Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Prolegema to a Response to the Kent Johnson Curated "A Darker bouquet: A Roundtable Discussion" at MAYDAY Magazine
THE ORIGINAL "TOMMY HAWK MAN"
"unsigned review" of the first edition of LEAVES OF GRASS-- by Walt Whitman
EDGAR POE & WALT WHITMAN WERE NOT ADVERSE TO REVIEWING THEIR OWN WRITINGS AS ANONYMOUS UNSIGNED REVIEWERS OR UNDER VARIOUS ALIASES
frontispiece first edition of LEAVES OF GRASS--the image presented the author; there was no author's name for the text
After all, who better to review one's work than oneself, disguised as "no one" or "some one else" for the sake of appearances!
especially when one has done the designs of the die and type casting and much of the hands-on work of the printing oneself--
"A Darker Bouquet: A Roundtable Discussion"
This letter is but a Prolegama to A Response which is re Edgar Allan Poe as the forerunner in the 1840's of the issues, events, letters and questions presented in the Roundtable Discussion curated by Kent Johnson in MAY DAY magazine--
The more one travels into the Future, the more that the one encounters the past--
The Discussion features a great many poets and writers responding to Kent Johnson and others' proposals regarding the practice of Poetry reviewing, as it exits now, and might possibly exist soon--and has also in some aspects existed n the past.
MS page from the "response" in progress
i'm working on a response to the original piece in MAYDAY; in brief, most of the issues raised and many of the "solutions" were being dealt with in the 1840's by Edgar A Poe--
MS page from the "response in progress"
The biggest problem in a sense is that most writing by poets in terms of reviews etc--is focused on very narrow areas of poetry, without any historical or wider (national, global, etc) contexts considered than those immediately surrounding the book in question.
I think there is perhaps also a fear that anyone who begins to consider these works, these small areas of poetry from "outside their purview"--might find them far less interesting and momentous than if considered only by those on the inside.
The Institutionalized aspect is also overlooked: that is, that despite the cries of marginality of various poetries, they gain a relatively widespread dissemination via networks which are supported by institutions, foundations, corporations and the like.
Recently there was the flarf/conceptual poetry event in NYC in a major setting of the supposedly disdained inner circles of the Mainstream/Elite art worlds.
There is desperation in this---poets want to be treated like rock and roll musicians or TV actors thus there is a certain drive towards "dumbing down" various aspects of "poetics" while at the same time asserting one is doing something "avant".
--the fear of being a "dying breed"--requires ever more reproduction and rebranded production--
hence one is encouraged to be a "non author" figure --unoriginal----while at the same time maintaining a provable identity--
It is the desire to have one's cake and eat it, too.
Rather than opening possibilities of writing and reading and thinking re poetry and the arts, the opposite is occurring, there is a tendency towards conformity and "playing it safe." The artist/poet limits them self due to thinking far more about what people will think of THEM than what is really at hand which is making a poem an art work etc.
Sometimes in looking at anthologies or galleries on line--realize my Visual Poetry, ideas in fictions and essays--are quite different from the over all mass of things i find gathered in such places (galleries, anthologies)
It is not that one sets out to be "different," "original"--or "innovative" and al the rest. It is that one is more interested in finding which ways the work takes one than in seeking the approval of so and so or such and such a “crowd.” One is hungry for something that one doesn’t yet really know what it is—and so has to find it someplace—and begin from there- as one can’t find in it what is purported to be the area which “supplies and satisfies the consumer.”
It is also in part that simply one didn't pay any attention to all the slogans fads and revivals of past avant gardes, what Hans Richter called the "Garden Dwarf" versions of "neo-Dada" im the early 1960's. i think the Garden Dwarf versions of things have continued to become more minuscule and derivative and perhaps now are like the choices for "pixilated" "screen images" on one's computer. A certain aspect of the generic begins to install itself, and in order for those coming to resemble each other so much in thoughts and forms and reactions, responses, like good Pavlovians, to appear a bit "individual" or "unique" (rather than "eunuch" ) there is always the introduction of something like allegiance to a slightly different form of door knocker or window shades on the poet's box house, the a usage of a new form of emoticon or the adaption of a particular form of "persona" to give some "flair" to the otherwise unremarkable work in the long assembly line issuing from the poetry factories.
The real catastrophe is the persons become less like persons and more like drones. Poet-drones at once lethal in intent like unmanned drones as well as deadly monotonous as in "droning on."
In Foucault's theories of studying the discourses which create the formation of new Institutions (the hospital, the prison, the asylum, etc--), the philosopher noted that one does not study the "great " figures of an epoch, the real "innovators" of the individual kind, but rather that large horizontally distributed series of interrelated groupings which constitute the mediocrities of the time period, the second and third rate entities who labor away in the production of discourses as they expand and become the structures which lead to the full blown construction of Institutions in which what is important is that those who are "created" and those who "work there"--vanish.
The transferal of the "faceless mass" to the formation of gigantic Institutions ensures the continual production and reproduction of further discourses created by the mediocrities, the middle range persons involved in the specific disciplines.
In poetry is this not true today? The various groups which began in the late 1970's and have continued to this day manufacturing here a slight variation there a post avant and everywhere a "product," a "line" known as "avant poetry" or rebranded as "post language" flarf conceptual etc--which are the furtherance of the various –infra-discourses within the over all already existing distribution and functioings of the discourse, in which the mediocrities can find new niches to flourish in and continue the business of the reproduction and the rebranded production of the overall discourse known as "poetry."
