A rambling essay, with no outline plotted out beforehand, with no starting point other than a vague recollection that a constellation of thoughts of some seeming significance flashed through mind's night sky, some fading remembrance of its shape, maybe ought to confess itself as such at the outset. It starts, necessarily, with a title that is a little vague. What is X?
"X" is anything.
A collage of images: a medieval woman, a mammoth, Newton, Einstein, the Chunnel, a grain field, a minicomputer.
In my lifetime there has been hot and cold war, shrinking of the globe, the information explosion, and the introduction not only of a gargantuan national debt, but of the idea that everything is disposable.
The newest things, the most outrageous novelties, are clung to for a moment, which sometimes spans a few years. Then, they too become disposable. Diapers, plates, watches, Cadillacs, even mansions and skyscrapers, after a time. What, these days, is not disposable? Certain things proliferate in such numbers that to not consider them disposable — or at least lose-able and forgettable — is ridiculous. Tires. Cans. News. Recordings. Movies and videos. Creative writing.
Ah ... creative writing. Time once was, I believe, when poetry, essay, and fiction were seen as not at all disposable, provided the art evinced by such writings met some usually fairly arbitrary standard of "excellence" or "originality." And yet, if sum memory of living persons should be allowed to measure, the greater part of the fine bulk of this "immortal literature" of the past has been disposed of, in terms of having much real effect on the daily life of people. I forget things too. I also lack enough time, and, these days, interest, for studying or remembering literature. I also, like everyone else, do not understand most of the languages of the world.
I suppose many writers have long recognized the transitory nature of their work. In the past, I have dwelt on the idea that some sort of Greatness or Permanence is a beacon, which, if it shouldn't control one's work (one's acts of writing), then it probably ought to influence and guide. This permanence/greatness is never possible without publication. Emily Dickinson's poems never saw print during her lifetime, but it's a matter of speculation whether she saw, a space beyond, as she worked, those poems (which she left ready for such publication) printed and broadcast to her audience.
But here we are really talking about mass printing, and not publication in the sense of "make public." Publication in that sense may take a number of forms. There is a justifiably hallowed oral tradition, where echo preserves as it is moved — but not forever; and now there are recordings, videos, and computer disks in addition to traditional print media, which in addition to books and magazines, includes letters, newspapers, and — what else? — paper airplanes could be employed. I once wrote a poem in sand on a beach — I have had my moments of clarity.
The idea of publishing is a funny one. Almost everyone publishes themselves every day. We also talk to ourselves, silently and aloud. But to write something down is to sift the sand of thought for coin, and if it is not for spending, then what? On the sifting screen may appear copper or gold; or more likely, all coins that shake out will be coated with sediment so that only the wear of use will reveal the metal. And after so much more use, all will have worn away.
I can "read" myself all day long in my own mind, but it's not very interesting. What interests me is the same thing that interests the mathematician, the architect, the convenience store clerk: Is this formula useful? Do you like this design? May I help you find something? Do I have a friend?
I would tear down the walls that separate us from each other. This giant room isn't square, and I don't understand any very good reason for partitioning ourselves off from one another. But I guess there will always be groups congregating or hiding in corners they have fabricated for themselves, trying their best to discount or ignore those in other corners. If this were the whole image, the room would vanish from itself. I feel like we should be in a room that is more round, and should be moving toward each other, trying to find a more central place.
Poetry journals, are, mostly, too damned stuffy. Contributors' notes are superfluous. Journals containing no poetry, or only poetry, are unimaginative. "Schools" of writing are meaningless. "Voice" is bigger ... hungrier (see "Dualism" by Ishmael Reed, made "permanent" in your local library). Revision after revision does not make everything better and better, and the taint accorded self-publication is laughable.
X is disposable.