Saturday, April 5, 2008

Evolving New Genius

Yesterday in class, my students were giving oral presentations. The first group went off without a hitch, but the second group had some technical difficulties with the powerpoint, so there was about a five minute lull while they emailed their project between computers and synched up the projector. As they were sweating out the file downloads (which seemed to take several tries), I took a second to look around the room and noticed that at least three quarters of the other students had taken the small intermission as an opportunity to jump on their phones and start texting.


And though this is typical behavior (I've developed a dirty look for just such times), I had never really considered the fact that they were writing – freely and of their own will! – a feat I've spent long hours decisively plotting. If only there was a way to harness that kind of creative energy, I thought – we would have a culture of writers and poets. In a sense we do – in a much different way than my generation ever wrote (not that I'm old, but I did just miss texting craze). Some of these kids must spend hours a day writing, and with so much coming through onto the "page," even without formal intentions, they must be developing a sense of line and lyricism (if only to impress their friends), and especially thinking though their word choices and economy (at, I believe, a price per letter). Isn't this exactly what we do as poets?


Furthermore, without the small but particular constraints of versely educated audience, they are free in a sense that most "Poets" aren't. For while we (meaning Poets) may be ostracized from certain topics or thoughts (encroaching on the realm of cliché, for example), these texting-poets, in their ignorance (I mean this a positive sense), are unconstrained by the expectations of a critical and overly-informed audience. In this sense, they may not retreat (as so many contemporary Poets (and Artists for that matter) do) into the bizarre, or grotesque, or obscure, but may rift, instead, on topics like love, or roses, or sadness without the same fear of exposure we "Poets" have.


And also, without the pressure of a "readership" (for while many poets claim to write for themselves, we all want an audience), texting-poets don't create their work under the same demands of necessity. These texting-poets, for instance, probably don't feel the "need to write a poem" or the "horrible impotence of writer's block." And so, what they create is probably not the result of force, but instead, the result of desire. This seems like a much better reason to write. In creating out of these circumstances, as opposed to creating out of responsibility to the poem, texting poets are most likely prone to a more genuine art. And while it may be cliché in our view, it could be insightful for them.


Of course the obvious criticism against such poets may be that they, like many general writers, fall slave to the language methods and structures and develop mindless patterns of creating. This is probably the case for most texting poets (particularly some of those in my class), but I can't help but think there probably are a handful that naturally view it as an art and push the limits of their art and the language ,and that this type of poet, without the pressures of the Traditional Poet, may be the pure genius of the future. And while it may or may not have already happened, it seems to me that the conditions are ripe (like a primordial soup) for just such this occasion.