Transcript: Dan Schneider On…. Art’s cycles and realities

I’ve written about the poet Dan Schneider before, a few times. The self-proclaimed ‘great poet’ with a humongous corpus that, apparently, no one in the publishing industry has ever thought of touching due to his acerbic personality and complete in-your-face honesty. Pouring over his poems and the various small amount of stuff he has made publicly available has made me believe that everything he says about himself is perfectly true. The Genius of innumerable forms with a layman exterior that hides all of that.

Dan has been releasing videos and interviews on Youtube about various things, all of them with a woeful amount of views. A bulk of them involves him talking about the books and poems that he’s never published with someone from his poetry group. They contain many thoughts on Art and other bits and pieces of his life. Unlike academia, he makes everything sound way too simple and commonsensical, and so people might mistake it for platitudes, at least until they look at his poetry and see that – Holy shit, how can that guy who says stuff like that write like that anyway? (I had my true ‘awakening’ to the sheer power of his unmetered and, on the surface, clunky style when I read his Hymn to a Chrysler Building while listening to Bruckner. The sheer finesse of the poem made me want to punch a hole in the wall because, no matter how hard I tried not to think about it, I felt disgusted at the heights I had to climb to reach that level. Fucking Dan Schneider!)

Anyway, I’ve transcripted one of his Youtube videos on art for the hell of it. Enjoy!

Listener: Let me ask you about the dates and allusions and everything in your work. Do you think that detracts from the quality of the work by using allusions that one may have to look up, or do you think it doesn’t (???) once you’ve actually looked it up? But, do you think that poems should be completely standing on their own? And if not, then do you still see it as a detractor against the art of the poem?

Dan: No, because, as I said I look at the titles and I look at epigraphs and I look at the allusions as the raisins in raisin-bread. If you take out the raisins you’ll still have raisin-bread. I enjoy doing and I also think it’s good to do Art that can work at multiple levels. If you just read something at a straight narrative level and get something from it – great. If you can read it at an allusive level – great. If you can read it at a metaphorical level and a political level and then a philosophical level… so that’s why I –

Listener: With your poems many of them are extradiegetic, so you’ll have to bring in to other things but most of the poems can still stand on their own. There’s a few here that are great exercises as opposed to full universes onto themselves, but you can’t look at this poem and say that even if you’re weren’t willing to look up the dates and the allusions here, that this doesn’t have great lines and great music and isn’t technically a great poem.

Dan: Well it’s one of those things too. I wanna do some poems that aren’t self contained. I wanna do some poems that are dependent to a certain degree on other works and what not. Why wouldn’t I wanna do all poems in all kinds of ways? I wanna do all things in all (words?) which is why I call my show Omniversica and I prefer the term Omniverse to Multiverse when it comes to physics because a Multiverse – the presumption is its multiples of this universe. For me, Omni is better than Multi cuz Multi just says ‘many-of-things’. Omni says ‘many things in many ways’.

Listener: They’ll eventually be going into Megaverses next, and then the next layer, and maybe you’ll find a child whose made the universe it’s plaything. But that’s an… we started off with the idea of the Big Bang and God and God is the Universe and the idea of Originality. Do you think that in a hundred years most of these ideas will have lapsed or do you still see the ignorance going on?

Dan: I think… I hope. I think that today’s myopia and dark ages of art will go… I think that, y’know, it’s cyclical. If you went back about a hundred years ago, a little over a hundred years ago from say between 1870 and 1910 – 1915 you know, you had, I mean art was in shit state. I mean some painters were coming along like the Ashcan school or whatnot. But writing was stagnant. I mean the novels that were being published were ridiculously bad. The poetry between Whitman and say Pound, Eliot and that ilk was really bad so it does cycle. One of the things you have to recognize too is from about 1910 or so, the 19-teens, to about 1970 or 1980 arguably, you had about 6 decades of American poetry, let’s just stick with poetry for a second, and that’s 60 years, just in America alone, forget the rest of the world – there is no other flowering of poetry like that elsewhere in human history. So you had the greatest explosion of poetry, great poetry, in one nation at one time and it lasted for six decades. If you look at most, for example, the Chinese poets – you’ll have some individual great Chinese poets but I don’t think they lived at the same time. Same thing with like the great…

Listener: Yea, some of them were centuries apart and…

Dan: Yea, same thing with the Greeks, it’s amazing…

Listener: It’s absurd.

