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Conceptualism, Identity Politics & Globalization: A Response

By Kenneth Goldsmith

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The following is a response to “Arif Khan,” who took issues with my introduction to the Flarf & Conceptual Writing feature, in particular with my statement “Identity, for one, is up for grabs. Why use your own words when you can express yourself just as well by using someone else’s?” Mr. Khan stated, “Any one who claims to be above their identity is, of course, a liar. Much of this subjectless/agentless identity talk is performed by white, middle class folks who have nothing better to do with their time. It is really more of the white, transcendental ego marking identities as it elusively escapes interrogating its own presence.”

You can read my introduction and Mr. Khan’s comments in their context and entirety here.

—-

Arif,

The identity politics battles of the past twenty years have done wonders and have given voice to many that have been denied. And there is still so much work to be done: so many voices are still marginalized and ignored. It’s a long road ahead and every effort must be made to be made to ensure that those who have something to say have a place to say it and an audience to hear it. The importance of this work cannot be underestimated.

Identity is a slippery thing and no single approach can nail it. Also, citing the need for difference, we’re never going to feel the same way on anything — a good thing. We all come from different places and circumstances, which is something to be celebrated. To be prescriptive or to make generalizations regarding circumstances of economies, classes, religions and races is counterproductive.

I really don’t think that there’s a stable or essential “me.” I am an amalgamation of so many things: books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, televisions shows I’ve watched, all the exchange and sharing of thoughts during conversations with people — the melding of our minds, the song lyrics I’ve heard, the lovers I’ve loved. The discussion that we’re having right now is changing and challenging who I thought I was profoundly. And for that I’m grateful.

In fact, I’m a creation of many people and many ideas to the point where I feel that I’ve actually had very few original thoughts and ideas; to think that any of this was original would be blindingly egotistical. Sometimes I’ll think that I’ve had an original thought or feeling and then, at 2 a.m. while watching an old movie on TV that I hadn’t seen in many years, the protagonist will spout something that I had previously claimed as my own. In other words, I took his words (which, of course, weren’t really “his words” at all), internalized them and made them my own. This happens all the time.

Often — mostly unconsciously — I’ll model my identity of myself on some image that I’ve been pitched to by an advertisement. When I’m trying on clothes in a store, I will bring forth that image that I’ve seen in an ad and mentally insert myself and my image into it. It’s all fantasy. I would say that an enormous part of my identity has been adopted from advertising. I very much live in this culture; how could I possibly ignore such powerful forces? Is it ideal? Probably not. Would I like not to be so swayed by the forces of advertising and consumerism? Of course, but I would be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that this was a huge part of who I am as a member of this culture.

As a previous commenter mentioned, transgendered persons are deeply committed to not being what they were born into. So many people who are not thrilled with the way they were born courageously labor their whole lives to adopt new and fluid identities. Others, such as transsexual persons are in a constant state of remaking themselves. I feel inspired by such fluid and changeable notions of identity.

On the internet, these tendencies move in different directions. With much less commitment than it takes in meatspace, we can project various personas with mere stokes of a keyboard. In this chatroom, I’m a woman; on this blog, I’m a political conservative; in this forum, I’m a middle-aged golfer. And I never get called out for not being authentic or real. On the contrary, I am addressed as “madam,” or “you right-wing asshole.” In fact, Mr. Kahn, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were writing under a pseudonym right now. Not only would I forgive you, I’ve come to expect that the person I think I’m addressing on the internet isn’t really “that person.” Fascinating, no?

If my identity is really up for grabs and changeable by the minute — as I believe it is — it’s important that my writing reflect this state of ever-shifting identity and subjectivity. That can mean adopting voices that aren’t “mine,” subjectivities that aren’t “mine,” political positions that aren’t “mine,” opinions that aren’t “mine,” words that aren’t “mine,” because in the end, I don’t think that I can possibly define what’s “mine” and what isn’t.

