Joyelle's "Future of American Poetry" vs the "Glut"/"Too Much" Discussion

by on Jan.27, 2013

I was thinking – as I often do – about the role of “glut” in contemporary (and modern) discussions about poetry; how it serves as a threat do the “future” of poetry in so much rhetoric.

The Poetry Foundation for example always uses it for self-serving means: THere’s all this “glut” of poetry, all this noise, only we know the best stuff. And of course Kenny Goldsmith’s rhetoric is similar. I remember when Steve Burt proposed that there was “too much” poetry and internet writing etc for him to keep up, that it was threatening his professional career (writing papers etc); Kenny Goldsmith replied that he didn’t need to read it all, afterall his “conceptual” poetry served as a filter or “managment” against this noise, i.e. he was Canonical, no reason for Burt to lose track of his academic career by reading internet-infesting Montevidayo….

Well, I think it’s interesting that in many ways Joyelle prompted this discussion of “too much” with her manifesto-ish piece “The “Future” of “American” Poetry – which she delivered on a Rain Taxi panel with Burt.

So I thought I would link to that talk here.

It’s interesting to read the following against Goldsmith’s/Poetry Foundation’s constant dismissal of the “glut”:

8. Poetry’s present tense rejects the future in favour of an inflorating and decaying omnipresence, festive and overblown as a funeral garland, flimsy and odiforous, generating excess without the orderliness of generations. It rejects genre. It rejects “a” language. Rejects form for formlessness. It doesn’t exist in one state, but is always making corrupt copies of itself. “Too many books are being written, too many books are being published by ‘inconsequential’ presses, there’s no way to know what to read anymore, people are publishing too young, it’s immature, it’s unmemorable, the Internet is run amok with bad writing and half formed opinions, there’s no way to get a comprehensive picture”. Exactly. You just have to wade through the plague ground of the present, give up and lie down in it, as the floodwaters rise from the reversed drains, sewage-riven, bearing tissue and garbage, the present tense resembles you in all its spumey and spectacolor 3-D.

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It's too much… (pt 2): Zambreno, Glut, Theatricality, Lolita and Fan Fiction

by on Dec.11, 2012

I haven’t read Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, but I’ve read excerpts from it and I’ve read her blog and other things she’s written, so forgive me if I start to babble about something I might be getting totally wrong; but Megan’s review really made me think about a few things we’ve been talking about on this blog lately (and not so lately): the “glut” of poetry (there’s too much, there’s no proper hierarchy etc), Teemu’s analysis of Clark Ashton Smith’s flawed “translations” of Baudelaire and the French 19th century, and James Pate’s recent defense of operatic theatricality (versus the pervasive critiques of the authentic/inauthentic, the truly great vs the counterfeiter).

What became apparent to me from reading Megan’s review is this crucial notion, the “vampirism” or “cannibalism” or “channeling” of art: it’s art that makes more art, that feeds off other art to make it immortal, to pass on fluids from one art to the next artwork. The class critique of Zambreno’s book might be most of all interesting in that it echoes Marx’s famous gothic metaphor of capital as a vampire on the working class.

And this for me ties into all the anxious attacks on “the hipster,” that glamorous figure of art that somehow stands in for all kinds of excess, luxury etc. Without ascribing motives to various critiques of Zambreno’s work, isn’t it true that all the cases of vampirism she cites in fact echo her own fan-girl vampiring of certain literary figures. In this sense in her scholarship she performs as vampire, that necroglamorous figure of art standing in as another kind of “hipster” figure, a representative of Art as Luxury, and Privilege. It is the hipster-scholar-artist-art-lover’s privilege to be useless, vampirical, inseminating and inseminated, not dutifully redeeming our society’s ills, as being privileged just to be itself, a blood-sucker.

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Lets not forget that Andy Warhol was nicknamed Drella (Dracula + Cinderella):

(continue reading…)

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Wunderkammer: Kitsch and Violence in Cynthia Cruz, Lara Glenum, Plath and Celan

by on Jan.29, 2015

Lately I’ve been reading this new book Wunderkammer by Cynthia Cruz. The title refers to cabinets of curiosity, or wunderkammers, a subject matter I’m interested in. These chambers (sometimes rooms, sometimes boxes) was how back in pre-modern-science days people collected curiosities, often from other parts of the world, objects not following some kind of scientific classificatory system but rather tied together by their capacity to incite “wonder.”

