This Month's Featured Blogger
Each month we invite a different blogger to discuss poetics and craft, influence and trends, and the writing life of a poet.
Recent posts from Jon Leon
Thanks Brian Stefans!
Really, for those who’d like to take a look at a (proletarian, through and through) conceptual writer/activist whose life, work, and thought make M. Goldsmith’s et. al. Conceptualism and M. Mohammad’s et. al. Flarfism look positively jejune and petit in comparison, see David Baptiste Chirot, here, on Feneon, anarchism, conceptualism:
To be clear, the person I am referring to above in making the comparison is Chirot. Though certainly Feneon, whom Chirot writes about in the link, is a much more consequential “conceptualist” than the avant po-biz dandies du jour, too!
If I see the word po-biz one more time I’m going to throw up.
(And I haven’t thrown up since 2/27/04, so that’s saying something.)
So which is better for you?
It boggles the mind to think that anything could make this type of work seem positively jejune and petit
Matt, go right ahead, you do need to purge yourself, there.
Doodle, both are sui generis…
Travis, I know!
Hm. I think the chop suey looks better than the generous. Just a matter of taste, I suppose.
Ordinary anonymous (hardly voices at all) poems from STONE (Copper Beech Press, 1979) :
The trees along the street
on the rising ground,
in the last light
darkening the houses –
a miniature world,
a tiny sphere
I see the little people,
child people, small people –
and the crossroads.
Evening drops cool and red
on the suffering trees, sighing
and growing thin in their places.
The streets lie in pools,
straight, and full of shadows
where mumbling children,
hardly voices at all, peer
and point. We walk listening
to the steps. There is still
enough light for me to see
the pale blush on your cheek.
I went, I read, and I left a comment.
resonose to shares blog and this one
re the bang for the buck piece
and a an appendix of essay for the “conceptual poetry and its others’ symposium
which is concerned with the “professional” aspects of conceptual poetry according to the view presented here
(cuite different entirely from my own–)
also some very good a nnd interesting ways to fold yr dollar bills!
Huh. Butter doesn’t have any iron.
Speaking of Feneon, it so happens one of the poetry world’s most learned and brilliant bloggers, John Latta, posts today on him and Bolano, with links to and quotes of faits divers, century-old and contemporary:
That poor woman. Imagine having four knees.
I think that one of the reasons people are getting so bent out of shape here (often in the guise of humor) around this discussion of Flarf and Conceptual Poetics is that, like it or not, we’re seeing canons being formed before our eyes, something very hard to accept (especially to me, a new MFA). Not that Silliman is any arbiter of anything, but himself having nothing to lose this summer proclaimed these two tendencies to be the most lively and important poetic movements of our time. And I can’t say I disagree. Nothing even comes close.
The conceptualists are everywhere: anthologized, award-winners, university profs; even the blow-up here over Issue 1 was related as they turned out to be Goldsmith’s UPenn students. The flarfists are right behind; Goldsmith, Mohammad and Sullivan were all represented in Dworkin’s important Roof anthology “The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics” and an entire conference was held on conceptual poetics, “Conceptual Poetry and Its Others” at the University of Arizona this past May with plenty of very powerful people in attendance, spanning generations.
Nobody want to believe that history is being written before their eyes, in their own time. There’s nothing we can do it about it: it’s done. The big question looming is what’s next? (At least that’s what I’m trying to focus on right now).
Sorry, Cheryl, but that’s not how canon formation works. Now, if Deer Head Nation starts showing up on syllabi & in anthologies (please God no), we can talk. As it is, what we’re seeing is flashes, before our eyes, in a pan. A very, very old, rusty pan.
Cheryl, let me help you out here –
if you read between the lines of the comments here –
in answer to the big question looming – “what”s next” –
the Next Thing is BARF –
and after that comes –
>>The conceptualists are everywhere: anthologized, award-winners, university profs…The flarfists are right behind…an entire conference was held on conceptual poetics…with plenty of very powerful people in attendance….
OK. Sure. This is a defense of Flarf and Conceptual Writing, right?
Henry, you’re already behind the times!! Check out Dodie Bellamy’s Barf Manifesto – click here to find out more…
So that is a smartly stated comment, and you could well be right. I happen to honestly think Flarf and Conceptualism are more like the lava lamp, but who knows? Maybe these earnest, supercilious impresarios of our imperial detritus will prove to be the consequential poets of our time. And the Miltons and Donnes four-hundred years down the road… As I said, I doubt it, but I have no other candidates, myself, so there you go.
But really, you say the new poetry is getting “formed right before our eyes”… And yes, though the ways it’s happening raise interesting questions, in a manner of speaking that’s actually so. But that doesn’t mean, to argue with you a bit, that the process (with all its tragedy, comedy, blindness, and sublimated violence –and I’m only half kidding there) isn’t poignant and sometimes hilarious. At least allow us minion figures in these comment boxes the right to rub our eyes and laugh out loud– at the delicious folly of the new Order of Things and at our own sad complicities in it. Some of us are now on Christmas break, and don’t have anything else to do.
Anyway, while I WOULD argue with some of the underlying premises of your claims above, I have to admit, for whatever it’s worth, that you make a strong, worthy point and give some good context to the issue. And maybe the most important thing you say, or ask, is, given where we are, regardless of where that is, “What’s next?”
That is the mystery, in our pathetically marginal subculture, that keeps us all going, I suppose!