BUT — and here’s where subjectivity enters — it’s my choices that make the work “mine.” I have chosen — for some specific reason — a certain text to appropriate or to reframe. For example, in a recent piece of mine, I have appropriated the entire interrogation session between Senator Larry Craig and the policeman who arrested him. I haven’t done a thing to the text, I’ve just reprinted the whole thing. Why? I thought it was such a revealing text, full of prejudice and hypocrisy from both sides. It was something much more profound — even surreal — than anything I could ever have invented. In the end, it’s a beautiful piece of writing.

Sometimes, by reproducing texts in a non-interventionist way, we can shed light on political issues in a more profound and illuminating way than we can by conventional critique. If we wished to critique globalism, for example, I can imagine that reproducing / framing the transcript as from yesterday’s G8 summit meeting where they refused to ratify climate control threats would reveal much more about the truth of the situation than I could possibly say. Often, I feel it’s better to let the text be what it is — generally, as in the case of the G8, they’ll incriminate and hang themselves with their own stupidity. I call this poetry.

I feel as writers we try too hard. No matter what we do with language, it will be expressive. How could it be otherwise? In fact, I feel it is impossible working with language not to express oneself. If we back off and let the material do it’s work, we might even in the end be able to surprise and delight ourselves with the results.

Peace,
Kenneth Goldsmith

Comments (47)

  • On July 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm Bobby wrote:

    Sorry, but why do you think it’s “profound and illuminating” that airport cops and senators are hypocritical and prejudiced, or that international diplomatic summits generate reams of stupidity? Isn’t that setting the bar awfully low for political art?

  • On July 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

    You’re overstating. If identity were “up for grabs and changeable by the minute,” the guardianship of people’s children could be randomly assigned to strangers all over the globe, I could withdraw money from your bank account without your consent, democratic election wouldn’t exist . . .

    Right?

    Stephen

    • On July 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm Don Share wrote:

      Well… When I was in the Netherlands, someone hijacked my Facebook account and did all sorts of interesting and naughty things with it. This makes me wonder how much K. is “overstating” things, now that you mention it, Stephen! Not to mention the status of democratic elections these days… and how easy it is for cybercriminals to hack bank accounts, etc.

      • On July 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

        But Don, people steal handbags all the time and it doesn’t mean that “other people’s handbags are up for grabs.” The transgression of a law or a rule or a custom does not prove the custom’s obsolescence.

        You can make phony phone calls all day long and you’ll still have to pay your taxes.

        • On July 9, 2009 at 4:13 pm Don Share wrote:

          Really? It sure does mean handbags are up for grabs!

          (As for taxes, people seem to get out of them all the time, but that’s outside my area of expertise.)

      • On July 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm Joseph Hutchison wrote:

        So, “I am my Facebook page”? “I am my bank account”? Seems to me you’re adopting a concept of selfhood as a constellation of externals. Not convincing.

        • On July 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm Don Share wrote:

          You’ve misquoted me there. Or should I say… the “me” who commented a while ago!

          • On July 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm michael robbins wrote:

            It would help (as usual) if people understood the argument (granted that Kenny is bastardizing it here) before absurdly concluding that it has any relevance whatsoever for child custody or handbag theft. Start with Hume & Locke. Make yr way up to Derek Parfit’s amazing Reasons & Persons. The point is that “identity” isn’t used in these arguments the way it is in the concept of “identity theft.” It’s a technical term.

            • On July 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

              Dear Michael,

              When he explains the methods of Conceptual Writing, Kenneth Goldsmith usually offers some version of the following, which he added to Silliman’s comment fields for the July 7, 2009 post:

              “it employs intentionally self and ego effacing tactics using uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts;”

              Claims such as this prompted my comment — Goldsmith wants to mingle what (I think) you call the “technical” meaning of identity with current concerns about intellectual property rights, identity theft, and so on. I question how much investment Conceptual Writers have in this, because they often don’t actually violate the customs they say they are violating. The definition of plagiarism, for example, hinges on deception. It is the willing misrepresentation of another person’s writing as your own. In other words, a silent lie has to be involved, and this cannot happen when you transcribe an already-published piece of writing and say “It’s not mine!” as Conceptual Writers more or less always do.

