Sunday, June 13, 2010
A Poem-Report: Rethinking Poetics @ Columbia
to my adventurous song,
what are "poetics," what
is poetry? Is it
"segmentivity" or "the news
that stays news," is it central
to the nervous system
of poetics? Between
Columbia and Penn
a poetics conference, con-
by Golston and Perelman,
(and Bernstein, behind them,
in minds, so many here,
and elsewhere, inspirited
with memories and ideas
of Leslie Scalapino, Cage,
Dickinson, et. al.),
three days, in Philosophy
ten panels, many panelists:
scholars, critics, poets; 41,
if you're counting. Who counts
haunted the proceedings.
Who counts, in or outside
the proceedings, in or out-
side academe, institutions,
aaaarg.org, outside or in Silli-
man's or the Poetry Foundation's
blogs, the journals, net-
works and coteries,
the batteries of chapbooks
and books the oral and dissertation
writers and committees
might be reading, thinking
about and rethinking,
this rethinking and defining, amidst a ghost
horizon of privilege and invisibilities
framing the conversations'
often radiant, expanded fields.
What counts, as poetry, in
poetry, as poetics: relating to the art
of poetry, of making (poetiké, fr.
Gk. poiein) objects,
cf. Aristotle. Accountings:
poetic composition, tools
and materials, history
(but not materialist history per se),
tradition, relation (mostly tradition
of the European kind),
globalism and hybridity (mostly US,
i.e. "us" (we? who are ____), mostly
form), social location and ethics
(grazie Rachel Blau DuPlessis
and Joan Retallack especially),
poetics and the Academy
(which counts most, perhaps,
among most of the attendees), ecologies
of poetry, poetics as a category,
affective economies and prosodies
(but mostly affect as a concept,
so powerful, contemporary),
the end of authentic time and
reading radicalism came after
my attendance ended, on Sunday,
though PennSound was listening
continuously, so the presentations,
challenges, arguments, vocal antagonisms
and their responses--"fuckface"--will be--
to the world. So what is or are poetics,
our poetics, and does poetry matter, do poetries
other than the Euro-American
matter, other Others' poetries
matter, and are there poets
not in academe, not critic-theorists,
not doctoral students or soon to be doctoral
students dissertating, who do? They do. Where
were the writers and students
from the School of the Arts
creative writing department but
three blocks north, Perloff asked,
and is creative writing--poetry--
valid, relevant, connected directly
to this thinking, rethinking
an entity (a system
of institutions, a discourse,
a field, expanded),
this poetry that still holds
(Bourdieu), a high place
in the social (if not economic)
imaginary and hierarchy
(publishing, Epstein, Schiffrin, unmentioned),
that some might be seeking then
by rethinking to destroy?
Is it true that most people hate
poetry? Is it true that most
find it difficult, even beyond
the neoliberal prisonhouse
of university classrooms?
Do most people really think of it
when they think of it at all
in relation only to greeting cards
or else inaugural poets
and poems, like some serious
and bitter medicine lacking even
that sickly-sweet cherry flavoring
that starts to taste good when you're
really sick rather than listening to it
daily in songs, hiphop, rock, pop (so far
as I can recall, never uttered, not once,
not even the touchstone Gods
in speech, in backs-and-forths,
writing it in journals, on blogs, to loved
ones, reciting it to impress or beguile
or as acts of resistance, eagerly
returning to poets dead and living
who were not mentioned and wouldn't be
mentioned within a mile
of these sometimes exceptional panels?
Whither music, dance, and related
arts? Must poetry be lineated
as this pseudo-poem report is,
rhythmic, prosodic, metrical (not
that word!), use repetitions at all?
(Oh conceptual poetry, writing,
horribile dictu, you and Flarf
burbling up through the drains
of contemporary writing
and causing great anxiety,
delight, joy, annoyance, fright,
confusion, dismissal, because of your refusal
to fit within unstable confines.)
(Julius), Tonya Foster of Sarah Vaughan
(and scat and the scatalogical), but
music was only an echo, a trace
amidst the talking (no singing, scatting),
a solo in this hive of dreaming out loud
and hard, hard thinking into being
(the archive of) an archive.