The important thing is that like an organism, the discipline continues to produce rebrand versions of the same and reproduce those distinguishing aspects which are preserved and modified here and "torqued" there, so that one may differentiate a bit among the children of the ongoing family-species of "poets."
What advocates of the "non author' and heteronyms pseudonyms unsignedness and their contradictory simultaneous productions of self promotions, self advertisements neglect to observe--what they do not realize is that they themselves ALREADY EXIST AS SUCH.
That is--the entity "Poetry, Poetics" that at one point was defined as something new and At the same generic and able to be assimilated into the discourses of the construction of Institutions, this entity known as "poetry, poetics" has been constructing on its own these beings as its own heteronyms, pseudonyms, unsigned ones: that is, when the overall discourse is so much the product of a large horizontal affiliation, then of course the authors do "cease to exist" and are replaced by heteronyms pseudonyms non signing ones, who are simply persons who think they are so and so but are merely the ongoing functionalities of an entity which has been turned into Institution.
That is, the "author" who is "not an author" "unoriginal" is actually the creation of Poetry itself, of the Institution of Poetry as it reproduces and rebrands its productions--so that in Truth there is "nothing personal" nor anything "original" going on, an actuality that is unnoticed by the poets who assert the need for such things to "rejuvenate Poetry"
Seen in this light, what is "plain to see" is that this the tending towards a steady state of the second law of thermodynamics is the inertia of the entropic arrival at the "near final stages of activity” before reaching the smooth plateau of equilibrium in Deleuzian terms.
An aspect of this smoothness is that the War Machines, the Machines of the State, function better than ever.
The energies of avarice lead to the colonization of as many forms of discourse as possible; to be included in what is subsumed and consumed under the rubric of the Institution called Poetry.
Wood shedding--Jazz musicians use this term for the long period of withdrawal from the "Scene” in order to practice and discipline oneself so that it is possible to hear beyond the discourses of the moment--
One if possible needs to go to a degree zero of poetry, art and confront what is there--the basic elements--the empty spaces--silence, chaos--Big Bangs--radio static of the stars-countless entities, particles teeming right now in the air and what is seen right around one within the length to which one's arms may reach.
It isn't simply a matter of changing the forms or "manners" of reviewing poetry, it is a matter of changing poetry itself and of poetry changing oneself. "I is an Other"--
is this Other--does it even have to have a name-a signature--or, like the Tao--cannot be named-- is the Other ever unknown or at some point simply found “hidden in plain sight”-- “the only way to know is to find out for oneself.(an Other/unknown—finding its way along the Unknown accompanied by the Other, this Other also unknown--)
Necessity is the Motherfucker of Invention--fortunately for myself many years without the email many without a personal phone, or a fixed address at times. Nothing like the at first seeming “nothingness” to jolt one into finding the “everythingness” ever about one. To see and hear and live among what is there before and around one at any given moment and know that is all that one has to work, with and that itself only with a crayon or pen and paper--one begins to find the lines in a hand the lines in sidewalk cracks lines in ones head of an overheard distant song coming from a passing car--and sometimes, not even allowed to have or be able to have paper and crayon--to work with the art of looking, art of listening--things which exist without being "set down" or "turned into an object--
to realize that "this is it,"--"all of it" and to set to work with these elements--
The accord and applause given to the familiar and already known--is the fear of the unknown--
To find the unknown--is there a fear then that one would then be an "unknown" poet, artist?
Necessity, motherfucker of invention, presents an unknown into which a person goes, becoming unknown, in the unknown. I is an Other—unknown to an unknown among and in the unknown-- and so is to be doubly and doubly doubly algebraically unknown--
To confront the paradox that "if it is not in writing, it never happened" and "The Real War will Never Get into the Books."
is wood shedding--far from the maddening crowd"--is where the action, the thinking, the discipline, the writing and non writing is--
might that not be possible also to bring as a "reviewer"--
and why a Poet might not be able to arrive at indeed being a "good reviewer, a real reviewer"--"judicious" as Barry Schwab sky puts it, or --abandoning al the jargon as Murat Nemet-Nejat urges—
To create an atmosphere of various forms of ludic play and theatricality of performance as various” fictional” characters in a drama of the conflicts and engagements of the areas known as the Institutions of Poetry—as Kent Johnson proposes--
Then, why not?--join the Red Queen in believing as many five impossible things before breakfast----an "unknown" would and could really exist which might not only write unknown works but create unknown reviews of known books
which are known by reason of belonging to an Institutionally reproduced and rebrandingly produced system which is organized to solely "recognize and applaud its own kind"--"for the furtherance of the species to which it belongs"--
from the point of view of an unknown--find out how this known quantity constructed by a system which is the one that certifies that it is indeed a known and recognized example of the species--find out this known quantity exists, functions, "appears" "is heard" within the unknown---that is, within an area which the known has done its best to evade--
then might not one find also a means of "reviewing" the very Institutions which have constructed this discourse, these products and rebranded reproductions--
questioning these--through ever widening areas, through rhizomatic labyrinthine passage ways--and so "unearthing" the supposed "American tree" in terms of a "verticality" of heirarchicalization--a denomination of the position of subjects --in order to continue its reproduction--its rebranded productions--toppling it as the Communards did the Vendome Column--
to create indeed-=-a "wider more open panoramic view of the entire surrounding city and country sides"--to "let in fresh air"--to see the unknown--unnamed--outside of the Institutionalized Poetic Walls--an Otherness hidden in plain sight-