              I won’t digress here into discussing the many holes I see in the Conceptual method — I mean to say that I don’t understand your objection to talking about “identity theft” in relation to Conceptual Writing when the authors in this group more or less insist that we do. If you think ” ‘identity’ isn’t used in these arguments the way it is in the concept of ‘identity theft,” ‘ what do you make of the Conceptualist mission statements?

              And regarding Locke, his thoughts on identity in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding not only posed hard theological problems about the nature of the soul but also helped change the genre of biography as people then knew it, as you see reading Walton’s Life of Herbert and then Johnson’s Life of Richard Savage, to take some famous examples. Were these “technical” issues? — Could you explain what you mean by that word?

              Stephen

              • On July 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm michael robbins wrote:

                Stephen, this is precisely what I mean: if you’re aware of Locke’s arguments–which are technical in philosophical &, yes, theological senses–you are surely aware of the controversy among theologians that greeted his arguments regarding identity (see Jerrold Seigel’s “Personal Identity & Modern Selfhood: Locke”). So I don’t get the confusion about identity theft–while I’m not surprised to hear you, now, recognize behind the Conceptualists’ platform an extension of conversations we’ve been having about the nature of identity going back four hundred years, yr previous comments seemed to suggest their antics were taking place in an intellectual vacuum. And I really, really think you miss the humor behind their proclamations. I can’t hope to explain to you the difference between repurposing someone else’s words in an artwork & stealing someone’s SSN to clear out their bank account if you don’t understand it already. But I suspect you do.

                Let none of this be read as support for conceptual poetry, which doesn’t interest me even a little. I find it vapid, which I guess it’s supposed to be, which I find boring. But I was taken aback at the absence from the thread of a recognition of the philosophical context of Kenny’s comments.

                • On July 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

                  For sure I’ve seen the INTENTION of humor and intellectual playfulness in the sensationalism of the texts explaining Conceptual Writing (not to say that intention succeeds), but I miss it entirely in the above letter to Arif, which sounds pretty earnest. If it is as earnest as I read it, it contains significant confusion over what it means to be made up of different influences and the viability of extending any one of them into a plausible identity or persona. But I suppose the letter could be written in the persona of Earnest Kenny, and that its contents aren’t real, and that should be noteworthy because, on the terms Conceptual Writing provides, the fake letter from Earnest Kenny would be just as real as one from Real Kenny, since Real Kenny is made up of disparate and conflicting strands of uncontrollable influence none of which were original even to their own sources, and since any of these, we are supposed to think, can make up an identity . . .

                  At which point we all blow our brains out. Of course the problem is with the terms this writing project sets out, which I do think are handled in such a way as to overstate the consequences of internet communication’s effects on identity, and this prompted my original comment. But then it’s all a joke I’m told.

                  I think you give Conceptual Writing too much credit as far as humor goes, but if you find it vapid and I find it worse, let’s forget about it.

        • On July 17, 2009 at 9:35 am Matt wrote:

          There is no self.

    • On July 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      I wonder why child abuse and stealing from people’s checking accounts is the logical next step. Isn’t that kind of extreme. The ridiculous is never a really good argument. I guess i’m so sick of people who want to attack Michael Jackson saying “well I wouldn’t let him take care of my kid” as if a dead man is up for low paying childcare gigs all of a sudden. I think you are setting the discourse bar pretty low to inject these examples into the conversation. I mean what do you mean besides wanting to blow things out of proportion. Don’t you think we’re interested in your actual thoughts.

      • On July 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

        Repeating myself from my reply to Michael’s comment above — I brought up legal issues having to do with identity because Conceptual Writers, in explaining their methods, regularly invoke the transgression of legal and ethical concepts, “plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification,” significant in places outside the writing world.

