“I must demand what I do. I must fight back at the stupidity around me. I acknowledge inadequate information, elliptical statement, too vague generalizations SOMETIMES. I am not always a fair critic. I am a man doing that which does not fit his turn of mind. I think it important to state these things. A more able scholar, a cooler brain with a wider fund of information more acutely focused–since these things are unenlisted in the important matters which concern me I write to fill the gap, to emphasize a need which I don’t know better how to make apparent.”
This is William Carlos Williams in his epilogue to the final issue of the little modernist magazine Others (1915-1919). Because I am up to my ears in readings on American modernism right now and can’t quite directly engage with Adam David’s new essay “Let’s Sing Another Song, Boys! This One Has Grown Old And Bitter!”–a review of the introduction to Under the Storm, a new anthology of Philippine poetry edited by Joel Toledo and Khavn de la Cruz, I figure Williams as epigraph will have to do as my shorthand response to what strikes me as the paradoxically unexpected yet unsurprising need to defend the task of thinking, which, granted, can yield results unflattering to the egos and inhospitable to the ill logic of those who refuse to do the job, and which will, inevitably, remain provisional, render the thinker inadequate, and never promise a finish line. There is much to ask of the Under the Storm introduction–why it feels the need to rally in defense of the establishment, why it insists on its inclusiveness despite indulging in a selection process, why it invokes freedom and nationalism without context, why it claims it is unable to play ilustrado yet resides in the pages of a pretty expensive book–but if we are to focus first on this introduction being an address to that tiny fraction of the population writing poetry, what I cannot yet process is why it pits craft against theory. Don’t think, just do? How, and why? But of course asking these questions is precisely–if we are to go by this alleged binary opposition–what we’re not supposed to do.