Sunday, April 26, 2009

hu man

For some reason, I've been having trouble finishing blog posts lately. This is late coming I suppose, but still relevant.

In his post on Audience, Seth Abramson writes:

For myself, when I see something human in a poem I know that it came from a human place and a human motivation, and as an active and imaginative reader who embraces negative capability I can and am willing to go wherever the writer wants to take me (provided I trust the authority of their voice; trusting the authority of their vision is not paramount to me). But when I read a poem and can detect nothing human in its construction--when mastery has clearly been divorced from a primal need for what is on the inside to be seen by someone somewhere on the outside--I recoil. It's that simple: I recoil. In (for instance) Ron Silliman's best poems, I see something human, and I love them dearly for it. In his less successful ones, I don't see this, and I remain unaffected and disinterested.
I swear this is becoming an epidemic. Joseph Hutchison has said that there is something "unhuman" about Flarf and conceptual poetry; Henry Gould has said (somewhere) that poetry should remain "rooted" in the "human voice"; the other day, Don Share quoted Jim Powell saying that contemporary American poetry "is essentially adolescent. Its concerns never really get past that personal subjectivity. Aristotle would say it's not even human." [and since I began writing this post, Johannes Göransson has made reference to the editors of American Hybrid employing the term "human" to refer to what I guess is supposed to be the opposite of "nonsense"]

What the fuck people?

I've been meaning to blog about this for a little while, but I figured I'd approach some of these people and try to figure out where they were coming from. Hutchison responded to some of my concerns, we had a few arguments, but he never responded to my problems with the "human" comments. Seth responded with something that didn't quite sound as if he read the question, deleted it, and then disabled comments on that thread. Maybe my question wasn't clear enough, or maybe something else.

I'm trying to give people the benefit of the doubt here that what they're trying to say isn't as stupid as it sounds. I would really love for someone to explain to me what it is that they mean by "human". What attributes do some possess that makes them more human than others. How is Flarf not human? Does this really not sound stupid to people?

When I hear "poetry should remain rooted in the human voice", I hear something like: "poetry should remain rooted in cellular respiration" OR "People who don't have voices, shouldn't write poetry". In the end, my best guess is that he means that spoken language is "pure" language and everything else is a bastardization. That writing imitates speech, and has no value outside of it's ability to emulate the spoken word. Weird.


For myself, when I see something unhuman in a poem I become fascinated by such an anomaly.

For myself, when I see something porcupine in a poem I know that it came from a porcupine place and a porcupine motivation.


As I said, I want to give this the benefit of the doubt, but with this I can't quite get anywhere if I do that. For myself, when I see something stupid in a blog post, I assume I'm missing something.

A list of

Things it sounds like when you say "But when I read a poem and can detect nothing human in its construction--when mastery has clearly been divorced from a primal need for what is on the inside to be seen by someone somewhere on the outside--I recoil. It's that simple: I recoil":

-it sounds like you are putting certain human attributes into categories, one category ("human") holding things like "feelings"/"emotions" and "primal needs", and another unnamed "unhuman" category containing "mastery", being "analytical", and "not wanting people to see things that are inside of you".

-it sounds like the word "human" is being used to just mean that you read poems to find things that you identify with in the poet. If you don't identify with the poet, you recoil.

-it essentially just sounds like you're unwilling to engage with things you don't understand.

-it also sounds wholly narcissistic and masturbatory.

Most people can find something human in the stars in the sky, in clouds, in splatters of ink, so if you can't find something human in a poem: you're doing it wrong.

very interesting to me is that Seth ends the paragraph quoted at the beginning of this post with: "Still, what is human is human and (as Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography) I sometimes do feel as though I know it when I see it."

So that's kind of scary. With this approach, a reader will never learn to value the humanity he does not immediately "know when he sees it" and identify with.

For myself, I've never encountered any poem that couldn't be considered human. In fact, I tend to look for poems that I don't immediately identify with. I don't know about anyone else, but I tend to assume that my personal experience is not equal to the human experience as a "whole". I assume that there are hordes of people out there who I can't immediately identify with, whose approach to life, to poetry, to whatever is wholly perplexing to me. These are things I'm interested in, things I want to encounter and learn about.

talking about Kenny Goldsmith and Flarf, just cause they are the ones that tend to get mentioned the most as not "human". I think I'd rather be more specific than just "Flarf", but this is about as general as the attacks are, and honestly, since I can't afford to buy a lot of new books, my knowledge of the individual flarf poets over time is much less than I would like.

In Kenny Goldsmith's poetry, I see more passion for life than I see in most other contemporary poetry. I very much relate the love and need to engage with life that his work portrays to the same that I find in Whitman. And really, the pleasure and intense energy he brings to the dull, the boring, and the monotonous is something Whitman only writes "about". Goldsmith acts it out. How is it not human?

