Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vote No to Proposition Future

One problem I have with a lot of poetry is its obsession with futurity.

The Buffalo crowd write books and books about themselves to assure their future ascent. Ron Silliman is obsessed with canonizing and hierarchizing, but most of all he's interested in the future and in establishing what has been outdated.

But the Buffalo-ists are not the only ones concerned with the future.

In the most recent Writer's Chronicle (which as you may have noticed I read without fail), CK Williams criticizes language poetry by falling back on the time paradigm: "... their perception of the tradition was prematurely determined by their passion for recognition and novelty. I don't like to speak badly of anyone but I can't bring to mind a single poem by any of the core group of language poets that's stayed with me more than five minutes after I read it."

The interviewer then quotes Dana Levin attacking "younger poets since the late 1990s" for writing poetry that "offers much to delight the eye and tease the palate" but "such books promise sensational tastes athat in the end amount to light confections" because "lingual beauty doesn't linger long after turning the page." Also we have misread Pound's "Make it new" as an excuse for our terrible poetry.

Two different scales when it comes the futurity, but in all cases based on the future. Both models use this futurity to critique the frivolous (soft surrealism or "light confections"), which they both associate with mass culture. I am soft and frivolous.

I'm not interested in the future. Not five minutes or five decades.

Maximum asked me why I don't want want to set up shop. I am not interested in poetry that aims to establish an ideal community. Not interested in poetry that may stabilize or fix the social order, the symbolic order.

More and more, I am interested in being corrupted.

I am more and more interested in automutilation.

The Lemurification of Mark Wallace

Here's a excerpt from a recent exchange with super-blogger Mark Wallace over at his blog. It's a response to Mark's funny reply to the notion of "an economy of respect" first proposed by Stan Apps over at his blog. It's funny but it also entails some of my answers to questions raised in response to the lemur manifesto.

Johannes said...

Poetry is already run on a respect economy. Also known as a heap of mediocrity economy. Or I have lots of pals economy. Or kiss me kiss me kiss me.

I give myself one hundred in all categories. Especially the one involving dehydration.


November 16, 2008 6:41 PM

Blogger mark wallace said...

But Johannes, there are big differences between the respect and prestige economies. Both kiss kiss kiss but they kiss kiss kiss differently. The respect economy kisses you because it likes you and your work, whoever you and your work happen to be in the mind of the respect that's kissing you, and whatever you've done (for better or worse) to gain that respect. The prestige economy kisses your institutional position or public reputation.

I think, if one were to generalize, which one can't, quite, it's pretty clear that poetry is not run on a respect economy. I think it tends to value prestige over the financial, while failing to acknowledge the degree to which the financial is socially embedded in prestige. But whatever the connection there, respect is still a distant third.

Also, re mediocrity, what's fascinating is the degree to which it's easier to criticize mediocrity than to recognize it in oneself. "Physician, heal thyself" is I think the best kind of response to that problem. Lead by example, not accusation. Not that accusation doesn't have its pleasures.

November 16, 2008 7:31 PM

Blogger K. Lorraine Graham said...

Mark, this post is funny.

I am, perhaps naively, continually suprised at how many kiss kiss opportunities I receive from people I can't possibly help, let alone kiss. I have to fend off kisses and requests for kisses from kiss me kiss me peoples (as do others, I know). Today, I'm a 7-4-3, but sometimes I'm an 8-5-3. When I'm at my most confident, I think, "I am awesome. No one gives a crap about what I write!" The problem is that one day I might actually have whatever power someone thinks I might have. And what will I do then? I don't really believe that. But still, the prospect disturbs and intrigues me.

I wish tomorrow weren't Monday.

November 16, 2008 9:12 PM

Blogger Johannes said...

I don't feel like I exactly "respect" people whose poetry I like. Maybe that word is just so fuddy-duddy.

Sometimes I may want to stab myself in the chest with a pair of scissors. Does that count?

OK. I give myself 14 among junkies and 32.5 among orphans and 17.2 among disco-dancers. 2.5 at the Academy of American Poetry Organization.

