"good" and "bad"

A response to Kasey's post:

There's a big difference between being able to categorize a poem as "good" or "bad," having & using criteria for performing such a categorization, having & using explicit criteria for performing such a categorization, and having a rigid set of necessary and sufficient criteria for performing such a categorization. The moment we categorize we're not all suddenly Aristotle.

We all categorize unexplicitly on so many dimensions rather regularly. No, constantly. We are more than a little bit like difference engines, at least when it comes to using words. The fact that these categories may actually have facets is usually completely remote to our realm of reflection. And we don't care. Behind the button we click there's a lot of stuff going on, but the button does the work for us without bogging us down in tedium each time. And if we get to the realm of poetry where we require of ourselves an explicit set of requirements for being either good or bad, we usually can use some of them and often use them flexibly. Unless, of course, we are trying to impress our friends with the severity of our personal Victorianisms. We don't lose too much sleep over whether a platypus is a mammal or not or whether it requires its own class.

So go ahead, call one poem "good" and another "bad." Let yourself go. Be free. There are some incredibly complex if not intelligent things going on in the background, so you're really not as dumb as you may seem to yourself and others when doing so. And you're a heck of lot less tiresome in the process.

Otherwise, Kasey, you're going to be stuck with the tedious chore of explaining exactly why Maya Angelou's poems are bad in a way that is consistent with an explicit and consistent ontology of good and bad poetries. I would really hate to see you put yourself through such a painful set of requirements for talk. I can willingly accept the truthiness of your aesthetic judgments. I can't really accept Kant or Aristotle as role models, however. They're just so, well, ridiculous.

1 comment:

With Hammer And Tong...The LetterShaper said...

Very much enjoyed the time I spent here, leisurely strolling through your site. As a poet, and an avid reader, I found it both enlightening and enriching...Thank you.