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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


Tere,

I deleted my most recent post. I wasn't comfortable with it. I do appreciate your thoughts.

Chris
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That's fine, Chrisfriend. I hope it wasn't because of something I said. I think sometimes I should keep my opinions to myself and let others work through what they are working through. Process is good.

On a different note I thought about your post and thoughts while driving home from work this afternoon. I remembered this thing that's been going on down in N.O.'s for a bunch of years by now. It's an ezine called Exquisite Corpse, edited by Andre Codrescu. The mag is Surrealist inspired, can be political too.

I read the ezine from time to time. Its writers also push against the language limits. Only they do it differently, somehow organically. I think I've posted the link elsewhere. But this might speak to the thread and to your thoughts.

 http://corpse.org/

Tere
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


Tere,

I took the post down because I'm out of my depth and my ideas are half-baked. I need to write this stuff in a journal or somewhere I can develop it--see where the gaps are--how the
dots are connected.

Anyway, it was nothing you said, I really liked the quote in your last post. Isn't it also included in an essay you put up earlier?
maybe in the prose forum? I enjoyed that one too; hope I told you so at the time. I'll check out that e-zine, thanks.

Chris

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Chrisfriend, I wish I could remember the novelist who said something that struck me. It might have been E. Waugh. In paraphrase he said, 'How can I know what I think until I write it down?' This certainly speaks to my own procedure. Half-bakes can make for a tasty dish.

And, yes. I have cited the quote before. It is in an essay called "The Doctor's Examination" where I lift sentences from the same entry on poetry and comment on them. It can be found in Discussion I.

Tere
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"Poetry is forever fighting against the pressures and seductive power of ordinary language to falsify experience in easy, slack cliche. Poetry feels itself often up against 'the limits of language.'" (italics mine)

Hi Tere,

This quote reminded me that it isn't just "oridinary language and "easy, slack cliche" that can "falsify experience." It was John Gardner who taught me that sentimentality can also be born of/in excess of any kind:

"Sentimentality, in all its forms, is the attempt to get some effect without providing due cause. (I take it for granted that the reader understands the difference between sentiment, in fiction, that is emotion or feeling, and sentimentality, emotion or feeling that rings false, usually because achieved by some form of cheating or exaggeration. Without sentiment, fiction is worthless. Sentimentality, on the other hand, can make mush of the finest characters, actions, and ideas.)" (Italics mine.)

Sometimes a writer can try too hard to be clever and original and that attempt in itself can falsify the experience. Langpo bashes SoQ for its sentimentality without seeming to consider that both sentimentality and cliche can creep into langpo approaches as well. Foregrounding language in extreme ways can be seen as an affectation and can become a cliche in the same way all the gore in slasher movies becomes easy, predictable, sentimental, an emotional cheat. Sometimes langpo strikes me, in additon to being strange for the sake of being strange, as being intellectually melodramatic, know what I mean?

Hi Chris,

I hope you will think of this space as your chalkboard and feel free to jot down ideas as they come to you. I can honestly say that all of my ideas here are half-baked. I haven't thought any of this through. I haven't connected the dots, because I don't even know what dots there are to connect. Nothing here has to be conclusive, and we are free to change our minds at anytime.

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Accoring to Christian Bök in "Flarf, Arf, Arf, Arf! (Part 3)" at the recent AWP Conference, someone did raise the issue of the avant-garde's need to "challenge their own poetic artifices":

K. Silem Mohammad has suggested in his talk at the AWP Conference in Denver that, if avant-gardes in the present merely recycle the tactics of avant-gardes from our history, such movements do so because “the first times, they didn’t take,” and thus such movements as Flarf and Conceptual Writing must do “the opposite of damage control”—“they [must] try to do the damage that didn’t get done enough before.”