Cruz-font-cover

In the book Artificial Kingdom, Celeste Olalquiaga traces kitsch back to this “science”, which in its undead state turns into things like the “fern-craze” of Victorian England, when people would get aquariums and put ferns in them. I’m fascinated the wunderkammer’s inevitable connection between collecting, imperialism, decadence/death and of course Art.

I might even say that Surrealism – which so often stands in for “kitsch” in contemporary US poetry discussions – is based on the idea of the wunderkammer – with its collection of strange, useless, outdated objects brought together by occult forces. Benjamin famously called surrealism “dream kitsch”; and Clement Greenberg called Max Ernst “postcard kitsch.” Between those two phrases you get the connection between the wunderkammer and surrealism.

Of course this can be seen most clearly in Joseph Cornell’s boxes:

cornell.parrot-juan-gris

These boxes of dream-trash, rescued from the garbage heap of New York City’s dreams.

Cruz’s poems are almost all wunderkammers – some of the poems are actually called wunderkammer, but even the ones that aren’t have the sense of a collection of objects brought together by some strange act:

WUNDERKAMMER

A Greek crime mars the pastoral.
Charts and maps, an atlas of anesthesia-
Laced nostalgia. A long haired, white
Rabbit, muffled, shot, and stuffed.
And old yellow chiffon gown, the ribbon
Hem, ripped and red wine stained.
Curricula of the mundane.
Symptoms of trauma, like ghost
Spots of water on crystal
That will not be washed off.

In many ways this poem seems to straight up describe a Cornell box. Like Cornell, Cruz’s poem is invested in the necroglamorous: the rabbit is stuffed, the chiffon gown old and stained, the crystal has ghost spots. But it is glamorous nonetheless, anesthesized by “nostalgia” and more specifically the nostalgia for glamor. The numbing seems to be physical: the speaker seems stuck like a stuffed rabbed, she cannot “wash off” the atmosphere of the piece, which primarily consists of the “chiffon gown” -its material seems to immobilize her. She cannot really get out of the box so to speak until the negative ending “will not be washed off” which for me works as a relief from the stultifying, stunting but beautiful glamour.
(continue reading…)

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"Why Shut Down Enjoyment?" On Drew Kalbach, Zizek, Ange Mlinko and Postmodern American Poetry

by on May.03, 2013

Over at The Actuary, Drew Kalbach has written an excellent post on response to Ange Mlinko’s review of the new Norton Anthology of postmodern poetry, finding in her rhetoric a desire to “shut down enjoyment”:

Mlinko’s review genuinely confuses me. Really, this type of rhetoric confuses me in general. Its only goal seems to be to not allow people to enjoy something. She seems to suggest, in the first paragraph, that students who are forced to purchase this book (leaving aside the agency all students have, and the availability of inexpensive used texts, etc etc) are somehow being done a disservice. But she assumes that these students will get nothing from these poems, will not enjoy these poems, because she does not enjoy these poems. More than that, she assumes these students can’t choose for themselves whether or not these poems are worthwhile; they need to be taught proper taste.

His post makes me think about another thing I recently read in Zizek’s book Violence (which I quoted a couple of days ago on a related topic):

What Nietzsche and Freud share is the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy – on the envy of the Other who has what we do not have, and who enjoys it. The demand for justice is thus ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the Other should be curtailed so that everyone’s access to jouissance is equal. The necessary outcome of this demand , of course, is asceticism. Since it is not possible to impose equal jouissance, what is imposed instead to be equally shared is prohibition.

So far, Zizek’s analysis seems to follow Kalbach’s: especially in an age of “glut,” when there’s “too much” poetry, “too much” poetry that is – inherently in the quantity – tasteless, we more than ever need prohibitions. It seems the only acceptable form of criticism in the poetry world is to stage prohibitions. Witness for example Tony Hoagland who has made a career it seems of attacking poetry that does too much (too “skittery,” too political, too extravagant etc).

But I think it’s important to be clear that those prohibitions come not just from Poetry Magazine, but also of course from “experimental poetry,” which is full of prohibitions – against “the lyric I”, against images, against this and that, against “expression,” against the poetic, against poetry itself (in the case of Conceptual Poetry) – and full of anti-kitsch rhetoric – against the “too much”, the flood of “soft surrealism”, of excess of “MFA poets” etc. Even Flarf in its jokey embrace of “bad poetry” is of course re-confirming the insistence of Taste (you just have to have enough good taste to imitate the bad taste, to know that it’s bad). In many ways, the rhetoric of experimental poetry often reminds me of Zizek’s notion of “hedonistic asceticism.”

