I'm going to write about sociability within poetry and another way to be social not practiced much among writers of poems, but it's going to take time to get to it. Intellectuals — a subset among poets — or maybe vice versa? — act out large portions of their sociability through reading. My reading includes daily newspapers like the print version of The NY Times. This is beginning to take on qualities of habit in a rarefied, overly precious routine, made rarer with Pulitzer-garnering dailies falling by the planeload. Handheld freedoms, newspapers, are not to be sniffed at, just yet. How many of them, for instance, will we have a few years from now? Shuffling between the print and online Times puts me midway between the ancien régime and ingénues; with every dual read feeling more like a mix of allegiances to, on one hand, a lost generation of angry Kennedys pouring over text, coverage, substance and, on the other, a blamelessly jovial crew of Web readers perusing the design and larkiness of niche features and disaster updates. Today I'm going more for niches, liking Holland Cotter's review of the German entertainer / artist Martin Kippenberger. Born in 1953 a little ahead of his time, or maybe not, a meta-ironic humorist and recombine appropriationist who often turned on himself as a target and who died at age 44 in 1997. A party type from the beginning, Kippenberger, per Cotter, is "the juiced-up guy who made scintillating speeches, picked stupid fights and periodically dropped his pants." Kippenberger's self-portraits have a big range: before age 30, according to Cotter, Kippenberger is "a matinee idol lounging on a discarded sofa beside a Manhattan street"; by his mid-thirties, "he’s a paunchy, pugnacious middle-aged Picasso in boxer shorts. And from this point on the line between self-depiction and self-debasement blurs." A few years later Kippenberger was doing self-portraits of a dead man. And you have to love Kippenberger's outdoing, out-insulting Rauschenberg's erasure of a De Kooning — Kippenberger "bought a small gray 1972 monochrome painting by Gerhard Richter, fitted it with metal legs and turned it into a coffee table, which became by default a sculpture and original Kippenberger." Anyway, the phrase that stands out in Cotter's first paragraph describing Kippenberger's rise through the ranks is "compulsive sociability." This is the descriptor lost on so much of poetry and many writers. What are our distinctive compulsions today? We still read a great deal (at least I think we do) and we talk a lot about what we read, as well as about our sampling movies and art we see, music sometimes, sometimes politics, usually in chatty clumps of yes / no, affinity / repulsion, that sort of consumerist give-and-take. So there is enthusiastic discourse about reading, which is primary, and movies, music, art viewing, perhaps politics, etc., a little more guarded chat about other poets (strategic gossip), and other topics branching out to our lives and careers, subjects that are, I believe, carefully monitored, usually reserved for the right moment among particular friends or acquaintances. I'm not finding many Kippenbergers among us, then, guys that get out of the studio, so to speak, and forget themselves or, you know, pick a fight, drop their pants. Writers' gatherings are constrained by work-and-wages mores that our forbearers disdained. That is, if your mom is Gertrude Stein and your dad is Frank O'Hara like mine. How nearly gratuitous and cursory to indulge in a challenged habit reading the newspaper, especially reading it in hand, and be reminded of the compulsively social, The Other Way that still makes news.
If you own a copyright, you are "in the settlement" between Google and two sub-classes, authors and publishers. That's one of the points in a legal statement sent out by Rust Consulting, Inc. as part of "Court-Ordered Information" [sic] for authors and publishers about the Google Search Settlement. The legalese doesn't get clearer, but it is online. If you can figure enough of it out and you object to something, May 5 is the first of several key deadlines. Signed, Big Brother.
I solemnly swear I have no idea where Thomas Basbøll is heading, but in three short posts, so far, he's initiated a critical appreciation of textual flarf, and it's terrific appreciation. No matter the partisan tic or extra-textual motive, I just jump around feeling real good whenever a poet takes on matters at hand like language, stylistics, prosody, and so forth. Writing today about variations in delivery afforded by Sharon Mesmer's work, Basbøll observes, "I have found the image of [inaugural bard] Elizabeth Alexander's 'poet's voice' reading... through a PA system aimed at the Washington monument useful..."