November 17, 2008 11:25 AM

Blogger mark wallace said...

Thanks for these great further responses.

Lorraine, one thing your comment suggests is that our measure on the respect/prestige/financial economies is always in flux. You've got to go out there and earn it again, every day. You've got to hock your watch. Even a 10-10-10 has to watch its back. The competition is fierce.

Johannes, you seem to want a Overwhelmed By Your Intensity and Originality Economy. And in fact I think one of those already exists, although frankly it's a smaller subset of the already existing Respect Economy. Overwhelmed By Your Intensity And Originality Economies usually thrive best in local environments and have a tendency to get co-opted, especially when broadened into Economies Of The Masses Whose Tastes Are Easily Corrupted.

November 17, 2008 3:31 PM

Blogger Johannes said...

I get really easily corrupted.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Find us with the lemurs..." ("Soft Surrealism" reconsidered)

[Mark Novak asked Joyelle and me to write something about cross-cultural poetics for the most recent issue of his fine journal Xcp. This is what we wrote. It got a little messed up in its transition to blog format but I hope you can read it all the same.]

Find Us With the Lemurs: Disability and the Språkgrotesk
By Joyelle McSweeney and Johannes Göransson

1. We admit a fatso poetry, lemur poetry, disabled poetry, språkgrotesk. A softness, malformation, which may be penetrated, distended by multiple languages from multiple directions, which is a process, which undermines hierarchies of wellness and illness, ability and disability, which is becoming, minor and non-exemplary.

2. Lennard Davis isolates the connection between normalized languages and normalized bodies in his essay, “Bodies of Difference: Politics, Disability, and Representation”: “Is it a coincidence, then, that normalcy and linguistic standardization begin at roughly the same time? [… F]or the formation of the modern nation-state, not simply language but also bodies and bodily practices had to be standardized, homogenized, normalized.”

3. Deleuze and Guattari propose an antidote to the standardization of language – a minor literature inside of the major language. They call on the writer to “be a stranger within one’s own language”, to “make use of the polylingualism within one’s own language” ; their primary example is Kafka. Such minoritization releases a large quotient of deterritorization and is an element in their anti-ontological notion of becoming-animal (or -insect, -woman, -infant). D + G’s concept of minor literature is now fairly well-trodden, but we would like to call attention to what is often missing in such discussions: the body.

4. It is Gregory Samsa’s body that becomes a cockroach; it is in his mouth that his words begin to vibrate strangely.

5. Leaving the body out of D + G’s model is already an attempt to suppress the threat of the minor—because to admit the theory into one’s own mouth invites one’s own deterritorialization. This is the kind of breakdown we are waiting for, which we invite. We are down with it we have come down with it. We’re embarassed.

6. Kom Leatherface, min älskade

7. Like Samsa and Leatherface, the grotesque body is a hybrid, a monster, both animal and human, threateningly both falling short of and exceeding its components. Language hybridizes with similarly mixed and monstrous results. In an essay on French poet Henri Michaux, Swedish scholar Per Bäckstrom coins the term “språkgrotesk” (language grotesque), a concept that brings Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of the grotesque (the body that is always “becoming”) to bear on language itself. Språkgrotesk speaks to the ways in which certain writers mutate and meld language as if it were a monstrous body.

8. As Andreas Huyssen points out in his study of avant-garde writings, After the Great Divide, the historical avant-garde rejected the High Modernist striation into high and low culture and enacted convulsive effects akin to Bakhtin’s grotesque. Unfortunately, contemporary American discussions of supposed avant-garde poetics have sterilized, hygienified and normalized the avant-garde into a self-righteous, well-bounded, militarized/masculinized political outfit that derives and maintains its hardness via a rigorous outsiderness and rejection of mass culture. This set of tropes has enabled, say, Ron Silliman’s denigration of other writers’ “soft surrealism,” insufficiently rigorous in its politics or endpoints. Such pronouncements cast the American ‘avant-garde’ as an alternative hierarchy rather than an alternative to hierarchy.