    • On July 14, 2009 at 10:18 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      Does democratic election exist? I don’t think so. Didn’t we see it trampled on twice in recent memory in this country. Didn’t Barak Obama run as one guy and isn’t he ruling as another. I think transgender people are trying to become the people they really are, not the ones they were born. That’s the only place I disagree with Kenny. I wonder why the slippery identiity notion is so enraging. As one easily pegged as involved in “identity politics” I’ve always felt that identity is always multiple and inexact and part of the joy of making work is that it was never very different from the web. I can’t control how my work is read and once I send the message out in any fashion even standing reading in front of the audience I am misunderstood necessarily. I feel passionate about the notion that I’m not my poem, that I’m writing it. I suspect there’s a kind of privilege that people suspect is lurking behind Kenny’s post. The idea that people write real bios with their awards listed is somehow obnoxious while the poems themselves are constructed from many sources. Would it be more appropriate to make up bios so that the aesthetic would be consistent. Wouldn’t that be inconsistent, or even a way of saying that the work is inauthentic, just like the bios. I guess I am puzzled by the rage here at a pretty straight ahead declaration of pastiche as accurate to the reality of identity. I usually get treated like a freak at airports, but around the time the war began in Iraq I happened to have a crewcut and was travelling with a camouflage duffel bag. People started treating me really great. I had such a duffel bag because I was living in Provincetown that summer and it was cheap. The bag. I realized the people at the airport thought I was military and no longer cared that I was an inappropriately gendered female – because of my willingness to serve my country. Airports are political and illuminating. Fixity is impossible in life or art it seems to me. Is this really debatable. Am I so privileged to assert this. It feels true.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm thomas brady wrote:

    ATTENTION!

    DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PERSONAL BELONGINGS UNATTENDED.

    HARRIET MANAGEMENT IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST ITEMS.

    UH…DON SHARE, PLEASE RETURN THE HANDBAG.

    WE SEE YOU.

    THANK YOU.

    SORRY ABOUT THAT, FOLKS.

    CARRY ON.

    ATTENTION!

    DO NOT LEAVE…

  • On July 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm thomas brady wrote:

    THE AESTHETIC HEIRARCHY:

    IMAGINATION = HARMONIOUS

    FANCY = FITFULLY BLENDED

    HUMOR = ^&^%^&)+_#!!!$!@! JAMMED TOGETHER

    OLD POLITICS = IDENTITY ACCORDED BY LAW

    NEW POLITICS = WANTS NEW IDENTITY.

    CHAOS = RANDOM

    MANIFESTO-ISM = MOMMY ISSUES

  • On July 9, 2009 at 6:35 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Kenneth Goldsmith sounds a lot like Keats here. It’s his negative capability, deciding not to be anybody in particular – just opening up to texts & experiences, reflecting them back, like a happy pond… yet, at the same time, it’s the poet’s unique kingly gracious authoritative gesture, that sacred “choose”, which identifies his creativity, which is le sacre touche royale… Romantique, bien sur!

    • On July 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      p.s. reminds me of a classic confrontation I witnessed at Amherst College once, in 1971… I went up with some RISD friends to hear John Ashbery read… in the middle of the Ivy-garlanded presentation of drifty-tres-charmante Ashberiana, a very tall Black jazz musician (part of the band who had played the opener) in a dashiki, stood up at the back of the hall & started screaming at Ashbery… saying he was basically an idiot, didn’t know what was happening, could not relate to the reality of the (political) times, was a privileged whitey, more or less…

      - I went down to the cafeteria after he stormed out & had a talk with him over coffee… he was actually quite friendly, though he thought I was a typical white preppy… I didn’t talk to him about my Af-Am sister, & all that… but I went back to report to Mr. Ashbery, who invited us all to a party afterward…

      - I worshipped Ashbery at the time… all that slippery non-identity… tres courant, tres chic…

      eh………… Kenneth’s 1st paragraph above sounds like patronizing boilerplate… has he ever been anywhere, HIMSELF? I mean with his real,actual, sweaty, embarassing identity? Aside from Florida?

      This is just a rhetorical question.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 7:05 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Those who put the concept of identity up for grabs are mostly those whose identity has always been default. Not the hyphenated for whom it’s a continuing issue.

    Problem is the identity theft here only works in one direction, privileging the conceptual poet who pilfers magpie pretties from the phone book. Kenny and his gang still expect to have their names up in lights, to get the grant and the prize and tenure.

    • On July 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm Iain wrote:

      I don’t understand what you’re argument is supposed to be. There’s a difference between saying identity is fluid and identity is non-existent.

      The very act of naming is an appropriation.