Oh, there is a blessing in this drizzly breeze
that carries the questions, What counts, who counts
what is poetry, what poetics might be
in an age of ever-developing technologies,
what of books too in this digital
age, our dematerialized present, virtual presences,
the vast and powerful neoliberal "software"
we're all running on, whose air we breathe in
every hour of every day? What of books
and what of collaborations, poetics whose ecologies
encompass other disciplines, landfills, oil spills,
wars metaphorical and literal, embodied as dancers,
publics imagined or not yet imagined,
politics imagined or not yet imagined,
archives imagined or not yet imagined,
poetries becoming "something else," counter-
speculation, material disintegration, waste (shit
and its residues), news, new or old, the impure
products of America (Williams another angel
omnipresent, edifying), all gathered together,
breaking apart (fragments, ruins, the specter
of Modernism and post-modernisms), the oral
and the written, discursivities, "choral."
Can poetry look outside itself?
Can we look outside ourselves, collectively?
Can we look outside the neoliberal, collectively?
Can we look outside the human, collectively?
Can we look outside the windows of the packed room,
past the panes to the concrete, the park and its steep
drop down Morningside Heights to the 116th Street
pavements I crossed to enter on Saturday?
Are we looking outside the comfort-
able confines of the pack,
the alphas and betas setting the pace,
do we see the other faces, the others' faces,
the other poet faces, other poetics facing these,
as we (who?) peer closely at and rethink
our (whose?) own? Who owns these poetics,
these poetries? Who remains invisible
and illegible even after the curtain parts?
Can these poetries and poetics be musical in the absence
of music or discussion of music, can they be or
become ontologically plural and is it ethical if there's not even
an active peeking and looking beyond those panes,
is that poethical if there's peaking beyond and none
here see it or hear it? Brent spoke of Ellington,
parallels, proliferations, concretions, can you hear
it, them? Do you listen? Aware, but you care?
"Everything we see could also be otherwise" (Wittgenstein),
other whys (Baraka): Bernstein's pataqueeranormal, -normative,
his "swerve" and "adversive" ("mental fright"),
his "derangement of the senses" (Rimbaud), his "strange,"
his "swish," and "sissy," but to a swish, a sissy, a queer,
this one here who asks with "sincerity" (Reznikoff, via Zukofsky),
is he really listening, aware yes, sure, sitting there, swerving
there, but what are the manifestations of that care? Show me.
Scalapino: "The human is crisis." (Ghost traces.)
In here poetry is in crisis, poetics are in crisis; out there?
Out there poetries are in crisis, poetics are
and....we are for ontological pluralisms (Erica Hunt), we are.
"One world, many minds" (Hunt) Many minds,
so much cleverness, so little time (Clever Clover
and the landmine of the mouth). Is poetics
a limiting frame? Is poetics in friction
with innovation, does it do the not-Princeton rub
with experimentation? Thinking past the limits
(historical and empirical with figural-Edwards), over there
is where the parallels lie.
no more sadly. That is where the lie
parallels the--no Plato, long since buried,
under the unspoken green Greek swards
with Socrates or in some other archive.
Collectivity: what is poetry, we ask you?
Collectivity: poetics? Collect-
ivity: how many times can and must we seek
of an archive? Can and must we not speak of the archives?
Whose? Collectivity: can you answer me
without recourse only to the great master
minds and archives of Europe? One world,
so many minds but all from one historicultural mental massing.
Collectivity: are there verbs to express this kind of thinking?
Don't noun, verb. Don't image, think. Don't look, write.
Don't don't, act. Collectivity: what and where are the answers?
Collectivity: are we not always speaking of the body, of bodies,
ours and others? Collectivity--poetry: image: action:
(Laocoön, with Lessing unmentioned as well).
Collectivity: are aesthetics a superseded category, too
limiting to the field of poetics, its possibilities?
Dead as deconstruction, psychoanalytic theories, post-
colonialities, the new historicisms, the new new post-new?
Collectivity: to get beyond the boundaries set by neoliberalism
and its traps, to puncture the market master magus,
the page, or stage, or dais, to enter the frays
of the digital--this is ethical, we are together in this,
at least some of us, in here, whether we see us
or not, we see US or not, a "we" (or not).
Is there a spark, collectivity, and what is its verb?
What lights, illuminations, fires--what's motive?
