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Flarf is Officially Dead & Stop Laughing at ‘Cock’!

By Craig Santos Perez

So some claim that flarf died after Dan Hoy’s essay “The Virtual Dependency of the Post-Avant and the Problematics of Flarf: What Happens when Poets Spend Too Much Time Fucking Around on the Internet.” Others claim flarf suffered a “mob attack” during the controversy surrounding Michael Magee’s poem “Their Glittering Asian Guys are Gay.” Others blame flarf’s untimely death on the timely publication of the flarf folio in Poetry Magazine. Some even say that flarf died when Gary Sullivan–one of its founders–cut his hand.

Despite all the drama, flarf managed to survive…until december 5, 2009, when flarf took its last gasp at the bowery poetry club in new york city. r.i.p. (rest in prosody).

who killed flarf, you might be asking? the answer will shock you! read below to see which member of flarf destroyed the movement.

now i wasnt there, but here’s what i’ve heard through the blogvine: someone was performing flarf at the bowery and NADA GORDON(!) just couldnt take it anymore. posted on her facebook then made public on her blog, she explains why she killed flarf:

[...] the nervous macho laughter after each “dirty word” was distracting and incongruous. [...] I am hardly a prude. I am known as something of a humorist. There was something about that laughter, though, that made me feel almost violent. [...] It was not judgmental so much as an emotional, visceral observation on my part. I didn’t want to censor the laughers at all, but I did want to tell them that I resented their laughter and was annoyed by it.

[...] Yeah, her laughter felt macho to me, too, like it was piercing the text in a really interruptive and egotistical way. [...] I don’t know. Maybe I was totally off base in making what I called that “intervention,” [...] I didn’t give them a withering look, and even if I had, how would they have seen, since their backs were to me and it was pretty dark in there?

yes, i know, this is the critique that many have leveled against flarf in the past, but it’s different when it comes from within. but since surrealism survived breton, perhaps flarfers/laughers can stand up and keep going even after being indicted by one of their own.

*

i am only kidding! flarf is alive and well. nada gordon was not actually referring to flarf, but to an equally strange phenomenon: laughing after each ‘dirty word’ …at a poetry reading.

on 12/5/09, arianna reines read at the bowery, and a few people laughed throughout the reading at the ‘dirty words’. in the middle of the reading, reines gave the audience an opportunity to speak. gordon ‘intervened.’ causing quite a stir.

one of the ‘laughers’ (Jenna) writes for JEZEBEL magazine. she captured the experience in an article titled: “Let the Laughers Stand Up!”: Scenes from the World’s Most Annoying Poetry Reading.”

According to Jenna, the following scene occurred after gordon’s intervention:

“Let the laughers stand up!” shouted a woman who I think was Eileen Myles. “Let’s interrogate the laughers.” Eileen fucking “rock star of poetry” Myles was mad at us. (Was she serious? I couldn’t tell.) A few people I didn’t know stood up, then sat down again. Others raised their hands. I stood, copped to being a laugher, then felt sheepish, like I was taking up the flag of a country I wasn’t sure I could defend. We tried to make a case for ourselves — “I laughed, ’cause it was good,” I offered, kind of lamely, over the shouts; my girlfriend sat, open mouthed. My guy friend said, “I thought it was an absolutely savage satire of the idiocy of pornography.”

“There was laughter as soon as the word ‘cock’ appeared!” shot back a man who found our defense unconvincing. It was then that I realized, these people weren’t questioning our etiquette: they were questioning our politics. This man had appointed himself to the task of stopping me and the other laughers from ganging up on the nice lady poet. To this crowd, we might as well have been frat boys crushing cans on our foreheads. We were making people “uncomfortable” with our “snickering” and it was time to “interrogate” that.

wow, sounds a little like the laughers are justifying flarf to a flarfist who’s interrogating their motives.  is the universe spinning the wrong direction?

you can listen to the entire reading & interrogation here on pennsound. you can here flarf die (the intervention) about midway thru (though i recommend you listen to whole thing to hear the ‘laughers’) (it’s only about 10-15 minutes total).

q: what do you think about this whole fiasco? what do you find annoying /inappropriate/in-need-of-intervention at poetry readings? what does the future hold for flarf?

*

so this reminds me of a reading at st mark’s i went to when i was in NYC in 2008. the readers were steve mccaffery, marjorie welish, and karen mac cormac. i was sitting by myself, and who ends up sitting next to me: the one and only charles bernstein! because i am a huge bernstein fan, i was too nervous to speak to him. so instead, i listened to him. even tho he wasnt one of the readers, he was making all kinds of interesting noises during the reading. at first, i found it distracting. but then i started to really listen to how his body was responding to the poems…and i started hearing the poems through his noises. a new kind of hermeneutics perhaps. and even though i couldn’t tell what orifices some of bernstein’s sounds were emerging from, so many new and exciting orifices of meaning opened up in the poem for me.

you think i’m kidding? i took pics of the readers and when i set my iphone on my lap it accidentally took a pic of my neighbors. see the weird angle (pick image to enlarge):

Comments (87)

  • On January 20, 2010 at 8:51 am Jordan wrote:

    I wonder when the next issue of Flarf Beat will arrive. If Flarf really were the second coming of L=A=N=G=E=T=C that thing would have come out ten or twenty times by now.

  • On January 20, 2010 at 10:54 am Matt wrote:

    i like all of the following things, in no particular order:

    -flarf
    -ariana reines
    -nada gordon
    -jezebel
    -eileen myles
    -people laughing at poetry readings
    -satire about porn
    -porn

    in my book, everybody wins!

  • On January 20, 2010 at 11:24 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Not to be too “negative,” but the following might be more to the point, at this juncture, than Dan Hoy’s essay:

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

    (Though the discussion under “Hazards” is perfect material for a cutting Flarfista riposte… Caution when hot!)

  • On January 20, 2010 at 11:24 am Dan Hoy wrote:

    It’s not uncommon to have somebody ruin your good time in the way they partake of that exact same good time. It doesn’t matter if the reaction is ‘legitimate’ or not (I know plenty of people whose ‘natural’ laughter sounds fake and overbearing) — it’s like there’s something intrinsically violating about it, like somebody sticking their hands in your food. The Q&As that Ariana typically does at her readings are I think designed to antagonize this tension between presentation and reception. In other words, the real intervention here is from Ariana Reines, who creates a space of interpersonal tension and dares the audience to puncture it, that is, to reveal themselves. I was at this particular reading. Nada took her up on the dare. What was lost in the ensuing rabble was the nuance of the original comment, and that’s that Nada was emphasizing her own discomfort with the laughter, and this discomfort (rather than the laughter itself) is what she found noteworthy. Of course you say something like that at a crowded poetry reading and all nuance is immediately swallowed up by the crowd. This is the nature of public space. Which is why it’s only natural to get defensive if you’re the object of this remark, and why it’s only natural for the crowd to respond to this defensiveness with defensiveness of its own. I’m sure Nada knew her remark, however nuanced it was, would be instantly reduced to a simple barb, and intended it to also be received this way. But all that aside, my feeling (Nada, apologies if I’m misconstruing) is that the real intention behind the remark was to participate in Ariana’s poetry rather than critique the response to it. I say this because there’s nothing remarkable about Nada’s reaction to the laughter. Her reaction is basically my reaction to an audience every time I’m witnessing or part of some staged or improvised event. Doesn’t matter if I feel totally alienated or swept up in some kind of pep rally euphoria. There is always something uncanny and dislocating about it, which paradoxically makes me feel more in the moment, or more here, as it were, even as it feels like it can’t really be happening. That dislocation, to me at least, is the real poetry (or I guess meta-poetry) at a poetry reading, or anywhere else. It’s also I think something core to Ariana’s poetry, as well as her delivery of it. In other words it’s no accident that this happened at one of her readings. That’s what I’m trying to get at here. No one is really talking about her strategy as a poet, just the tactical cock and tits, as if these terms in and of themselves are what instigated the event. It also doesn’t surprise me that someone from the flarf collective would be the other primary participant here. It only looks like a paradox if we’re journalists.

    • On January 20, 2010 at 11:46 am Peter Greene wrote:

      @CSPerez: Your Bernstein story made me think…what about an experimental audience restriction specifying that only non-verbal, non-oral responses would be permitted? Poetry isolated as the only verbal event in a sea of grunts and armpit farts…

      PG

      • On January 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm csperez wrote:

        hey PG, i like your idea! it reminds me of something someone told me that duncan once said:

        “the audience of poetry does not clap
        it endures whatever excitement or pleasure
        and seeks to dwell through the performance
        and the mystery performed.

        in hell the damned clap continuously”

        c

    • On January 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm csperez wrote:

      @ dan hoy (whose comment is way above),

      thx for your thoughtful comment (i really love your essay by the way).

      you almost make it sound like what happened was destined to happen–all very natural. listening to it (a quite different experience from being there) it all seemed very accidental and very awkward to me. ariana didnt really get what nada was saying at first. seems kind of odd if so designed. being a fan of ariana’s work, it’s clear that ‘tactical cock and tits’ is part of her strategy (tho just one part–and i agree with nada that it’s quite limiting to read her work as a ‘savage satire of pornography’ as one of the laughers claims).

      so i was very surprised that a primary participant was from the flarf collective, which embraces inappropriate laughter. why weren’t you surprised? besides the fact that you are not a journalist?

      c

      • On January 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm csperez wrote:

        oops, thot i was posting the above comment at the end of the comment field, hence the ‘way above’.

        c

      • On January 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm Dan Hoy wrote:

        @ Craig: I was trying to call attention to the fact that Ariana’s Q&As are part of her overall poetic strategy (which includes performance), and that this strategy is one of disruption and dislocation. That’s what I mean when I say it’s no accident that this happened at an Ariana Reines reading. In other words I’m trying to situate the event in its actual context and articulate the coordinates that allowed it to occur in the first place. I also think you could make an argument that this strategy intersects certain strategies associated with flarf, and by that I mean disruption and discomfort. Tactics are (or should be) determined by the strategy, so it can be misleading to assume alignments based on a tactical congruence, since tactics can be common across conflicting strategies and objectives. In this instance the assumption is that “laughter” following “cock” equals “flarf”, and that Nada policing the laughers (which wasn’t what happened, which I also tried to clarify) is somehow out of character and self-contradictory. My view, and again this is informed by the situation, and by situation I mean the actual psychic space of the Bowery Poetry Club at that moment as determined by Ariana’s poetry, is that the laughter was not the real disruption – the real disruption was created by Ariana, in daring the audience to speak, and then shaped by Nada, in speaking up. That’s why I say the paradox in Nada chastising those who were laughing (which again is not really what happened) is only apparent, not actual. That she leveraged the disruption to highlight her own discomfort is about as in character as you can get for somebody associated with flarf. This is not to say that Ariana writes flarf, or is aligned with flarf, or exhibits flarf tendencies, which is what’s implied by how you frame the piece and what prompted me to comment in the first place. Despite the use of ‘dirty words’, I think there’s a difference in tactical execution, and the strategies, though intersecting, support differing objectives (in other words: in what ways are you being disruptive and to what purpose?). But even saying this is problematic since the utility of ‘flarf’ as a grouping mechanism is questionable. At this point I think it obfuscates more than elucidates when comparing this poet or that poet. A more interesting question would be to ask in what ways individual poets within the flarf collective have more in common with poets outside the collective than within it, or to take a step back and start drawing new topographies across the poetic landscape (letting all the marketing labels like ‘school of quietude’ and ‘conceptual writing’ atrophy out of existence), or to step even further back and redefine what it is to be ‘poetic’. What is a poetic act? This is a high stakes question and has almost nothing to do with poets or writing poems, yet it’s a question that is central to Ariana’s poetry.

        • On January 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm csperez wrote:

          hey dan,

          thx for another brilliant comment! i hope you dont mind, but i’m gonna copy and paste your comment at the way bottom & then respond down there–just an easier way for folks to keep up with the main thread as opposed to all these mini threads–

          see you down there–
          c

        • On January 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

          Dan,

          Lots that’s of interest here. However, your generous account of what those putting the spotlight on the laughers “really intended” is complicated, and somewhat decidedly belied, by the aggressively polemical (to put it mildly) postings, after the fact, of those who called the laughers out!

          See Thom Donovan’s comments below, for example. Also Gordon’s and Myles’s, shortly after the reading. We all fall prey to over-theorizing things, from time to time, and I think that’s what is happening in your comment.

          The important question, it seems to me, is this: Was the event merely some bizarre and isolated eruption of correctness on the part of a few poets throwing their self-righteous weight around, or was it reflective of more broadly held attitudes and assumptions within a poetic community?

          Some of the follow-up I refer to seems, disturbingly, to point to the latter. As do other things, unfortunately…

          In any case, your question, “What is a poetic act?” is a great one.

  • On January 20, 2010 at 11:32 am Peter Greene wrote:

    I’d like to proffer my own new movement(s) on paper, a syncretic meeting of the random language of flarf, the visual methodology of Pollock, and my own personal addition. I call it ‘shart’.

    PG

  • On January 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm Nada Gordon wrote:

    I didn’t mean it as a barb. I hardly had time to think about it, actually. It just kind of came out.

  • On January 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    The below is a perfect case in point for why our conversations should not be happening primarily on Facebook.

    I co-curated the Reines/Copp event at SEGUE and below are my contributions to two vital exchanges which occured on FB, one at Michael Nicoloff’s FB blog, the other at my own.