Dost really think there will be Donnes & Miltons in the jetpack-driven future? I rather suspect the mute inglorious shall waste their sweetness rather than producing not that museum piece we call poetry but whatever hyperfired mindlink immersible narrative be all the rage. The Futurists will have been right, some day. & anyway, if an art’s only audience (with rare exceptions) be its practitioners, next stop mummification.
Ah, mystery. I agree, Kent . . . and it might be worthwhile to differentiate between those who feel they have SOLVED that mystery and those who, like Johnny Keats, preferred to be mystified . . .
Further discussion on like matters can be found on Mark Wallace’s blog.
Looking back, I regret that my comment above sounds a bit like a cheap shot. Certainly it was not meant as such. Nor was it meant to count as an attack on Flarfists, Conceptual Writers, conference goers or, even, powerful people. But it was meant to call attention to a certain dissymmetry between the modes of legitimization Cheryl (rightly and accurately) names and the explicit insouciance of these showdowns of F vs. CW. Maybe there should be an addendum to the posts acknowledging the real referee.
Michael, I just watched a YouTube video of Kasey Mohammad and Kenny Goldsmith arguing in a bar over “Relevance.” I could hardly make out a word they spoke, but I was thinking to myself, as I watched them (they very insouciant, yet very careful, too, balancing on a sort of fine line between the hip-demimonde and respectable-theoretical, knowing they were being taped by Nada Gordon’s cell phone), I thought, What if we had YouTube videos of Milton and Donne, or Shakespeare and Jonson, at a tavern? (Wait, have to check my Norton, could Milton and Donne have drank together? Milton might have been a teen when Donne died.) Then we would see them, talking about this and that, and they would look probably fairly normal and unexceptional to us, except for the clothes and accents, and this would have a profound effect on how we regarded their work, wouldn’t it, if you think about it. In other words, and just thinking out loud here, I think you have an important point, because so much of the canon depends on aura, doesn’t it, on the mystery of the person behind the page, and now we don’t have that, it’s so much worse than Benjamin ever could have imagined! For example, if I had known Jack Spicer, would I feel the same way about his poetry, probably not, from what I hear about him, or from what I can make out on the tapes of the Lectures, I mean, they are totally indecipherable, and he’s obviously very unsure of himself, very tentative and self-conscious, though now everyone takes what he said as kabbala. But tape is one thing and video is another, and I think YouTube changes everything, banal as that may sound, and I admit I’d never thought about this before, but I think it is definitely true. Speaking of Kenny Goldsmith, another thing I really was upset about today was seeing that H.L. Hix asked Ron Silliman at Best American Poetry blog what headline he would write for the AWP Chronicle if the Chronicle were more like the National Enquirer, and Ron replied that he “would rather leave that answer to Kent Johnson and Kenny Goldsmith,” but then after a while I thought to myself, Well, he’s right, I can think of all KINDS of great headlines. So now I’m not so upset anymore. And you know what else I’m really upset about? Well, I happen to know that someone sent in a post to the Poetics list, mentioning really nice things about my book, Homage to the Last Avant-Garde, and this was something like three days ago, and the post hasn’t appeared yet, even though it was sent as part of a thread called “Books of 2008,” adn the thread was proposed by the *moderator of the Poetics lsit*, and so they probably censored it, because this person’s post also made a point of mentioning that it was really ironic that I’ve been banned from the Poetics list since 1999 for speaking out against Charles Bernstein’s imposition of censorship there, in 1998, and then writing a brief essay about what happened, which was widely distributed at the time, long before I was banned from Kasey Mohammad’s blog for making jokes aobut Flarf. But what can one do? This is the poetry world, after all, and censorship envelops its content like a royal robe with ample folds. Well, who knows, maybe I’m just paranoid and the post will still appear. Also, I’m especially happy to see that Joe Safdie is commenting here, because I’ve known Joe for a long time and he is superbly smart, so it’s good to hear from you Joe. Is it appropriate to write this way on poetry blogs? This is like even MORE impolite than Flarf and even more jejune, and I’m sure to regret it. I sure am no Mark Wallace, now HE can put a sentence together. Christmas shopping.
thanks to all for your kind comments. we’re all trying to figure out the next turn :))
michael, I must disagree with you about con po and flarf being flashes in the pan. all of the writers we’re talking about are not young. most are in their late 40s and early 50s. they have been writing and publishing for years with little notice and they are really just beginning to get recognized now for the long effort. it’s a result of hard work coinciding with a time (tecnological and social) that has finally been able to make us appreciate their works. so you might think this is a passing fad but the record – and their seriousness – shows otherwise.
again, the reason I care so much is as an assessment of how things work in this field for a fresh mfa. i’m nearly 30 years younger than the con pos and flarfistas so I assume the issues – and the literary landscape – will be much different for me (us).
reminds me of
Believe me, I know how old the writers are — I’ve been following some of their careers since I was a young freshly MFA’d sprig (I am approaching my late thirties, alas!). But if you look at the history of receptivity you will find that poetic careers that burned far more brightly in their time than those we’re discussing here burn in ours are attached to names you have never heard of, for good reason. (Check out Bourdieu’s essays on “Flaubert’s Point of View” & cultural production in general.) Put bluntly: success, attention, even anthologization & syllabification in this life guarantee nothing for the future.
But you miss my larger point: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a flash in the pan. We are, all of us poets, flashes in a pan. Who cares? I’m excited that The New Yorker took one of my poems recently (self-promotion is a hate crime, I know), but I don’t delude myself into thinking that anyone will be reading my work – or that of the Flarfists, or of many people beyond, say, Ashbery & Creeley – a hundred years from now. Nor could I imagine any question that is less relevant to my writing.