When does stagecraft snap apart? By what measure does asymmetry become askew? President Obama is true top dog. When he takes the podium and staffers stand in the back — the rearguard in fact — that's asymmetry we have come to the occasion, either in person or on tv, to see and expect. When Eric Kantor or John McCain must rise and bob his neck skyward to respond to Barack Obama's question, "any thoughts?" — that's askew. The audience is beneath the President. All due respect to President Obama, it looks cracked.
I can't stop reading this groovy stuff.
It seems I forgot how to mean
something. Let's go camping.
-- from "dccclxxxv"
And why would I?
Avant-bourgeoisie. Taking offense is tragic and bullying. And stupid. Well, not 100%. But one thing David Orr got mostly right on poets in coterie: ...we begin to think of real criticism as being "mean" rather than as evidence of poetry's health; we stop assuming that poems should be interesting to other people and begin thinking of them as being obliged only to interest our friends... If this smarts or even if it barely tingles, I am advised. Maybe it's your turn, since several times now I have heard and read the m-word in discourse about another poet's criticism. The word mean and words to that affect, like judgmental. Criticism that's judgmental! Ew. To put it only slightly exaggeratedly, anything less than a tummy rub (i.e., prostrated flattery) will not attain or regain approval of the offended? The m-word and its like are used ungeneratively to wipe out the message / messenger and stop discussion. The core strategy is to shrink the discourse field and the heads that are off putting: The atmosphere or the group is thus rendered more charmingly bourgeois for fun and influence. How shrunken is one's head? I see a new line of criticism that demonstrates how we (or some) turn making discourse about discourse into a kind of friends and family plan.
I'm unsated by both the stimulus and an early response concerning what will be topic du jour for many a jour, greatness in poetry. David Orr in this week's NY Times Sunday Book Review rifles through an established litany of nearly-contemporary candidates for greatness, and, save one, leaves them all dangling, Frank O'Hara, Robert Lowell — even Elizabeth Bishop, who is "great with an asterisk," more a contender because, according to Orr's citing of J. D. McClatchy, she has earned "influence...in the literary culture." Bishop is typecast, nonetheless, by Orr with that telltale asterisk that's keyed to the minors, one who too frequently writes about "tiny objects." May I be among the first to crown Orr a size queen? No wonder Orr finds John Ashbery's big opus exceptional if lacking consistency in its high-in-irony greatness. Half-admiring, Orr prescribes tough love for the giant. I'm not kidding.
When we lose sight of greatness, we cease being hard on ourselves and on one another; we begin to think of real criticism as being "mean" rather than as evidence of poetry's health...we stop making demands on the few artists capable of practicing the art at its highest levels. Instead, we cling to the ground in those artists' shadows — John Ashbery's is enormous at this point — and talk about how rich the darkness is and how lovely it is to be a mushroom. This doesn't help anyone. What we should be doing is asking why a poet as gifted as Ashbery has written so many poems that are boring or repetitive (or both), because such questions will allow us to better understand the poems he has written that are moving and funny and beautiful. Such questions might even allow other poets — especially younger poets — to find their own ways of writing poems that are moving and funny and beautiful.This is a lazy overreach, a gloved lunge toward Ashbery's cheekbone that misses. Point one, an unargued declaration of boredom refracts through the speaker, beholder of the experiment. Another point, directed to Orr's semi-mitigating queries to help others "find their own ways," is the requirement to revisit Ashbery's cohort, O'Hara (rather than hang him up) in order to comprehend how one so close to Ashbery's influence was emboldened to write very different poetry, achieving work as "moving...funny...beautiful" as Ashbery's, or more so, according to a growing consensus of writers living today. (We know who we are.)
Orr's essay is in tatters. While he finds Ashbery's style of irony a singular achievement, Orr operates from a base for greatness that's extremely mainline, stepping backward from Ashbery or anything "moving" or "funny":
Generally speaking, though, the style we have in mind tends to be grand, sober, sweeping — unapologetically authoritative and often overtly rhetorical. It's less likely to involve words like "canary" and "sniffle" and "widget" and more likely to involve words like "nation" and "soul" and "language."Orr argues in short for a once-prevailing climate of hegemony, three parts old shoe, one part sociological a la Pierre Bourdieu:
Greatness isn't simply a matter of potentially confusing concepts; it's also a practical question about who gets to decide what about whom. Our assumptions about poetic greatness are therefore linked to the reputation-making structures of the poetry world — and changes in those structures can have peculiar effects on our thinking.In Orr's hands, greatness is authority, both sternly unapologetic and open for business, a brokerage in reputations.
