Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Bomb news and burrito burps: a dialogue between Seth Abramson and Gene Tanta on "dissidence as entertainment"
A dialogue between Seth Abramson and Gene Tanta on Linh Dinh & "dissidence as entertainment"
Hmm... a poetry that simultaneously "shuns context" and "imitates television." I wouldn't have thought a poetics that does not merely elevate the demotic but literally evaporates everything *but* ephemeral culture could be said to "shun context," unless -- aha! -- "context" is defined in the most limited and limiting way (un)imaginable. In fetishizing popular culture for the sake of skewering it we are already conceding defeat -- we are saying (like so many of those "pseudo-Marxists" that Linh mentions) that poems themselves -- not merely "American poetry," but actual individual poems -- are incapable of remaining oblivious to materialism. Either that, or they simply *can't*, because, as Linh says (seemingly without irony) we need to sell our books, man!
Sheesh. I'm just about prepared to light out for American Metarealism once and for all. If the Russians could do it 30 years ago, why can't we here in the States? It seems an end-around on both materialism (realism) and this new "conceptual" poetry which is in fact merely the New Symbolism -- a new way of thinking in the old way, that is, figuratively (Goldsmith's "The Day" as merely an embodied metaphor for -- well, take your pick!). Only Metarealism offers an entirely new form of discourse -- a discourse which cannot be read either solely literally or solely figuratively, cannot be tamed or co-opted because of its very hybridism, but *must* be taken on its own terms, as a permanent transformation of both the literal and the figurative (leaving neither intact while not, like flarf, engaging in any purely destructive impulse, cf. Kasey's recent statement to the effect that this time Dadaism is going to *really* make it hurt). - S.
“What to make of a poetry that constantly pivots away from itself?”
Yes, we are deprived (depraved?) of holy (wholly) absence. Culture industry up the wazzu. Without the silence to think, we are bombarded with bomb news and burrito burps. What is an ethical culture maker to do? Shared literacy? Online education via Facebook? A publishing house on every desk?
Gene, I think the key word there is "ethics." There is an argument to be made -- Badiou would do it -- that flarf, for instance, is "unethical" (which Badiou would express by calling it, in his terms, "ethical" or "[Western] ethical") because it identifies an a priori Evil, Culture, and in so doing, and in proceeding from that single over-determined premise, generates a framework for Art which can only (re)produce the same Evil it so despises. The conception of "ethics" embodied by, say, flarf -- which would likely term itself "amoral" as a means of escaping this debate altogether (nice try!) -- is one in which there is no possibility of transformation. It is a dead end that revels in its dead-endedness, a form of action (or inaction) which is (in common parlance now) "unethical." Art certainly need not be "ethical" in the sense of its explicit politics -- but in terms of concept and concept/function, yes. What is needed is a means of speaking which engenders a revision of the existing framework, not merely martyrdom upon it. Flarf is not that means of speaking, nor is so-called "conceptualism." These merely re-entrench (Badiou might say) the common Kantian worldview that Evil is our starting point, not Good, because -- presumably -- it is something "we can all identify" and thus work from. What if, say, metarealistic language is actually a Good, a higher mode of (ethical) functioning, that individuals in disparate circumstances (e.g., in Soviet Russia, in contemporary America) can work *toward*, and which can take individual circumstances (ours in the U.S., others in developing nations, &c) and transform them through Art without destroying what makes them something other than... well, a reification of the totalitarian universal-generic? - S.
“What is needed is a means of speaking which engenders a revision of the existing framework, not merely martyrdom upon it.”
Seth, I agree, however, an important function question is: how to start work (writing or organizing or dis-organ-izing) without a commons’ named enemy (that sublime object of desire, that fatted calf of credit)? How can art transform its reader? If you mean, by “materialistic language” the, uhm, “actual” material of syntax, word choice, semantic gesture (it’s hard to stay away from the mimetic properties of language ain’t?), I actually agree. My AWP talk was about how, actually, one of Linh Dinh’s poems ethically (and aesthetically) implicates its readers.
Identity politics claim: as an immigrant, I have more of a material sense of language than native speakers. Hah aha h. Is that how you mean “material” or do you mean it in some sort of Marxian dialectic way about class?
... continued in the comments boxes for this post!
Labels: dissidence as entertainment