‘Art does not seek to describe but to enact.’ Charles Olson
Welcome poets, today we’ll delve into one of underpinnings in the art of poetry, specifically, the role of volition and velleity. Volition is the act of willing, choosing, or resolving. Velleity is a wish or inclination that is not strong enough to be acted upon. Is a poem an action or an expression of desire without action? How are volition and velleity illustrated within poetry? These questions arise at the philosophical base of the purpose of art; your response to them is part of what makes your work uniquely yours, part of what delineates your writer invariant.
Some tools that build a sense of volition or velleity in poetry include voice, diction, persona, style, tone, enjambment, artifice (or sincerity). How does voice indicate power dynamics or influence political potency? Are some voices marginalized within the cannon? What is the efficacy of poetry as a call to action? The illustrating poems that follow will give us a glimpse. They are only the beginning of the path that each poet defines in their own work, sometimes traversing both roads in order to more effectively create an impact.
In her poem Trials of the Written (extrait), Andrée Chedid elaborates these ideas:
Faced with this mat, level, often rebellious surface, how can one believe or hope that by dint of words, erasures, surges and relapses, a meaning, perhaps, will pierce through, reducing some darkness or other, unraveling some vague skein?
Embrace poetry in the broadest way; in the etymological sense of the word.
Then, it becomes an “act” it becomes a “work.” Poetry entering, its fists full, its gaze brimming, full-breathed, into life; to better seize it, to build differently.
She goes further, calls poets to, ‘Give a charge to words so that they may bind us to the mystery of life. Question language so that we may queried in turn by it. . . Words confront one another, contradictions are wedded, so that the combustions, the sinuosities, the aerial movements, buried deep within us, may emerge.’
I write to see . . .
by Heather Dohollau
I write to see what remains outside, coming
to rest against the window of the text. The
almost forgotten, attracted by a word, a color,
air. From a place I have turned away from
to look elsewhere. The eternal backcloth,
eternally before me.
The voice rises . . .
by Anne Teyssiéras
The voice rises merely to attain
an absence of color
Beneath the sooty archway
A drowned forest surges forth
Fingers let go
Blackness sweeps through foliage
The plung begins where the thrust leaves off
Finally I share the work of Jeannine Baude, who exquisitely captures the construction of meaning, the liminality of poetry, and the desire to enact:
I have sought so much . . .
I have sought so much
in the music of words
the furtive rustle
between a scorched beach
and the running water that holds
the face of the gods
in its over-ripe
*All works were translated from the French by Michael Bishop
The pilgrimage of the poet, deeper into the meaning of their own work, of the role of poetry within their cultural context, is a long and potentially anfractuous journey. There may be times when your poetry is a reflection of your own state of being, a mere whisper of passion on the wind and others when it roars with the fire of action in the world. I am asking you to consider these questions and these concepts then you will write a poem that expresses one or the other, addresses the abstract ideas directly, or rewrites an existing poem illustrating volition or velleity and changes some aspect(s) to reflect the opposite.
• Copy the direct link to the URL and paste it, along with your name, in the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post.
• Engage in community building, a primary principle here at the pub, by investigating the work of others, reading and commenting. One of the best ways to become a better poet is to read and reflect on the work of your peers. Please provide positive, constructive feedback and appreciation. It’s how we show respect for one another at the pub.
• Share your work and that of others on your social networks. Encourage other poets to join us here at the pub.