In quick response, Justin Taylor raises objections regarding Orr's dopey old-shoeness but finds not a few points to agree with, such as Orr's easy generalizations about the lack of ambition in contemporary practice. Taylor's most controversial concession to Orr is acceding to the biz, buzz, power wielding part of authority as if this were greatness: "It's not Ashbery's style you want to aspire to — that's been done, and now done and done – it's his status." Taylor follows this with a stagy script about establishing a goal "to become a lion — let the next guy see you sitting there, and turn tail for fear of his life." I'm beginning to think hunter-gatherers like Taylor, Orr, and me are the last ones who need to pipe up about authority or authority-greatness. The topic deserves more voices, especially those ready to tear down gender-marked constructions, such as "to decide what about whom" and "turn tail."
It's only a snippet, but Keith Waldrop shows up at Nomadics, today. It's the finale of Waldrop's reading at The Project last night. (This is what I call timely blogging.)
Tropes from today's blogs restaged as pro-ironic after-avant party ambience. Um:
Think back to Kerameikos. For three nights, we'd eat magnificently.
Eight hundred and sixty-nine, eight hundred and sixty-one, eight hundred and sixty-seven. I wanted to get a good viniyoga tape ever since the early 70s when, as a boy, I suffered a lower back injury in France, when I was pushed out of a slowly moving bus by some schoolmates.
In shifting night mist, a tattered poster. It begins — But should I use quotation marks when I reproduce parts of it? Can it really be “quoted” in any meaningful sense? Existence precedes essence.
I will lead you only to your border.
My rooms are full of helium.
Victor squashed under a train.
Ok. I can see the xtranormal meme has taken over my life and those of some favorite bloggers. Time — before others catch up! — to go for beautiful and haunting. I'm letting loose my lost epic Wendy, full of feeling. (I just found it under a fleshy presence.)
Some feelings return.
Terpsicore is ascetic, improvisatory, sherbet hued, Erato, a voice of suspicion and many hisses, Clio, a commanding note tumbling as rumors circulate, Melpomeme, all blues and mistaken early on, every beat ridden like a whale gainsaying oomph. An echo of flame, ailing Calliope still makes love in public (the flying public) and requires a stop-start pattern of marriage songs, blizzard, and dance.
The lines break up around Clio's supplicant remains. Polyhymnia I admit was arrested after the bombing of atomic plants, and there was loss of memory preventing her escape to the heliport. She was handcuffed, taken into custody under the Baker Act. If meaningless imagery had been more vulnerable it may not have mattered she created havoc in the lobby area, knocking over chairs and a table, ripping an Our Lady of Hope poster off the wall.
Did Euterpe get paid for that?
No, no one pays for Euterpe's "assemble of pomposity." Her comment has been removed.
My point is... Paul Muldoon and crew exact dignity in rebuttal... they sound like my mother Thalia. Or Urania. She and.
We the vicitmized (the ephebes in corresponding clouds) tried to remind Polyhymnia rules protect everyone but she believed in conspiracy. Theater in this deep mirror. A light snow performing buthoh. She called the FIB & they sent a helicopter to the rescue, but the others wouldn't let her get to the rooftop heliport, which does not exist.
The official lines end here and feeling becomes something else.
New trope of the hour, Gail Collins says for 2009 old is in. Citing recent precedents, Mickey Rourke, Robert Plant, and the amazingly cuddly sleepy-eyed 70-year-old Sussex Spaniel, Stump, winner of the Westminster Kennel Club best of show, Collins has a point. Best example, Hank Aaron pulled out of the freezer like a ham, the nation's homerun straight arrow again since younger contenders after Aaron have been over-enhanced. So, hurrah for these rebounded granddads and hoarse retreads from yesteryear ... except in poetry as in pornagraphy it's still going the other way. Face it. The younger the better. (Surgeon General's Warning: Ethical and esthetic boundaries pertain.)
