Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reading in the Digital Age

Sven Birkets on Reading in a Digital Age for The American Scholar:

I find myself especially fixated on the idea that contemplative thought is endangered. This starts me wondering about the difference between contemplative and analytic thought. The former is intransitive and experiential in its nature, is for itself; the latter is transitive, is goal directed. According to the logic of transitive thought, information is a means, its increments mainly building blocks toward some synthesis or explanation. In that thought-world it’s clearly desirable to have a powerful machine that can gather and sort material in order to isolate the needed facts. But in the other, the contemplative thought-world—where reflection is itself the end, a means of testing and refining the relation to the world, a way of pursuing connection toward more affectively satisfying kinds of illumination, or insight—information is nothing without its contexts. I come to think that contemplation and analysis are not merely two kinds of thinking: they are opposed  kinds of thinking. Then I realize that the Internet and the novel are opposites as well.

The full piece can be found at here.

Thanks to Zachary Bos of the Boston Poetry Union for this link via his extensive and fascinating mailer, and for his linking to the Tuesday Poem which is the upside of 'reading in the digital age' . We now have 24 poets from NZ, the US, Ireland, and Greece posting poems - written by themselves and others - every Tuesday. This week, the hub poem is Coverage by Tim Jones, selected by editor Harvey Molloy. And coming up on the first Tuesday of May, Helen Rickerby of Seraph Press is the editor. I'm looking forward to seeing what she selects. 

Meanwhile, one of the highlights of the Tuesday Poem for me this week was Palmerston North poet Bryan Walpert's selection: an extraordinary poem called All Things End in Fragrance by US poet James Hoch, which I found required both contemplation and analysis to fully understand. I love, too, the way it intersects rather wonderfully with Bryan's selection the previous Tuesday: The Starlings by Tim Upperton. And then I can't help but leap (fly?) to a poem by Tuesday Poet T. Clear that was posted two Tuesdays back called Last Rescued Bird. And then, well, where to stop....  


LentenStuffe said...


I haven't thanked you yet for receiving me into this soiree, so thank you.

I disagree with Birkets that contemplative and analytic thought are opposed, as the Internet and the novel are opposed. Neither one without the other, I'd argue, or I'd go one step further and assert that they're complementary and mutually inclusive. I wonder that such a false dichotomy is posited in the first place; isn't contemplation propaeudtic to analysis? Surely analytic thinking doesn't just exist without some level of contemplation.

Mary McCallum said...

... and thank you for joining us! You post some interesting comments as well as interesting poems... I guess analysis needs contemplation to a degree but contemplation can suffer with analysis because it works at another level that requires a 'released' mind ... bit late (tired) will think about it and get back to you