Choral crowds, genres for action, verbing and swerving
into the now thing, the now-thinking, thinking now
as it enters and blossoms into something, landscape, harbor,
haven, abatgis, slip, hammock, arbor, slope,
sleep, hammer, keyboard, labor, affect, archive,
hope or some other abstraction, the we
in here, inhering, the we of poetry, poetics,
the whee, way, wee pluralizing, waxing
poetic is a form of knowledge-making,
making and taking back the forms
of knowledge, the possibilities,
rhapsodizing, of pleasure, poetics' and others,
that we're phreaking as we're seeing
and speaking thinking, and wreaking
writing: one world, many
minds (Hunt): many worlds,
many mimes: any worlds,
many memes, reres publicae: poetry.
Whose making all that racket
in the archive? Poetics.
Who's making all that racket
in the traditions? Poetics.
In the archives, poetries
or the traditions of poetics,
traditions temporationally, not spatially,
alternatives, to join, though who's
this we making all this racket
and not even leaving
testimony to the eyelands
beginning to appear,
and are we--we?--spatially
in there? Debriscapes, extrascapes,
countertraditions, are they ours
and are we in there? Are you? Nudge,
engage, be against, to be again, to gain
access to, think through. Ante, up, anti.
Anti-interpretive, an "erotics" of...stop/ /bogging,
start telling the joke without its form, scatting
performative rather than definitive spaces.
Scattering, reconfiguring, transfiguring,
in the silences
A baratadeeboppaluquivadoop: phatic.
A da daadaaa deeet deeetdeet
Get phat, got that? Trawl Jakobson, Abrams.
Shudder, utter, stagger, stutter, still. Troll
the airwaves, fill them. Flarf dem
um, uh, duh, da, doobie, okey dokey, fort-da, say what?
Phatic, haptic, knowwhatimsaying yo?
Get back, for real, fo sho, daswassup, say what, Son?
You alright, stay around, almost mellow, One...Say,
our "boats are open." (Glissant) Say, the multiple
consciousness (nope, no dope DuBois). Say Césaire
and Baudelaire, "more at stake than aesthetics,"
the beautiful, the true, the sublime, disinterested, purposive,
Aufhebung, the autonomous, the aestheticist,
the historicist, the Dionysian and Appollonian, the high
and low and mid-brow, the is it art or is it not or it is
what I say it is, the public coefficient, the aleatory, the Ou-
LiPolean, the formal or formalist, the depersonalized,
the post-aestheticized, the desiring machined, the it-is-there,
the all of that glowering history, his-story.
This is a confab about poetics (and poetry).
Say dehistoricize and rehistoricize (Willis), push poetry up
against those other works, get it popping, into all that biz it's walking into, talking its way into, stammering and shimmying its way to, this important political labor that people are doing and all of sudden it's become this other thing, a political creature with some power in its having no public power at all, so how do you talk about it, yes you, the poet or critic or poet-critic or academic or whatever you fashion yourself as, coming back to this idea and your archive-praxis, knowing that "all you can do is suddenly listen?" (Cage). Poetry, are we into it? Is it into us? Do we mind it, truly, really? Is it not the basis, or one, for memory, no matter what psychologies and biologies may tell us? So I'm sitting at this seminar at the university, this is a month or so back, and we get into this back-and-forth about some theoretical issue, and my colleague, a poet, fiction writer, essayist, translator, scholar, all these things in the same body, tries to bring the discussion back to the language itself, the language of the poems, and I say, it can be both+and, which is at times a problematic formulation, but this came up again at this conversation, in a conversation, around oppositionality, because there's inclusivity as well, "discursive inclusivity," though the language of the poem, our languages and how we use them, shouldn't be forgotten. Are we in them, poetries, poetics? Once upon a time a great deal of poetry was published for children and adults read it, adults memorized it, my grandparents did, my parents did, there were all these collective forms and forums, form as a collectivity, hymns, worksongs, music (popular), how did we forget all this? Say, how is it we don't look outside the window most of the time, poetries, poetics?