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Instead of all this prohibition (including the most famous one, to “ENJOY!”), in this plague ground age, I suggest bug time:

2. What model of literary time is provided by this mutating field time, this bug time, this spasming, chemically induced, methed up mutating, death time, this model of proliferant, buggered, buggy, moist, mutating, selecting, chitinous, gooey, bloated, dying time, a time defined by a spasming change of forms, by generational die-offs, by mutation, by poisoning, a dynamic challenge to continuity, and by sheer proliferation of alternatives, rather than linear succession? How would T.S. Eliot’s golden lineup of genius allstars, constantly reordering itself but still male- and human- and capital-assets- shaped, be affected by this swarm of ravening pissed-off mutant bugs out-futuring them by dying six times a summer, by having no human-shaped future at all?

(From Joyelle’s “Bug Time”)

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Zizek on Tolerance and Trolls

by on May.01, 2013

I sometimes think about this passage from Zizek’s book Violence (and other places, he does famously repeat himself…):

Today’s liberal tolerance towards others, the respect of otherness and openness towards it, is counterpointed by an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the Other is just fine, but only insofar as his presence is not intrusive, insofar as this other is not really other… In a strict homology with the paradoxical structure of the previous chapter’s chocolate laxative, tolerance coincides with its opposite. My duty to be tolerant towards the Other effectively means that I should not get too close to him, intrude on his space. In other words, I should respect his intolerance of my over-proximity. What increasingly emerges as the central human right in late-capitalist society is the right not to be harassed, which is a right to remain at a safe distance from others.

I am frequently reminded of this quotes in discussion in American poetry. It seems frequently that having a difference of opinion (no matter now meekly expressed) amounts to a gave offense, that there’s something “aggressive” or rude about expressing opinions. One becomes a “troll” by expressing one’s opinion.

I remember an angry email I received from a poet for disagreeing with her on a public blog; she wrote “this isn’t about you” and “you are from somewhere else” – as if I was being a megalomaniac foreigner (which of course might be true) by disagreeing with her on a public forum. I was hurt by that; I still think about it.

Of course, there are also these “trolls” that are repetitive and insulting in comment sections, and I find they often tend to be inherently normative (attacking people who express unconventional opinions). I used to have an “open” comment section to my last blog but stopped because I would just get tons of these hateful, thoughtless comments, so that’s why I have to approve comments to this blog (even though I seldom decline comments, and the few times I have I probably shouldn’t have). When does someone with different views become a “troll”? (Troll is of course not human, and that seems important here.)

Recently I noticed somebody wrote that Seth Oelbaum was a “troll” because he had expressed his views (in a highly performative fashion, as always) about poets he liked and didn’t like (as well as disagreeing with my ideas about “the glut”). You may disagree with him, but is he a “troll” for having strong opinions? For being too performative in the way he expresses them? Or for quite simply having opinions that differ from the common consensus?

Can we imagine a version of poetry discourse that is based on exchange or engagement with different opinions, and not on ‘tolerance’ or its phantom twin, shunning (i.e. don’t feed the troll…)?

(For the record: I totally agree with Oelbaum that Joyelle and Chelsea Minnis are two of the “top poets” in the US. But I also really like Aaron Kunin!)

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Believe the Hype: Sarah Dowling's Birds & Bees

by on Mar.05, 2013

birds and bees

I want to throw down some hype for Sarah Dowling’s terrific Birds & Bees, recently published by Troll Thread. Birds & Bees is kind of its own hype machine, organized as it is around/after/by two affectively opposed but similarly contagious pop songs: the Temptations’ “My Girl” and Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.” These two (and possibly other?) songs form the affective technology of the poems in this chapbook, their lyrics and beats pumping through insistently even as the record/CD/MP3 skips/glitches around. Activated by the slithery stop-and-go beat of Aaliyah’s hit, for example, the following poem stutters through a ventriloquism of the song’s hush-hush lyrics, desire reverberating and refracted:

I’ve got to tell you

Can you Can you Can you Can you Boy
grey Boy, I promise you If we and you know
We talk But see dry I don’t know if from
you shouldn’t tell you but if I If maroon I
let you You can’t I’m talking Are you noiseless Boy
I’m not lonely just Is it, Is it Say yes

or say no Cause I really Tell me are
you wet Boy Won’t you If you tell you know
that we’ll Oh real Boy See shouldn’t let you but,
If I If I You can’t tell proud I hope
you crowded Boy I’m not Is it, Is it Cause
I really Tell me are you empty Won’t you And

listen Cause I really need Tell me are you
If I You can’t tell I’m talking difficult I hope
alone Boy I gotta I’m not Is it, is it
Say Is it numerous is it Cause I really Tell
me are you cordial Cause I really You can’t tell
I’m talking further

(continue reading…)

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The Violence of Style: Larry Levis, Sylvia Plath, Mark Levine etc

by on Feb.05, 2013

I want to continue thinking about the kind of relationship between masculinity, violence and art that I broached in my last post, about the West Memphis 3 and “violent femmes”. This is of course something I’ve written about frequently in my own poetry (luckily I write about things I don’t understand, so I can continue). I’m interested in how the identification of violence and masculinity in poetry; and also how this relates to the foreign, the ethnic. But mostly what I’m going to talk about here is how violence is said to be “masculine” in fact comes off as “feminine” in many ways inside art, and how this relates to “style”, and in fact “too much” style, or “inflation” as I’ve called it elsewhere.

In older posts I documented how the “early” Larry Levis and cohorts were dismissed for their “glut” of poetry that was surrealist – violent, slapstick bodies, foreign/translation-influenced, sensationalistic – and how they “moved on” to write poetry that was about grief-as-interiority, “narrative” memories, but strangely almost paralyzed in their quietism. You can get a good sense of this violent early poems by the title of his first book, “Wrecking Crew.”

Airplanes
I get a gun and go
shoot an airplane full of holes,
and stare at the thing on the runway
until its covered with rust.
This takes years.
I turn forty somewhere, waiting
for the jet underneath me to
clear its throat of burned
starlings.

I think it’s also pretty important that this “early” poetry was Plath-influenced in exactly these regards. The other day on Facebook, Brian Henry posted the following quote from Helen Vendler’s famous essay on Sylvia Plath:

Poems like ‘Daddy’ and ‘Lady Lazarus’ are in one sense demonically intelligent, (continue reading…)

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"That is not your mother but her body": The Corpse Aesthetics of Plath, Hughes and Murder Mysteries

by on Jan.22, 2013

PlathForever-2012-single-duo-v1I was reading Ted Hughes’ poem “The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother” this morning and I started thinking about the Corpse as an icon of art, art’s violence, and the unsettling itneriority-less-ness of the image. This is of course made really obvious in Plath’s own work. “Arrival of the Bee Box” with its horror and fascination with the locked up foreign (African, Roman) mob which she plans to let out to let it devour her is a kind of model for art’s affect (it swarms, it bites, it kills)[1]. “Fever 103” is in many ways about that state of being enswarmed – she becomes artificial (acetylene virgin, a flickering Japanese lantern, ie kitsch). And most famously the kitsch-crowded (atrocity kitsch, freakshow kitsch, shell kitsch) “Lady Lazarus” where she is displayed for the “peanut crunching crowd,” a swarming entity whose “crunching” for me always felt like a “bone-crunching” (ie they’re eating the speaker).

This crunching and devouring of the corpse leads me to think about Ted Hughes’ poem about Plath, “The Dogs are Eating Your Mother”:

The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother
by Ted Hughes

That is not your mother but her body.
She leaped from our window
And fell there. Those are not dogs
That seem to be dogs
Pulling at her. Remember the lean hound
Running up the lane holding high
The dangling raw windpipe and lungs
Of a fox? Now see who
Will drop on all fours at the end of the street
And come romping towards your mother,
Pulling her remains, with their lips
Lifted like a dog’s lips
Into new positions. Protect her (continue reading…)

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"It's All Dada" or "Dada, by way of David Bowie and Frank Zappa, drag and Pachuco culture": Immigrant Aesthetics, Authenticity Kitsch and ASCO

by on Jan.17, 2013

A while back I wrote about homesickness and immigration. I thought I would add a few more words about it. On one had the immigrant is a really heroic figure in both American culture. America loves the story of the strong immigrant who forges ahead and makes a new life for himself, forgetting about his old world life. He maintains his wholeness (and I’m using the male pronoun because this figure is very much identified as masculine).