Dan: Yea, you can lump them together. But if you look at that 60 or so years from 1910 to the mid 70s say – it’s unprecedented. So naturally there’s going to be a fallow period. You have this political stuff but I hope that individuals will get sick and tired of it say, you know, I want more, I don’t need this bullshit. You know, you can’t just eat candy all day long and that’s all that we have in culture right now is fucking candy. You know you’re just gonna get fat and you’re gonna get diabetes and you’re gonna have rotten teeth. You need something for the mind. You need something for the body.

Listener: It’s interesting to note with all the Golden Age-ism that each era of whatever flowering you have gets better than the last. So with Whitman he brought in a change in poetry and then those who were influenced from him were better than any golden age before him – if you could even name one. I find that whatever happens in the 21st century, maybe, there’s a hundred year stagnance for all I know, that begins in the next century after this one will be vastly superior than whatever happened in the beginning of the 20th century to its midpoint.

Dan: Yea, well hopefully there will be people like me or Jessica or hopefully if you flower as a great writer or Alex Sheremet or a handful of other people, they will be able to notice that. You know I mentioned Bruce Ario. He’s a good example. Bruce is someone whose capable of writing a great poem but he has no clue what he’s doing. He really doesn’t…

Listener: Bruce is a nice guy and at his best a great poet but, and we’ll talk about the E-List, when he sends poems over there it seems like he doesn’t understand what makes a good poem. He just looks to you or to others to explain whether it’s good or not and it’s partly a lack of confidence and partly just his hit and miss nature.

Dan: Well Bruce also has issues with addiction and mental disease, but Bruce I think has told his family that if he were to die that I would be his literary executor cuz I got a feeling that he’s probably got a thousand or 1200 of these Arios that I would have to thresh through. I could probably put together two or three books of good to very good to a couple dozen, 2-3 dozen, of his great Arios and by judicious editing he would look a lot better than he would if…you know I think I told you the last time I mentioned Mark Van Doren the poet who was one of the rare selections where if he had a small selection of books, he wouldn’t show up that well, but his full corpus gives a much greater range of his range as a poet. Most often, the way it is with Bruce is that you can shape someone’s legacy by good editing. With someone like me, obviously you can’t because part of the thing is I’m so sprawling. I do things in so many different ways. I mean just from the poems that we’ve discussed thus far in this session – that’s a greater range than, you know, probably any four or five great poets you could mention have in their whole corpus.

(Ario: An invented poetic form utilized by Bruce Ario that Dan reviews over here http://www.cosmoetica.com/B25-DES7.htm)

Listener: The other thing I mention is not to kiss your ass, but simply to mention what is reality. Your later poems get better than your earlier ones. You lose the near clichés and you state things more directly. More (duality?) and more dimension to it…

Dan: Hopefully that happens in all art. My prose now that I’m doing…

Listener: The thing I want to mention about that the worst thing you could say about you is that some of your shorter poems are actually worse than some of your longer ones. Now that’s a very rare thing, where I suppose you could say similar things about Whitman. Who was best when he was (excessive?)…

Dan: Well there are worse in the sense that they’re necessarily less complex. I mean, like I said, if you have a great sonnet and you have a great book length poem. The great book length poem is going to be a greater work of art. There’s no getting around that. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is, you know, a 12 line poem but I don’t think you can compare it to something like my Grandma Chin poem.

Listener: Or Song of Myself or the Bridge. It’s an impossible comparison due to the complex length as long as the poetry remains great. But that is a great compliment where you can say about a poet that the shortest poems are the worst as opposed to the inverse of that with most poets where you’re saying that this needs to be lopped off. Where you should stick to sonnets or you should stick to Haikus and stay away from the longer ones which are excessive and full of clichés and no metaphor and no music – nothing that you can retain in a smaller form.

Dan: Yea, it’s the challenge I face with this current spy book I’m doing, like I said. It’s going to be a long book. It’s probably going to be close to 300,000 words or probably about a 1000 published (words? Pages?). It’ll probably be by any measure a long book but it’ll probably be about half the length of the Vincetti Brothers and maybe 1/8th the length of my other book A Norwegian in the Family. So, you know, there’s the problem if you wanna talk about like a stupid Bloomian anxiety of influence – I have a great anxiety, although I don’t really have anxiety, not towards any other writers but towards myself…

Listener: The fear of failure.