    For “friends” of Nicholoff/myself you can back-track to these exchanges. I thot to cut n’ paste the entire comment streams (which were long) but then thot better of people’s privacy…

    Here’s a comment I posted to the comment stream at Nicoloff’s FB blog:

    “I was at the event and these people–Jezebel Jeanna and her beau–stuck out like sore thumbs in the worst possible way. So affected; so posturing; so inappropriate (and violent, really) their feigned laughter; wearing their arrogance on their sleeves. Did anyone read Eileen’s excoriating post about them in the Jezebel comments? It’s right on… On the other hand, I *do* feel quite ambivalent about inviting questions/comments as a gesture towards “participation.” In many ways, this seems to me the most perfunctory gesture towards participation one can make to an audience at a poetry reading, in which one’s attending the reading at all–as performance or recitation–is a radical act within our distracted culture…”

    I also REALLY liked what Arianna was saying about the lost “savagery” of Baudelaire’s French. What a fascinating translation problem she identifies.

    I agree with Nada: women’s laughter, unfortunately, can be violently masculinist (“macho”) too. Hence Eileen’s referring to Jeanna as a “pitbull.” Which is to say, the tool of phallocentric violence. Googling Jeanna, I find out she is a model… hmmm. Her closing arguments about poetry being a disinhibitor for passions is specious and moralizing. Rags like Jezebel, supposedly “for women,” are made of such stuff…

    And here are a few comments from a comment stream about the Jezebel post/SEGUE reading at my FB blog:

    “December 8, 2009 at 8:40pm · Thom Donovan Context for poetry is something I give considerable thought to. It is a vexed question for me. On the one hand I believe in discourse, and that the most valuable kinds of discourse are usually achieved in relatively small numbers. On the other, I would like poetry to speak to a larger group, especially in the interest of raising consciousness
    and giving people tools I believe poetry may provide them with. In the case of Jeanna/beau–these were not naive non-poetry/non-SEGUE crowd folks wandering off the street to check things out. To be frank, they were/are snobs. And they are, also to be frank, the people I wish poetry was able to overcome/despatch with–for their cynicism, and smugness, and arrogance, and class warfare (that’s right! Myles nailed it on the head by citing the class privilege of these two enfant terribles). An afterthought about all of this reflection on last Saturday is that the proceedings were entirely *atypical* of what usually goes on at SEGUE/poetry readings in my experience. How often does a poet entertain comments/questions/interruptions? That Jeanna frames the SEGUE reading as exemplary of what’s wrong with poetry/poets reveals her blissful ignorance of the aesthetic communities created by reading series like SEGUE. The laughter of Jeanna and her beau was a deeply reactionary and cynical one. Would that poetry could evoke a laughter that was not reactive. That’s something I would want more from poetry of any ilk or conversation. Poets need to get outside their largely self-imposed ghettos for sure, but the way to do so is NOT to cater to folks like Jeanna. Rather to build deeper bridges with artists, intellectuals, activists, and culture workers outside the realm/confines of poetry. People with whom poets share common goals and values. By this means poetry will gain more consequences than it has had in recent times. That poetry *is* so consequential for many of us I believe makes poetry community a laboratory or marsh of sorts for deep cultural longings that have to do with engagement, and activity, and socio-political participation/efficacy. So the seriousness one brings to poetry is nothing for anyone, and certainly not the likes of one of Jezebel’s staff writers, to raise their nose at.”

    • On January 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

      This is bullshit. You’re in a public space, people laugh at poems about cocks, period. You don’t stand up & chastise them unless you’re a complete asshole. And yes, this does make yr anti-negativity stance seem like a bad joke.

  • On January 20, 2010 at 1:41 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    As to Thom Donovan’s remarkably mean-spirited, ad hominem comment above:

    I fear it does put his post chastising “negative” reviewing in a new light…

    • On January 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm Joshua wrote:

      Er, what?

    • On January 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm Matt wrote:

      joshua took the words right out of my mouth. what are you talking about kent?

      • On January 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm john wrote:

        Kent’s contrasting Thom’s comment here:

        “stuck out like sore thumbs in the worst possible way. So affected; so posturing; so inappropriate (and violent, really) their feigned laughter; wearing their arrogance on their sleeves . . . ”

        with Thom’s recent post against negative criticism.

        I agree, Kent. Thom’s defense of professional listenership norms is out there in classical-music-don’t-shuffle-your-papers-or-applaud-at-the-wrong-time land.

  • On January 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm Michael Robbins wrote:

    I especially despise, in the most personal terms possible, the presumption that “we” know that “their” laughter is “reactionary,” that “they” are “affected,” but “we,” the true defenders of “poetry,” are serious beings whose love for our art is so profound that it couldn’t possibly be understood by lowly bloggers. Indeed, we find it remarkable that we have to wipe our asses from time to time, that the winged horse will not do it for us.

    • On January 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm Matt wrote:

      were you actually there at the event, sweetie pie?

  • On January 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Joshua and Matt,

    For reply to your dual “er, What?” see the comments by Michael and John.

    I’m really quite stunned that Thom would post such a personal, abusive commentary in wake of his clarion call for “good behaviors” in poetic criticism.

    Then again, as I said in earlier comment (unanswered):

    “a poetry guided by a spirit of affirmation and adaptation (the dominant drift of a “post-avant” increasingly aligned with academia and related institutions) is going to naturally drift towards critical dispositions that assume broadly legitimating affects of politeness, protocol, and nice feelings all around– “mutual-support” affects, again, let’s keep in mind, that often cloak divisive dynamics of cliquishness and exclusion. Not that we can ever get rid of the latter, but it does us good to remember that sometimes the warmest sounding folks in the poetry world can be the most competitive and vindictive, “negative” as it is to say so.”

    Not intending “the warmest sounding folks” to allude to Thom, at all, but the irony here *is* marked… And it’s unfortunate.

    • On January 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm Matt wrote:

      oh gawd…if thom’s comment is your idea of “ad hominem”, i think you need to look up “ad hominem”.

      by the way, do you ever get nosebleeds up there on your high horse?

      • On January 20, 2010 at 8:58 pm thom donovan wrote:

        when I wrote those posts, in the context of FB mind you, I was upset at what I saw as an act of violence committed within a communal space I feel very much a part of, namely SEGUE series. and I was affirming a lot that had already been written in the FB stream both at my FB blog and Michael Nicoloff’s. the people I am referring to I consider elitist and exclusionary and I would contrast them utterly with the spaces I would like to build among friends and colleagues. I guess I got negative. but my negativity was directed at something I can’t stand for, which is the way these people were asserting power in a space I love and have given of my energies to cultivate. I regret now farming my comments from Facebook to this space, which I meant merely to be for the record (in lieu of Craig’s post) but are being read entirely out of context. if you talk to others who were at the event (perhaps you were there Matt?), I think those people will understand why my comments are not just “ad hominem attacks” but a critique of how people use their bodies/persons as a kind of weapon within social spaces (so ad hominem in a literal sense: being about the person/body). anyhow, that’s where those posts are coming from since context remains badly needed. if I could withdraw them back into the little community dynamics which happen on FB I would now, if only to mitigate controversy/distraction. best, Thom

        • On January 20, 2010 at 10:41 pm Colin Ward wrote:

          Thom,

          “if I could withdraw them back into the little community dynamics which happen on FB I would now, if only to mitigate controversy/distraction.”