The flipside of this coin is the bad immigrant, the immigrant who suffers from homesickness, who cannot forget about his home and family. This is the weak, sentimental immigrant, the feminine immigrant who becomes torn, loses his wholeness. As Susan Matt shows in her book Homesickness, such feelings were increasingly pathologized in the 19th century as part of American nation-building. We needed our citizens to be whole, to belong fully to America.

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I am thinking about how this dilemma and how it pertains to ethnic writing. Immigrant cultures tend, strangely, to produce conservative art. In part “conservative” as in trying to “conserve” their heritage. If you go to Swedish-American cultural events you’re more likely to encounter Maypoles and Dala horse (ethnic trinketry in other words) than avant-garde poetry (even though, as I hope I’ve shown over the past ten years, there’s a lot of amazing poetry and art being conducted by Swedish artists and writers). In other words, ethnic kitsch.

But is this conservatism an act of sentimentality? And is it an attempt to remain whole or an inability to sever ties with the past? Or is it an easy way of making the past past? To make relics out of one’s home.

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“The urge to collect objects, for individuals as well as societies, is a sign of impending death. One finds this need acutely manifested during preparalytic periods. There is also the mania for collecting – in neurology, “collectionism.” – Paul Morand, 1929

“Kitsch is dead from the moment it is born” – Celeste Olalquiaga

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In poetry it seems that a lot of immigrant and ethnic poetry seems very much focused on the kind of aesthetic of “personal narrative” that was invented in the 1970s – as we talked about in the Larry Levis discussions a while back – to “mature” the immature, translation-based aesthetics of the late 60s and early 70s.

And on the other hand, I know of so many “experimental” writers who dismiss “identity art” as the worst, most regressive kind of art.

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This may all seem pretty odd because modernism and the avant-garde is so largely predicated on the immigrant experience. You have Shklovsky’s famous idea of art as an “estrangement” (“ostranenie”) device that in essence suggests that art makes us feel like strangers in the world, makes the world fresh to us by making us into foreigners. This kind of thinking goes back to the same German Romantics on whose work Walter Benjamin famously drew in making his evocative claims about translation. And you have someone like Brecht and his “defamiliarization” devices meant to push us out of the ideologically saturated space of our homeland to view it at a critical distance.
(continue reading…)

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"Of Metromanie and Authorship": Kent Johnson's Hybrid Critique by David Hadbawnik

by on Jan.15, 2013

Of Metromanie and Authorship: Kent Johnson’s Hybrid Critique
by David Hadbawnik

When Michel Foucault wrote “What Is an Author?”, he famously ended the essay with a Utopian desire for “a form of culture in which fiction would not be limited by the figure of the author,” and speculated that “as our society changes … the author-function will disappear” (516-17) [1]. This, he imagines or hopes, will render obsolete “limiting” questions such as, “Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse?” and lead instead to a renewed, more open-ended focus on texts and discourses in their own right; with regards to the author, as Foucault concludes, “we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: ‘What difference does it make who is speaking?’” (517). Yet the “Death of the Author” has proven as elusive and premature as the end of capitalism, the modern institution that arguably gave rise to the modern concept of the author; for every scoop of dirt tossed on it, the author seems to rise up with a vengeance. Indeed, as literature has become less important from a cultural standpoint [2], it seems to matter more than ever who wrote it. Awards, grants, tenure, prestige—these increasingly scarce and meager crumbs are doled out to individuals, not “discourses.”

One form of authorship, which seems at once new and at least somewhat anticipated by Foucault [3], is what I would term (for lack of a thriftier phrase) “Isn’t that the one who…?” authors. The need for such authors on poetry’s cultural landscape is implicit in Marjorie Perloff’s controversial Boston Review essay, “Poetry on the Brink: Reinventing the Lyric,” in which she suggests there are too many poets. Perloff notes at the outset of the essay that, “the sheer number of poets now plying their craft inevitably ensures moderation and safety.” She then describes the typical contemporary poem as a sort of loose free-verse construction, image-heavy, and aiming towards a form of expression which, as Perloff writes, “designat[es] the lyric speaker as a particularly sensitive person who really feels the pain, whether of our imperialist wars in the Middle East or of late capitalism or of some personal tragedy such as the death of a loved one.” The glut of poets produced by this modern Academic-Industrial Complex (and the surfeit of journals and presses that support them) results in the regrettable situation that “poets are always being displaced by younger poets.” Yet Perloff’s true message is that as a result of this uniformity, this glut of poets, the well-turned phrase, the well-wrought poem of whatever stripe is simply pedestrian unless its author can be introduced by the formula, “Isn’t that the one who…?” Otherwise, said author’s writing is just another in the endless stream of (at best) perfectly competent verse that is foisted on the public at ever-increasing and alarming rates.

