Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Porn and Poetry

The Poetry as porn analogy has been popping up in my world a lot recently.

-Nada Gordon made a reference to it, saying Keats has a similar effect on her to that which she perceives porn is supposed to have.

-I'm not sure if she's mentioned it on her blog, but Theresa has often told me that she wants her poetry to be "language porn". I take this to mean that she wants her poetry to revel in language in socially inappropriate ways, that she wants to tear off what covers it, hoping to expose it in the midst of some embarrassing act.

-Linh Dinh has dealt with the whole issue a lot, but the most obvious recent example is his great (and often terrifying) blog: The Lower Half (NSFW).

-Dodie Bellamy mentions porn from time to time. I couldn't find any posts, or instances of her talking, explicitly, about porn as it relates to poetry. I'm probably not looking hard enough.

-Johannes Göransson talks about it, and mentions a paper he's writing on the topic.

-Jessie Stead's films come to my mind as an interesting (though it might seem out of the way) example. Her camera wavers so close to everyday objects (and for so long) that it can often seem "inappropriately" intimate. She somehow makes me feel as if I'm watching a marble undress (and really enjoying it).

-Both the porn industry and the poetry industry protested the bailouts in similar ways. (see Larry Flint's request for a bailout, and Charles Bernstein's).

-I'm missing some big examples, but mostly just trying to list recent examples I've come across.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Things to do in Ypsilanti

coffee falls into place
as temperature, love, and bleeding dishes
press loud and sad on digital rims


"outer name's experience", I wrote,
becoming numb with my willingness to participate.


I leave the nipple in it's place, but cry. Now, understanding


everything real, but moreso later

I wanted to write "the poem ended several lines ago, this is no longer part of the poem, instead it is just words", but thought "no, that's too Silliman".

I wanted too write "writing poetry for me is like pissing with a hard-on", but thought "no, that's juvenile".

other lines were too Vallejo, or too Eshleman.

If a line is too Ted Berrigan, I put it in especially.

don't want to be too Ashbery, would love to be too Nada Gordon

Tried very hard to be too Blau-DuPlessis, but later thought it was too much.


thought to write "this is all very stupid", but then thought "why did you think that in a british accent?"

I begin to put parts of Britain in my mouth. I hammer at a molar with a Texas colloquialism. Now (this is part of the training), I try to speak perfect Ypsilanti, still with Britain in there, and a dangling molar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Manifestos are kind of stupid

my poetics are those of driving home from Gretchen's at 1:46 AM, stopping at Dom's Bakery, but not really wanting a donut.
my poetics are those of making a left turn, thinking a car is about to crash into me, but not having this happen.
my poetics are those of falling asleep with Wes playing Paper Mario, Sarah asleep with her head in his lap.
my poetics are those of going to Fire Academy, getting a Paramedic license, and not becoming either.
my poetics are those of "dip my scars into language, comb them for clues"
my poetics are those of staring at people
my poetics are those of finding geometric relationships between tiles on the bathroom floor.
my poetics are those of being thirsty.
my poetics are those of walking around, thinking, speaking, noticing, and interacting.
my poetics are those of trying.
my poetics are those of rashes

no difference between "found" poetry and "composed" poetry.
not possible to isolate the conscious or the subconscious.
no difference between pattern and chaos.
"right" and "wrong"; "good" and "bad"; "correct" and "incorrect", are superstitious terms; all language is "true".
All language is hiding something.
I am hiding something.
"I" is hiding something.
"we" is hiding something.
all language is displacement.
denotata exist only as social agreements. If someone doesn't agree with your denotation of a word, that's your problem, not theirs.
Everything is action, even inaction.

Everything is relative, but some things happen, and some things don't happen. This is at least partially your fault.

Subconsciousness hides consciousness; Consciousness hides subconsciousness. Writing hides thinking; Thinking hides writing. Action hides writing; Writing hides action. Reading one way always hides reading another way. But none of these in equal amount. Everything hides something, and everything is partially hidden by something else, but never fairly.
This does not mean these things are "acceptable"
Nothing is acceptable.

Negatives ("no"thing, "ab"sense, "a"political etc) can only be referred to by extended metaphor. Negation is a positive action.

"True" is a reification. When you ask if something is "true", all you are asking is whether or not something conforms to the view of the universe you are most comfortable with. The fact that most people agree on some of the basic conotata of the word (ie. what it means for an event to "happen" or "not happen") only further confuses the implications. This does not mean that there is or isn't an objective reality.