          Understood. Criticizing how people laugh rather than how poets write can’t be the impression you wanted to give.

          Moving on…

          -o-

        • On January 21, 2010 at 1:36 am john wrote:

          If you want to cultivate a private space and enforce clubby norms of behavior, you have to do it in a private space; or if that’s not an option, post the rule publicly — such as, no laughing, no applauding between movements of the piece, and so on.

          A few years ago I was at a party at my brother’s house where the college-student daughter of a friend of his played with her punk band. Someone was yelling, “You guys suck!!!,” and my brother started to intervene, but his friend — the bass player’s father, and a former punk musician himself — waved my brother off with a smile, saying, “No, it’s cool — it’s good for them!”

  • On January 20, 2010 at 10:15 pm sara wrote:

    hm thanks for your robust analysis, craig.

    yeah it’s too bad you weren’t actually *at* the segue reading.

    i don’t understand how you can feel comfortable in your own skin reviewing a poetry reading that you weren’t even part of– and sharing your thoughts regarding said event with the public as a spokesperson on this blog.

    would you review a kronos quartet concert that you didn’t attend?
    would you review a dance event that you didn’t attend?

    i read about a poetry reading on the internet once, too!
    *but that sure doesn’t mean that i’m going to review it!

    i mean, come on bro: harriet gives you the fantastic opportunity/position of authority to write about any of the (many) fascinating things that are going on in the poetry world right now– and you write about a poetry reading that you *didn’t* *attend*?

    what a waste of time!

    • On January 21, 2010 at 11:16 am john wrote:

      It’s a scandal, and anybody can comment on it! I might have thought the laughers were rude or dippy or whatever too, but so what? I’ve been dismayed too by people laughing at my own lines that I hadn’t thought humorous — oh well!

      The only poet who comes off well is the poet, Ariana Reines. From the write-up by the laugher:

      “For what it’s worth, I went up to Ariana Reines afterwards, and told her I very much enjoyed her poetry. (It’s really good! Not that I know anything about poetry.) And, I said, I hope my laughter didn’t offend you.

      She took my hand in both of hers, and replied, “I thought your laughter was great.”"

      Eileen Myles comments: “You’re with the big dogs now, little puppy. Stick with your Christmas shopping lady.”

      Thom Donovan applauds Eileen, and then later criticizes the laughers for machismo!: “Did anyone read Eileen’s excoriating post about them in the Jezebel comments? It’s right on. . . . women’s laughter, unfortunately, can be violently masculinist (”macho”) too.”

      You don’t have to have been there to have opinions about all this stuff! It’s juicy.

    • On January 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm csperez wrote:

      sara,

      my post was not a ‘review’ of the reading. no where do i judge nada, eileen, arianna or the laughers. i simply thot it would be an interesting pretense for my question about what people find annoying at readings (which few seem interested in answering).

      i also thot that an alternative to an intervention could be to actually learn something from how others respond live to poems–which was the point of the bernstein bit. a more conciliatory gesture in my mind.

      but what do i know? i live in berkeley and at poetry readings here people get high, breast feed, sit on the floor, sew hemp journals, and give group hugs before and after events. it’s all very bay area.

      xo
      c

  • On January 21, 2010 at 7:33 am Tyrone Williams wrote:

    This is all very fascinating for me. I was there–purely by accident–and observed all the above from the wall opposite the bar. I have tremendous respect for Thom and Nada and can say that I too took Nada’s comment just as she posted above–a spontaneous reaction that she was registering. It was neither a gesture toward “participation” nor a “critique,” but as someone posted above, once a comment goes “public” its nuance and register is lost. I also saw the post-reading exchange between two of the responders (one of the “laughters” and one of the criticizers of the laughters) and it was, ahem, “interesting”…

    Tyrone

    • On January 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm csperez wrote:

      hey tyrone,

      how did you end there ‘purely by accident’! kinda funny. yeah, i figured the conversation continued after…must have been quite ‘interesting’. i want details! jk.

      xo
      c

  • On January 21, 2010 at 11:34 am Henry Gould wrote:

    The protocols for being iconoclastic & cutting-edge have gotten very sophisticated & complex. You never know any more which or whose rules are supposed to be broken, & in what order. The wisest approach, I feel, in these tumultuous times, is to write inoffensive poems about trees, in heroic couplets.

    • On January 21, 2010 at 11:49 am Wendy Babiak wrote:

      Even then, if wishing not to offend, one would have to be very careful. Do not advocate for the personhood or protection of trees, lest one offend loggers or folks with wood-burning fireplaces.

      • On January 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm Henry Gould wrote:

        A word to the wise, Wendy, for which I am very grateful. Thinking now that perhaps the most sensible approach would be to write poems about trees that are already dead. & that have not fallen on anyone’s yard sculpture, or otherwise caused anxiety or stress to nearby readers.

  • On January 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm csperez wrote:

    @ thom,

    i love that you re-posted your comments from facebook–esp when there’s so much for others to learn from what you say. i also hope to attend a segue reading someday–i hear great things.

    i agree that the laughers stood out–it was very distracting even just listening to the audio. and i do applaud that nada said something about it in a very diplomatic way.

    i like questions/comments at readings, actually. for those to work, though, the reader really has to facilitate the discussion…and it seemed like arianna cut the heated discussion short.

    and yes to poetry building deeper bridges!

    c

  • On January 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >when I wrote those posts, in the context of FB mind you, I was upset at what I saw as an act of violence committed within a communal space I feel very much a part of, namely SEGUE series.

    Thom, I applaud your candor. But isn’t SEGUE a public reading series? I can certainly understand that you feel strongly about the organization and that you have developed affinities with people who regularly patronize its events. But isn’t SEGUE trying to draw new people to its events, too, and broaden the audience for innovative writing? If so, then it’s inevitable non-regular attendees will bring different backgrounds, expectations, tastes, levels of sophistication, and so on, into the room. Audiences will be unpredictable, to some extent, and react in varied ways. This will likely include people *laughing* (or clapping, or jeering, or yawning) at different things and at different times! Truly, it’s just plain distressing you would use a phrase like “act of violence” to characterize people’s laughter at a poetry reading.

    It should be obvious that an atmosphere where people feel their demeanor is under surveillance for “correctness” is not conducive to the creation of any honest or meaningful “communal space.” I fear that’s what we’re talking about here. That behavioral pressures and controls of all kinds exist in the post-avant field is Sociology 101. But these are almost always (aggressive and onerous as they often are) largely unremarked, sublimated via collective ritual, to some degree, swept under the rug. It’s somewhat extraordinary in that context, perhaps a bit of a learning moment, that such a considerable number of poets, including yourself, have stepped forward to argue that the blatant attitudinal and somatic policing exhibited at the SEGUE event can be–should be–legitimated.