Try it out:
(continue reading…)

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No Lineage: Sylvia Plath's Influence

by on Jan.08, 2013

[I wrote this a couple of days ago:]

Lo and behold, there’s a poetry review in the NY Times today…This is what the reviewer writes:

This powerful poetry is a heart offering by way of Ms. Cruz’s ancestor-sisters Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. In “Kingdom of Dirt” she seduces the reader like this:

Meet me in the love-
Burned orchard
Where the beautiful doomed
Meet at last.

This book is her charred orchard.

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And, as the reviewer points out, Cruz’s book does seem to be operating under the influence of Sylvia Plath. I just read Danielle’s discussion of Plath and feminism in The Volta, where she quotes Susan R. Van Dyne:

Few critics have liked the tone of “Daddy.” Commenting nearly a decade apart, Irving Howe calls it “monstrous” and “utterly disproportionate,” and Helen Vendler finds it adolescent and unforgiving. Even a sympathetic ear like Margaret Dickie’s hears it as “hysterical.” […] other critics have been embarrassed, as Vendler is, that a woman of thirty reverts to baby-talk in her fury at parental injuries. The critical disapproval of Plath’s tone, it seems to me, indicates doubts both that the speaker’s excesses are altogether appropriate to the occasion and that Plath is entirely in control of her tone […] I grant the tone that critics have heard in “Daddy” is indeed present, but I believe its excesses are part of Plath’s conscious strategy of adopting the voice of a child, of creating a persona who is out of control […] The child persona dramatizes a woman writer’s powerlessness; it mirrors the cultural allegation that woman is child, and it gives form to her experience of being treated like one.

(continue reading…)

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"…overcrowding, doubling up, debility and damage": Vicuna, Asco, Ethnic Fan Fiction and Possession

by on Jan.04, 2013

I’m going to piggy-back on a few recent posts by myself and others.
1_asco_dod_11-1976_JuditheHernandez_storyslide_image
Yesterday, Joyelle wrote the following about “The Black Art of Hilma af Klimt and Kim Hyesoon”:

“…and also of Kim Hyesoon’s entire ouevre, any poem, in which forms contain, die, give birth, give way to more forms, and the end of eternity can never be found. Creatures keep consuming each other, shitting, tearing, pushing through each other, and the significance of any given form or container is that it marks a boundary which can be pushed through, though one which always might reconstitute itself.”

A while back I wrote about Fan Fiction in similar terms:

What became apparent to me from reading Megan’s review is this crucial notion, the “vampirism” or “cannibalism” or “channeling” of art: it’s art that makes more art, that feeds off other art to make it immortal, to pass on fluids from one art to the next artwork.

The difference between the “black art” of Kim Hyesoon and a vampire however might be the sense of the poet as a medium rather than a vampire, the art moves through the poet with much less of a conscious sucking of blood (and shitting out immortality?). A few years ago when Joyelle wrote about the art of Fi Jae Lee (KH’s daughter) as “body possessed by media,” she was already calling forth this occult dimension of art:

(continue reading…)

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From "Wrecking Crew" to "Maturity" in American Poetry: Larry Levis #2

by on Dec.28, 2012

I was intrigued a few weeks ago when in response to my first Larry Levis post, Milford gave a little history lesson of late 60s early 70s poetry: How supposedly Merwin had influenced a lot of poets to write deep image poetry, generating a “glut” of surrealist-ish poetry, which was then abandoned as those very same poets moved on to write personal narratives of interiority and sentimentality. Milford suggested that Levis’s own writing trajectory follows this path.
larry-levis
I was intrigued by this not just because I liked Wrecking Crew – the Levis book I quoted from – but also because I wondered what would make somebody abandon this very lively, spasmodic poetry in favor of the type of personal narratives that so much of American poetry seemed to be about when I started writing poetry (in the late 80s).

I’m also interested in how that “glut” (too many poets, writing too much poetry etc) reflects our own current “glut” of excess, our “plague ground” as Joyelle put it way back when this debate began. There are of course tons of similarities – the expansion of the number of authors (through MFAs, GI bill etc), an interest in translation, an interest in “surrealism” (by which it might just mean non-American-based poetry).
(continue reading…)

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