Wednesday Workshop: Codification

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Codification
Wednesday Workshop
30 May 2018

For me, it is vital to see how others read and interpret my work … what comes across, what doesn’t, how things are understood and read, sometimes in the same way, sometimes in different ways. It is always easy to pick out some favorite phrases. However, deciphering, interpreting, and then reacting to, a poem’s inner code, is a very different matter.

I love the cut and thrust of dialog … I was at our Tuesday night writing group meeting last night from 7-9:30 pm and we had a great time, back and forth across the table pecking, like wild birds perched on a literary feeder, at each others’ texts. My own texts are thickly layered and highly codified and I have become very interested in the theory of literary codification.

My own ideas are a development of those of Northrop Frye as he expressed them in The Great Code. When we lose our common code, to what extent do we need to explain a private one? This is of great import to Frye’s studies on William Blake, perhaps (in spite of his seeming simplicity in certain poems) one of the most difficult of English poets.

Perhaps the answer lies in Karl Jung’s theories on the racial subconscious: that we all share deep, (human) racial symbols that transcend words and often appear as symbols and images. If this is true, then we communicate, at a non-speech level, through metaphor and symbol, and that is more powerful and outreaching than linear language, however well and clearly codified it may be.

This emphasis on symbol, image, and metaphor leads us, of course, into surrealism, free writing, concrete poetry, sound poetry, and all those efforts to abandon the linear and reach into the subconscious roots of ‘that which binds us together as human beings’ … in my humanistic theories, to find the links that behind is more productive than the reinforce the fears and misbeliefs that separate. Alas, not everyone thinks that way in the literary world, and private codes can easily be used as wedges to force people apart.

We need codes, preferably codes that we can share. The question is, how explicit would we be, as writers, in explaining those codes? How closely should we imitate the writing codes of other people?

The eternal mystery of Aladdin’s Lamp: “New codes for old.” And don’t forget the magic words “Open Sesame.”

Ah, the joys of codification.

Commentary
This is my first post for some time, ten days in fact, 20 May. No excuses other than other commitments: to the WFNB, to my online poetry course, to my physical writing workshops, to my own creative condition … I am creating furiously at present. Codification is something that has interested me for some time: the Biblical Code, The Western Tradition, Courtly Love, the Icy Fires of Petrarchism, Romanticism,  Impressionism, Expressionsim, Surrealism. Modernism, Post-Modernism … the -isms, once started, are apparently endless. All of these -isms spiral round the ideas of verbal codes. In codification, I would like to start a discussion on what these codes are, how they affect us, what do they mean, especially when they can be so totally personal. By all means, join the discussion: what do you mean by codes? How do you use them? How do you interpret the codes of other people?

2 thoughts on “Wednesday Workshop: Codification

  1. Wow! Lots to chew on here. I am interested in the ‘sympathetic nervous system’ that permits the well-read writer to develop their unique codification system and apply it without much conscious thought. They write, they write some more, and at some point an approach…approaches wherein they apply a school of thought without being too self-conscious with their writing style. The Freudian Slip…of the pen? Chuck

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    • Interesting comments, Chuck. I would eliminate the “Freudian slip of the pen” since most writers who create a personal coding system have put deep thought into it. I would hesitate to call Blake, in his most exoteric moments (see Northrop Frye, of course), a “Freudian slip of the pen”, though his use of chemicals in the metal engraving process, for example, has been used as an excuse for the ‘chemical corruption of his brain’.
      ‘Without much conscious thought’ strikes a nerve as well. Cervantes, the ‘unconscious writer’ was a theory much peddled by adherents to the romantic movement, but serious studies of his work reveal him as one of the best read of Renaissance / Baroque literary critics and this literary criticism, turned into literary creativity, suggests the he well knew what he was doing, and what he did is visible in his opus magnus, the Quixote.
      It’s not just the writing, it’s the serious contemplation of what one is writing and how and why one is writing it.

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