According to Mohammad, the current, literary culture of humanist lyricism has become a kind of “pseudoreligion,” subservient to an unspoken, literary maxim: “[o]nly write things that you yourself would want to read if someone else wrote them”—and he implies that, in a modern milieu where such normative expression has prevailed, we can only expect to get what we deserve: an avant-garde that lampoons writers who make a spectacle of their own honest sincerity rather than pose a challenge to their own poetic artifices. I might contribute to such a spirit of critique by concluding with the last installment of my “Flarf-based review” (in which I use the Internet to call up the ghosts of celebrities, who respond to an essay by Kenneth Goldsmith)—and if you feel so inclined, you can easily watch a video of my unsegmented performance (courtesy of Teresa Carmody at Les Figues Press…):


http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/flarf-arf-arf-arf-part-3/

Bök ends his critique/blog entry:

"I have tried here to groan, “Help! Help!”—but the tone that has come out is that of polite conversation. I have put in a long, hard day at work, and I finally get to go home, to go to bed, where I close my eyes—and immediately I wake up and realize that my whole day at work has in fact been a dream, in which you sell all your waking life for minimum wage, while they get your dreams for free. Take sides! Take sides! You may sometimes be wrong—but the poet who refuses to take sides must always be wrong…."

In case anyone is interested, here's a link to a transcript of Mohammad's AWP talk:

http://lime-tree.blogspot.com/2010/04/awp-2010-flarf-conceptual-poetry-panel.html

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Hmm, it seems that Kenneth Goldsmith's blog entries I linked to earlier did not go unchallenged over at Harriet. During this thread, I have been thinking often of the topic of decadance. It can be useful for puncturing self-righteous postures, but at what point does decadence itself become a kind of self-righteous, self-protective stanza, become effete, a poseur's pose, capitulation? At what point does it become decadent decadence, imitative decadence, neither something new nor strange, but kitschy-kitchy-koo and too cute by half?

In his entry "Documentary Poetry and Language Surge," Martin Earl writes:

quote:

In chapter 1 of Classic, Romantic, Modern(1961) – a book well worth rereading – Jacques Barzum tells us that “[t]he one thing that unifies men in a given age is not their individual philosophies but the dominant problem that these philosophies are designed to solve.” As it was in 1961, our dominant problem is that we are living in an Alexandrian Age, one of debasement and decadence. According to Barzum, “[w]hen people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.” As I said above, Goldsmith finds that decadence in the language of the day, the very material with which poets would work. “Language has become a provisional space, temporary and debased, mere material to be shoveled, reshaped, hoarded and molded into whatever form is convenient, only to be discarded just as quickly. Because words today are cheap and infinitely produced, they are detritus, signifying little, meaning less. Disorientation by replication, mirroring, and spam is the norm. Any notion of the authentic or original is untraceable.” (fr. Provisional Language.) For Nowack*, this same decadence is manifest in the contemporary poet’s lack of moral seriousness, in their inability to empathize with anything beyond their own narrow strip of turf and their failure to produce a language adequate to the times. Instead they simply repeat the so-called radical experiments of their teachers. Goldsmith’s approach, as that of the Language Poets, his immediate predecessors, suffers from two basic fallacies. The first is the fallacy of composition, which assumes that a whole has a given property just because its various parts have that property; and, even more tragically, the mimetic fallacy, which is the attempt to convey an emotional state or idea by writing in a manner that corresponds to that state. This is certainly not going to solve Gross’s critique of institutional manipulation. “Actually, all these institutions have been involved in changing the world. Each has played a major role in easing the difficult transition from national to transnational capitalism by winning greater acceptance of manipulation or exploitation-even as it becomes more extensive and intensive – by those subjected to them.” One does not solve the problem by endlessly copying out the terms of one’s own subjugation.



http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/documentary-poetry-and-language-surge/

*Mark Nowak in "25 miners killed in West Virginia coal mine blast":

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/25-miners-killed-in-west-virginia-coal-mine-blast/



Last edited by Katlin, Apr/17/2010, 1:21 pm
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In his recent blog entry "The Challenges of Twenty-First Century Writing," Kenneth Goldsmith writes:

"If it’s a matter of simply cutting and pasting the entire internet into a Microsoft Word document, then what becomes important is what you — the author — decides to choose. Success lies in knowing what to include and — more important — what to leave out. If all language can be transformed into poetry by merely reframing — an exciting possibility — then s/he who reframes words in the most charged and convincing way will be judged as the best."