It’s no secret that I really don’t think Flarf is interesting or, well, any good. But I certainly don’t begrudge its practitioners any success that comes their way. Let a hundred flowers publish spam.
Oh, & Kent: thanks for that wonderful comment. Much to say, & little time at present. For the nonce let me repeat for the tiny general public of vaguely concerned readers of this comment stream what I said to you back-channel already: It’s just hilarious how afraid of controversy the silly little soi-disant avant-gardistes are. Although, come to think of it, they’re just following in Breton’s authoritarian footsteps. These things are trifles, of course.
Ah, Relevance… Kasey Silem Mohammad has posted, yesterday, at his blog, a fascinating essay, thoroughly winding and loquacious, on Relevance, Flarf, and Conceptual poetry.
What’s mainly fascinating about it, frankly, is how long the rhetorical performance takes to make its underlying, banal point: Poetry achieves relevance by getting itself talked about! If you succeed in being controversial and getting people riled up via certain naughty, iconoclastic riffs off the literary center, then you become… relevant!
Something like, perhaps, when you think about it, the guy with the blogger sounding name: Rod Blagovejich…
Actually, Anne Boyer has a comment that nicely dispatches (despite her hilarious proposition that Guy Debord is responsible for May, ’68) the inanity of Mohammad’s self-serving ruminations.
Disappointing, as Mohammad can be quite smart and interesting…
K. also makes this point, relevant to readers here, no doubt:
“The main cultural mechanism which attempts to train poets in acquiring this sort of relevance is the MFA program. Its success is either considerable or pitiful, depending on how much one can imagine being at stake within the terms as set therein.
The other chief strategy is more nebulous and unstable. Like the first strategy, it involves the manipulation of cultural capital, and the invention of categories of value where they may not have previously existed. Its primary difference from the first strategy is its attempt to draw authoritative force from a model based on “cult” status rather than “official” status. In some (most?) cases, however, it involves a good deal of piggy-backing on the first strategy–having an academic position that supports one’s writing and research, for example, or accepting funds from the insanely well-endowed Poetry Foundation to write a blog column. This strategy often adopts a posture of antagonism toward the institutions which in part enable it. Like the first strategy, it often includes antagonism as well toward competitors, an antagonism which in both cases takes the illusory form of solidarity within one’s own camp when in fact the competition is spread fairly equally between camps. One can see where this line of description is heading: toward the proposition that there is really very little difference between these two strategies.”
I honestly can’t make sense of this. Anyone care to put the case more lucidly??
I have this at my blog too, but I’ll post it here, since my blog less-frequented.
Flarf is a tendency, and urge. Just as the ‘uncreative’ turns sublime or unhinges to point to something different (or to itself), the overworking flarf seeks leans toward a particularly different entrophy — though still point to itself — where words flame themselves, no longer an honored “recipient” of a chatroom screed (just like “no longer an issue of the NY Sunday Times). Conceptual writing follows the trend in the opposite direction. The intent is the same: get something to say something different (whether by contextually placing the entire work within a different frame, like DAY, or by taking results from ANY search and putting them into something like THE ANGER SCALE…
So, there is no winter.
In 100 years, flarf will be recontextualizing “seminal flarf texts” to mean something insulting and “not o.k.” again, it will win and lose “fans,” (the sport analogies born of the above-linked post are odd and unsettling) and we’ll be reading L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E at political rallies. CRINGE!
What is relevance if you’re writing before what you’re writing about becomes relevant? It seems to me, in the end, that discussing relevance as existing BEFORE art is the incorrect way to discuss it.
Come to think of it, and speaking of relevance, here is a piece written on the historic occasion of my banning, last summer, from Kasey Mohammad’s blog. The page has received tens of thousands of hits, actually, since it was put up a little over a year ago.
It begins with an extended note of background/explanation and ends with a 150-line poem that is inspired by a verse or two Kasey had written. The note touches on other things, too: Flarf and its genetic debt to the cabal-like, Breton-ish poetic politics of 70s-80s Language poetry; the culture of arrogance, exclusion, cliquishness, servility, and fear that dominate the current American post-avant, in general; the really sophomoric and thoroughly snobbish poetic output of said Flarf, which is, at bottom, based on a pompous disdain of the “subaltern,” a classic symptom of petit-bourgeois ideology, famously described by Marx in the Grundrisse; Gary Sullivan’s unacknowledged theft of the Flarf idea from the good poet and person Patrick Herron ca. late 90s, or thereabouts, and other holiday-season themes of the kind.
Well, I’m exaggerating just a bit, it’s not really all about that. But the piece does perhaps make some points of broader interest. None of it, of course, should be taken too seriously, anymore than (and by their own insistence) the poetics and poetic personages in question should be taken too seriously.
The best thing of all, however, is that when you click on the link and the page comes up, there is a beautiful loop from an opera by Verdi. I *think* it’s Verdi, anyway. I don’t know much about opera…
It is giving me great pleasure to see so much jargon and intellectual waffle generated over poetry which noone reads but other poets and not even most of them. “most lively and important poetic movements of our time. ” Hahahaha. The whole thing is an internet beat up. You guys keep trying to make yourselves famous and the rest of us will keep writing and reading poetry and laughing at you, okay? The only reason Silliman is famous is because he was the first poetic blogger and hence got the first link/google juice going. Get over yourselves and try writing poetry that people are going to read.