In Flarf. Despite whatever repelling elements I first encountered reading flarf poems, the more I read the more I find the most sober, honest response to the contemporary "language experience" of any other poetry. I say that partly because I know it's the opposite experience of flarf's "opponents" (sorry to even use that term), and partly because I do honestly experience flarf in this way. Aesthetically yes, it is the least "sober" and the least "honest" poetry every written. But I see the language of my daily life actually being engaged with. It is honest in its dishonesty, and wholly sober in its drunkenness. The most offensive thing about flarf really seems to be that it forces its reader to face parts of what is "human" that we're used to seeing hidden with poetry.

So in that it is human to run from the parts of reality that are discusting, and to create clean escapist fantasies to believe in, then yes, perhaps Flarf is not human.

Monday, April 20, 2009

how to write a poem


how we present:

HErada dm

OK, that's one way;
OK, that's one way,
OK, that's one way.

no, that's a none we
raid preens his whole, drops the cone in,
stems through/
steams through/
steeps through.

First I.../
Then I...

It not just wanna
this and this and this

"open your life"

"signs to look for"


make my way through words. want to show you the chew too,


backspace backspace backspace backspace backspace backspace
"TEE" "EE" Backspace "Etch" "Oh" "You" "Gee" "Etch"
backspace backspace backspace backspace
"Etch" "Are" "Oh" "You" "Gee" "Etch"
[think about the possibility of tea"

Thumb Miss
the mistakes

want to:
-the curl of toe
-press of toe against the table leg
-hands dance to "Say" what body does
-Music: don't "know" "what" "it" is.
-left leg on right leg "in masculine fashion"

Riding home from the C-Cup:
while "I" is typed with the middle finger
"A" is typed with left pinkie [leftist pinko]

Was called "the man of letters" yesterday.
willing to buy it if only in the sense that I bumble around in them daily.
Think: "La Terse" and "Let her's"
Make: a note not to let anyone know that I thought this

I am always betraying my past selves, considering them almost enemies.

Just went back and read the part of this where I was trying to present my failed typing of the word "through". The failure to maintain any type of consistency of presentation of what keys I pressed is so pronounced, seems so exaggerated. I considered changing it just to make it more "believable".
-began with no quotes, all lower case for the first line
-in the second line I used quotes (for all the keys except "backspace" which is now capitalized for some reason; the first two keys are presented in all caps, but all the rest (of the in-quotes keys) just the first letter is capitalized.
-in the third line "backspace" is back to being in all minuscule.
-the fourth line is consistent.
-the fifth line presents the "ENTER" key in all caps but no quotes.
-The last line seems like a joke in how inconsistent it is. I begin it with (denoting an aside with) a left bracket but end with a double quote. "tea" is uncapitalized and now spelled with an "A" which I guess was intentional. It is also, however, absent of quotes unless of course the last quote was intended for the word and not for the aside, in which case I guess I just completely forgot about closing it with a bracket.

My Influences:
Things in my pockets:
Left Pocket
-two napkins from two different coffee shops each used to scrawl various
notes/calculations about finances.
-my sansa MP3 player (broken)
-my hand
-a receipt for a black belt
Right Pocket
-75 cents: three quarters
-keys: two keyrings, key to C-Cup, key to my building, key to my apartment, key to my unusable car, key to parents house, bottle opener, nail clippers.
Also my wearable "pocket"/satchel/fanny-pack/purse
-two notebooks
-the above's various expandable lists.
Things on the Table:
-laptop power cord
-another notebook
-water glass
-coffee mug
-The Blood of the Air, Philip Lamantia
-Blood and Guts in High School, Kathy Acker
-The Double Dream of Spring, John Ashbery
-the Maintains, Clark Coolidge
-Topher's hat

my poetry is thinking the words "I can put my flank in my mouth" and writing it down, not because it's "good" or even all that interesting in and of itself, but because I'm wondering why I thought it. I think I'll write it down so that I can remember it and think about why I thought it. Then later I read it and think "why did I write that down?", the memory of thinking it is gone, and I just remember that I wrote it down because I thought the words "I can put my flank in my mouth". Then later, maybe a reader thinks "why is he talking about this?"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Typing the first five sonnets of Shakespeare with the right hand shifted one key position to the left.


