Tuesday, October 25, 2005
THE POETICS OF MORALITY (A FOUND POEM)
This is a "found poem" in that the text is comprised of the same two paragraphs that form "A Short Note on Morality," a preface to DEATH AND SUN: A Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain by Edward Lewine (Houghton Mifflin, Boston and New York, 2005). I gave it a new title that reflects its being poeticized. I note "poetics" in the title because much of what Lewine was trying to say about his book sympathizes with my poetics as relates to the "responsibility" of poets (and artists) as they make their works, my belief that poetry is not fiction but is reality (in the sense that I read Lewine using the word of "world" at end of first paragraph), and how the reader is the final determinant of the subject matter (whether bullfighting is moral in his case and what the poem is "about" in my case as someone who believes the reader/audience completes the poem). To wit, here's the poem (which I easily envision being the introductory poem to a future poetry collection):
The Poetics of Morality
The subject of this book is a controversial one. In a formal Spanish bullfight six large mammals are put to death for the afternoon's entertainment of a paying crowd. The central moral question raised by such a spectacle is whether it is right for people to kill animals for pleasure. Various human activities raise this question. No one in the modern world has a life-or-death need to eat red meat, wear leather, hunt and fish, or attend bullfights. People continue to do these things because they like to. Are carnivores, leather wearers, sportsmen, and bullfighting aficionados behaving in a moral way? That is an excellent and complicated question. But it is not the topic of this book. This is not a book of moral philosophy. It does not tell the reader how the world should be. This is a book of journalism. It tries to show the reader how the world is.
This book tells the story of a single bullfighting season in the life of a Spanish matador, and through that story attempts to reveal a few things about the strange and violent subculture of the bullfight and about Spain. But even though the story is told from the point of view of people who are biased in favor of bullfighting and earn their living from it, this book is not designed to convert the reader into a bullfighting fan or to argue that bullfighting is a good thing. The goal here is to try to explain bullfighting as it is, by taking a hard look at things that are hard to look at, like death and the sun. After finishing this book, some readers may find themselves more sympathetic toward bullfighting, and others more resolved in their dislike of it. Either way, that is for the readers to decide.