Monday, September 17, 2007


For soem reason I can't post on Ron's site. So here's my response to his recent discussion of Graham Foust:

Apollinaire coined the term Surrealist before Surrealism existed as a movement. The Surrealism of Breton &tc did get the term from Apollinaire. Goll also to use the term in a more general way, but the Breton crowd beat him to it so to speak. Apollinaire was *never* part of the Surrealist group (he was dead by then).

The important part in Seth's comment is not surrealist or not surrealist, but rather than the influence comes from the European and Latin American avant-gardes. I think it's important to emphasize the role translation (and specifically of foreign avant-garde writings) played in the change that took place in American poetry in the 50s and 60s. I think it's fair to say that Bly and Merwin got more from European and Latin American writers than they got from the New Americans (and from the act of translating, perhaps most important of all - the act of translating ruins all illusions of "the wellwrought urn" - see my essay in the recent issue of the online journal Nypoesi).

This influence seems to have been important for the New Americans as well - I have a hard time imagining Ashbery, Koch, O'Hara without the euro avant-garde, specifically Motherwell's antology "Dada Poets and Painters" (which caused both Ashbery and Berrigan to start cutting up texts).

As for quietude: it's important to consider it not as a purely aesthetic phenomena (though the aesthetics play an important part), but as a sociological phenomena. Jed Rasula's book "The American Wax Museum" is the best attempt I know of trying to understand this.

A brief note: I just saw that Omnidawn published Bin Ramke's new book. They have also published Lynn Hejinian and Rosemarie Waldrop, as well as perhaps the most quietist poet of all - Donald Revell. Ron has been published by Salt, which also publishes a number of poets you'd be hard-pressed to say have anything to do with any kind of avant-garde.

This seems the best example of Ron's term "third way" as a mere melding of traditions. But this term doesn't take into account influences that come from outside of the cold-war dichotomy of new american vs quietude. While Omnidawn may be "third way", I have a hard time thinking of Ariana Reines or Lara Glenum as "third way," or as having much to do with either camps.

However, I want to end this long no doubt unreadable email by saying that I think quietude is an important concept to keep in mind. It just needs to be expanded.


Blogger Fran├žois Luong said...

Your comment has actually appeared. I guess Ron still has comment moderation turned on.

Now, I am a bit weirded out by Seth's comment on Surrealism being premodernist. Modernism started in France with Baudelaire. Or so our Academy tells us.

8:12 PM  
Blogger UCOP Killer said...

Hey Johannes,

I had always assumed that Ashbery was ready Dada (surrealism certainly) before the Motherwell anth., since he could read French and knew about Roussel (one of few Americans who did at the time, it seems) when he was at Harvard. Where does he (or someone else) say that the Motherwell book was his inspiration to do cut-ups?

This would be useful information for me.


12:11 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


I may be wrong, but I believe I've read that somewhere, can't remember where. Somewhere he claimed that reading the (now) infamous Tzara piece "how to read a dada poem" inspired him to "write" that poem "Europe" in the Tennis Court Oath.

I think in Alice Notley's intro to The Sonnets, she writes that Ashbery told Berrigan about Motherwell.

It is possible - even likely? - that he'd read some dada texts before then and certainly he'd read Surrealist texts. Of course, Dada wasn't a French phenomenon.

I do know that in Reported Sightings, the collection of Ashbery's art criticism, he writes about a dada show, though I think perhaps from later (late 60s/early 70s) and he expresses dislike for the German Dada, dismissing them as "political pamphleteers" (which is why they should appeal to you).

6:28 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Surrealism is premodern?

I missed that. There was so many crazy comments on that thread.

6:29 AM  
Blogger UCOP Killer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:45 AM  

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