Responding to the question:
“You talk approvingly of non-traditional forms in literature, but what about the writer’s social responsibility to communicate important ideas without some clever new form preventing the reader from understanding?”
Zulfikar Ghose, a Consulting Editor for Interlitq, and a contributor to Issue 3 of Interlitq, responds:
As for the writer’s social responsibility, let me remind you of what Wallace Stevens wrote in The Necessary Angel: “I might be expected to speak of the social, that is to say sociological or political, obligation of the poet. He has none.”
And if flowers could talk, you might ask Van Gogh’s sunflowers what they’ve done recently about being socially responsible. If we think of the great painters—Bosch or Rembrandt, Delacroix or Turner, Cezanne or Rothko, and many more—our admiration of their work and expressions of our amazement at their genius are entirely due to the forms they created and the unique style in which each presented those forms, social responsibility had nothing to do with it. The same applies to the other arts. With music, it is self-evident that a Bach or a Debussy is expressing no obligation to society. Only as writers, because our medium is language through which both mundane commonplace ideas as well as the working out of complex intellectual puzzles are communicated, we get a didactic burden imposed upon us.
Read Zulfikae Ghose´s full interview in Interlitq‘s forthcoming “Groves of Academe 1” feature.
It takes a brave soul who so firmly believes in the primacy of the individual as artist as to refuse to be published if that individuality were to be compromised. One such was the poet Elizabeth Bishop. Although as a woman she agreed politically with the agenda of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s, as a poet she rejected the idea of collections of poetry that contained only the work of women poets and refused to be published in them. In a letter to May Swenson, November 7, 1971, she wrote “I have always refused to be in any collections, or reviews, or special numbers of just women … Always”. Referring to the anthology she had been invited to be part of, Women Poets in English, she asks in capital letters: WHY, and adds, “Literature is literature, no matter who produces it … I don’t like things compartmentalised like that … I like black and white, yellow & red, young & old, rich & poor, and male & female, all mixed up … and see no reason for segregating them, for any reason at all.”