What is “authenticity,” especially in unconventional work? Part 1

When I have spoken of work lateral to the self, you/someone may have wondered: what provides a basis of “truth” for the work?  If the work does not come directly from the self, what gives it its justification, what it can be measured against—how can it “check out”?

When work comes directly from the self, the easiest means of checking for an “authenticity” is to measure how the poem corresponds to the self/the self’s experience.  This was my standard for a while…until I came across certain workshops/texts that prioritized the “good of the poem” above being “true” to the triggering subject.

In other words, the idea is that the poem need not be a representation of empirical circumstances; if an empirical detail does not strengthen the poem in itself, it need not be included—and, indeed, may be altered.  The emphasis shifts from “authenticity” between life and the poem to “authenticity” in the poem itself, an “authenticity” in expression/speech/art.

Because I think “authenticity” suggests the presence of a baseline for comparison (such as comparing the poem to “life”), I suspect that “integrity” is the better word for good art for art’s sake.  Integrity is more of an internal assessment.

At the risk of digression, I want to also say that I used to think of “authenticity” in terms of composition: I would write a poem in about twenty minutes (generally the time frame in which I felt like my burst of speech was sufficient) and set it aside and move on.  Revisions were minor—not because of seeking authenticity between the work and myself, but because I was interested in authenticity of composition: the more the work was revised, the more I felt that the poem would lose a sense of authenticity relative to the first draft of itself.  I do still have some concern about these things; every revision does, I think, actually create a whole new poem (which is neither a good nor bad thing in itself).

But back specifically to integrity in the work itself.  This, I think, relates to a previous post on a poem having its own metaphysics.  I am saying that every poem has an integrity of its own (just as it has a metaphysics of its own).

For those who prefer “authenticity” rather than “integrity,” perhaps this preference is because: how could we judge that a work “lacks integrity”?  How can we objectively say so?  We can’t.  We can only subjectively say so.  Just as we can’t objectively say anyone/anything lacks integrity (that can be our subjective opinion).  Desiring to prove or disprove authenticity is a form of desiring an ability to give objective assessment (as there is a baseline external to what is being assessed).

I haven’t yet finished here, but I imagine this is enough for a first post on the subject.

What are your thoughts on “authenticity” versus “integrity”?  What are they to you/your work?

Are you more concerned with one over the other?