Kent, you reminded me of a video I was watching on xtube wherein Jordan Davis in swim trunks on a lake shore challenges the person holding the jittery camera (mayhap Lemon Hound himself) to a race to the little swaying platform out in the middle of the lake & the person filming says something like “Swan candle” & sets the camera down, the screen filling with a close-up of a terribly lonely pebble, & splashes are heard, & then a number of what sound like gunshots, which I take to be a reference to the notorious temper of the second President of the United States, followed by a silence I can describe only as “electrically preggers,” which lasts ten solid minutes while the pebble just sits there probably in a sort of unspeakable despondency, & then finally Jordan shouts out, “I really didn’t mean to win that way, my friend, tell me you are faking,” & a woman picks up the camera & trains it on herself, but her features are horribly disfigured, & she is laughing, laughing, terrifically free, & she says directly into the camera, “Don’t even tell me you drank all the Snapple,” & then the video ends. I don’t know why, but this reminded me of the dream you had where the Land o’ Lakes butter squaw (forgive my lack of P.C., please, but I believe these were your words) gave the keynote address at AWP, & I can’t for the life of me remember how that dream ended. It did end, though, as dreams must.
Paul said: “Get over yourselves and try writing poetry that people are going to read.”
You seem to ignore the fact the most of the works written by the conceptualists are intentionally *not* meant to be read. Can anyone really “read” Craig Dworkin’s “Parse,” a 19th century grammar book parsed according to its own rules? Or Goldsmith’s “Day,” where he simply reptypes a day’s edition of the New York Times? Both authors say that these books *shouldn’t* be read, instead that they should be considered, thought about.
It seems fair to assume that I’m male given that most of the commenting that goes on here is male, but surprise, I’m not. Nor have I seen Jordan Davis in swimming trunks, though we have been in the same room once or twice. Nor do I write flarf poetry. Nor am I American. I suppose I am a bit unusual though in that I’m not convinced that one person’s or poet’s sincerity is another’s. Or that I have the right to say a whole movement is useless because I either don’t care for it, or understand it.
Ms. Hound, my heartfelt apologies. It is clearly not you in the video. If anyone could assist me in the identification of this character, I will show my appreciation in the acknowledgments section of my forthcoming The Education of Snapple. Many thanks!
Cheryl, if anything that only bolsters Paul’s point: the objection is that the conceptualists write poetry that nobody is going to read. To counter that it’s not meant to be read is not an answer but a concession (& I find it amusing that the soi-disant avant-gardistes morph into intentionalists at this point).
I’m not defending Paul, who weighs in with a familiar dismissive tone, one matched by that of the post-avants when they discuss Robert Lowell or some such. People who think there are camps in this game & they belong to the right one are not interesting.
No one reads the “conceptualists” (did these people ever ask to be put into a group like this?)
I’ve read Eunoia. I suggest you do too.
I can’t speak to anyone being canonized, but in response to Michael Robbins, I did want to point out that Deer Head Nation has indeed been taught in classes and at least one poem from that collection, “Mars Needs Terrorists,” was in one of the Best American Poetry volumes. It probably won’t be taught again for awhile, as the run of 1,000 sold out fairly quickly, and I haven’t heard of any plans to reprint any time soon.
As for the conceptuals, I’m pretty sure that books by Kenny G, Christian B, Brian KS, Rob Fitterman, and Darren WH have been used in classrooms.
At least one professor has reported running into trouble teaching flarf-related books. See:
Nada Gordon’s V. Imp has been taught in classes, and I hear Folly is going to be, as well as my own PPL in a Depot.
Again, I don’t think this has anything necessarily to do with canon-formation. Hundreds of poetry books are taught every year in clases–lit and other classes seem to account for a fairly high percentage of all poetry book sales, and have done so for decades.
The first print run of Craig Dworkin’s 21st Century Poetics anthology has already sold out, some of that due to its use in classrooms. It’s got a bit of both conceptual & flarf in it.
There will be anthologies of both conceptual poetry and flarf coming out in 2009.
I CAN’T SPEAK TO ANYONE BEING CANONIZED
I can’t speak to anyone
I hear Folly is going to be
Again, I don’t think
For a very high percentage being canonized
I can’t speak
Have done so for decades
It’s got to be a bit of both
Already sold out, I can’t speak to anyone
There will be
I can’t speak to
At least one professor
I’m pretty sure
That was funny, thanks. Not bad for 28 minutes.
It’s sad and kind of embarrassing to see so many poets threatened by what a group or two of other poets are doing.
Michael Robbins: I’m familiar with the genre of the internet fantasia, a form of discussion group satire in which the proper names of members of the group are inserted in ludicrous situations. In poetryland Kent Johnson has been practicing the form since the mid to late 90s, and is the best known figure to publish collections of the form. The intention there appears to be to get a rise out of the bearers of those proper names, most of whom have not had the pleasure of meeting Johnson. Provocation is not, however, intrinsic to the form.
The flarf collective, which I understand you to have taken a dim YouTube viewing of, generates masques, pageants and other ludicrous situations using eachother’s names, with the difference that the members understand so far that no harm is meant. Non-members have taken this activity as alien and enviable, but it’s only friendship. It doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s friendships, and neither does it validate the work of the coterie. It is however a part of experience, and one which from time to time has emerged as part of literature as well.
Congratulations on your many publications, and please accept my apologies for attributing your work in last year’s issue of The Hat to your doppelganger colleague. We will be correcting the error in our next issue.