Goldsmith, whose "practice embraces the performance of the writer as process and plagiarism as content," transcribed "one day, the September 1, 2000 issue of The New York Times in/for his book Day (2003).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Goldsmith
 

Last fall, Kent Johnson published his book Day, of which Johnson writes:

"the con­tents are iden­ti­cal to Kenny Goldsmith’s Day, save wher­ever Goldsmith’s name appears (cover, back cover, title page, etc.), in which case spe­cially designed stick­ers with my name are pasted on to mark the book’s new and–dialec­ti­cally speak­ing–higher con­cep­tual author­ship. As well, stick­ers des­ig­nat­ing BlazeVox as the “co-publisher” and dis­trib­u­tor of the new work will be added beneath any men­tion of The Fig­ures Press (and a fine press it is, the latter) on or inside the book."

http://www.digitalemunction.com/2009/09/22/advertisement-kent-johnsonsday/

The jury is still out, at least in some quarters, as to who, Goldsmith or Johnson, is the better author.

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/18/2010, 6:21 pm
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Katlin, I got to say something. I big time appreciate these notes of yours that, to me at least, come like intelligence reports from an operative in a foreign country. Or maybe they come like what an NPR reporter will tell me is what is going down in a West Virginia coal mine disaster. I am quite serious here. Your penchant for information marks you as a gossip/reporter. Thanks for the wet finger you keep sticking in the air.

About the Goldsmith/Johnson pas de du I figure it is a local affair, and of no consequence to poetry. About the 21st C and poetry I figure poetry does not recognize time lines. Frankly, I pity the poet thinking otherwise. She/He is screwed.

Tere
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


I think the substitution of Johnson's name for Goldsmith's is pretty funny--but it is kind of an 'in' joke--and what any of it has to do with poetry is a bit of a stretch. Thought provoking posts as always Kat, thanks!

Chris
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


Chris,

Yeah, my hat's off to Johnson too. I realized this morning that I misread what Bök was saying Mohammad said:
 
According to Mohammad, the current, literary culture of humanist lyricism has become a kind of “pseudoreligion,” subservient to an unspoken, literary maxim: “[o]nly write things that you yourself would want to read if someone else wrote them”—and he implies that, in a modern milieu where such normative expression has prevailed, we can only expect to get what we deserve: an avant-garde that lampoons writers who make a spectacle of their own honest sincerity rather than pose a challenge to their own poetic artifices.

Mohammad wasn't saying the avant-garde should challenge their own poetic artifices, but that the avant-garde should continue to lampoon writers in the SoQ "who make a spectacle of their own honest sincerity rather than pose a challenge to their own poetic artifices." A lot of the avants are full of themselves. While they are busy lampooning the ego and faux sincerity in the work of Quietists, often not without cause, their own egos and faux sincerity get transferred, quietly, into their methods and manifestos, their conference speeches and tenured gigs. I liked Johnson's substitition because it calls attention to that fact. Conceptually, which is where they are vulnerable, he basically out G'ed, Kenny G. Or so it seems to me.

As luck or chance would have it, John Latta has posted a blog entry today on this very topic:

quote:

So: miles of smiles today in our high jocular greenback-imprint’d (or word-imprint’d—c’est plus la même chose) three-piece suit (sans chausettes, sign of a “tol’able” hoi polloi affinity, up to the point of seeing one “own” words fed back into the loop . . . that brings a scowl into the usual complacent void of the conceptualist’s phiz.) Scowl away.



Latta includes a "report" by Johnson, who talks about Goldsmith, the Double Days, Bök and Mohammad. Definitely worth a read:

http://isola-di-rifiuti.blogspot.com/2010/04/flarfco-pro.html
 
Rereading Mohammad's article just now, this caught my eye:

Flarf and Conceptual Poetry perform the opposite of damage control: they try to do the damage that didn’t get done enough before.

