Monday, February 18, 2008

Post-Avant and multitudes

Read Joyelle's re-directing of the Ashton Debate to "anthological thinking".

The piece is important in that it finds a new way to phrase that debate which seemed so strangely deadlocked to begin with.

It also applies to the "post-avant" debate. What I find frustrating about that debate is the seemingly pervasive concept that there is a Quietist Poetry and and Avant-Garde Poetry. I have written on here in the past about how this cold-war-like dichotomy establishment is almost as repressive as a single poetry establishment. Proof of how stultifying it is can be seen in all these anthologies and terminologies that suggest the only way to come up with something new is to compromise langpo and quietism. This is evident in Reginald's post, but also in Claudia Rankine's anthology "Where lyric meets language" (it's a good anthology, but it's the framework I object to).

As I've written in the past, this "conflict" is woefully static. It's really a conflict without the conflict: the quietists like a simple strawman they can attack in that terrible journal I get in my mailbox at school; the langpo crowd (and I see them rather more broadly to include Buffalo graduates etc) likes to be attacked for being too theory, too radical (but get very defensive when critiqued for not being radical enough).

As I've also written on here at some point, I think of this as a failure of language poetry. They created a counter-hegenomy when they should have striven to make poetry into multiplicity. There should be no "inside" to poetry , but there still is a very strong inside (well , two insides).

An interesting case study for this would be the whole chap book dynamo over at Buffalo. I think that was a great idea when Bernstein got all that funding into the students making chapbooks. With its revision of traditional publishing practices, this did promise to move poetry toward multiplicity. But while I've read a lot of interesting chapbooks from Buffalo (see Mike Cross's/Atticus Finch's recent "Lo, Bittern" by CJ Martin), this seems too like an oddly insular community. Has anybody ever seen those students publishing books by foreign authors in translation, for example? I could be wrong, but that's my impression.

Susan Schultz's Tin Fish is here - as I've written - a wonderful example of a press that seems shot through with various fluxes and aesthetics, without claiming to be a "way."

Of course there is a Third Way (if that's what you want). It's not Fence (despite its unfortunate name), which has published some of the most dynamic and fascinating poetry of the past ten years (Joyelle, Cathy Wagner, Ariana Reines etc etc). But for me this attitude can be seen in various anthologies and also Omnidawn Press, which publishes Marxist Lynn Hejinian with reactionary Donald Revell (all we need is "attention" - that 19th century means of social control - see Jonathan Crary's "Suspension of Perception"). I'm not interested in compromised poetics.


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