One hardly needs to be told to be skeptical of "Marxist" interpretations, "Feminist" interpretations, or "New Critical" interpretations. The thing to be most skeptical of is anyone trying to say that it is possible to "just read".

upper limit Clayton Eshleman, lower limit Andy Kaufman
upper limit pirating music, lower limit appropriating speech.
upper limit Flarf, lower limit voting for Obama
upper limit standing, lower limit standing somewhere else
upper limit email, lower limit surfing the web
upper limit violating copyright law and meaning it, lower limit composing an original lie.
upper limit compassion, lower limit not wanting to stand for anything
upper limit eating, lower limit shitting
upper limit flailing, lower limit stuttering
upper limit Jackie Chan, lower limit Zukofsky
upper limit Gertrude Stein, lower limit Parkour
upper limit drinking, lower limit sleeping
upper limit cheap wine, lower limit expensive beer
upper limit seeing, lower limit hallucinating
upper limit noise music, lower limit panicked shouting
upper limit comedy, lower limit tragedy
upper limit needing distinctions, lower limit hating distinctions
upper limit Susan Howe, lower limit Lil Wayne

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Things I'm thinking about...

-If it's important that poetry "remain rooted in the human voice", then the poet should probably not read or write any poetry. His poems should take place only between persons, not broadcast or recorded in any way (these machines are too distant from the human voice).

-Any statement of poetics needs to be accompanied by an enactment of those poetics (statements of poetics can often, themselves, be this enactment). A statement like "language needs to remain rooted in the human voice" can mean enormously different things given different demonstrations. This is because language has no denotative capacity.

-The term "good" is frivolous. Frivolous words are important, but it's amazing how often serious criticism criticizes from the perspective of what the critic thinks is "good" (whether or not they use the word).

-I don't want to write "good" poetry. I want to write "worthwhile" poetry. I am very skeptical about what this means.

-making poems should be considered such worthwhile work that publishing them is not even necessary.

-I would rather my poems display pathology than imitate health.

-All language is infinitely frivolous and interesting.

-I'm almost as suspicious of iconoclasm as I am of icons.

-I'm more interested in what my failures in reading can teach me about how reading happens, than I am in "reading well".

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

more on translation

In After Lorca, Jack Spicer's brilliant book of Lorca translations, Spicer writes (to Lorca):
I yell "Shit" down a cliff at an ocean. Even in my lifetime the immediacy of that word will fade. It will be dead as "Alas." But if I put the real cliff and the real ocean into the poem, the word "Shit" will ride along with them, travel the time-machine until cliffs and oceans disappear.
I love this. In part, I see it as naive (not Spicer himself, but the statement): the idea that the immediacy of "Shit" is possible to convey. But what I consider most important about this statement is the recognition that language is not just words, but necessarily the space that those words take place in*. I want all my poetry to be a translation of the space it "takes place" in. Pretty much, most of the poetry I like accomplishes this in different ways. In fact, I'll even say (with no intent of later defending myself) that all successful poetry (whatever that is) accomplishes this in its some way. Spicer obviously informs my views of this to an extent, although I'm pretty sure I'm taking his statements at least slightly different than he actually meant them. For instance (and here's where things get real, by which I mean convoluted), language inhabits space, but it also forms its own environment. Yelling "Shit" down the cliff translates the space itself into the word (litho-alveolar fricative?). I'm not sure if this view contradicts what Spicer means when he later, in the same letter, derides poets who "pick up words from the street, from their bars, from their offices and display them proudly in their poems". How better to translate PLACE into the poem than with the speech that takes place there? I'd say that that's not quite what he means? What does he mean then? I really hope he doesn't mean that one has to "set the scene" by describing it (Fuck that).

All poems are translations, all translations are NEW poems.

And perhaps I'll go back on what I said. It's not that poems "should" be translations of the space they take place in, it's that all language is a translation of its environment. Various poems realize this more than others.

What is this poast even about? Here are some more of my translations of Vallejo:

Trilce I

Who are faced with tantric bulls? and now return
testing the island that squares in?

a little more consideration
around a saving tardiness. The soprano
of temperature around the aquatic mayor.
The batshit, the simple calibrated tide
on the brine of conquerors

in the insulated heart,

I greet the prison, the house haloed with
ideas in groups

a little more consideration
and the manic liquid, sized with tardiness

And the peninsula parades
for the shore, appropriated imperative
on the mortal line of equilibrium

Trilce XVIII

Oh the four paradigms of the cell
Ah the four paradigms with bared teeth
who, for remedy, danced prismed by number

frozen nerves, wretched breeching
for the four rings around arrangements,
the diaries of abhorred extremities.

