Dogme in Poetry
So far as I am aware, there is no formal or informal dogme movement in poetry. A Google search throws up no hits relevant to the subject. Neither do I know of any poet other than myself who professes to be influenced by this style of making films. If there are any out there, I would very much like to hear from them and read their work.
Dogme has also had a strong influence on how I write poetry. In fact, even before the dogme movement even existed I was writing in a manner that was clearly compatible with it and thereafter started following dogme principles more self-consciously. The principles, of course, are not necessarily entirely new, and are related to the Renaissance movement towards writing in the vernacular rather than in Latin and to the emergence of prose poetry and free verse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I tend to eschew formal stylized rhythms and rhymes and try, as much as possible not to write anything that some real person in real life is unlikely to write or say. This gives my work either a stark quality (as in the earlier prose poems) or a seemingly glib and vulgar one (as in the later poems). It also informs my interest in experimental ‘found poems’ and crowd-source-authored work.
But, like Dogme film makers, this does not mean that my work is not stylized. It is not documentary; it is not real. In fact, it is more stylized than many traditional poems that cram barely-veiled clichés or arcane formulations into fixed meter.
The aesthetic I am trying to achieve derives less from linguistic pyrotechnics than from ambiguities in otherwise banal language. Every word (even a pronoun or a preposition) is loaded with a multiplicity of potential meanings derived from real-life usage.
My aesthetic broadly follows the dictates of the Dogme film-makers, although, like them, I inevitably breach them all the time. Recently, sifting through old papers, I chanced upon a dogme poetry ‘manifesto’ that I drew up a few years ago.
I have adapted my original version a little for the purposes of this post.
- Dogme poetry is an art-form that strictly confines itself to the use of a written form (or written forms) of naturally-occurring language, normally on a small scale.
- Musical effects should come from the words alone and not from any artificial external devices, such as rhyme-schemes and scansion, nor from an accompanying musical support.
- A dogme poem should be contemporary and derive from a social context familiar to its author or authors; it should not be set in any historical, exotic, mythological or fantasy setting.
- A dogme poem may be written in prose or lined, either arbitrarily or at the bidding of the author. It should be published in a uniformly-sized plain font with no decoration apart from standard punctuation and diacritic marks.
- The poem should eschew any language or turns of phrase that deviate significantly from contemporary vernacular usage.
- No dogme poem should strive to conform to any pre-established poetic form, nor should it aspire to establish any new kind of such form.
- Any form of publication that involves a financial transaction is strictly forbidden. Copyright issues are irrelevant to dogme poets, in so far as any copy (or iteration) of the ‘original’ is regarded as a new creation, by dint of occurring in a different context.
- A dogme poet may include his or her name or pseudonym, or details of collective authorship, on the title page of selections, but not on individual poems. When an author’s name is included, it should appear in a font size significantly smaller than that of the regular font used for the main text.
- Multiple, collective and transferred forms of authorship are strongly encouraged.
- The use of Internet search engines, computer-generated organization of text and other innovative uses of new technology are strongly recommended, so long as they do not breach Principle #5.
- Provided it has first been composed by writing (Principle #1), a dogme poem may be presented orally in public, but not by its author. Oral presentations should preferentially be delivered by duly remunerated professional actors or spontaneously by members of the general public.
- A dogme poet is free to diverge from any of the above principles, so long as any such breach is in keeping with the general spirit of these principles.
Final Remark: Dogme poetry is not, principally, an exercise in the free-expression of individual or collective desires, identities or feelings. Dogme poetry aims, instead, to mine and exploit, to the fullest possible extent, the already existing wealth of linguistic possibilities thrown up by the already existing dynamic language-bound social world, thereby contributing, as effect rather than cause, to the emergence of possible new social, linguistic and cultural identities.