And this is very sooth that I tell you...radical particularities...the SF language school of the...1970s...not everybody was Kung-Fu fighting...some were talking and writing at the Grand Piano...some (the dazzling Mónica de la Torre) were talking of some talking and writing in the 1920s in São Paulo, Paulicéia Desvairada!...some were talking and writing about those Andrades, Miss São Paulo and the other one, not related...some were talking and writing about the Brazilian manifesto (Modernism--open to the world) and the Cannibal manifesto (closing up shop, a self-devouring)...some were talking about Haroldo de Campos and concrete poetry, how exportable it is, the image prevailing over the text (think Smart vs. Campion)...eye over ear...some were talking and writing about how "the longing for modernity led the poets to abstract the location of the future" (so beautiful, a truly poetic thought)...some were talking (and citing Roberto Schwartz) about how de Campos by 1963 had gone onto another project, the Galáxios, known in Brazil and Latin America but not on English tongues...some were talking suddenly in Spanish about the neobarroco and la poesía conceptual y pues porque no dejó de hablar en español many people perhaps didn't understand...and some were asking questions like, what might poetry for export be?...and what might the goal of extending a poetics to include globalisms?...and are you a filterer, relater, or rehearser, poetries and poetics...and it was good to hear about poetries and poetics outside of the Euro-American matrix...because those other poetries exist, those poetics exist...not cut off from the EA matrix but also not totally dependent upon them...they exist, we exist...and them someone was talking about antagonisms and "American hybridity" meaning formal hybridities of a very specific kind and that led to a blowup during the Q&A...that antagonism and blow were wake-up calls...there was the poetry of the expanded field...the charts that lured my eyes like sirens...Smithson, the jetty, the not-sculpture, not-language, the Klein square (not bottle), poetics, the not-poetry...making me think as I type this, am I still writing a poem?...is there segmentivity and rhythm here...repetition...rhyme...how would I describe the poetics of this elliptical passage...ellipsis being a technique and rhetorical figure...and Butler having returned us in the 1990s to the importance of the rhetorical, the gestural, as against the structural, the linguistic (Nealon)...how would and could you speak of the poetics...the poetry...here and now...
much more they said, so many pages I filled,
cursive upon cursive, line by line,
about genre (social) and form (individual),
about Derrida, the negative, social
and ethical locations, about absences
that Blau DuPlessis elegantly touched upon,
ethnicity (RACE?), class, gender (SEXUALITIES?),
disabilities, economics, social positions,
sediments and sedimentation,
memories' traces in the identifications
we daily live and perform,
the scripts and texts we carry
around inside us, imagi-nations,
evidence of things not seen
but discussed, reviewed,
on location, in location,
ego and echo (-location),
Lo: Poetry, said Joan
Retallack, "is a form
of courage," the microclimates
of our poetries affecting
and effecting the larger climates
of our world (Cage),
this necessity, always,
for reciprocal alterity,
alterities this courage,
created by poetry,
this ethical necessity
in Chang (videoing Hughes)
and Tolson, this need
of and for "soul," the word
SOUL, thinking about
a "textual structure
of feeling," older forms,
to that black place
do you hear me,
do you read me,
over and out?
I missed it--Delays!--Escarpments!--
Those light-rail tracks and subways
The panelists' disquisitions
on poetics and the academy,
there is no terminal on the molehill
of ambitions...the most important panel
of the morn....Spahr, Novak, Giscombe,
Evans, Young...at lunch D spelled me....
you start out as a peon and maybe be-
come a classroom star...
Oh, how to think beyond the architecture
of the private or semi-public institution...
Spahr: how to (re)create the kinds
of associations and organizations that existed
not so long ago, the disappearing independents,
journals, zines, collectives (cf. the Dark Room)
that arose outside and beyond
the universities' doors?
Is that outside out there any more? (Yes.)
Is the only desire now to gain entry? (No.)
--Creating those open spaces that defy
the boundaries, the rules, the private, and capital.
That resist the overwhelming neoliberal vacuum.
You began a schoolgirl and now wield your PhD.
You are armed with knowledge but you are not free.
Giscombe avowed teaching writing, creative
writing, taking field trips, leaving to see,
to learn, to come to know in the out-there, the otherwheres.
But what about hierarchies, prestige, the a priori
power of certain names and the potencies they claim,
these institutions and their social capital, their demesnes?