Amorous lever of innumerable halves:
yes for studious water
yes for stable beer
honorable son of four paradigms
against the ceremonious cheering, The Twos
Yet More Two with Zero, And our honorable
Demonic Liberty

Ah, the paradigms of the cell.
I yield to duel entrances, my
last Two enlargements squared with night.
Serious Mother who shuts out death
haven for prominent declination,
a Sole woman with single hands,

And, solo, I vow, weighed down with distribution,
with the patter of ambling hands.

In alto, in the cheek of a tertiary arm
whose breathing pupil enters my double and my quadruple
is the mayor of my invalid man.

*I recognize that it's possible to interpret my saying this as a contradiction of my earlier defense of Flarf, and of collage in general. It is not a condradiction, but I also don't feel the need to explain myself at the moment. Maybe later.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Eshleman, Vallejo, translation...

Clayton Eshleman is an important poet to me. He helped me break from my Stein/Zukofsky/NYSchool/Langpo/Flarf version of what I'll call half-carelessly call the Avant-garde. By "break from", I don't mean "leave behind" or "forget" or anything that suggests that it's any less important to me now. I just mean that I get uneasy if I suddenly realize that my influences form a coherent progression. Coherence is Coercion (I don't know that I believe this, but I think it).

It may sound strange to say Eshleman helped me break from anything "Avant-garde" as he certainly couldn't be placed outside of the Avant-garde. It was more that he helped me break from my conception of it. He helped me be more critical of Langpo which in turn renewed my love for it. He may have been what dealt the death-blow to my apolitics, already shaken loose by the Bush Jr. years. Most importantly he pushed (via Sulfer) my view of poetry outside of America, and (via Juniper Fuse) my views on poetry outside of poetry.

I almost always have Eshleman's translations of either Vallejo's Trilce or Vallejo's Complete Posthumous Poetry on me at all times. I love the energy and devotion that Eshleman has toward translation. I greatly admire the lengths he goes to translate the poems as fully and faithfully as possible. I fully understand that my view of Vallejo is entirely through Eshleman. This isn't even something I necessarily consider a "bad" thing. Our views aren't "tainted" by looking at objects through a medium since that is exactly what "viewing" is.

Nevertheless, I've undertaken a project to break from My Eshleman's Vallejo. I am interacting with Vallejo's text directly, translating Trilce in what may be the opposite manner that Eshleman has done. First of all, I don't know any Spanish, nor am I working from a dictionary, looking up any Spanish words as I translate. I am also not using any particular method of translation. Sometimes I guess, sometimes I translate homophonically, sometimes I translate what reading a line aloud in Spanish makes me think of. Generally, if I do think I know what a word means, I treat it faithfully (translating its meaning if I feel that that is its significance to the poem, or it's sound, or a hybrid). The "not getting it" aspect of poetry has always been important to me, and it's something that I think is important to Trilce. I want to interact with poems, and work "with" them, more than I want to "get" them. This forms part of how I want my poetry to resist Capitalist conceptions of property, and specifically intellectual property (contradicting this resistance is also important to me).

Here is my translation of Vallejo's Trilce II:

Tempo Tempo
Medium of Staccato enters relenting:
bombs what burrows in the archival cartel.
tempo tempo tempo tempo

Era Era
Galloping concert on escarpments of wind
pours some clarity into our daily conjugations.
era era era era

Tomorrow Tomorrow
This repose, hot with our era
Pieces our present guard in pairs.
tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow

Number Number
How can you quantify our heritage now?
Will you Retaliate with fathers?
number number number numbeR

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lord knows I'm not a hipster, but...

A few years back (I'm 24), I decided to grow an ironic mustache. I was fresh out of fire academy and it seemed like the thing to do (no, I am not currently a fire fighter). I grew it, but I couldn't stand it. I just felt like a walking joke. My facial hair couldn't live its life solely for the purpose of mocking other facial hair. It was inhumane. So I shaved it the hell off.

This is a parable about Flarf (I think).

A few days after, I decided to grow the mustache back, but this time, as a serious mustache, one that didn't eschew my mustachioed brethren. I wore it proudly for years. However, it couldn't ever truly be a serious mustache, my former mustache was still there, palimsestuously intertwined with the new one. And facial hair, will always be a little silly.

