Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"reading 101" OR "reading lol" pronounced "lul" which i'm told is a way to say "asshole" in Dutch

Kent Johnson continues his pathetic vendetta against Ron Silliman. i so wish poetry beef was more like rap beef, without any of this sniveling, and pretending to be all wounded and shit. write a diss chapbook or something, and move on with your life.


the following is a dramatization of the dialogue thus far:

Kent: admit it Ron, you want to MURDER Eliot Weinberger!
Ron: uh, i was quoting someone. i mean, that should be pretty obvious from the rest of the poem. also, isn't it way dramatic to think that the actual speaker of those words actually wants anyone to die?
Kent: woe is me! doesn't anyone MEAN what they say anymore?
Ron: well, i DO mean it Kent, but i mean it in the context of it being a quote, as part of a collage of the language of my surroundings. is that really that difficult of a concept?
Kent: yes well, for some unknowable reason, i actually...and this is crazy... i believe... in my heart... that collage is UNETHICAL.
Ron: wow, that is really weird.
Kent: i know, right?

the background here is that Kent Johnson, poetry troll, believes he has, through some Glenn-Beck's-chalkboard-style reasoning, decoded a secret death wish in Ron Silliman's poem The Alphabet towards Eliot Weinberger. [my initial response here]

Kent Johnson quotes from a private email that "someone" sent him regarding the lines found in Silliman's poem (he basically, but not quite, says it was Ron Silliman): "My intent in quoting those originally was just to note the incredible cattiness of the poetry world". oh Ron, if only you could have known the true cattiness that those lines would latter incite.

Ron's response to Kent's pseudo-logical gymnastics is to inform him that it was a quote. Kent then (and here's the link again in case you missed it the first time) takes Ron's denial of murderous intentions as absolute proof that he is guilty, launching into some bizarre tirade about how quotes and collage are, yes, inherently unethical. His words:
To what extent has a flippant and self-serving attitude towards the materials one “collects” come to inflect, let us say infect, a good chunk of current avant aesthetic, vacating it of any discernible sense of ethic or moral claim?
uh, what sort of moral claim needs to be made to quote something you overheard someone say in public? and how is using overheard language at all unique to the "avant aesthetic"?

speaking of moral claim, i could never, in good conscience, create an imaginary windbag to straw-man the language poetry haters that is even close to being as ridiculous as Kent Johnson actually is. even addressing his arguments actually seems a little unfair to all the intelligent people who hate language poetry.

so... this is what i've gathered from Kent's "thinking":
the avant-garde actually invented the idea of quoting people in poems. not only that, they also invented saying things that weren't meant to be read as the direct first-person thoughts of the poet. really, they did. before language poetry, poet's never quoted anyone, or spoke satirically, or anything else that you've probably come to take for granted as the obvious spectrum of human communication.

remember before post-moderism when every poet meant every line of a poem in the most sincere way? sigh -- how humanity has fallen.

i think that it's safe to say, at this point, that Kent Johnson has never read a poem he's understood. actually, forget poetry, Kent pretends not to even understand how to interpret an introspective voice. for instance, i just thought the sentence "that chick probably has the hots for me" even though I know that she's just a good tipper. for Kent, poetry is not capable of exploring even this small level of nuance of meaning without shoving ethics (or Eliot Weinberger) right out the window. if a writer writes something, they can only "mean it" or "not mean it". of course, "not meaning it" includes quoting something, satire, stray thoughts, half-hearted musings, and really everything that's not the deeply held belief of the writer in question. and this entirely new way of writing, this "not meaning it" (as Kent must think of it) is DESTROYING YOUR WAY OF LIFE.

and what's next? think of the children, think of what language poetry will do to your children.

my favorite favorite part of Kent's post is when he thinks i would have to bring up his faux-poet persona Yasusada to make a point about it being disingenuous that he's complaining that it's unethical to take someone's words out of context. i mean... i'm speechless.

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