What about the wolfish logic (the genius
of capitalism--Paul O'Neill) that devours us,
poetry too, that makes a college ed and gig necessities
for so many?--Not all are rich, not all entitled,
so few can say I want to write all day or even part of each day
and someone will pay my rent, utilities, clothe me, feed me.
--Even the idea of the open university is a threat here.
--Even the idea of the non-academic is a threat here.
Does this stifle poetry, suffocate it? What would a poetics
of the socially, economically and politically open
sound like, look like, feel like, taste like?
What would a poetics of freedom, a free poetics look like?
We would know it when we were in it, wore it,
wrote into it, would we want it?
BD spoke of cross-university
partnerships, outside registrars,
she and Perelman Penn and Temple,
what the students gained in access,
but what about those not in their classes?
Is there a public forum by which these ideas
can circulate, the poems can circulate, the poets
connect? Is there a public poetic sphere,
not about power and privilege,
reputation making and breaking, the great
men and women, lettering and rubberstamping,
where poets and poetics can
even uneasily set camp?
Write the secret sign, and make it available...
write the open sign, and free it: poetry.)
And went down and rode in a hole
in the ground. To Jersey. And then went up
and climbed a mountain in Harlem.
Saw Schurz, back to the living city,
bronze profile helming the promontory.
Families moving about as embodied poetry.
Asphalted history snaking beneath me.
Three streets, two hills, back in Philosophy.
So different from the spaces Bitsui comes from.
The places a few of my ancestors knew.
Where words still bore their sacred force.
Where capitalism had not yet snowed
over the hard terrain. Where hot rain fell
into the estuaries as they sailed them,
worked them, their own or some others'
dying fields, the blue/black ceilings or skies
repeatedly raised by their plaintive blues: poetry.
What is the message within the message?
What is the message beyond itself?
Occasionally, like yesterday or today
I am permitted to enter, at a premium, a message
like a meadow that doesn't feel mine,
mean or indifferent, at least, where I stumble
and sputter and listen and linger,
where longing pervades me and I spend a long time.
What is the message of the message?
What passes through the meadows
that are not truly ours? Poetry.
Watten: nature's importance "as a site of the not-me."
What do you mean when you tell me
of ecology and poetry?
What is poetic ecology, or an ecology
of poetry? What is an ecological poetics
or ecopoethics, and where does it take us?
Bitsui: these lands, my people's,
are now turning to dust.
Ecologies require multiple
ways and acts of seeing.
Ecopoethics require human trust
in the nonhuman.
Not reducible to a single form.
Sometimes silence is better than doing harm.
Sometimes silence is the way to go.
Sometimes silence carries the power of a charm.
Sometimes in that silence you come to know.
to life upon these poetic shores,
but does this even address
unending questions of categories?
Why, Dworkin queries,
the category of "poetry" at all?
Why are the other categories
so given to parsimony?
Why pitch your freaky tent
in front of this particular stall?
Why's poetry always stirring
up so much damned trouble?
In the center of the ring,
fists raised, ready to rumble?
Denken ist dichten, or should be
a form of therapy--but not poetry!
Golding: "the production
of poetry and its consumption."
Don't all roads return us
ultimately to this issue
No no no no no no no!
Future anteriors, becoming
the person one is,
the "authentic poetic project,"
pace Dorothea Lasky (where was she?).
Hofer resurrected Aram Saroyan.
Thank you. Voyage through death
to life, or "lighght," as AS
had it, Duncan chose it.
and as Emerson proposes it,
"every word was once a poem,
every word is a new relation."
Pound: "Rhythm is a form cut into time."
Saroyan: "Consonants govern pacing."
Pound: the poem debunks
"by lucidity." LIGHGHT.
Has one come on? Many?
Because we are back to forms
cut into time, to poetry. Perloff:
the public, what's a poem,
Maya Angelou at the podium,
riffing for Clinton (which became
a House song I heard and danced
to--"a Rock, a River, a Tree"--at the Delta Elite,
--"you, Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation"--but I doubt Perloff,
who knows so very much has ever heard that),
poetry, etc. But really it's all
about poetry. The poem. Place,
Vanessa, Statement of Fact,
sexual crimes, etc. But really it's all about
poetry. More Vanessa Place, career,
fiction, one subgroup but the wrong
one, blurb, what do we call it,
sexually contentious, etc. Poetry.