Irony is unavoidable if you take humanity seriously enough. Irony only becomes problematic when it is used to deny one's commonality with the rest of us assholes. And I really can't see Flarf as doing this.

Henry Gould comments on K. Silem Mohammad's blog (in this week's biannual declaration of the death of Flarf) : 'CAN there be a "serious Flarf"?'. Hmm, if there ever was a "serious Flarf", wouldn't that be too ironic to be taken seriously. No, really, why shouldn't we take Flarf seriously? Where is this idea come from that irony and pathos can't coexist.

The best jokes aren't the ones that make us happy, they are the ones that help us laugh at our misery. The first kind lies to us, fractures us from who we are. The second teaches us about ourselves, and is less of a lie than even our misery.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Learn Latin or GTFO

Martin Earl's poast on blogging a couple of weeks ago at the Harriet blog has been on my mind a lot since. It contains large amounts of proper verb conjugation and rambling on various topics (blogging as a medium, purebred language, a lament for the decline of thoughtfulness in poetry, etc.), but mostly the reason it has stayed with me is because of its disturbing power assertions. I don't know if that's too strong of a wording for what I perceive to be his almost subtle attempts to assure non-privileged language that it has no place on the Internet, that it's current seemingly free-reign is coming to a much needed close. About poetry blogs, he writes:

So many poets, untrained at literary journalism, called up like reservists, and sent greenly into battle. Most of them have never learned that prose is not poetry. They seem to think that as poets they are somehow released from having to grapple with the arduous task of writing pleasing sentences. Anything can happen within a line of poetry, but the sentence is a rule-bound construction. You have to be good at mathematics to write good sentences. Ideally you should have studied Latin and a modern inflected language, German or Finnish, for example. You would do well to have an astrolabe placed to the left of your laptop.
His disdain for vernacular is hidden here by addressing those who are members of the educated class. I mean, this is already a pretty lame approach to writing even on the surface level, and is indicative of his approach to language in general: focusing on enforcing his rules at the expense of addressing content. However, the assertion becomes much more problematic when applied, for instance, to bloggers in developing countries who don't always have a well-educated journalist on hand to conjugate their sentences.

It may seem like I'm stretching things, but to me his assertion is clear: That those who don't wield the privileged class's strap-on English don't get to participate in the conversation. I mean, his problem with the blogs has nothing to do with what people are saying, it's just that their writers don't know enough European languages to be worth his time. The strength of the Internet is in the amount of people who have access to these conversations, but to Earl, this is only a negative thing.

I should mention that I've never previously heard of Martin Earl. The Internet tells me he's a poet and translator. Unfortunately, none of his work is available online without paying for it. The exception is his blogs on Harriet, which he was paid to write. This is important to me because, in this day, for a publishing writer to not have any work available on the Internet means one of two things: he's never written anything that anyone has ever wanted to put on the Internet, or he's fought very hard to keep his work out of the hands of all but paying customers.

Earl's attitude toward language is further revealed for what it is in the comment section as, on a number of occasions, he ignores valid criticism only to correct the verb tenses of a quick typing commenter.

It may seem kind of lame to be attacking some 2 week old blog post made by someone I've never heard of. These are, however, language issues I really care about, and these disturbing undertones of Earl's post were never mentioned by anyone as far as I know. It might appear otherwise, but I don't actually care about attacking Earl specifically. I care about attacking these kinds of attitudes in, not just poetry, but in language in general. In fact, there is even this attitude (in Earl's post and elsewhere) that "bad speech" is OK for poetry, because poetry is just games anyway. The Glaswegian poet Tom Leonard has dealt with a lot of these issues. Here is a poem from Unrelated Incidents:
this is thi
six a clock
news thi
man said n
thi reason
a talk wia
BBC accent
iz coz yi
widny wahnt
mi ti talk
aboot thi
trooth wia
voice lik
wanna yoo
scruff. if
a toktaboot
thi trooth
lik wanna yoo
scruff yi
widny thingk
it wuz troo.
jist wanna yoo
scruff tokn.
thirza right
way ti spell
ana right way
to tok it. this
is me tokn yir
right way a
spellin. this
is ma trooth.
yooz doant no
thi trooth
yirsellz cawz
yi canny talk
right. this is
the six a clock
nyooz. belt up.
Leonard would understand the class assertions being made by Earl immediately. In America, we think of Britain as having many different accents and idioms, whereas we think that America has only one with scattered single instances of pronunciation differences. This is, of course, wholly incorrect. There are numerous idioms that are immediately categorized as "wrong" or "bad English" in most people's minds. Black Vernacular is the obvious example, various Southern dialects also. Leonard writes in The Proof of Mince Pie:

The university (and here I speak specifically about the arts faculties) is a reification of the notion that culture is synonymous with property. And the essentially acquisitive attitude to culture, "education", and "a good accent" is simply an aspect of the competitive, status-conscious class structure of the society as a whole...