Jordan: Huh? Harm? Not at all. I take a dim view of lots of things without intending anyone harm. Not e’en provocation, in this case. I’m sorry if you were provoked, honestly. I even like your blog.
And The Hat problem is the other way around: you attributed to me a work by my colleague. You published Michael Robins’s poems, not mine. He’s a fine poet, & The Hat is a fine publication.
Well if not for this dust-up I might never have learned that the poems in The Hat are indeed mine own! I have been published in The Hat all this time without knowing it! Lesson: keep track of yr submissions if someone else with yr name is submitting to the same sorts of journals. Thank you, Jordan! I now wish to attribute authorship of the above fantasia to Michael Robins.
I’m thinking of founding a new school of poetry and poetics, called the Fishmonger School.
The Fishmonger School will promote a kind of poetry which employs craft techniques very similar to those of the traditional fishmonger, except using words.
>the genre of the internet fantasia, a form of discussion group satire in which the proper names of members of the group are inserted in ludicrous situations. In poetryland Kent Johnson has been practicing the form since the mid to late 90s, and is the best known figure to publish collections of the form. The intention there appears to be to get a rise out of the bearers of those proper names, most of whom have not had the pleasure of meeting Johnson. Provocation is not, however, intrinsic to the form.
In fact, I had been hoping to meet Jordan at a poetry reading I gave with David Shapiro a couple years back, right across the street from the Poetry Project. I’d informed him about it, and I think Gary Sullivan, too. Alas… Perhaps Jordan can help arrange a reading for me at St. Mark’s sometime, and he, the flarf gang, and I can afterwards go out for tea.
However, “practicing the form since the mid to late 90s”? That’s news to me. Epigramititis: 118 Living American Poets, came out a couple years ago, though it’s true some of those pieces circulated on the internet for a while previous. Or maybe Jordan is referring to my participation with him on various listserves, where I do recall us both using other people’s names with quite a bit of enthusiasm and wit. But those were other days.
In any case, it’s strange that Jordan refers to the use of “proper names in ludicrous [I believe he means satirical”] situations” as “the genre of the internet fantasia.” Surely he knows that poets have been practicing name-naming satire for centuries. Much of this work is part of the canon, and I’d be happy to provide Jordan with an introductory reading list. My own modest efforts in the tradition are in part a tip of the hat to the greats. [Jordan is right, by the way, that naming in the epigram need not be “provocative”–it can be elegiac or laudatory in character, too, as is the case in many of my own efforts. Apropos this, there is a 42-page[!] essay that has recently been written by a terrific poet and critic on the uses of satire in my poetry, and I believe it will be published soon. I haven’t seen it, so for all I know it is, well, “provocative” and not “laudatory.”
In a lengthy conversation some months back I had with the poet John Bradley about satire’s poetic pleasures and modes, we speculated a bit on why there is such a lack of the Juvenalian type of satire in our poetry today, given that such spirit is liberally present in almost all the great ages of literature. Unfortunately, this interview is published in the excellent but furtive Plantarchy, and I doubt more than seventeen people have seen it. I have sent a copy to Linh Dinh, and perhaps he would consider posting it here at Harriet for consideration, since some of the issues discussed there are getting touched on in various threads of late, in regards to Flarf, Conceptual poetry, Faits divers, etc.
I understand from this post that Kent Johnson wishes: to add freelance copyeditor to his resume; to claim the mantle of Juvenal; and to serve notice in a public forum that many “terrific” poets and critics have written in praise of his work.
That’s good, Jordan!
But just a couple small corrections, if you don’t mind my copyediting:
Far from claiming the mantle of Juvenal, I made a point of saying that my efforts were “modest”in comparison with the greats.
And I didn’t say in my comment that “many terrific poets and critics have written in praise” of my work. In my comment I referred to ONE terrific poet and critic who has written recently about my work.
Of course, it’s perfectly true that many terrific poets and critics have written about my work (including you, who are always writing about it in comment boxes), but in this particular case, I referred to just one.
all the best, and don’t forget about that invite for me to the Poetry Project,
Gretchen wrote: “It’s sad and kind of embarrassing to see so many poets threatened by what a group or two of other poets are doing.”
I agree, Gretchen. I assume when you say “so many poets” you’re referring to those flarfists who ban others from their blogs for disagreeing with them over the value of flarf.
What do you call it when a movement wants desperately to be talked about, but also wants to render the conversation as a controlled economy within which participants must employ, tautologically, the movement’s own wrong-headed assumptions–not just about its own aesthetic origins, but the very nature of people (audience)?
Bullsh*t, I suppose.
I’m always amused when folks with no interest in the mechanics of audience (say, the sort of mechanics sociology, cultural studies, and psychology might teach us) are desperate for a readership anyway. It’s like a perpetually self-renewing death-bed conversion; at some point, the timing of the thing calls into question its authenticity. Yes, yes, of course–attack MFA graduates as benighted simpletons, dismantle the pobiz-housing Academy (the only place poets are given space and funding to discuss poetics), self- or socially-publish based on allegiances not talent, aim to contract poetry’s audience and stock of practitioners when it’s the very breadth and depth of the CAP community that’s allowed flarf to come into existence…
Genius! A big happy circular firing squad.
Why do we poets always do this to ourselves? Perhaps because someone needs to start talking intelligently about group dynamics?
Seth, it sounds lke you are projecting. I don’t know anyone who has banned people from their blogs for commenting negatively about flarf.
