Sunday, May 04, 2008

Kenny Goldsmith and "conceptual poetry"

Here's an interesting discussion about the "purity racket" and Kenny G's "uncreative writing"by Mark and Stan Apps.

I have had many of the same ideas as Stan about this issue.


Blogger Max said...

It seems to me that this is just like the expression of any aesthetic. The argument Stan appears to be making is that definition = purity, and by that measure, most aesthetics are expressions of purity. For me, this kind of purity only becomes troublesome if it measures itself supreme above all others, because there can't ever be a real foundation for that. But what of the idea that this "nutritionless" poetry--which may, in itself, be an expression of purity--actually dirties up and helps make impure the poetry world at large by disrupting certain peoples' expectations of poetry that have prevailed for so long? If you look at an aesthetic as a closed system, sure, in itself it may be (and I think a lot of them do, whether they resist it or not) espousing a kind of purity. But once you unleash it into the larger system, it may do the opposite.

8:44 AM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

I think Max makes good sense here. Goldsmith's statements take on their best resonance when considered provocations that unsettle conventional ideas about "creativity" in poetry. Taken as an unironic theory of poetics, they hold up less well.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Yes, I think this is a helpful way to think about it.

More about purity later.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Max said...

What's with all this "theory of poetics" stuff? Isn't he just proposing one of many ways that a person might write a poem? Am I the only one who hopes Goldsmith isn't being ironic here?

9:25 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

He's not just talking about a method of writing, Max. He's proposing a theory of the themes and significance of that kind of writing. So it's more than "proposing one of many ways that a person might write a poem."

10:35 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Um, okay. But I'm still not sure why a theory of poetics must "hold up." I mean, what is the objective standard by which this can even be the case? We're not talking about the scientific method here.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

You're certainly right about this, and Kenny's poetics is pretty fun (and seems part of the art work to me). I think Stan's problem is when it is applied with a kind of academic rigour by Marjorie Perloff etc.

12:47 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

And it's being applied with that sort of rigor by people all over the place, which is why looking at it closely is hardly out of line. It's being held up as a standard right now for how process-oriented texts work.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Mark -

I just don't understand what can ever be problematic about any theory of poetics, as long as people are free to read as they wish and do as they wish. I'm not against criticism. I'm simply against this notion that an idea of poetry can even "hold up" in the first place. What kind of rigid framework (that is, one that wouldn't be blown down by a slight wind) could one possibly design in which a particular poetics might be proven inadequate?

1:37 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

Hey Max:

It would be great to hear you respond over at Stan's blog where we were talking about the issue in more detail. I would say that of course you can consider whether a theory, or any idea, holds up well when subjected to scrutiny. I think at Stan's blog, Stan and I went back and forth on this issue related to Kenny, so it would be great to hear you chime in.

Just quickly though, I don't think Kenny's discussion of the relation between writer, reader, and text in his remarks is all that useful. He seems to suggest that the writer and the reader will have the same experience of his books. But, for instance, he had to write every word, but I don't have to read every word. So his assertion that a writer and reader will have the same experience doesn't seem true.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

A random comment:

Kenny's choice of texts - weather report, red sox-yankees commentary, traffic report, a kind of pornographic voice-over - are commentaries on systems of bodies in movement. This seems quite different from Warhol's love of the spectacular image. In fact there is an interesting - and impure - tension between abstraction and physicality.

In this tension he makes an interesting counterpoint to the brilliantly insane bodily movement (and static) of Swedish ("conceptual") poet Johan J├Ânsson, one of the most interesting poets I know of.

6:35 PM  

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