Sunday, July 28, 2013

Testimony



"Of course nothing could be more modernist than the introduction of nonliterary materials into the literary, but what distinguishes these works from Dadaist or Surrealist collage is their documentary character, their reliance on a public record and the institutions that support and uphold that record. Applied to our concerns with national narrative, we could say that quoting from documents in poetry redirects modernism's emphasis on the materiality of aesthetic language to the materiality of social speech."

-- from "On Testimony--An Essay," by Michael Davidson


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"... the poet's role is not to speak over the testimony, but to listen."
-- from "Poetic Representation: Reznikoff's Holocaust," by Dan Featherston

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"Emerson may have been right that poems are already out there. If they do not float in the air to be caught like butterflies, they live in our newspapers, our books, our YouTube videos, and in our daily lives. I do not see where Kenny Goldsmith ends and a documentary poet like Mark Nowak begins, or why historians like Alohalani Brown and Ron Williams, Jr. cannot be considered poet laureates of the Hawai`i State Archive. I find value in what each of them does. I feel what each of them does. I also want to read other kinds of poems, other documents, have other aesthetic and historical and cultural experiences. But I want them all, not just those that strike me as immediately significant. And I want them, not the contraption within which they are dressed up, like peppermint sticks or like any of the many -isms that we use to teach literature to our students. Anthologies of manifestos are as conceptual as manifestos themselves. And often they are less interesting than the particular works of art (original or copied) that inspire them. For all his peppermint shtick, I find Goldsmith and his polemics less interesting than the documents he's retrieved from the archive. I found his comments on Colbert to be more about finding the affect in our historical words (shock jocks trying to sort out 9/11 would be a fascinating test case) than about cleansing our palate of feeling. And I am especially taken by the joy I hear in the written voices of my friends in the archives."

-- from "Conceptualism as Affect: or, a Defense of Both at Once," by Susan M. Schultz

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