I do see that on your own blog, you ban comments when you post about flarf. For instance, here:
where, at the bottom of the post, you write: “[NB: Comments are disabled because flarf really isn’t worth the time or effort of additional discussion. I’m sure Jacket will have the blow-by-blow of any future flarf-related donnybrooks].”
Well! I’m sure we’re all looking forward to Mr. Abramson’s response.
However, Gretchen, regarding people being banned from the blogs of Flarf poets, you may wish to see this:
It comes with music.
Then I don’t think you’re reading the right flarf-blogs. All the big ones have this policy; because their proprietors also tend to get vicious when discussed on third-party blogs, non-flarfists (realizing that there wasn’t, actually, a conversation ongoing about flarf via blogs) sometimes disabled comments back when the flarf “conversation” was a hot topic (the conversation about the conversation, I mean, as outside Jacket there didn’t seem to be any productive back-and-forth dialogue at all). That said, I appreciate your attention to detail in finding a post from a year and a half ago in which I disabled comments, a direct response to getting repeatedly flamed on my blog by flarfists (who, I’m sure you’ve noticed, are quite public about their tactic of seeking out “bad publicity” through bad behavior). That may be the only (or one of the only) times I’ve done that in about five years of blogging.
Hmm. On the other hand, this may also be the only time I’ve been called Projective. I think I should run with it, given the deification Olsen has received in some quarters.
Yikes. Wrong deity. Olson.
“Poetry Foundation group blog”; a/k/a “Donnabrookings Institute.”
By the way, this coinage appears to have met poet-blogger Jonathan Mayhew’s recent challenge to come up with an as-yet-un-Googled pun.
Thank you all.
Uh, you don’t know anyone who’s banned people from their blogs for commenting negatively about flarf? Mayhap you have heard the names of K. Mohammad & Kent Johnson? A sorry tale, to be sure. Seth is if anything understating matters: the flarfy few do not abide snickering.
A MESSAGE FROM BEYOND
Flarf ≠ Poetry
Conceptual ≠ Poetry
sheesh, blowing my own pun.
Donnybrookings Institute, that should have read.
My apologies, thank you.
John! Thought for a second you might be directing our attention to the writings of Donna Brook. You might like her:
I was surprised this morning reading through this thread, seeing how many accusations there are herein, and how many of them seem unwarranted or baseless.
First, Kent, I am indebted to many poets, writers and artists who have inspired me over the years. I am aware that Patrick Herron feels entitled to some kind of acknowledgement with respect to flarf, but I’ve never quite understood why. Can you elaborate on what I stole from him?
So far as inspiration to send a ribald poem to poetry.com, that came from the Women’s Poetry listserv, which I was subscribed to from about 1999-2000. People on the list started to notice that their names were popping up along with poems they hadn’t written at poetry.com. That led me there.
So far as using the results of Google searches in my own work, the earliest influence I can point to is Kenneth Goldsmith’s book No. 111, which I understood (or perhaps misunderstood) to be a collection of things he had found online, and then organized into that book.
Drew Gardner’s Sugar Pill was also influential here–there are a number of poems that make use of material found through Google searches.
In terms of an Internet-focused writing, inspiration has come from Brian Kim Stefans and Alan Sondheim, both of whom I believe I interviewed in 1999-2000 in my online journal Readme.
I’ve been very open about my influences, and I would happily include Patrick among them, had I felt indebted to him. Someone, though, needs to be clear about what that debt entails, as I don’t know what it is otherwise.
I see a number of people who seem to believe that Kent was blocked from Kasey’s blog for posting jokes about flarf. Too, that Kent was expelled from the Poetics List for making fun of language writing. For these people, it’s an issue of censorship.
The truth is that in both cases, Kent was banned for reasons having to do with behavior, not content. That’s fairly obvious going through the Poetics List archives ca. 1998-2000. In 1998, of course, a number of people were banned, owing not to content but to behavior. There was a rather large outcry from list members who were, frankly, fed up.
I see that Seth believes there are a number of “bigger” flarf blogs with a policy of blocking commenters who post negative comments about flarf. This is simply untrue. On every related blog that I’ve looked at, there are negative comments about flarf, including the Mainstream blog. Those comments are not deleted, and the commenters are not banned from posting again.
Sorry, Kent, that I missed your reading with David. I miss most readings in New York–it’s to great extent a time-management issue. I’d love to see you read. If you want a reading at the Poetry Project, however, this is not the place to ask. Go to the Project’s Web site, where you’ll find contact information. Jordan does not book readings, or have any influence on those who do.
To ascertain the veracity of Gary’s claims, all one need do is read Kent’s essays regarding his banishment from Kasey’s blog & the Poetics list, since unlike Gary Kent provides documentation. In each instance, I feel sure that an unbiased observer will find that Kent was indeed banned for “content.” It isn’t an issue of censorship at all; it’s a question of a few members of a small community deciding they only want to hear what people who agree with them have to say.
“In 1998, of course, a number of people were banned, owing not to content but to behavior.”
That’s just unbelievably revisionist and silly. Surely, in a writing environment like the Poetics List, what behavior amounts to is the words one writes, no? Isn’t is Robert Creeley who noted:
“Behavior is never more than an extension of content”?
Gary Sullivan wrote:
>The truth is that in both cases, Kent was banned for reasons having to do with behavior, not content. That’s fairly obvious going through the Poetics List archives ca. 1998-2000. In 1998, of course, a number of people were banned, owing not to content but to behavior. There was a rather large outcry from list members who were, frankly, fed up.