    I don’t mean at all to suggest you are acting out of bad faith, Thom, but I’d urge you to further reflect on your two postings here on this topic. And I’d suggest that all of this is another good argument for the necessity of negative criticism…

    Your Commoning post today, above this one, is very interesting– good luck with the good project.

  • On January 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm Mark Mitchell wrote:

    What was the last reading you went to, Kent?

    • On January 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

      That’s an odd question.

      I live out in the sticks, I’m afraid, where there are no readings, so I don’t get to as many as I’d like (Chicago and Milwaukee are both about 100 miles away). But I’ve been to my good share of them in my time, both here in the U.S. and in places like the USSR, The Netherlands, the U.K., Bosnia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, Finland, and some other places!

      But why do you ask?

      The last one I went to was in Chicago or Muncie, Indiana. I can’t remember which was most recent.

  • On January 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm john wrote:

    I finally took Craig’s advice and listened to the reading . . . bizarre . . . that people got so bugged. Lots of anger in that room. . . . I didn’t find the laughter offensive — it certainly wasn’t at every sexual reference (unless there was low-volume giggling going on that I missed), it was at the witty lines; lines I didn’t find laugh-out-loud funny but, you know, big deal. And so the newcomer’s interpretation of a poem he’s just heard for the first time was a little simplistic (“Saying it’s a satire simplifies it!!!!”)

    – “You’re not from around here, are ya, mister. We don’t like your kind around here . . . ”

    The recording doesn’t sound that menacing, but I would characterize Eileen Myles’ and Thom’s written reactions as definitely heading in that direction. Maybe there was a reason that Ariana joked about there hopefully being no physical violence! And class privilege has nothing to do with it; judging by people’s accents, everybody in that room spoke with the accent of privilege (which is my accent too); even if some there came from un-privileged backgrounds, they learned what an African American activist I worked with on a project once called “Cash English.”

  • On January 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm Rachel wrote:

    Anti-School of Quietude Poets Demand School of Quietude Audience Responses to Their Poems? Okay, that’s overstating the case and missing all the class warfare implications, but the satirist in me can’t help but think: Don’t pee on the rug little puppy; let the big dogs do it.

    • On January 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

      Alas, Rachel, ours is not exactly an age of satire…

      Even Robert Pinsky has complained about the lack of it.

      Actually, there’s arguably more taste for the satirical within the “S of Q” than there is within the “avant.”

    • On January 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm roz wrote:

      This kennel is getting crowded.

      • On January 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm Bhanu Kapil wrote:

        Woof!

        • On January 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm csperez wrote:

          i didnt let the dogs out ;)

  • On January 21, 2010 at 7:05 pm csperez wrote:

    this is a reposting of dan hoy’s comment from way above:

    @ Craig: I was trying to call attention to the fact that Ariana’s Q&As are part of her overall poetic strategy (which includes performance), and that this strategy is one of disruption and dislocation. That’s what I mean when I say it’s no accident that this happened at an Ariana Reines reading. In other words I’m trying to situate the event in its actual context and articulate the coordinates that allowed it to occur in the first place. I also think you could make an argument that this strategy intersects certain strategies associated with flarf, and by that I mean disruption and discomfort. Tactics are (or should be) determined by the strategy, so it can be misleading to assume alignments based on a tactical congruence, since tactics can be common across conflicting strategies and objectives. In this instance the assumption is that “laughter” following “cock” equals “flarf”, and that Nada policing the laughers (which wasn’t what happened, which I also tried to clarify) is somehow out of character and self-contradictory. My view, and again this is informed by the situation, and by situation I mean the actual psychic space of the Bowery Poetry Club at that moment as determined by Ariana’s poetry, is that the laughter was not the real disruption – the real disruption was created by Ariana, in daring the audience to speak, and then shaped by Nada, in speaking up. That’s why I say the paradox in Nada chastising those who were laughing (which again is not really what happened) is only apparent, not actual. That she leveraged the disruption to highlight her own discomfort is about as in character as you can get for somebody associated with flarf. This is not to say that Ariana writes flarf, or is aligned with flarf, or exhibits flarf tendencies, which is what’s implied by how you frame the piece and what prompted me to comment in the first place. Despite the use of ‘dirty words’, I think there’s a difference in tactical execution, and the strategies, though intersecting, support differing objectives (in other words: in what ways are you being disruptive and to what purpose?). But even saying this is problematic since the utility of ‘flarf’ as a grouping mechanism is questionable. At this point I think it obfuscates more than elucidates when comparing this poet or that poet. A more interesting question would be to ask in what ways individual poets within the flarf collective have more in common with poets outside the collective than within it, or to take a step back and start drawing new topographies across the poetic landscape (letting all the marketing labels like ‘school of quietude’ and ‘conceptual writing’ atrophy out of existence), or to step even further back and redefine what it is to be ‘poetic’. What is a poetic act? This is a high stakes question and has almost nothing to do with poets or writing poems, yet it’s a question that is central to Ariana’s poetry.

    –dan hoy

  • On January 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm csperez wrote:

    @ dan: i understand your point now about how ariana’s overall poetic strategy created a disjunction for nada’s intervention to occur. thus, no accident. what is accidental, of course, is that ariana seems to anticipate people feeling discomfort at her own work and not necessarily people feeling discomfort at how someone else was responding to the work.

    and just to clarify, when i wrote in my post that someone at the segue reading was performing flarf, i didnt mean that ariana was performing flarf. i meant that the LAUGHER was the flarfist. and you’re def right: there are many kinds of flarf…feminist flarf, shakespearean flarf, pragmatist flarf, and stoopid flarf. if i must, i would categorize the laugher’s performance as stoopid flarf (the kind that’s all about subjective inappropriateness). or, to be more precise, we can argue that the laugher embodies a stoopid-flarfical unconscious.

    anyhoo, i dont think nada was policing the laughers–she seems way too nice & smart & diplomatic for that. but no doubt there was an implicit critique of the inappropriate in her intervention. perhaps nada is indeed a pragmatist flarfista as opposed to a stoopid one–then your argument about leveraging disruption to highlight discomfort makes more sense to me. sometimes my journalistic mind gets in the way.

    tho i think you create a too linear view of the ‘real disruption’. seems to me the ‘real disruption’ was a confluence of ariana’s work, the laugher, ariana’s dare, nada’s intervention, and the ensuing discursive dislocations of the other audience members. dont you think?

    i dont know what a poetic act is.

    responding to your comment makes my head hurt! thanks for that!

    peace,
    c

  • On January 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm csperez wrote:

    this comment from kent johnson is in response to dan’s comment:

    Dan,

    Lots that’s of interest here. However, your generous account of what those putting the spotlight on the laughers “really intended” is complicated, and somewhat decidedly belied, by the aggressively polemical (to put it mildly) postings, after the fact, of those who called the laughers out!

    See Thom Donovan’s comments below, for example. Also Gordon’s and Myles’s, shortly after the reading. We all fall prey to over-theorizing things, from time to time, and I think that’s what is happening in your comment.