...And how often do you hear those letters on "Any Answers" etc. on the radio complaining about the corruption of "our beautiful English language"? The "beauty" of a lot of English poetry (particularly the Romantics) for many, is that the softness of its vowel-enunciation reinforces their class-status in society as the possessors of a desirable mode of speaking. And of course Keats's "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" goes down a bomb with the "Any Answers" brigade; where beauty in language is recognised as the property of a particular class, then naturally truth is assumed to be the property of that class also.
The truth is that there is no such thing as the "English Language". It's just a place marking term we think we use for convenience's sake. It pretends to be a generalized term that covers everything, but in reality, it's a very specific term, referring to the minority idiom of the ruling class that we all try so hard to emulate. The "rules of English" are not for the purpose of governing the language (language governs itself naturally), they are for the purpose of governing people, and restricting them.

Controlling what "good sentences" are was enough, for the most part, to restrict speech in the print world. If you couldn't emulate certain "Standards", you didn't have access to the press. This is no longer the case with Internet. Most libraries offer free computer and Internet access, and for instance: I'm writing this from a 9 year old laptop that I acquired at no cost, and am using to steal wireless from across the street.

New methods of coercion are necessary for controlling speech on the Internet ("tiered service" business models for ISPs), and for the most part, I guess it's comforting that Martin Earl only understands print's coercion methods. He'll have a pretty hard time trying trying to pull his shit over on us in this neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Climate Change

beauty's coat lays down its integer,
smooth antiquated flow or hard stared-at birth

weird slink on shivering participle,
lanky participant in grooves,
total ask,
a lot
a desire for anchors, slipped
in arduous spools of award winning hair,
clay parts only
entered tier
shifted up on hip to brain ratio

pink shouldered flight of hard trained homes
a healing shank driven into hemorrhaging tonality,
tailored to stymie risk's value

I watch them kiss me on my barbarian oats
ferocious elation of curves
and panicked bulges
This is my most-bearded moment,

Stone claim running over a watery bed
"put off" by this sharp cure of our one tuesday
a mood between two breasts,
and between wrist and cock: a time for thinking
between wishing and running: a time for thinking

side-alarm of plenty strides alive for waning
Color of Spurning! Give me one award,
collide, collide with ardent loaves of sun on faces
teeth, burning with hoaxes, soaped-up with harm's spectral species.
across the fleshy spine of beds, I unleash my span of click

I begin my sculpture by listening closely the top of my head off.

The love has healed, but we only come home to the beginning.

Internet steps out of soft carnality, steps up to the plate, and swabs my glee,
begins taking surveys of my horns, but loudly.
ONE, she says
TWO, building to a curdle.
at THREE, a slim rupture guesses me, and I talk back at it,
sharpening my very first corpse, growling
at my pertinent living space.
I give my arm to wide persona,
towel off, and stay sane.

conical warmth shoulders its way through the crowd.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Yes, I'm still talking about this.

To me, saying "Tag clouds are symptoms of the decline of symbolic efficiency" is like saying the Dewey Decimal System (DDC) was a symptom of the decline of symbolic efficiency. Both the DDC and SEO data (this is what tag clouds are a visualization of) are systems for guiding people to information that they are looking for. The DDC is, in fact, a far more constrictive system for organization, forcing any item into only one of a set number of pre-defined categories. SEO data allows for organic categorization, context comparison, and relevancy searches, giving authors more rather than less control over how their content is categorized, and how difficult or easy it is to find.

Thanks to Dale for pointing me towards Thomas Burke as to where he's coming from with a lot of this. Obviously, Jodi Dean is coming out of Zizek with this symbolic efficiency stuff. If there is another source I'm not picking up on it. And I'm sure that Dean has read a lot more Zizek than I have, but it seems like she's looking at what tag clouds are on the surface level, and not what they are in context of SEO being the most efficient, dynamic, and organic way of searching and retrieving information currently in use (far more "efficient" than web-crawlers and meta-tagging, two previous methods of organizing search data). The whole thing seems a little silly to me in light of every other method for mass organization of information in the last, say, few thousand years or so.