Ah, “banned for reasons having to do with behavior.” This is really quite an interesting formulation to have from a proponent of the new poetics of “impropriety”… Well, people can do their own chewing on the irony.
Just FYI, though, since Gary makes the above claims: There is this piece http://www.flashpointmag.com/skanky.htm , written a long time ago, about the Poetics List meltdown Gary refers to. Inasmuch as censorship of any discussion regarding those events still reigns on the List (see John Latta’s post of Monday, Dec. 15 at
http://isola-di-rifiuti.blogspot.com/ ), the piece is still relevant. The view offered of those somewhat complex events is indeed quite different from the caricature Gary brushes above. And yes, those interested can look for themselves in the archives.
As to the events at Lime Tree, well, people can’t really check the archives on that, since (as I indicate in the piece I link to in comment further up the discussion) Kasey Mohammad deleted all discussion around them–namely comments made by a number of poets who challenged his actions.
Anyway, there are things happening now at Harriet and in the poetry world at large that are a lot more fun than this glum stuff!
What does “behavior” mean in a context of words? Verbal abuse? Calumny? Lies? Libel? What bad “behavior” was Kent guilty of?
As my mom used to say when my younger sister was heading out as a teenager, “Behave yourself!” To which the reply would be, “Mom, everything’s behavior!”
“self- or socially-publish based on allegiances not talent”
I think you’ve got things backwards. Why would people have publishing “allegiances” (I don’t mean just regular friendships) with people they didn’t think were talented?
Do you have an example of a poet who put in time, effort, and money to publish a book they didn’t like? Or are you just speculating wildly?
Who determines talent? You? The NEA? The FDA? The cast of CSI? If I had money (and if I knew anything about publishing) would it be okay with you if I published a book by someone I’m friends with because I was drawn to their poetry, and whose book I determined to be a good book based on nothing more than my opinion? Who would be harmed in that situation?
Ahhh…ye old Foetry argument rears it’s ugly herd.
Michael Robbins wrote: “It isn’t an issue of censorship at all; it’s a question of a few members of a small community deciding they only want to hear what people who agree with them have to say.”
Michael, there was somewhere near 1000 people on the Poetics List when the list was shut down temporarily and reopened in 1998. That was done after a good number of member complaints about various list conduct and violations of list policy. Simply being critical of other poets has not ever gotten anyone kicked off.
This is very clear reading through the archives. Kent’s version is a revision–his own version–of that. He’s entitled to it, but it’s a revision.
So far as Kasey’s blog goes, it’s very clear if you read it that he allows dissenting opinion; he has always allowed it. Again, simply being critical has not gotten anyone bumped from lime-tree’s comments boxes.
You are of course free to ask Kasey himself what led to his decision to delete Kent’s comments if you want something more than one-sided version that Kent and his small community of cohorts have spent the last full year-and-a-half pushing.
Oh, and one final thing.
Kent wrote: “Ah, ‘banned for reasons having to do with behavior.’ This is really quite an interesting formulation to have from a proponent of the new poetics of ‘impropriety’…”
Really? Patricia Highsmith wrote rather obsessively and brilliantly about murderers. Do you believe that she was, therefore, condoning murder?
Me & my friends are like the drums on “Lust for Life.”
Flarf eh? That’s cute. Enjoy your movements.
. . . just wondering, since nobody else here mentioned it,
didn’t images like the Land o Lakes “Maiden” above
used to be called “sexist”? not to mention racist
and exploitative in its stereotype-depiction of Native American
costuming . . .
when did that change, exactly . . .
Clearly, it hasn’t.
Also, a Harriet housekeeping note: We need commenters to include valid email addreses when they comment. One commenter just re-submitted a comment without an email address. Can you re-submit with an email address so I can contact you? Thanks, Emily
Gary Sullivan said,
>You are of course free to ask Kasey himself what led to his decision to delete Kent’s comments if you want something more than one-sided version that Kent and his small community of cohorts have spent the last full year-and-a-half pushing.
Oh, this is silly. My mention here of the matter is the first time I’ve done so in a public space, I believe, since my quite popular account of those revealing and funny events (“Stinky Limes in the Blogosphere”) was put up over a year ago. I mentioned it here because it seemed apropos to do so, given the ongoing Flarf and Conceptual Cuddle-Bunnies publicity campaign at Harriet.
Here’s the link again, for good measure: http://www.blazevox.org/072-kj.htm
And could anyone tell me (as one of the latest faits divers at the astounding “feneon collective” blog notes): Why has not a single naughty Flarf blogger been yet able to make a mention or link of that project?
Kind of deliciously comical, that.
Hi there Matt (and sorry for the delay in responding)–
Say you’re an editor at a small independent press. You’ve got enough money to publish one book. You’re a self-described “purist” and believe Art is the highest of all worldly values. Given the limited-resources state of the publishing industry you know that–to publish the one book you’ve the money to publish–you could throw open the doors of your small independent press to unsolicited submissions and receive (and believe me, you would indeed receive!) between 300 and 600 manuscript submissions within the first 60 days. Because you’re logical, you realize that the larger the stock of manuscripts in front of you the more likely you’ll end up publishing the very *best* collection you have available to you to publish.
Now let’s say “X” is a friend of yours, someone who you go for pizza with every Wednesday, who writes poetry you really like. You decide (say) to publish his book instead of reading even a single unsolicited submission.