Be all that you can be! Join the Avant/Army today!


  



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but it is kind of an 'in' joke--and what any of it has to do with poetry is a bit of a stretch.

It is an 'in' joke as 'in' the Academy, AWP, Poetry Magazine, etc. In a recent blog post at Harriet, Sina Queyras asked, "what is with the hate-on for Language Poetry?"

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/difficult-being-what-you-have-not-yet-encountered/#more-10234

My first thought was, "Karma?" My second thought was something I remembered reading about the death of the author. Someone said something like, "Oh, sure, now that women and other minorities are writing more, you guys decide the author is dead." In the same vein, now that Langpo et al is becoming institionalized, the avant-garde decide critique is out and happy talk and/or silence is in. Johnson points to this in his above linked to comment:

Because such sadly defensive policing, such timorous posture towards real-time written challenge of their work seems more and more the adopted mode for the members of this “subversive” wing of the post-avant, even as such clamp-down behavior brazenly flies in the face of everything these “libertarians” of the Word claim to uphold . . . And even as they’ve attained more and more position and capital inside institutions like the AWP, MLA, the Poetry Foundation, and so forth . . .

Although there are cracks in the foundation, I guess. Today at Harriet, I tried to read the following blog entry, but couldn't make it all the way through:

"WHY FLARF IS BETTER THAN CONCEPTUALISM" by Drew Gardner

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/ill-steal-your-poets-like-i-stole-your-bike/

Then I clicked on this blog, "Present Past Tense" by Linh Dinh:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/present-past-tense/

The entry starts out with a quote by Eliot Weinberger in an interview with Kent Johnson:

The Trade Center attack will not alter the autobiographical, anecdotal, therapeutic poems of the workshops; it will merely add another subject. But it will be interesting to see what happens, if anything, on the progressive front. Their poetry has been a kind of decadent modernism and their politics has tended toward an academic pseudo-Marxism that is completely oblivious to politics as the rest of the world knows it: the infliction and alleviation of suffering. Meaning is not a capitalist construct, as they claim, but meaninglessness is, and 9/11 was an explosion of meaning in the prevailing media-fantasy unreality of the nation.

Link to Johnson/Weinberger interview:

http://jacketmagazine.com/16/johns-iv-weinb.html

Meaninglessness is a capitalist construct. Man, that strikes me as just right. It ties in with two books I often return to: Anne Wilson Schaef's When Society Becomes an Addict, and Stephen Wolinsky's Trances People Live, which I think I've mentioned elsewhere.

Tere,

I am using this thread as a place to take note of and make notes on poetry-related matters that pass my way. This morning I spent some time reading John Gardner's On Moral Fiction and The Art of Fiction. Sometimes reading Gardner reminds me of reading Campbell. Both have the tendency to throw in one-liners and asides that make me laugh out loud. To wit:

No common critical term raises hackles more than quickly than the term "deconstruction," and rightly so, since those who use the term almost always sound wildly confused. Probably the truth is that they are not so much confused as hamstrung by worship of Heidegger.

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/20/2010, 9:12 am
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


Love the use to which you are putting the thread, Kat. Keep the intelligence reports coming in. I bet you would know your reports only bolster my gut instinct(s) of some twenty or thirty years standing. To be clear on something there may be no greater admirer of Rimbaud's aesthetics, especially with respect to his famous dictum that poetry should amount to a "boundless and systemitized disorganization of all the senses." He was right. This should be one of its objectives too. But here is the big thing. By my reading Rimbaud's larger objective amounted to a scraping away, a sanding down with the pumice stone, even a surgical removal of all language practices, conventions, and concepts that are like calluses grown over raw perceptions, rawer senses. That's what he was after. That was the aim of his genius. I am satisfied that Lang-Po, by whatever name with which it looks to reninvent itself, looks to have no truck with anything sniffing of sensual perception.

