Friday, December 05, 2008

Issue 1

Here's an interesting take on Issue 1 by Barry Schwabsky, art critic and poet.


Blogger yunan said...

im afeard i cannort ailp you....because.........I am a THYROID REPUBLICAN POET

1:34 AM  
Blogger yunan said...

Errata: im afeard i cannort ailp you....because.........I am a THYROID REPUBLICAN POET

1:36 AM  
Blogger yunan said...

that was found in the Washington Postinfostrukturellegeselleshaftzeitung

1:37 AM  
Blogger yunan said...


1:38 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Is Silliman's reaction surprising? It projects a conservatism regarding Good Name and copyright that IS surprising, to me at least, coming from an artist so aware (and indebted to?) dadaism; it's a reaction that smacks of not self-importance but a will to self-preservation and a distain for not-getting-with-the-program.

Maybe I'm reading far too much into one reaction but I'm not sure it's isolated these days (see the enraged reactions to Pate's essay in ActionYES a few issues back as well as the books Silliman himself reviews positively versus those he doesn't. There seems to be a trend in the *kind* of politics, integration of politics and style, and stylistic gestures in the recommended works).

Shouldn't Silliman be happy that the freedom from conventional models of subjectivity, Aristotelian logic and Bloomian esthetics that experimentalism in the Language vein wanted to bestow on us is exemplified by a work like this? As a computer generated toy, Issue 1 sure does all of that.

Or is it that generated poetry that can resemble on the surface the kind of free verse that's become the norm in the experimental community comes across as mickey-mocking? Maybe computer-generated poetry such as this is a dig at movements and manifestos? (Certainly it acted as a dig at pretensions to a post-humanist model of identity among poets, since Issue 1 caught many of the authors represented in it out -- it uncovered some true stripes by putting on display the reactions some poets had to the use their names were put to.) Or was the call for experiment in the 70s and 80s all along not a call for experiment per se, but the right kind of experiment?

I don't have answers, and I'm not sure I'm even posing any one or all of these questions rhetorically, excepting the thought on identity just above; I'm just trying to find ways of making sense of Silliman's reaction.

But there's something I've been noticing lately -- a kind of unhappiness among the fathers, the established experimentalists who have become, in the literal sense, the avant-garde, since their children now get serious rotation in journals. This is an unhappiness with experimental poems that clearly don't take them as their daddies -- experiments that come at the problem from entirely other angles, scientists who produce papers in the fathers' field that don't cite them because their work isn't directly relevant to the current hypotheses.

I don't know if it's a fear of being left out of the canon, the way the Fireside Poets were when later generations latched on to the alternative, less popular stuff (Whitman, Dickinson) for guidance, or what, but it's an attitude I'm finding painful. There's a real conservatism here about Which experimental poetry will free us and which is a waste of time or downright wrong.

This is serious: it's an anti-experimental along the vein of McCain's -- and then Palin's worse -- attacks on bench research: in his stump speech, McCain kept using as his example of gov't waste the money given to the study of bear DNA. "I don't know if it's an issue of paternity...." Bad enough, but Palin went further, mocking fruit fly research. I mean, fruit fly research! The very work that unlocked the DNA code and produced the methods for sequencing it, the research that is fundamental to however many of our recent medical breakthroughs and to so much of our late-20th-c knowledge of biology and biochemistry, not to mention modern drugs.

What's the correlation between Silliman's reaction and M&P's? Does the comparison seem far-fetched? I think there's a distrust of experiment "for experiment's sake," the seemingly unprogrammatic, apolitical, unserious -- useless! -- experiment on M&P's part, and I'm wondering whether there's evidence of this in Silliman's response and his choice of books to champion. NOTE: this is not a criticism of his actual work or the texts he recommends: so much of it is not only Important but lovable. It's a criticism of a political attitude that doesn't have to accompany the gorgeous art.

Anyhow, the value in statements like these isn't placed on experiment per se -- McCain surely won't complain about translational research, the application of basic science (bench) research to patient care -- but on a particular kind of experiment or experiment toward particular aims/program.

If experiments fail or lead nowhere, they may still be successful as experiments, even if not as esthetically pleasing poetry. Issue 1 isn't exactly fun reading -- more fun to think about that to read -- but we can say it succeeds as an experiment insofar as it seems to perform the task it set itself quite well.

OK, so you can say this is all sour grapes or patricide, but I'm writing this out of a very real feeling of dismay and confusion that's struck me lately while following the partisan blogs. It feels like the moment one finds one's father fallible, but not in the minor can't-throw-a-football or doesn't-know-why-the-sky-is-blue way, but in a way that's tougher to internalize or more embarrassing, like a propensity to say, in public, that the Latins are taking over this country of ours or that kids today....

12:33 PM  

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