Frin faurest creatyres we dusere ubcreasem
Tgat tgerevt beayttls rise nuggt bever duem
Vyt as tge ruoer sgiykd vt tube deceasem
Gus tebder geur nuggt veargus neniruL
Vyt tgiy cibtracted ti tgube iwb iruggt etesm
Feed;st tht kuggt;s fkane wutg sekf0sybstabtuak fyekm
Najubg a fanube wgere avybdabce kuesm
Tgt sekf tgt fiem ti tgt sweet sekf tii cryekL
Tgiy tgat art biw tge wirkd;s fresg irbanebtl
Abd ibkt gerak ti tge gaydt situbm
Wutgub tgube iwb vyd vyruest tgt cibtebtm
Abdm tebder cgyrkm naj;st waste ub buffardubgL
Oubtu tge wirkdm ir ekse tgus fkyttib vem
Ti eat tge wirkd;s dyem vt tge grave abd tgee,


Wgeb firtt wubters sgakk vesuege tgt vriwm
Abd dug deei trabcges ub tgt veaytu;s fuekdm
Tgt tiytg;s oriyd kuvert si gazed ib biwm
Wukk ve a titter;d weed if snakk wirtg gekdL
Tgeb veubg asjedm wgere akk tgt veaytu kuesm
Wgere akk tge treasyre if tgt kystt datsl
Ti satm wutgub tgube iwb deeo sybjeb etesm
Were ab akk eatubg sganem abd tgruftkess orausem
Giw nycg nire orause deserve;d tgt veayttls tsem
Uf tgiy ciykdst abswer ;Tgus faur cgukd if nube
Sgakk syn nt ciybtm abd naje nt ukd excysem;
Orivubg gus veaytt vt syccessuib tgube!
Tgus were ti ve bew nade wgeb tgiy art ikdm
Abd see tgt vkiid warn wgeb tgiy feek;st ut cikd,


Kiij ub tgt gkass abd tekk tge face tgiy vuewst
Biw us tge tune tgat face sgiykd firn abitgerl
Wgise fresg reoaur uf biw tgiy bit rebewestl
Tgiy dist vegyuke tge wirkdm ybvkess sine nitger,
Fir wgere us sge si faur wgise ybear;d winv
Dusdaubs tge tukkage if tgt gysvabtrt>
Ir wgi us ge si fibd wukk ve tge ribv
If gus sekf0kivem ti stio oisterutt>
Tgiy art tgt nitger;s fkass abd sge ub tgee
Cakks vacj tge kiverkt Aoruk if ger orunel
Si tgiy tgriygg wubdiws if tgube age sgakt seem
Dusoute if wrubjes tgus tgt fikdeb tune,
Vyt uf tgiy kuvem renenverld bit ti vem
Due subgke abd tgube ubage dues wutg tgee,


Ybtgruftt kivekubessm wgt dist tgiy siebd
Yiob tgt sekf tgt veayttls kegact>
Btyre;s vewyest guves bitgubgm vyt ditg kebdm
Abd veubg frabj sge kebds ti tgise are freeL
Tgebm veayteaiys buggardm wgt dist tgiy avyse
Tge viybteiys kargess guveb tgee ti guve>
Irifutkess ysyrerm wgt dist tgiy yse
Si great a syn if synsm tet cabst bit kuve>
Fir gavubg traffuc wutg tgt sekf akibem
Tgiy if tgt sekf tgt sweet sekf dist decueveL
Tgeb giw wgeb batyre cakks tgee ti ve gibem
Wgat acceitavke aydut cabst tgiy keave>
Tgt ybysed veaytt nyst ve tined wutg tgeem
Wgucgm ysedm kuves tg; execytir ti ve,


Tigse giyrm tgat wutg gevtke wirj dud frane
Tge kivekt gaze wgere evert ete ditg dwekkm
Wukk okat tge ttrabts ti tge vert sane
Abd tgat ybfauk wgucg faurkt ditg excekl
Fir bever0restubg tune keads synner ib
Ti gudeiys wubtern abd cibfiybds gun tgerel
Sai cgecjed wutg fristm abd kystt keaves wyute gibem
Veaytt i;er0sbiwed abd varebess evert wgereL
Tgeb were bit sybber;s dustukkatuib keftm
A kuqyud orusiber iebt ub wakks if gkassm
Veaytt;s effect wutg veaytt were vereftm
Bir utm bir bi renenverabce wgat ut wasL
Vyt tgeur sgiwl tgeur syvstabce stukk kuves sweet,

Watching A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora's Box

"Everybody, the tongue comes out"

'Fred uh-stare?'


'Equally embarrassing as just "A"'

"oh, yes, with every drink I grow stronger"

laughter and meat
afraid of nobody

'it's in Mandarin, switch to Cantonese'

They're to tell her if they discover a man with three birth-marks on his "sole" (of his feet).

Whistles blue
and so hard to understand
water-dreams and monkey eyes
a spider web caught on Stephen Chow's tooth. He smashes it out.

'also, you'll have to forgive the translation'

'He's asst. Master'

'he's just stupid'

His eyes have healed after they've stomped on his flaming crotch.


"you're forced to reveal your real image"

"you wanna eat his flesh"


"changing. Changing."

waterfall cave again
"it is normal to miss your home"


A "mesmerized" asst. Master has burned the real magic stickers, but they still think they're invisible.

He wants to poke her eyes out, but cannot bring himself to do it.


"I want to destroy all devils/
I can take off my underwear"


The bull king swallows her web, and produces a fan from his tongue.


"Because of love, you can ruin my face if you like"