Dan: Yea well and I think I’ve mentioned this before that y’know fear of failure is good because that impels me to go on and to conquer it. I do that in life. This is one of the things where in someone’s personal life or in someone’s artistic life – is keep moving. And that doesn’t mean that if you’re hitting a wall, you should just keep doing the same thing. But don’t give up on life. Don’t give up on Art or whatnot. You may have run out of gas as an artist but that doesn’t mean that someone can’t be effective in the Arts. Let’s say you were a great writer and at the age of 60 you totally lost it. Let’s say you’re 25 now. Let’s say by the age of 30 or 35 you became a great writer, and so you have a 25 or 30 year window that you write, let’s say, you’re probably not gonna be as speedy as me, but let’s say you wrote in 30 years – 50 great poems or a 100 great poems and you wrote a couple great short stories manuscripts and maybe five or six great novels. And then you find out when you’re 62 that you’re like Oh Fuck I don’t have it anymore. Well that doesn’t mean that you can’t be as an elder statesman going around talking about your work. Saying… you know instead of spending all the time wasting time, and you know you could determine that internally, instead of spending all the time…

Listener: Exactly, but that’s the thing about that, and I find it very frustrating reading great poets like Jeffers or Walt Whitman is they have some value still because of the great work they did before. No matter what your heights are, it’s not going to be all cherries when you descend to such lows if you lose it at 60 or 70  or 80. That’s just a black mark on your career. And you can do so much. You’re still obviously wise and you’re still all-encompassing as your work was before, but just give it up. Don’t leave a black mark upon your career with all this excess and crap and hollow imitations of your greatest works. Woody Allen obviously in Film is a great example, as is Martin Scorcese, as is Werner Herzog, and now its Terence Malick. Where they’re putting out these seemingly more and more pointless works that are either hollow imitations in Allen’s case or severe comedowns from what the heights that they had before was in Werner Herzog’s case.

Dan: Yea, there was someone recently…oh it was that fellow on the IMDB board I told you that had forwarded around this bullshit quote about child hood and…

Listener: CS Lewis?

Dan: Yea the CS Lewis quote and, you know, there’s this myth that creativity springs from Childlike Wonder. Well how the fuck were many great poems or great books written by six year olds? None. Because that’s a total myth. The idea that people someone get stale with age is true when you get from middle age to old age, or from your prime to middle age. But that’s absolutely not true. People are at their creative heights in their 20s and 30s, whether they’re writing a rock song or whether they’re doing painting. And sometimes in some areas, and with some artists, it might be a little bit later. I mean I didn’t become…

Listener: Yes, there’s a young man on the E-List named Thomas Evans who is 20 years old, becoming 21, and he has potential to be a great writer. His play and his novella are some of the most mature writing I’ve ever read from someone that young. But at the same time it’s not Moby Dick. He’s not writing something that is so mature and so beyond a 20 year old. This is something that writing does that no other art form has. In that it’s an adult medium. You find great painters at young ages. You find great musicians at young ages. But no prodigious writer has come about where they’re writing Moby Dicks at the same way that you’re matching great paintings to Picasso and Matisse.

Dan: Yea, and most of those visual prodigies are not really doing anything…

Listener: No, I’m not talking about the frauds. I’m talking about the real deal kids who have potential at the beginning.

Dan: Now even someone like Tom. He does have potential and I think Jessica and I were talking about this where, for example, I think from the people on the E-List… Alex has the potential I think that he could do great poetry and I think he has potential to write a great novel… but I think that’s a few years away. I think right now he could probably be a great cultural critic because I think like when he writes about politics or whatnot, there’s no voice… I mean there’s an old fellow Len Holman who, before you encountered me…

Listener: Well, I’ve read him.

Dan: Yea, so Len Holman has his own unique kind of thing, but Alex has a more inside… he digs into things with historical background and whatnot… so I think that while his fictive side has a potential to be great. I think right now he could do that greatly. Tom, for example, writes much… I told him he needs to learn how to differentiate his characters and his plays a bit better. One of the things I mentioned last time was how you need to be able to go from character to character without saying Bill said, Joe said, Bob said, Tony said. You don’t have to go five pages without that differentiation cuz even then it could get confusing, but you don’t have it at every one or every third one Maybe every fifth or sixth time a character speaks. So that’s one of the things he has to work on but…

Listener: Well in the novella, he sort of fixes some of the flaws that were apparent in the play, so he is growing already at 20 years old… and I mean, if I had a 20 years old who wrote that play and I was running a theatre, it would be in production immediately, because you have real potential with that kid.

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