      You seem to be arguing as if kenny’s use of his name is hypocritical in some way. Not only is it not hypocritical (as if that were a reason to discount someone’s work), it’s what he just said was the whole mechanism of his work.

      When a thing is named, both the name and the thing being named are changed forever. Kenny demonstrates this precisely in the act of placing his “own” name against texts he “didn’t write”.

      • On July 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

        That would be a “your” not a “you’re.”

        I’m saying that the more the artist insists that the “I” has disappeared, the more naked and ruthless is the egotistical struggle for glory, fame and power based on the accomplishments of that supposed vacuity.

        • On July 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm Iain wrote:

          While we’re giving each other un-asked-for language lessons, here’s something you should know about language on teh intarwebs:

          correcting typos in comment sections (a place where text takes on many properties of spoken vernacular) is a passive-aggressive way of saying “fuck you, i don’t want to talk to you”.

          My apologies for the lesson if that’s what you had intended.

          • On July 10, 2009 at 2:58 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

            F-bomb not intended.

            • On July 10, 2009 at 3:56 pm Iain wrote:

              right, so no need for you keep responding if you don’t want to.

              your response is still framed as if anyone is saying “the ‘I’ has disappeared”. No one said that. All that’s being is that the “I” does not demarcate a solid unchanging identity that can be grasped or “purely” read. In fact, your own subjective ad hominem reading of K. Goldsmith’s work only really further demonstrates this. It’s a baseless and reactionary reading of him. Which is fine, of course, but “says” as much of the reader as it does the work being read.

              • On July 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

                Au contraire, Iain, my reading of Kenny G.’s post is based on several decades’ observation of the poetry scene both here and in Latin America (where folks sometimes speak lightly of “la disjunción radical del yo”): aesthetic pretensions of selflessness often mask highly ego-driven careerist behavior.

                I don’t mean to apply that to Kenny personally; I don’t know him, he’s probably a sweet guy, and he has every right to sign his name to his post as he advocates a poetics I might have issues with. Whether he has a claim on Senator Craig’s hapless interview with the airport cop is another question.

                “Reactionary” is the first label that post-avant writers, from Silliman on down, reach for when confronted with disagreement, fudging the line between the poetic and the political.

              • On July 10, 2009 at 6:31 pm michael robbins wrote:

                Wow what a radical idea! Like when Petrarch had it. Or Montaigne. Or John Donne. Not, of course, to mention Nietzsche, Marx, Freud. Is it 1966? When are people going to realize how trite it is to keep saying the “I” does not “demarcate a solid unchanging identity”? Guess what? No one ever thought it did. Not Plato. Not Descartes. Not Margaret Thatcher. It’s the most boring truism in the world.

                Now, if you’d like to specify whether you’re agreeing with Foucault, or Derek Parfit, or Derrida, or Hume, or just what the hell beyond a complete banality you have in mind—well, that, too, would be a conversation everyone’s had a million times before. But at least it would be specific, instead of just freshman chatter.

                • On July 10, 2009 at 6:32 pm michael robbins wrote:

                  That reply was to Iain. This whole “reply” system doesn’t work at all.

                • On July 10, 2009 at 7:09 pm Iain wrote:

                  not sure what your point is Michael, I totally agree. Just responding to the idea that KG is arguing that “identity” doesn’t exist, which he’s never said.

                  And actually, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t actually seem like this argument is even about identity at all. Just copyright law. Not sure why everyone wants to convolute the discussion by trying to guess what people’s intentions are.

                  • On July 10, 2009 at 7:40 pm michael robbins wrote:

                    Oh, OK.

                    • On July 10, 2009 at 10:17 pm Iain wrote:

                      feel I should clarify (why, i don’t know). I don’t agree that “it’s the most boring truism in the world”. I think it’s infinitely fascinating. But certainly, everyone you mentioned, Margaret Thatcher included, has explored the idea in interesting ways. Also, I can’t imagine that KG would deny these people’s inescapable influence on him. Don’t think he’s ever argued he’s doing something “new” on this level.

