The Precious Against the Sincere

I’ve blogged before about my extreme dislike of preciousness in any form, but especially preciousness in art. I think it’s important to discuss and differentiate between sincerity and preciousness, though, because I sense that when people write about Sincerity, what they are really arguing against is preciousness.

Preciousness, in these terms, is sincerity taken to a level where the experience of being sincere trumps the actual emotion. In this way, preciousness is a form of kitsch: it is less about the object and more about the experience of the object, the memory of the object, or the audience’s relationship to the object.

Take, for example, Precious Moments figurines. These tiny, cherubic children are precious-ized into fat, vaguely sexualized, “adorable” litte figures. The owners of the figurines don’t purchase them because they represent real childhood; they represent the adult relationship to childhood as an idealized experience. I mean, if we created figurines that represented childhood as it was lived, there’d be a lot of shitting, nosepicking, black eyes, and worm-eating.

Because poets desperately need to avoid the precious (unless they are employed by Hallmark or a subsidiary), they oftentimes feel obligated to skirt the sincere in favor of something other, a type of armor against the perception of preciousness. It’s like I’ve written about Patrick Donnelly’s The Charge—one of my favorite books, but, ultimately, a book full of overly-sincere poems. What do I love about it? The fucking amazing poems where Donnelly pushes the envelope of sincerity and creates at its borders a real, true capture of human emotion and experience. Without the trivialization of that emotion via preciousness.

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