Goldsmith's (not present)
Traffic "is poetry." Fitterman
UbuWeb Dworkin and Goldsmith's
anthology from Northwestern,
etc. BUT REALLY IT'S ALL
A fuzziness today, but...
Clover: prestige, kids know it
it when they spot someone with flow
in basketball, on TV, in movies--
poetic vs. prosaic, no body
wants to be a vast flat lot or lumpy plot
of words and text and movement,
but wants that lyric swagger: poetry.
"Is there a desire to undermine
or destabilize this?"
Perloff: "That which is written
in the language of information
but not in the language game
of giving information,"
i.e., Wittgenstein. Word.
Jakobson said: "poeticity"; Blau DuPlessis:
"chosen segmentivity," "rhythmic
segmentivity," that's poetry.
But really it's all about the poetry,
or should be, according to Marjorie,
lose not sight of that,
as pretty and shiny and exciting
as theory and criticism
and cultural studies and psych
and anthro and socio
and performo and bio and neuro
all are ("hairy star turning
under water"--BD). Po-e-try.
Some hour, in the emergence from this fierce insight,
let me sing--because that was once the source of this gift--
jubilation and praise to the assenting or dissenting angels.
Not real or better angels but people who think deeply,
seriously about affective economies. They may or may not
be poets. They mostly have academic jobs and are very smart.
They know their Derrida like seminarians know the Bible.
And Foucault because he's still important, and Benjamin,
and Deleuze and Guattari, and Butler, and Sedgwick,
and Leo Bersani, with panache and despite the difficulty.
(Once I spent a week trying to figure out
the argument in Bersani's "Is the Rectum a Grave?"
which I pursued because the title intrigued me so.
But that's neither here nor there and I finally untangled
Bersani's argument, or at least convinced myself I did.
It took me longer to grasp Lacan's "Kant with Sade,"
but there's revelation in persistence. Most
of the time, IMHO.) Thence: affect queer theory
before queer theory 1990s affect Butler Bersani
plus a short graphic sexual passage, involving
male-male sex, penis and ass--Nealon. Brilliant.
Williams (Raymond), Structures of Feeling,
affect, neoliberalism, Zukofsky on Reznikoff's
"sincerity,"Peck and Tickle, neoliberalism
as a "software," Harvey, Lefebvre, Ahmed,
neoliberalism, market/structure of capitalism,
sincerity, "of word to thing," to the social,
"sincerity is a software that would allow other forms
of sociability into the poem," still thinking about
what that would look like (the poetry)--Derksen.
Brilliant. "There is a third path and that
is the one we're going to take."
(Shklovsky) and much about
the problems of witnessing
in an encantatory performance.
--Zolf. As always (cf. Adfempo),
Lisa Robertson, who spoke
on M. Henri Meschonnic,
a figure needing to be
who passed last year,
his poetry and theories
and terms so vital,
but also running counter
to the terms so widespread
in the contemporary
pour M. Meschonnic
le truc c'est rhythm
"as a social force
many good quotes,
including "the active ethic
of this listening
for which a politics
comes" and "motility,"
and "the poem is
of the sign,"
of l'écriture et
les pages blanc
and il y avait tant plus...
until in the Q&A
that he wrote about Meschonnic
in his first book, pointing
to the French figure's
that includes Klages
(a raging anti-Semite)
who also believed
rhythm could be a "moral
hygiene" and the basis
for a "new society)," etc.
and not a lot of answers
and we, who think
of ascending joy,
would feel the emotion,
yet that's not what
all this work on affect
is really about,
that almost dismays
as much as our anxieties
about poetry and activism,
or rather poetics
and activism, though
for some poets
and activists, like those
at Split This Rock,
who were nowhere near
this event, this tension
unfolds as central
to their praxis,
if I'm using the terms
of art correctly,
these are very smart
people who are training
others through their gifts,
and writing about writing,
and writing, and perhaps
not feeling dismay
or the stultifying angels
of tradition or neoliberalism
or of poetry itself,
when it, a joyful thing
at times, at others
utterly terrifying, into
their laps or laptops
or books or minds
or mine or anyone's,
like this longish
report--I thus invoke
your aid itself
a kind of poetics--
Copyright © John Keene, 2010