                      And I suppose I agree that the discussion of this truism is often banal on this level of discourse. However, dealt with in art/poetry it can often become new and interesting. I mean, I don’t read Basho’s frog poem to replace the experience of going to a pond. or whatever, just saying that art often deals interestingly with issues that might otherwise be boring.

                      (o god, this is going to be an unreadably narrow block of text, so sorry)

  • On July 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm Paisley Rekdal wrote:

    Goldsmith’s observations about how we have (commercial, political, etc.) identities subliminally imposed upon or self-selected by us all are fascinating and–from my experience–very true. Still, I think his examples ignore the essential problem that I think Arif was getting at: certain imposed identities are primarily and consistently constructed in order to negate the worth and (for lack of a better word) “meaning” of the individual upon whom this identity is being imposed. And the individual who is subjected to this socially/externally constructed identity has to fight against (or, worse, implicitly accept) what this identity means to other people on a day-to-day, encounter-to-encounter basis. This is a fundamentally different scenario from, say, channel surfing and taking on the language and social tics of an ad for a day or an hour, or from taking up golf for a season, or from absorbing song lyrics and t.v. dialogue and incorporating it into your speech. This kind of subliminal imposition is still largely self-selected, since we are the ones who (most of the time) get to choose what channels we listen to, what movies and books we’ll be entertained by, whether or not we’ll own a t.v. But the racial and gendered identity means that certain “filters of choice” aren’t always available, because instead of choosing ways that we might present ourselves to others through the infinitely various and mediated alternate selves we are continually presented with, we instead have to live with the very narrow mediated alternate selves that are presented to us. That small degree of greater choice makes a powerful difference. Goldsmith is right to point out that identity is fluid and often negatively constructed for everyone since it’s filtered through so many media (which are also most often designed to sell us things). Still, Arif’s point can’t be ignored–these negative constructions are far more prevalent and damaging for certain people than for others.

  • On July 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Identity is fluid. The project of the “conceptual poets” seems similar to the work of that outfit in Chicago, in the news today, who dug up & disposed of bodies in a graveyard in order to sell their plots to new customers. A new spin on “Dead Poets (ie., poetry) Society”.

  • On July 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Identity’s up for grabs?

    One would never know it by reading the Conceptual and Flarf poets’ very professional, very protocoled Author Bio statements in the journals, Museum-performance brochures, and University of Arizona Conceptual Poetry Conference program notes.

    It needs a bit more investigation, I’d propose, what we mean when we talk about Identity, its various rejections and back-door applications in “avant-garde” poetry…

    Transcend the Unitary Self; Promote your Authorial Data.

    Kent

    • On July 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm thomas brady wrote:

      “Identity’s up for grabs?

      One would never know it by reading the Conceptual and Flarf poets’ very professional, very protocoled Author Bio statements in the journals, Museum-performance brochures, and University of Arizona Conceptual Poetry Conference program notes.”

      Nice unmasking, Kent.

      Conceptual/Flarf is manifesto-ism plying social truism to the gullible.

    • On July 17, 2009 at 9:54 am Matt wrote:

      Kent, would you consider Thich Nhat Hanh a careerist hypocrite too? As a Buddhist, he doesn’t believe in the self, and yet he writes books with his name on them. Same goes for every Buddhist monk/author I’ve heard of….

  • On July 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm Poetry Snark wrote:

    Brion Gysin was right. Literature is still “50 years behind painting.” Can someone explain to me why it’s considered interesting or relevant to simply steal ideas once prominent in another genre and apply them to your own?

  • On July 12, 2009 at 7:50 am thomas brady wrote:

    A wag who says ‘I am a good poet because I am influenced by the best poets, and you sir, suck, because you are influenced by the abstract painters,’ would, I think, on first blush, be not entirely in the wrong.