This hardly means the demise of writers past 40. Writers age differently. And they never grow old on the page if they know how. The same rules have applied since the beginning. We have to write and keep writing like 13-year-olds (or even younger if you're after a demographic that takes everything in intuitively), that's all. Some of the most senior and even the dead among us show how it's done. Zukofsky is young but he seems adult compared to Elmslie, Stein, Cerravolo. Bishop is naïve enough and brilliant about it, but I'll first take Notley, Spicer (who can seem too grown-up, too, so maybe cohorts and precursors like O'Hara, Schubert...), Ashbery. Ashbery! Can you approach a medium-length or longer poem by John Ashbery and not expect to be whacked by his teenage brain? Other avants, language and after-language ppl, processuals-conceptualists of every stripe, all of us have never written so goofily, so adolescently as Ashbery in "Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape." You know, I don't want to limit my argument to tokens of essentialism, but ageism needs its detractors fully equipped. A black-toothed icon like "Farm Implements" brings poetry down to its screeching youth, a time and place it should never relinquish.
Valentine's this year is shaping up. It's cool to get a bear-gram and an armed robot mini from Hater 1 and Hater 2! Leechvideo sent over a short list of Birdwalk clips that show they're influenced by hands-on literary studies. That's cool too. And coolest, this pre-owned fuzzy pajama top from Goodwill that a tongue-in-cheek friend fed-exed me this morning. Thanks, guys.
No plan is perfect. I have nothing to add to that. Did anyone else hear about the woman who led police on a low-speed chase while driving a U-Haul?
You usually find just awesome service from an old lady. So don't piss off seniors! This time she refused to go along with the rules. She still hasn't figured out why she's restricted to a world without suffering that can't exist.
It is sad we are now separated.
A friend who leaves for a long journey cannot be created nor is she destroyed as soon as the word "GAL-IXY" jumps out.
It's even sadder to think in a while this becomes irrelevant. The Navbar is real and terrifying. Nonconformity of the whole brought to a boil makes crazies!
And does the festival in the run off trample on our rights in other ways? We gather to answer this question and simply the idea of autumn that a boy plays with a flag, a Palestinian boy plays with a Hamas flag. This is why wormholes reject us though there are add-ons with incursive bludgeons as to how a wormhole is merely less sensitive to oblivion.
Bad futures are constantly replaced by hopeful updates. Here's one about poetics opening itself to new mergers of practical and technical knowledge. Dale Smith writes, "And by the new I mean new perspective — not necessarily form. That make-it-new thing is not just located within a formalist machinery, but in a living body of thought and practice that we, as poets, engage in."
Now that everyone has spoken — from fans and foes of irony at [lime tree] to speculators in between at Possum Ego — everyone, that is, who has had something to add, theoretically, and has made her case via blog posts and/or filling up comment boxes with regard to running for class president of poetry, disaster-era semiotics, and other near-anarchic aspects of hesitation and uncertainty in verse — maybe we can turn to concrete reportage? Please, more porridge on the following.
The Trade Books with Fine Art Covers exhibit of over two dozen designs at the Poetry Center Library now through March 7.
Cannot Exist reading, Jan. 29, at Bowery PC.
Boyer and Strickland reading, Feb. 4, at the Project.
Goldsmith & Torres reading, Feb 7, at Bowery.
The Trade Books with Fine Art Covers exhibit of over two dozen designs at the Poetry Center Library now through March 7.
Cannot Exist reading, Jan. 29, at Bowery PC.
Boyer and Strickland reading, Feb. 4, at the Project.
Goldsmith & Torres reading, Feb 7, at Bowery.
I keep reading about Kevin Davies who tops my list of living important polyvalent experimentalists in political therapy. It's great to see onlookers coming together as if to an inclusive backyard chicken fry to partake of the celebrity occasioned by The Golden Age of Paraphernalia. The blog wood s lot (2/06) links to a variety of resources on Davies, mentioning readers like Drew Gardner in the Project Newsletter and Jordan Davis in The Nation. (Hey, by the way, kudos to Peter Gizzi who advocates for poets at a great old-fashioned magazine appealing to a cross-section of intellectuals!) John Latta (2/06), equipped with party spirit and a pint of spunk, also links to some of these sources and offers his assessment, loving Kevin Davies as much as the rest of us, but temporizing his appreciation of Jordan Davis's boosterism, while calling Drew Gardner to task for "a species of prestidigitation." And Dale Smith agrees.