I am okay with what they do. At the least, it has so far kept them off the unemployment roster. A good thing. I just don't pay them no mind. Actually i have to confess to a certain spectator-sport enjoyment sitting in the bleachers, watching them all in scrimage. It makes for a nice pass-time when between poetry and bee colonies. What's the half-time show like anyway? Does it promise any wardrobe malfunctions? And are the ads as good as the Superbowl's?

Tere
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I'm not sure if this is going to make sense to anybody but me, but here goes. Yesterday after I read "WHY FLARF IS BETTER THAN CONCEPTUALISM" by Drew Gardner:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/ill-steal-your-poets-like-i-stole-your-bike/

I started thinking about the poem "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brook:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15433

Then today Poetry Daily carried the poem "The Golden Shovel" by Terrence Hayes:

http://poems.com/poem.php?date=14720

I started to write a poem about the cool cats of flarf. Such as it is, here it is:

We Real Cool

(With Apologies to Gwendolyn Brooks
and Michael Jackson)

THE DUEL PLAYERS
SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN BABEL

We real cool. We
teach school. We

talk tough. We
flarf fluff. We

punk junk. We
got spunk. We

Jizz June. We
tweet soon.

Tweet it. Just
Tweet it. But

you wanna be
bad so

tweet it.

Then over at Harriet's, I came across the blog entry "Flarf is a one-trick pony that thinks a unicorn is another kind of horse," which provides the missing link, as it were, i.e. the "piece offered recently at AWP" which sparked the "flarf is better than conceptualism" debate:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/04/flarf-is-a-one-trick-pony-that-thinks-a-unicorn-is-another-kind-of-horse/

I wondered how I could come up with a conceptual piece that would be a companion to my "flarf" poem. I realized I couldn't and decided to go with my first thought:

Fried Green Tomatoes, Or What Happened on the Way
to the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Found Poem


(With Apologies to Fanny Flagg)

[Evelyn Couch is cut off in a parking lot]
Evelyn Couch: Excuse me. I was waiting for that space.
Girl #1: Yeah, tough!
Girl #2: Face it, lady, we're younger and faster!
Evelyn Couch: Towanda! (screams and smashes into the car) Towanda!! Yes ma'am!
(Evelyn Couch rear-ends the other car six times)
Girl #1: What are you *doing*?
Girl #2: Are you *crazy*?
Evelyn Couch: Face it, girls, I'm older and I have more insurance.


~

Ninny: How many of them hormones are you taking, honey?

~

Sipsey: What's the secret of life? The secrets in the sauce.

~

[NB: For the conceptual poet is theory like insurance when, by theory, she means contra-text, the new con-text, con-, being, as has been pointed out elsewhere, a !@#$? If it’s good enough for Evelyn Couch, it’s good enough for me! Allegorically speaking, of course.]


Too bad the dust-up between the two camps is just faux-foo fighting.

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/22/2010, 1:19 pm
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Christ on a crutch, Katfriend. You goin' pyro on us?

I get what you are doing. I know I can't do it this way; couldn't assume the persona they all look to project. I figure this is your way of pointing to the emperor's set of new clothing.

Tweet me good. Run the tweet down. It tweets so good. Roll over Beethoven and tweet Tschiakovsky the news.

I've seen you do this before, more than once. Smart stuff, my friend.

Tere
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Kat,

These intellectual field notes are a pleasure and a challenge to follow. Much enjoy the poetry. I'm always after Tere to turn his field notes into a novel and now I can see these field notes of yours worked into an essay--a thoughtful, expansive, provocative essay. For now, seems like you're engaged in a thought process which is unfolding rather than headed toward a known conclusion. It's nice, as a reader, to be taken along.

Chris
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Tweet me good. Run the tweet down. It tweets so good. Roll over Beethoven and tweet Tschiakovsky the news.

Tere,

LOL I love it. See, I knew you could do it. FYI: I un-neutered my poem.

Chris,

Yes, this is definitely an unfolding process without a set conclusion in mind. For now, I'm enjoying the ride. Glad you guys are too. Thank you both for you reading along and for your encouragement and input.