    The important question, it seems to me, is this: Was the event merely some bizarre and isolated eruption of correctness on the part of a few poets throwing their self-righteous weight around, or was it reflective of more broadly held attitudes and assumptions within a poetic community?

    Some of the follow-up I refer to seems, disturbingly, to point to the latter. As do other things, unfortunately…

    In any case, your question, “What is a poetic act?” is a great one.

    –kent johnson

    • On January 22, 2010 at 11:07 am Matt wrote:

      “…or was it reflective of more broadly held attitudes and assumptions within a poetic community?”

      again with the witch hunt. that’s so 1950. i mean, that’s so 1692. i mean, is this kind of thing ever going to get old?

      • On January 22, 2010 at 12:16 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

        >Was the event merely some bizarre and isolated eruption of correctness on the part of a few poets throwing their self-righteous weight around, or was it reflective of more broadly held attitudes and assumptions within a poetic community?

        “throwing their self-righteous weight around”

        is a weak way of putting it.

        “throwing their cliquish, censorious, and censoring weight around”

        is more apropos, I think, in regards to this particular flare-up as possible symptom of a more systemic disorder within the avant sphere…

        • On January 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm Joshua wrote:

          Since you were there and know exactly what went on, it does hold that you should be the one to own the description and prescribe the disorder it is symptomatic of. Where would we be without the good Dr. Kent to tell us what ails us!

          • On January 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

            Joshua,

            I’m basing my comments, actually, on the written accounts of participants, especially those of Eileen Myles, Nada Gordon, and Thom Donovan.

            (Incidentally, Joshua may well be the most common male name in the poetry world, today. Which one are you? Single names under comments might as well be pseudonyms!)

            • On January 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm Jordan wrote:

              I ought to be but am not astonished that in all the electrons that have been spilled over this event, nobody can even bear to mention the possibility that castration anxiety is prompting the nervous/aggressive laughter and the offended/aggressive response.

              I’m sure haters will find a way to make that too a proof of flarf’s self-recrimination. “Aren’t they supposed to be ALL ABOUT castration fear? Ha ha joke’s on them etc etc slobber gloof’d frodo al dente.”

              • On January 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

                Don Share has a post today, quoting from an essay by Andrew Levy, that I think is more to the point of what we’re really talking about than “castration anxiety.” But who knows what resides in the damp cellars of the Unconscious?

                http://www.donshare.blogspot.com/

                (I hope this comment doesn’t get turned into a long, phallic string by the blog program. Isn’t there some way to fix that? No one wants to read comments that look like epics by Frank Samperi!)

                • On January 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm Jordan wrote:

                  Ha! (Aggressive laughter.)

                • On January 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm Jordan wrote:

                  But yes, let’s continue to change the subject from whatever was going on then — I think it was someone saying their “imagination died.” If only I could remember what killed it… she seems to have been looking at… Ah well.

  • On January 21, 2010 at 11:39 pm nico vassilakis wrote:

    i recall jackson maclow reading at the ear inn. and there were non poets drinking heavily at the bar. they were giggling at maclow’s performance. the poet audience was aggitated and uncertain how to respond – at times even turning around, glaring at the 4 non poet drinkers. if i remember, jackson stopped for a moment and said, im glad you like it. and the drinkers yelped with pleasure and laughed loudly and applauded. and all the poets in the room were pleased. the rest of the reading was lovely as everyone was put at ease. darn uptight poet audience.

    • On January 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

      This is great, Nico. I have my own bathetic anecdote, sort of a similar notion as to Mac Low’s hyper-phlegmatic bearing, though not as good as yours. From I Once Met, a collection of poetic reminiscences– a memory from a panel I spoke on at Poet’s House in NYC, years ago, with Anne Waldman, Armand Schwerner, and Mac Low:

      I once met Jackson Mac Low. This was on that panel about Buddhism. I remember that he didn’t say very much, nor did he move very much, really. But at the end of the evening he shook my hand and said, “Nice to have met you.”

  • On January 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm goo wrote:

    “I break for legitimacy” really says it all.

  • On January 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm john wrote:

    Jordan, Kent’s link to Don’s post wasn’t a change of the subject; I read Don’s post as an oblique, diplomatic commentary on the event. (I thought it stated, more elegantly, of course, a lot of the points I was trying to make above, about inclusion/exclusion and privilege.)

    Matt, I think it’s great that, when Eileen Myles said, “Let the laughers stand up!,” and then excoriated the laughers for protesting online; and then Kent asked whether the event was “reflective of more broadly held attitudes and assumptions within a poetic community,” you called Kent the Inquisitor!

    That said, Kent, I think the event was unique. From what I’ve seen of poetry readings, and from what people have said about Arianna Reines’ practice of opening her readings up for Q&A, I don’t think any other poet would have invited the melee. Good for Arianna, I say! Sex & cocks still provoke (probably for reasons that Jordan alludes to); and, in the post-modern era, a lot of people (Eileen and Thom, in this case) get really offended when aesthetic provocations actually succeed in provoking people. (I believe that you have been guilty of this too, Kent.) So part of Arianna’s “work” was to open up a space where the provoked groups could bounce against each other. Without the laughter (which Arianna thought was great), the “work” would have been considerably thinner, and Eileen and Thom’s operatic interventions wouldn’t have happened (nor yours, Kent, nor Jordan’s, nor Craig’s, nor Matt’s, nor mine, nor anybody’s, all of us singing our own version of morality songs). How many other recent poetry readings have inspired so much discussion?

    Fascinating! Kudos to Arianna!

  • On January 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    John,

    I thought there was a connection between Don Share’s quote from Levy and some of the issues raised here, too (though it may be Don intended no such thing, who knows).

    Then again, a couple of folks who’ve come forward here to defend the Correctness mugging at the NYC reading have chimed in over at Squandermania, saying they completely agree with the sentiments expressed by Levy.

    So. There you go!

  • On January 22, 2010 at 7:16 pm csperez wrote:

    kudos to ariana indeed–she seemed open to the various responses to her work–the ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’. and i do apologize for having mispelled her name several times. one ‘n’ in ariana.

    yeah, i do like that passage that don posted at his blog. and i wonder if some of us are overstating the irony of the event, as i seem to have overstated the irony of nada’s intervention.

    i’m thinking that ideas of community and commons are not only constituted by what they desire to include but also by what they–sometimes unconsciously–desire to exclude. so even tho the rhetoric of a poetic community or societal commons focuses on inclusive desiring, there’s an unspoken rhetoric of the ‘uncommons’.

    thus perhaps not so ironic that those working to build community will become angry at those who are perceived to be pissing in the commons pool.

    what do you think?

    • On January 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm john wrote:

      My last post I had written “Ariana,” then went and checked Craig’s post, and added extra “n”s! Not Craig’s fault that my due diligence didn’t work out!

      At one gig (solo acoustic, original songs) some drunk got in my face and asked, not belligerently, but over and over, if I would play Neil Young covers. I ignored him but a friend intervened and asked the guy to quit bugging me, and he quit. I was grateful!

