Sunday, June 03, 2007

Conspiracy in Poetry

It's interseting to see a debate being played out on the op-ed pages of the major Swedish papers that is similar to a lot of discussions in the US in places like Foetry. A couple of writers wrote articles accusing poets like Aase Berg, Johan Jönsson, Helena Eriksson, the literary journal OEI, the Norwegian journal Nypoesi (which has Joyelle in its latest issue) and the Neo-Concretists (basically all the young Swedish poets whose work I like) of having conspired to take over Swedish poetry and make everything incomprehensively experimental.

One example of this was how one frequent contributor to OEI wrote a positive review of Johan's latest book (which I'm translating), which was published by OEI Editor. I have absolutely no problem with that. If she thinks it's a great book (and she's a fine poet in her own right) and wants to write about it, I think that's great. It's an amazing book, the more people writing about it the better.

Anyway, the hysterical response reminds me a bit of Foetry-type of discussion that goes on in the US. Or how I stupidly tried to convince the Foetry crowd that not all language poetry was the same and that, no, Charles Bernstein had not brainwashed me into thinking this.

Actually language poetry plays a part of the Swedish debate as well because OEI publishes quite a bit of American language poetry and many of the editors and contributing editors got their PhDs in Buffalo. Actually I am in a special anthology of poems about bats in the most recent issue of OEI, so I guess I'm part of the conspiracy as well.

I think this conspiracy theory view of OEI (or in America, language poetry etc) is interesting because that conspiracy is so visible, while the mainstream conspiracy is so pervasive that it's more difficult to detect. The minute you have an opinion and want to alter the status quo you're conspiratorial, but if you want things to stay the same you are not.

Something good that foetry did was to expose a tiny part of the "conspiracy" of contests etc, but they didn't seem to want to pursue the matter to the point of how literary establishments are made, instead falling back on attacks on Fence, language poetry, Jorie and a host of other targets. But basically they just wanted "fair" contests.

Just the other day some person accused me of being "too negative." That seemed strange to me because I have no free time and I work hard to put out other people's books and to put out an online journal to call attention to other work I like. I don't know if it's because I disagree with Donald Revell that makes me "negative" (because I don't think Pound was a Thoreau-ian saint?), or in general that I'm not perfectly content.


Blogger Kasey Mohammad said...

An anthology of poems about BATS?

That IS special!



9:40 AM  
Blogger François Luong said...

I'm not sure I share your enthusiasm for Sure, they had good intentions (who doesn't?), but in the end, what it all was was a lot of white noise and egos ghettoized on the internet. Quite frankly, it all reminded me of the cult Heaven's Gate (was it that name) which had its own website. Except no one knew about it until they committed their ritual suicide.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I'm not enthusiastic about I thought they were mostly a bunch of morons, but they did draw attention to the open secret of the contest and managed to create some discussion about it before it degenerated into witch-hunting and general idiocy.

6:07 PM  
Blogger François Luong said...

I discovered foetry after it had turned "into witch-hunting and general idiocy," as you put it, pointing at things that weren't really there (such as Dean Young being awarded something from UIowa because he was a teacher there, while he got the award before he was a teacher). What I question is how much impact they really had. Have things changed so much since they were there? Sure, there are now guidelines from CLMP, but that somehow, I doubt this changes much how contests are run. The rest of my comment will be backchanneled.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Pointing out the obvious nudity of the emperor is great ONLY when you can show that said nudity actually poses a problem to everyone else running around naked.

1:03 PM  

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