Meant to mention the other day that in addition to "We Real Cool," I have been thinking about Carolyn Forche's poem "Expatriate," in particular the last lines:

"Twenty-year-old poet,/ Hikmet did not choose to be Hikmet." also about something Gardner wrote in On Moral Fiction:

When Duchamp said, "Art is whatever I say it is," he was telling the truth. When Andy Warhol says it, he's putting us on.
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I’ve been thinking about Les Murray saying:

"A lot of modern art is very autistic. There is this arbitrary law that you're not supposed to be sentimental or have any feelings. What the bloody hell is that but autism, pretending to be some kind of automaton?"

My friends’ 14 year old son has Asperger’s syndrome. For years when someone asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he told them he wanted to invent new artificial limbs that work better. He loves science and reading, especially science-fiction. His favorite poet is Leonard Cohen. Go figure. “I can’t run no more with that lawless crowd, while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.”

At some point, I plan to include some of Gardner's thought on moral fiction, but I hope everyone will weigh in with anything that comes to mind. I believe in synchronicity, so no worries there.

On a side note, when I mentioned above "faux foo fighting, I was thinking of an old pop song, "Kung Fu Fighting":

It's an ancient Chineese art and everybody knew their part
From a feint into a slip, and kicking from the hip

~

We took a bow and made a stand, started swinging with the hand
The sudden motion made me skip now we're into a brand new trip


http://www.lyricsondemand.com/onehitwonders/kungfufightinglyrics.html

An essay? Well, maybe one in the manner of Charles Bernstein. emoticon

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I second Chris's comments. And, yes, the act of discovery comes through with no preconceived notions. I find the thinking kind of exciting.

Tere
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The future is now. According to the Poetry Foundation, blogging is out and Facebook is in, and it seems that Flarfists aren't the only ones who will be tweeting about poetry:

The blog as a form has begun to be overtaken by social media like Twitter and Facebook. News of the poetry world now travels fastest and furthest through Twitter (as the thousands of followers of @poetryfound, @poetrymagazine, and @poetrynews can attest), with the information often picked up from news aggregator sites rather than discursive blogs.

Starting this week, then, Harriet will transition into a space we hope will better serve the various poetry communities we’ve come to know over the past four years. This new version of Harriet will feature on the main page a daily news feed with links and excerpts from other outlets around the world. We hope to point to the vibrant discussions happening online, as well as vital literary journalism, essays, and criticism. In addition to this news aggregation, we will spotlight poetry communities and events. These features, which will appear under the name “Open Door,” will use multimedia journalism to showcase unique interactions between poets and poetry readers around the world. . . .
  
In addition to news and these Open Door features, Harriet will begin a new life on Twitter. Each month a new poet will take over the Harriet Twitter feed and provide daily posts about his or her life, work, and interests. . . .

The posts and discussions of the past will all remain archived on the site, but in this new stage Harriet itself will no longer feature comments. This isn’t a decision we’ve come to lightly, but it has become clear over the past few months that it is time for Harriet to move on from this discussion model.


http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/05/whats-new-at-harriet/
May/12/2010, 11:34 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


How conceptual poets kill the author:

Kenneth Goldsmith: Each generation must determine for itself what it means to kill the author. My generation is faced with the unique task of killing the author by means of textual excess. Today, because of technology, there is an unprecedented amount of language; so much, it seems to me, that the writer's job is not to create more language, but rather to engage in the management of this mass of existing language: How you find your way through this heap of language will distinguish you as a writer from me. The simple act of moving information from one place to another today constitutes a significant cultural act in and of itself. I think it's fair to say that most of us spend hours each day shifting content into different containers. Some of us call this writing.