Back to Latta. He sees Gardner clumsily attributing flarfiness to Davies's text, a "hand job" insertion "into history by means of claiming precedent..." I have to admit: To attempt by way of (borrowing from Jordan Davis) off the rack descriptors ("exaggerated or ironic pathos, and hilarious, insane propositions and metaphors..."!) to absorb Davies into a place of honor in Gardner's e-list group appears wishy-fulfillment. It brings up parallels to Putin re-annexing Ukraine. (Perhaps that last proposition is insane. Or ironically pathetic.)
Elsewhere, it's instructive to keep reading Johannes Göransson's Exoskeleton and come across news in the comment boxes. Today's calls itself troylloyd whose ideas show up in a couple of blogs, one and two, and there's a blogger profile worth checking out, as well.
Am confused. Just having to capture the logic of America's recovery and reinvestment saga will do this to you. Barack Obama sponsors a stimulus that will take up to $900 billion or so, a big plan; he gets House democrats to draft it and they do, without republicans, but as a gesture to once-and-future (they hope) kissing cousins the dems toss in $300 billion in tax cuts; Obama pours tea and coffee for John Boehner ("o my god") and John McCain ("country first") to massage them coming onboard yet, thank you, they exit fleeing in the other direction; something's going awry for days after as Obama watches opinion polls slip for his plan while he's forced to defend nominees under fire for past-due taxes ... just as opponents find their voice defining the plan as pork; meantime, to bring a new level of crossed purposes into view, yesterday Senate compromisers, 'centrist' democrat Ben Nelson and 'moderate' republican Susan Collins, try their hands at stripping funds from the plan for state and local governments, education, Amtrak, cutting the plan by $100 billion; Obama flies Air Force One for 30 minutes last night to Williamsburg, VA to campaign among partisans (House democrats who have already approved the plan), but this is more a public relations initiative to appeal to the broader base of American voters, no doubt seeding new misgivings among moderates and centrists in Congress, making compromise all the more elusive; the jobless rate rises today to 7.6%. The jump in unemployment will bring democrats and maybe a couple of republicans back to the stark reality of economic collapse, according to the journalistic script, and Obama will have his stimulus with or without bipartisan support. We'll see. If so, the debate then moves to whether this has been (a) truly a bipartisan outreach on Obama's part and (b) whether bipartisanship is worth the effort. That self-involved debate colors our politics for days or weeks and distracts us from preparing for new havoc in international banking and commerce, much higher unemployment here, new US financial rules (negotiated with China), more stimulus talk, less healthcare reform talk, incremental (and minimum) green energy investments, government securitizing mortgages to benefit the system (mortgage lenders), republican gains in 2010. Am confused.
Here are 8 random things about me and how I hide my bad taste in anime music videos. These are tricks I recommend with an iPod or any personal videoplayer.
1. Smoothbore ambush. When listening to The Wiggles, I pocket my instrument and walk briskly around the office or living room so the sound isn't restricted to one area and everyone else gets a piece but doesn't know where it came from. You have to be careful when you do this. Don't stop until the full playlist, including Kill You by Dethklok, has been expelled from your pants.
2. Focused fly-by. I scout out an area in the office or my housing situation before firing up Taarna and Sammy Hagar. I walk around and check for other anime addicts. If there are any, I leave and come back again after lunch.
3. Courtesy flush. I run to the nearest bathroom and flush the toilet once Lupin the Third starts. This reduces the amount of airtime the video has to stink up the office or apartment.
4. Walk around in denial, banter. This works when you're "alone-together" (housemates or colleagues out of sight, in the wings). The instant I select favorite I also begin talking to myself; I try walking from the sofa or chair, to a nearby window, then to a doorway checking if anyone is coming in; and I repeat the cycle while Steal Princess, Rogue's Whip keeps playing. This can be a calamitous strategy if a Demon Puff shows up and tries to bust me. It's best then to pretend Steal Princess does not exist.
5. The Demon Puff. If someone at home or at work doesn't realize I'm in my own space and tries to force the door open while Petting College Girls is fast forwarding, I remain where I am until the Demon Puff leaves. This is one of the most shocking and vulnerable moments when watching personal anime where others lurk. If you stick to your guns and stay put, however, Demon Puff will get the message, and you will avoid uncomfortable eye contact.