  • On July 14, 2009 at 2:41 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Bobby Baird, former editor of Chicago Review, posted this today at his (collective) blog Digital Emunction News
    http://www.digitalemunction.com/:

    “Anthony Lane has Flarf’s Number”

    (though for some reason he keeps call­ing it “Baron Cohen”):

    How effi­cient, though, is embar­rass­ment as a comic device? It’s a quick hit, and it cor­rals the audi­ence on the side of smug­ness; but its vic­to­ries are Pyrrhic…. To scour the world for little people you can taunt, and then pal up with the hip and rich: that is not an advis­able path for any comic to pursue, let alone one as sharp and mer­cu­r­ial as Baron Cohen. All his genius, at present, is going into publicity…But the work itself turns out to be flat and fool­ish, bereft of…good cheer: wholly unsuit­able for chil­dren, yet pro­pelled by a nag­ging pueril­ity that will appeal only to those in the vortex of puberty, or to adults who have failed to progress beyond it.

  • On July 14, 2009 at 3:03 pm Don Share wrote:

    The “… pal up with the hip and rich” part throws me in this analogy!

    • On July 14, 2009 at 5:35 pm Bobby wrote:

      Hm, then this extension of it probably won’t make sense either, though I think it’s also fitting:

      RODEO NATIONAL ANTHEM SECTION: Would be great if we had a series of shots where we see hundreds of people in the rodeo audience driving home, in their “pickups” or whatever, troubled at the thought that hundreds of other people in the audience continued to cheer even after the “Bush drinking blood” line. We could focus on one particular couple who have had complicated feelings about the war in Iraq from the beginning, even though they (1) live in the South and (2) enjoy rodeo. (Although too unbelievable?) A nice touch might be: This family sees Borat hitchhiking, picks him up, he sits in back seat of car with kids, takes shit in back seat, then pretends to be humping the family dog, and we see, from their reaction, that they really are rednecks after all.

      PAM ANDERSON (2): The scene where, during “rehearsals” for the naked-wrestling, balls-in-the-face scene, Sacha takes a break to call his powerful agent on his cell phone, to see how negotiations with Pamela Anderson’s powerful agent are going.

      (source)

  • On July 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm anti-poet wrote:

    but who grabs it?

  • On July 17, 2009 at 11:45 pm really? Harriet denied my comment? wrote:

    all i said was

    “so who is grabbing?”

    of course there is no self amongst all these egos which is, let’s face it, what poetry is really about

  • On July 18, 2009 at 7:33 am Lilac wrote:

    A little Stephen Colbert anyone?

    Perhaps Mr. Goldsmith, you mean to say that when you are afraid to say something “as yourself”, you say it “as someone else”.

    What is missed in all of this I think is that most people don’t say anything at all regardless of the identity with which they choose to link a statement.

  • On July 28, 2009 at 12:39 pm graywyvern wrote:

    the tension between those at the powerful end of the spectrum & those with less, when it’s projected onto a different spectrum (from those who identify with their context to those who don’t), results in emotionally-charged gibberish debates.

    i think we can all agree there should be more freedom & equality in the world, and most of us would agree it’s not a good thing to have your ankle chained to the wall of the room of your birth.

    the poetry of the privileged is not to be held accountable for the system that gives or withholds those privileges, i should think. and more poets than not, cling rather precariously to a niche lower down; could tell a thing or two about despair & desperation, if they chose. this makes them not morally inferior to the severely dispossessed, however.

    what is at stake, then, in this purely aesthetic debacle? am i jealous when a claque of fellow poets modestly succeed at promotion by means of a gimmick, whereas my own gimmicks do not? do i pass by the homeless on my own block, only to enrage myself at the treatment of Iranian protesters in the poem i post online? do i pride myself at knowing three words of the language my grandparents spoke, who might not understand what i write today but who’d be proud that someone in the family turned out to be “a writer”? do i prefer to consider the books i have read, rather than the jails i have on occasion found myself trapped inside of? (oh, i made the wrong choice there, for sure!)

    no, identity is problematical for everyone except the wielder of torture–who knows for sure that his victim is a nobody.

    m.

  • On July 28, 2009 at 1:18 pm Don Share wrote:

    Octavio Paz:

    “The enemy is nobody, the anger involves nobody. One goes from humility to anger, from anger to humility: to write as well as one can, not in order to be better than the others, but in order to contribute to the elaboration of a text the aim of which is to represent neither me nor the others; to advance unarmed across the paper, to lose oneself in the act of writing, to be nobody and oneself at the same time.”


Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Kenneth Goldsmith.