How conceptual poets claim they undermine the self and ego:

Kenneth Goldsmith: Conceptual writing obstinately makes no claims on originality. On the contrary, it employs intentionally self and ego effacing tactics using uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts; information management, word processing, databasing, and extreme process as its methodologies; and boredom, valuelessness, and nutritionlessness as its ethos. Language as material, language as process, language as something to be shoveled into a machine and spread across pages, only to be discarded and recycled once again. Language as junk, language as detritus. Nutritionless language, meaningless language, unloved language, entartete sprache, everyday speech, illegibility, unreadability, machinistic repetition. Obsessive archiving & cataloging, the debased language of media & advertising; language more concerned with quantity than quality. How much did you say that paragraph weighed?

http://poetrycenter.arizona.edu/enewsletter/April2008/enews0408_concpoet_read.shtml
May/12/2010, 11:44 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


From an article by Dan Chiasson entitled, "Entangled, The poetry of Rae Armantrout."

"Though the the results looked radical, in a way Language poetry was oddly conservative. It put poetry, of all things, at the very center of the culture. These poets suggested that, if you wanted to change the circuitry of the culture, you had to go to poetry, where the wires were. There all the damage done to language by advertisers and politicians could be undone. But, lest poets become faux finishers, they wanted to keep those innards of language exposed, rather than tuck them back inside a consistent speaker whom we get to know, and come to like or to despise, as we read. Poetry shouldn't reveal the soul of a unique individual: there's no such thing as a unique individual. Poetry was there to countermand, rather than to express, identity, to reveal the hand-me-down nature of what we take to be deeply personal memories. That's me in the cowboy outfit; that's you in the Easter dress. In some truer sense, though, it's neither of us. It's just the culture doing its thing."

on the other hand,

"Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old worlds new,
Spending again what is already spent:

For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told."

William Shakespeare

Last edited by Christine98, May/19/2010, 5:59 pm
May/19/2010, 10:38 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Chris and Kat. Forgive my thoughts if need be. I keep trying to shake these deepwater blues. I think this is my first non-spill related post since 20 April. Christ! Over a month ago. Spill still monsterous.

Anyway, about the topics you both raise. The optimist in me keeps waiting for this particular literary wave to crest so that it can finally crash and we can all finally get back to poetry. I've been aware of, from time to time having checked into, the conceptualizing and abstracting of poetry since the mid-seventies. Precedents are always impossible to pin down. But for me it all started in earnest with Ashbery, even before Lang Po took from the linguist Saussure and from the French. I feel I am not a shabby thinker. I can follow most intellectual and scientific discussions. I can picture in my brain DNAs double helix. I can wrap my brain around the notion of dark matter. And I got a pretty good grasp on at least 40,000 years of the human record. My problem here is that I still don't think poetry is about, even involves, thinking. Not sure it is about, or involves, feeling one's way through the gloom. I am convinced it is about, and involves, sensing, sensibility, the senses, and perceptions of the same language rendered. It proceeds from the gut not the brain. Or maybe it proceeds from the whole body, the somatic thing I keep harping on. And so I am so out of sympathy with this tendency to conceptualize and abstract both poetry and language.

In the morgue file I have a long since abandoned poem. It is there for a good reason. It is lousy poetry. It starts out wanting to know the nature of truth and beauty. It goes on to admit their natures cannot be pinned down on a Riker mount. It ends by saying that if truth and beauty no longer matter in a century particulating itself out (the 20th) then count me down in the compost heap. That is how I felt about the scene in '91. That is how I still feel.

Something I marvel at, shake my head over. For the first half of the last century American poetry was world class poetry and for a good reason. It built on the essential discoveries of Whitman, Dickinson, Hopkins, even Poe: that language is about sensibilities. 'Coming to Our Senses' pretty much sums it up. By the last quarter of the last century American poetry had come to occupy the backwaters, the shoals and the shallows. With no depth and with a shrunk horizon. I don't get it. What happened? How did American poetry come to occupy so comfortably mediocrity? I did not sign on to poetry to concept-make or to abstract. I signed on, still remember that 16 year old night, because of the seed, maybe bacterial and maybe viral, that sprouted in my gut.

One thing I know for sure, that old rule in forensics: he who sets the definitions controls the argument. I reject the main of poetry definitions of the last, what, 35 years or so.

Tere
May/22/2010, 3:31 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Kat, I've been meaning to say your title for the thread is perfect.