6. No big deal. You're in a very public place, an elevator or hallway, for example. You accidentally press the arrow for Mighty Ravendark and several loud notes slip out at a machine gun pace. Don't panic. Turn the horned almighty down or off and remain where you are until everyone else exits. This way you'll spare everyone the awkwardness of what just happened.
7. Cough cough. A phony cough alerts all new entrants into my area that I'm watching Persona 4. This can be used to cover-up The Murders, Transfer Student, Rainy Midnight, and Yellow World.
8. Work those toes. A subtle toe-tap can be used to signal potential Demon Puffs that you are occupied. This will remove all doubt who's in the shadow of the Darkthrone.
Brain damage is in the eyes. Brain trust damage, too. You can spot the bounce in his retinas when Barack Obama screws up and he's forced to deflect our attention. In retrospect, hadn't it been clear to transition executives, the real screwballs, a criterion for the New Ethics in Government would be to pay taxes? A sprawl of voices in my head congratulates our leftist colleagues on The NY Times editorial board for tackling this huge moral hazard, issuing marching orders to Tom Daschle. It's not every day (we don't think) we'll have the chance to see the liberal media, under the guise of objectivity, do the heavy lifting for big pharma and the investor class. As the story line shifts incrementally from hope to doubt, capitalists and their playthings, the media, including The Times, are out to inflict further damage and bring Obama down a notch. Limo service and chauffeur taxes aside, we were told Daschle was uniquely qualified to steer health care reform through Congress. This no longer applies. Submit a caption: Obama screwed up, a cartoon pattern that is beginning to hold in public reception to his recovery-stimulus package now under repair in the Senate. Meanwhile, Obama asserts that this is not a time for profits and big bonuses. In turn, the same government-subsidized forces of hypocrisy that feign outrage at Daschle's $140,000 tax snafu are pissing in their Snuggies over Obama's order to limit bailed-out bankers to $500,000 salaries. Cable news loudmouths, like Jim Cramer, who earn high incomes at the behest of capitalists demur. For sure, Obama's salary cap is nothing substantive, another deflection. It's an overtly populist appeal from Obama, symbolic medicine to go along with more bounce in the retina to unscrew the damage.
A good number. Come to think of it, among the poets I love, for real, a good number of them are ex-Catholics and/or dyed in the wool Buddhists. Same with those I love at a distance, like Ryan Trecartin (see below), George Romero, and John Waters. (I don't know if Cindy Sherman is or ever was a practicing anything; her opus is Buddhistic.) The hysteria in all their works has religion, a matter of faith that fades away or dies. Once there was something out there (childhood?) swelling up around these guys, and in early sexual encounters it got intense, surged, and took off, causing more illogic and internal hysteria to pour up but mostly plunge, embarrassing and yet it's a rocking house party, like losing both death and life, dropping your pants, breaking water gushing down on your legs and heels and further down under the ground. In those terms, there are the visual poets I've mentioned, singling out Ryan Trecartin however for special mention, because he has poetry, he just wants to stylize your head for his online, to match his vision — here's another clip, labeled I-Be Area (Pasta Locker to JAmie's Area), to back this up further.
In addition to the visual poetry of filmmakers and photograhers, there is a textual poetry of hysteria brought on by religious fervor cum death. It could be, come to think of it, this is the only strain of genuine American romance. Obviously, I'm not talking about a soiled grab bag category like American sublime. I'm thinking about a Lost Sublime That's Dead to the Touch. Maybe, alternatively, The Fucked Pioneer. It might start with Emily Dickinson, just as American sublime does, but it takes us subterraneously to darker, greener, more wholesale hells and chat rooms we like to think of as ours, now.
Poets George Romero, Cindy Sherman, John Waters — each to the utmost of her paradigm, concepts, pep, and atomized abilities has come up with visual info that's more compelling than data we poets capture, re-capture, and/or write down as text. (Double dare: prove me wrong.) Add to the visual poets list video artisan Ryan Trecartin, featured in the Sunday Times Arts & Leisure. He pulls off the splintered equivalent of tribal truth-telling in this short clip from I-Be Area. There's nothing in poetry today that comes close, nothing that can declare and convey, I'm not allowed to play because of my past...uncontrollable forces. Yes. What can I do? I know how I feel now...I am waking up. I'm on your side. I am temporary.