  • On January 22, 2010 at 7:18 pm csperez wrote:

    also, i am still wondering what people find annoying at readings? what would make you intervene at a reading?

    c

    • On January 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

      People talking to each other and not allowing others to hear. Cell phones. Things that simple courtesy should prevent, but somehow doesn’t. But not laughter.

      My father had an explosive laugh that embarrassed one of his girlfriends. He chose to marry another, who didn’t make him answerable for something that’s essentially involuntary. My husband’s laugh also can feel like cannon fire. But it’s genuine. Hell, I’ve been known to snort like a total geek. But I’ve never meant anyone harm by it.

    • On January 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm Colin Ward wrote:

      “i am still wondering what people find annoying at readings? what would make you intervene at a reading?”

      At the top of my list would be someone insulting the way people laugh.

      -o-

  • On January 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    “thus perhaps not so ironic that those working to build community will become angry at those who are perceived to be pissing in the commons pool.

    what do you think?”

    I think I would call that the headline to most of modern history, if not the days of our lives. What it has to do with poetry, I’m not so sure. But I’m sure the sacred King & Queen of Group-Think, whenever they manifest their sacred presence, will explain it all for us.

  • On January 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Laughter at poetry readings has always seemed to me an appreciative “got it” response to a line that zinged.

    I’m talking poetry readings from the open readings at Shakespeare & Co. on Telegraph Avenue where a 20-year-old kid named Ron Silliman read a poem with the refrain “A poem should be…” and got laughs with lines like “…the greatest poem in the history of the world!” and “…written in Sanskrit!”

    …through readings by Spicer, Duncan, Snyder, Lew Welch, Josephine Miles aqnd Al Young, and the fire-circle readings at California Poets In The Schools conferences deep in the forests of Mendocino, not to mention readings in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia (five thousand people standing in the rain listening to poetry and laughing at the good lines), Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay…

    Some folks are far too anxious about their place in the trash-can of history.

    • On January 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

      >Colombia (five thousand people standing in the rain listening to poetry and laughing at the good lines)

      I wonder how they would have done at the SEGUE reading.

  • On January 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm Joseph Donahue wrote:

    Can we please just leave Frank Samperi out of it?

    • On January 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

      You just brought him back in.

      Frank Samperi is great.

  • On January 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm Dan Hoy wrote:

    Hi Kent. My ‘over-theorizing’ account was limited to Ariana and Nada up to but not beyond Nada’s utterance, and it’s about as earnest as I can get in a comment box. As for what followed, I referred to it very untheoretically in my initial comment as ‘rabble’. I know this is an area of interest for you, but not for me. I’m precisely interested in how the ‘real disruption’ as I define it is decidedly not reducible to some kind of partisan power struggle. This is not to say those elements can’t or didn’t crystalize around it, but I would disagree with you that that crystalization, regardless of whether it occurred, is ‘the important question’. You are lowering the stakes. Reception and the audience’s perception of itself are key, and I’ve noted above how this relates to Ariana’s poetic strategy as a whole (as well as elsewhere what I think is interesting and important about the Yasusada project), but to take this insight and suggest that its most potent application is as an exposé on ‘who’s who’ or more specifically ‘why who’s who in the poetry scene’ is perverse. This is not to discourage you, however, from continuing to play the part of Kent Johnson within that scene.

  • On January 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm Lisa Markwart wrote:

    It might be nice to explain to readers what on earth “flarf” is.

    • On January 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

      As a raw outsider from a previous century, I’ll describe flarf as an aggressive recent aesthetic based on plagiarism, appropriation, framing-as-art, ancestor-seeking, gang behavior and great ambition. Ceci n’est pas un pipe with a pile of telephone books. Coming soon in tenure to a college near you. Kenny Goldsmith is your local representative. Get used to it. They’ll grow old. They will wear the bottoms of their trousers rolled.

      • On January 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm Henry Gould wrote:

        Nailed it. & let’s not forget Einstein’s Theory of Discursive Anti-Matter, which posits that, given a finite amount of discursive space devoted to poetry, 98% of that space will be absorbed by complex verbal distractions from poetry itself. I believe Feinman (1962, Journal of Integral Potted Mathematics (JIPM)) devised a corollary : of the remaining 2% of discursive space, 98% of it, in turn, will be not-so-great.

  • On January 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Funny to have this from Dan right after noticing that HTML GIANT has something on Craig’s post and the discussion. The post at HTML GIANT claims, actually, that Dan’s Jacket essay on Flarf is the only thing people need to read about that group. Which should be flattering to Dan, I’m sure, though I think he’d be first to say such a notion is pretty silly, fabulous as much of his essay is…

    Dan, let me step back a bit from the “over-theorizing” remark, which was a bit unfair. Your writing is always provocative and smart, and your comments here are of that nature, too. Maybe part of the problem is that I’m pointing to something fairly general and which may, in fact, be a tad over-obvious in comparison to your more subtle take– even as the subject of my concern is not one that often gets directly discussed in public occasions. That’s to say (and to paraphrase from something else I recently wrote), that the avant field, beneath its rich tapestry of “good behavior” protocols and “group-identity” rituals of mutual support, and so on, is also deeply shaped and propelled in its operations by adversarial, position-taking impulses, expressed via all manner of self-serving confederations, favor-seeking advances, compensatory transactions, retributive exclusions, and the like.

    It’s not that those orders of behavior can be fully evaded, or that some are bad actors, while others are good: Within aesthetic communities like ours, where the sail of ethics so often gets grandly hoisted on the mast of poetics (“experimental” writers, who tend towards the teleological, seem predisposed to contention), everyone breathes a certain Jacobin air. One could even sense that the professional, careerist drift of our moment makes that air more pungent still.

    Usually, of course, the dynamics of it all go under the radar; every so often they locally erupt, and in theatrical symptom, as with case of the reading in question. But that these impulses and behaviors thoroughly inform the literary field, there shouldn’t be any doubt. Everyone, in point of fact, knows it, whether they speak of it, or not. As Pierre Bourdieu has stressed (he’s the guy to read on all this–isn’t it interesting he’s rarely evoked in avant circles?), such agonistic conduct is both immanent in, and constitutive of, the life force of cultural production, and all who enter the literary field’s operations are subject to it–as addresser or addressee–in fluctuating degrees. There are pluses and minuses to it all; it’s healthy to be frank about it.

    It’s in that basic sense that I find the hyper-aggressive comportment at the SEGUE reading to be interesting and useful as an opening into some candid discussion about the more “impolite” sociological conditions of our tribe (though that last contains its plural, of course). In particular, what I find useful–or at least intriguing–in the case, is that the fierce territorial marking for Correctness we’re talking about was sprayed forth by members of a prominent sub-formation that’s loudly proclaimed non-correctness and impropriety as guiding M.O.! In that regard the eruption-as-symptom I spoke of is especially poignant in its ironies, I think, and promising for productive extrapolations, be they of personal or critical kind.