Tere
May/22/2010, 3:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


Chris,

I like the juxtaposition of those two quotes. I found this particularly telling:

Poetry shouldn't reveal the soul of a unique individual: there's no such thing as a unique individual.

If there is no unique individual, I guess there is no soul either. Although we have unique individual bodies, what we do with them and what gets done to them is just "culture doing its thing."

I know there is such a thing as a group mindset, which could be another way of saying culture doing its thing, but language poets' belief that there is no such thing as a unique individual and no such thing as the soul is itself a group mindset.

Last edited by Katlin, May/23/2010, 6:33 pm
May/23/2010, 6:32 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


Hope it is okay if I comment, Kat, since you are addressing Chris.

If there is no such a thing as the unique individual then evolution has just been disproved. Evolutionary changes are brought about through advantages one individual has found, through mutation and other mechanisms, then passed on through natural selection. It is a basic law of evolution the fundaments of which have been observed in the field time and time again. I am not being flippant here. I rather prefer my theories match up with observations and experience. It occurs to me that these Lang Po theorists are nothing better than the Behavioralist, B.F. Skinner, revisited. What with their insistence that nurture (culture) accounts for everything, and leaving out the part nature plays.

Tere

quote:

Katlin wrote:

Chris,

I like the juxtaposition of those two quotes. I found this particularly telling:

Poetry shouldn't reveal the soul of a unique individual: there's no such thing as a unique individual.

If there is no unique individual, I guess there is no soul either. Although we have unique individual bodies, what we do with them and what gets done to them is just "culture doing its thing."

I know there is such a thing as a group mindset, which could be another way of saying culture doing its thing, but language poets' belief that there is no such thing as a unique individual and no such thing as the soul is itself a group mindset.



May/24/2010, 6:42 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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hi Kat and Tere,

The quote was taken from an article in the New Yorker--I don't know if it's any kind of definitive summation of Language poetry. The part I like very much is, "...if you wanted to change the circuitry of the culture, you had to go to poetry, where the wires were." What a delightful thought.

I don't know about the "unique individual" thing. I'm not particularly offended by it for some reason but I'm not particularly enthralled with it either.

Chris
May/24/2010, 10:32 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Returning to this Kat,

I don't see a natural connection between being a unique individual and having a soul. At the risk of asking the stupidest question or requesting an explanation of what is perfectly obvious; what do you mean by, "If there is no unique individual, I guess there is no soul either." ?

I admire the way you think, Kat. Just looking to understand your thinking on this.

Chris



May/25/2010, 9:24 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for pushing me to better define my terms. I was thinking that if there is no individual there can be no individual soul. Maybe a collective or group soul, which is what Gary Zukav claims animals have as opposed to humans. Recently at the Leonard Cohen forum, someone posted two links to utube videos of Cohen introducing and then singing "The Guests." He speaks about a new soul being born. I was intrigued by his description because that song was the first Cohen song that had a strong effect on me and one I associated with Sufism, even before I knew Cohen was familiar with Rumi:

http://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=21570

One summer night many years ago, as I was driving through the nearby city, it came to me that, with the exception of one pregnant woman, none of the people I saw lounging on stoops or walking along the sidewalk had a soul. For someone who with a Christian upbringing, it was a very disquieting, discomforting realization. I didn't know how to square the belief that "everyone has a soul" with my new feeling that they didn't. I came to the tentative conclusion that while everyone has the potential to develop a soul, not everyone does so in this lifetime. I'm not a theologian though, nor even a mystic, so I'm still viewing the question as an open one.

What do you think?
Jun/8/2010, 9:53 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Survivor of the Twentieth Century


As a follow-up to my previous posts about conceptual poetry versus flarf, I wanted to add this link to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "Search for a New Poetics Yields This: 'Kitty Goes Postal/Wants Pizza': Google-Inspired Verse Gains Respect; Shakespeare Meets the Anagram Generator":

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704912004575252223568314054.html?KEYWORDS=GAUTAM+NAIK
Jun/8/2010, 9:59 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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