This has nothing to do with editors publishing collections they don’t like; I didn’t say that, and to answer your question, no, I *don’t* think that happens. I’ve been an editor; I know what a misery it would be to publish work I didn’t care for. But also, as I’ve been an editor, I know that an editor is able to distinguish between work s/he “really likes” and the work that is the *best* available for her/him to publish. When one publishes within a social network it’s human psychology that non-aesthetic considerations will make a “really good” book of poetry seem like the “best” one to publish. Sometimes the excuse will be something like, “I just know I could work well with this person,” or “I know that they promote their work well,” all of which are almost certainly true–but don’t logically make *untrue* such suppositions with respect to the 300 to 600 prospective manuscript submissions the editor never read. The bottom line is, editors are the ones putting the work in, they can publish whomever they like; I just think an editor would be hard-pressed to claim s/he was publishing the best work available, when s/he didn’t look any further than (say) a buddy sitting there on the sofa playing XBox.
I don’t want to substitute my judgment for anyone else’s. But there’s a pretty long history of literature written on “process management” which tells us that if one publishes those with whom one has a lasting social relationship, one is *by definition* not striving to publish the best work available. Which, incidentally, is what an actual “purist” would do. That’s all I meant, Matt.
I would appreciate my Silliman post returned to me. Thanks, it’s so relevant.
Seth, this “publishing your friends” debate was aired with Foetry. I didn’t fully disagree then and I don’t now, but what if I DO value art as the highest human value AND I want to publish my friend’s book because it’s the “bestest little ruby in the whole whirligig.”
If you agree, then you see it more or less like I do. If not, then my question is, who judges which work is the “hack” work, the one you publish or the one you skip over?
What does your feeling victimized have to do with Flarf or Conceptual poetry?
It does appear, given your repeated mentions of it here, as though you gain some pleasure feeling victimized by other poets, which is certainly comical, as you say.
But this has nothing substantive to do with either of these current trends in poetry, and we’re all baffled as to why you keep bringing it up.
Is it too much to ask for posters here to remain on topic?
I do want to respond to Bill Knott’s comment, which is right on, of course. This is Kenneth Goldsmith’s way of acknowledging that flarf often takes on ugly depictions (and language) and engages with it, whereas Conceptual Poetry, like most other contemporary poetries, actively avoids it to focus on other things.
My two cents!
It’s really one of the Seven Wonders of our ancient Poetry World that we’re still talking about the Days of Buffalo ’99. Kent Johnson, the Hercules of Po-Biz Argonauts, has truly out-Alexandrianed the Alexandrians in keeping this small dead fish alive. But I do think his version of the actual events, as written up in the Skanky Possum article ( http://www.flashpointmag.com/skanky.htm ) way back then, is pretty much correct.
One of the things that struck me at the time about what happened there was that in some ways the Poetics List managers sort of shot themselves in the (poetics) foot, since my muzzling for “overposting” took place in the midst of a list hullabaloo over some sarcastic, satirical & over-the-top posts by Gabriel Gudding about Marjorie Perloff, and her replies to the list. The occasion for my final muzzling there was a post I sent in in defense of Gudding’s Perloff postings. Of course on a supervised list such as the Poetics list the question of “free speech” and “rights” is purely internal to the workings of that community. & in general it seemed ot be the opinion of many old-time list members, as well as the list owners, that I was a troublesom over-poster & was damaging the quality of the list. Hence they went along with my special “review” status. Kent, Gabriel, Carlo & a few others raised a hue & cry, & they were subsequently “banished” along with me.
The poetry tribe is a funny kind of people.
Henry, it is indeed a wonder that you guys are still complaining about this a decade later.
Gretchen, you are such a cheerful person.
See how Conceptual Writing fares against two other poetic approaches, here (http://lime-tree.blogspot.com/2008/12/conceptual-writing-vs-haiku.html) and here (http://lime-tree.blogspot.com/2008/12/conceptual-writing-vs-keats.html).
I’d absolutely agree that, fundamentally, the editor makes the final call–period. I have no interest in policing folks’ editorial decisions. The one thing I’d note is (and it’s something I’ve pointed out before), I’m less likely to look into a new book in the *first* instance if I know there wasn’t any rigor behind the selection process. That’s because there are so many collections vying for one’s attention, I tend to play the odds and give the hardest look to books not published by buddies, spouses, students, etcetera, of the editor. Do I wish others would pick up this line of thinking, thereby creating a feedback loop ending in better editorial practices? Sure. Am I holding my breath?…
Without quite disagreeing with the overarching case for ethical editorial behavior you’re making, Seth, I’m curious if the following would change anything in your moral logic? Imagine something like the Olson/Creeley friendship, where each spent time reading 300-600 of their contemporaries (at a minimum), and determined each other to be among the very “best” writers they could locate, then initiated a friendship that blossomed, and thus began a process of publishing and supporting each other. In other words, what if this “friend” over there playing the xbox became one’s friend through an aesthetic affinity as much as the coincidence of being in some workshop together or being playstation buddies or what have you.
Hasn’t the ethical work of digging through those 600 manuscripts essentially already been done, except that one has dug through 600 contemporaries? Would that change anything in your strikingly imaginary scenerio?
In your highly imaginary scenario, are we imagining that the only person who would ever have published Robert Creeley was Charles Olson, and thus–without Olson’s cronyism–we would have been bereft of Creeley’s genius? I mean, the situation in the publishing industry is bad, but it’s never been *that* bad. If you’re better than 600 of your book-published contemporaries, you’ll find a home from your work *without* putting a thumb (or having a buddy put *his* thumb) on the scales. Best wishes,
Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, December 11th, 2008 by Kenneth Goldsmith.