    So, for what it’s worth, those would be some broad reasons for my previous commentary.

    • On January 24, 2010 at 3:14 pm Tyrone Williams wrote:

      Kent,

      Glad you realized “tribe” should be plural; in the communities of which I count myself a member (though I’m aware that I also belong to communities of which I’m unaware and/or uncomfortable with…)Bourdieu IS a central reference point…I understand your general point, though it appears to me a bit of a straw man–that is, who HAS denied that certain cultural fields–experimental or not–are, or should be, conflict- or antagonistic-free? I don’t believe you’re referring to Thom’s initial response since it seems to suggest prior encounters with the particular individuals, encounters “outside” the cultural field of poetics, though my qualifying quotation marks resurrect–again–the old question of the nature of the “poetic,” as someone above noted: to wit, can someone “make” a “poem” under the “cover” of a laugh even if he or she does not know he or she is making said poem?

      Tyrone

      Tyrone

  • On January 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Tyrone, that’s interesting what you say about Bourdieu as central reference point. I wish we had more application of some of his categories of analysis to our “scene,” or (again) scenes. In sense, I mean, of more candor in self-critique. We could probably even get some good poetic production out of it– poems written for a knowing kind of laughter, so to speak.

    In meantime, I see the post-avant dominates the finalist list for the NBCCA, right after dominating the list for the National Book Award.

    Oh, for the good old days, when we could speak of “Official Verse Culture,” with that feeling of avant self-righteousness!

    • On January 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

      Nobody was more avant than my Chilean translatee Gonzalo Rojas, the youngest poet in Latin America (Chile, b. 1917) when he joined the surrealist group Mandrágora in 1936, a coal miner’s son, freshman at Universidad San Marcos, spending his little money in whorehoueses, to came under the mentorship of no one less than Vicente Huidobro.

      Huidobro told him “you should read the classics, the ancient classics and the mnodern classics,” and young Rojas got mad. “You certainly haven’t read the Greeks and Romans, what are you talking about?”

      Huidobro just looked at me in silence with those magnetic eyes,” Rojas remembers, “began to pace around the room and started to recite Ovid by heart: Cum subit illius tristissima noctis imago… I was ashamed of myself, and changed the subject.”

      • On January 24, 2010 at 7:24 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

        You know, John, I was convinced that Huidobro had written the work of the ultra-mysterious “Omar Caceres,” possibly in league with de Rokha. I even pursued the matter with Pedro Lastra, scholar and editor of Caceres’s work, also the aged father of Cecilia Vicuna, who was around the Neruda circle, and with other Chilean poets when I was down there, some of whom actually thought I might be on to something (there was a theory floating around Chile, in fact, that de Rokha –who nearly became Caceres’s brother in law– had arranged for a Communist Party hit squad to murder Caceres [body dumped into the Mapocho, case never solved], to keep him hushed about the hoax).

        Did you know the magnificent intro to Caceres’s Defensa del idolo is the *only* intro to another’s poetry collection ever penned by Huidobro? That Caceres, in a fit of rage, burned the entire edition (three copies are known to have been saved) of Defensa on his patio after “his” book was brought to him? That Huidobro and de Rokha had a running exchange of wild insults in one of the main Santiago dailies, over whether Caceres had first asked Huidobro or de Rokha to write the intro– a big fight about a book barely anyone knew about, since no one knew who Caceres was, save for some poems out of the blue in an important recent anthology, and apocryphal ghostly sightings of a pale, tall, thin figure, hovering around poetry tertulias, in taverns, and such.

        Anyway, it is now pretty much confirmed, following the recent discovery of a cache of materials –which includes, among various amazing things, a stunning photograph of the poet– that Caceres was indeed the author of the poems, impossible as it seems given his absolutely spectral, mythical history. I’ve written more about this; it’s an incredible story. It might be the most unbelievable authorial mystery in the history of all 20th century poetry.

        And the poetry is totally strange and superb.

        • On January 25, 2010 at 6:35 am Tyrone Williams wrote:

          Kent,

          Can you backchannel where I can find your writings on Caceres, Huidobro, etc.? I just finish reviewing that recent “important anthology” I think–Poems for the Millenium–for Kaurab, though if you know of others with their work, I’m interested in knowing about it.

          Tyrone

  • On January 24, 2010 at 5:29 pm Aaron Belz wrote:

    Nervous laughter— http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io0nUeDp7Ks

    Please do not mistake this for self-promotion, because it’s absolutely on point. I have never been invited to or mentioned in relationship with the Flarf school.

    In the course of writing my dissertation on the influence of popular comedy on modernist poetics, I interviewed John Ashbery and at one point asked him whether he wanted people to laugh at his poems or not. Here’s a snip:

    + + +

    AB: And it was obviously funny writing, it kept jumping and moving, and I thought maybe they didn’t get it. Maybe they weren’t hearing what was happening.

    JA: [laughs] Well this happens to me all the time. A couple of weeks ago I read in [place]. I gave two readings. I read at [a college], and the students there obviously were afraid of being disrespectful by laughing, and there was very little reaction to the funny parts that I read. But the next day I read at [a gallery], and the people there were laughing.

    AB: So they were freer to pursue their response. The social pressure of those rooms just knocks the wind out of you sometimes. You look around at your professors and other poets and people looking very studious.

    JA: Yeah, it’s understandable, I think. You think that you’re being disrespectful by laughing at someone’s poetry.

  • On January 25, 2010 at 6:36 am Tyrone Williams wrote:

    Kent,

    You can email me at suspend@earthlink.net
    Tyrone

  • On January 25, 2010 at 9:32 am Joseph Donahue wrote:

    Yes, he is. Frank Samperi is great.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm Mark wrote:

    Don’t know a single soul here. Wasn’t at the reading. Listened to the reading.

    Umm, listen to the reading for yourselves… It’s simply untrue that loud laughter erupts every time the poem(s) turn to sex/sexual words. In fact, every instance of loud laughter is in response to a witty line -”I think you have a zit on your ass but you have a suntan”, for instance (I’m paraphrasing slightly). This line provoked one of the two loudest instances of laughter caught by the microphone. The other laugh line wasn’t about sex at all. This was the line about wandering around Duane Reade all night looking at protein bars.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 10:40 am Rodrigo Toscano wrote:

    sex negative people clumped into a sweaty pile – stage right –

    sex positive people clumped into a sweaty pile – stage left –

    sex neutral people – in a ring – holding hands – skipping around the the block –

    people on the streets – about the their day – to and fro – untangling into a gooey froth – a teeny bit more – each time – every second – every moment –

    it’s sweet –

    it’s just –

    it’s impossible –

    it’s

    de-lovely -

    • On January 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm goo wrote:

      If only any of this had the wit and style of a Cole Porter song. Hardly, darling. More like Baise Moi meets The Devil Wears Prada meets the industrial slaughter poetry factory.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 by Craig Santos Perez.