What is an aesthetic? Part 3

In two previous posts (see Part 1 and Part 2), I have been considering what an aesthetic is and, consequentially, what is meant when someone asks someone else what his/her aesthetic is.

When one poet asks another poet about his/her aesthetic, what the first poet is wondering is how the other poet is both similar and dissimilar to other poets.  In other words, it concerns a question of identity, of grouping, of categorizing.

Describing an aesthetic for oneself can be a way to connect with like-minded poets or to distinguish oneself from other poets.  In other words, it can be a way of constructing an identity.  And an identity is something we all (presumably) seek and don’t want to lose.  Consequentially, a described aesthetic may be something one would want to hold on to, but this has its consequences.

While I absolutely value being able to identify what one is doing in one’s work, I think it is important to consider that “doing” to be historic: describing an aesthetic is based on poems that have already been written.  An aesthetic does not and should not inherently tell what will be the nature of poems to come.  Such induction is a sadness, a limit, a lessening of possibility.

Similarly, the essence of identity seems to be historic, empirical.  And who one has been does not necessarily dictate who one will become, although, certainly, the former yields some parameters for the latter.

And what of others—readers, other poets, other people?  Yes, others want to be able to identify one’s aesthetic, one’s identity.  Humans enjoy some semblance of constants, of the expected; it can be surprising when someone changes, yet we also expect growth, though perhaps we have some (false) notion of linear growth (in a sense, thus, there is a sort of constant in this imagined line—it is easily describable, it does not flesh out into an amorphous blob on the x-y-z plane).  Perhaps because we experience time as linear, we expect others to be linear in their development as well.

But life has its disjunction.  In hindsight, we wonder: why did I do that?  We shift our paths, we shift our thoughts, our behaviors.  Yes, what came before allows for the upcoming change by providing the givens, the parameters—but still, what comes next, relative to the past, does not always seem linear, as there can be some attempts at negating was has been done, not furthering what has been done.  We expand, we shift to the side, we float with considering the disparity of ourselves now versus ourselves then.

We should accept that this is what will happen with the aesthetic as well.  Just as we don’t expect someone to write the same poems over and over again, we should welcome shifts, exploration of avenues.  We should recognize what a poet has previously done, but we should not expect or demand a continuation of the same thing.  Change will happen, even if the poet wants to remain in the “same” aesthetic.

I have done.

I do.

And I will do.

My “I” changes, and what I “do” alters as well.  And I must expect no different from others.

My thoughts, naturally, cannot be “finished,” but I share with you what I currently have.

What have I overlooked or underlooked in pondering aesthetic?

Does this view of identity and aesthetic empower you or weaken you, and if so, why?