Friday, September 16, 2011

Better late than never

"The problem with many among the Others and Conductors is in part their unwillingness to understand that Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford are not Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates, that a late stage in an art's development might legitimately produce an atmosphere of accommodation and catholicity of taste, that, as [Keith] Tuma says, avant-garde traditions might now exist alongside other traditions and that the work itself might properly 'leave its first coterie audience behind and enter the public sphere' without pretending that 'radical subversion of institutions or large-scale social change is likely to result.'"

-- John Matthias, ca. over TEN years ago, "British Poetry at Y2K," reprinted in his superb new book, Who Was Cousin Alice and Other Questions

Pictured: Chaos.


Conrad DiDiodato said...

You could have thrown Shakespeare into the mix, a pretty "unoriginal genius" himself who borrowed pretty extensively. But then this is Shakespeare, isn't it? And Johnson's considered a pretty respectable second place finisher.

In Goldsmith's sense of "repurposed" writing, however, the genius part gets superseded by the sad fact that the Web-based writers don't really 'imitate' in the sense of learning the 'form' of their craft first. The two senses have been conflated.

By the by, the avant-garde (or writing in this "mechanistic" sense have been superseded by 'globalization'. I see this wholesale defense of 'stealing' as a sign of the crisis in which it finds itself.

Perfloff writes too much, in any event. And Goldsmith, well, he's just being his usual fatuous self. Where's Helen Vendler and/or Rosmarie Waldrop when you need them.

Conrad DiDiodato said...


I thought I'd posted this to the "Unoriginal genius" piece.

But then again it works better with the "late stage" avant-garde idea. I agree with Gould: there's a wilfulness about avant-garde theorizing that's really a form of surrender to writing they probably find too difficult, too challenging anyways. The new "plagiarists" are trying to break tradition like a petulant child breaks an old toy. That seemed to be Silliman's reaction to my pointing out to him in a blog post that his Bury "text festival" neon installation may have been meant to attract a young readership who don't read thick books like "the Alphabet" anymore.

Negri and Hardt argue (quite convincingly) that in the new Empire of globalization there's no such thing as the "outside", and that includes the avant-garde.People (like me) who've been throwing that "unoriginality" accusation at them now find themselves interestingly "appropriated", late-capitalist style. How interesting.

My fear is that since this "unoriginal genius" manifesto begins & ends with the academics, it might actually catch on. Junk art is usually the result. Without 'hard'historical memory at least, "tradition" just becomes another disposable App. I give you the case of the Brock University associate-professor Adam Dickinson (in Canada) who's just received a $60,000 "Research/Creation in the Fine Arts" grant in order "to write poetry about the impact of environmental chemicals and other invaders on his body".