9. We think Ron’s got it wrong. The global epidemic of Surrealism derives not from its manifestos and pronouncements, the imperialist/ecumenical instincts of Breton, but because it has traveled with émigrés across borders and oceans, in a flux of disheveled genders, nationalities, and media, in the second-rate garments of sleep, dream, and game.

10. This is not to say that we reject manifestos (such as the one we are writing now). We merely reject replacing one regime with another. We want to recognize the minor, which never takes power, which never sets up a new regime. The Swedish poets Aase Berg and Matthias Forshage, then both members of Surrealistgruppen of Stockholm, called in 1996 for a “Surrealism on the outer edge of time: irrational, compromising, conspiratorial, confused, monotonous, bloodthirsty. Find it with the lemurs, on the bloodstained backstreets or in the parks that are still ugly.” This non-eschatological, non-linear avant-garde project does not identify with the macho hard-core Messiah who knocks out History and sets up His own shop. Here is no utopian endpoint but rather confusion, “zones where interesting things can happen,” where “lemurs” – cuddly but rabid – swarm.

11. This poetics of the teeming mass rather than the organized, well-framed subject is at work in Berg’s book Forsla fett (Transfer Fat), a poem about both translation and pregnancy.

Mamma val Mom choice

Amma val Nurse whale
Valyngelskal Whalebroodshell
Ge harmjölk, Give hare-milk
alla val är all whales are
samma val the same whale

This verse depends on a series of puns—and puns, with their potential to collapse orders of meanings, can only provide the kind of order that enacts its own collapse. The title pun works around ‘val’, which can mean ‘choice’ or ‘whale’, and as the word is repeated in various phrases neither one nor the other meaning becomes dominant. This lexical flux undoes the ability of word ‘choice’ to mean. If one cannot choose among meanings for this word, no choice is possible; all choices are the same whale. Elsewhere in the book the text melds multiple languages—English, horror movies, string theory—into its monstrous body:

Navelsträng Umbilical String

I mittencirkelhålet In the middlecirclehole
hårt suger harespåret hard sucks the hare track
i inåtcirkelvirveln in the inwardcircle whirl
av det spända of the strung

Klar kyla rusar kabel Clear cold rushes cable
Stum stämma rinner sträng Mute voice runs strung
Stram strämja rusar fett Strained struggle ruses fat
i malströmsåret in the malestromsore

Berg produced Transfer Fat in part by translating from English scientific articles on string theory, a subject of which she has no expertise. The deformed English terminology in turn denatures the integrity of the Swedish words, calling attention to their component syllables over their connotative or denotative meanings. To translate this work is not, in fact, to translate from Swedish into English but to invite new coalescences across one multilingual, mongrel swarm.

12. Bakhtin argued that poetry had a centripetal mission – to create the illusion of a central, true language, a hierarchical notion of culture. The prevalence of such a notion in US culture explains why Americans still think poetry is what is “lost in translation,” and why American poets are always turning their attention—enviously, critically, or admiringly—to anthologies and prizes which posit bestness, a bestness which itself ratifies a fantasy notion of poetry as a center of American culture, of American English, and a correlating fantasy of American culture and English as central to the world. Berg presents an antithesis: a poetry of lemurs, of swarms, as translation, as that which doesn’t exclude other languages but draws them into an unstable assemblage. Such an assemblage, though lowly, is dynamic, insidious rather than conquering. In the piece above, the strings (and other scientific language) of string theory are brought together with the pregnant body – making the science corporeal and the body – that supposed icon of the natural – de-essentalized. The result is a flux comparable to what D + G calls rhizome:

"The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing. Make a map, not a tracing. The orchid does not reproduce the tracing of the wasp; it forms a map with the wasp, in a rhizome. What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency. It is itself a part of the rhizome. The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. "

13. The political tendency of fatso poetry, of lemur poetry, comes from its filiations with unwell bodies, with deficient bodies, with disabled bodies, with poor bodies. Like the lemurs, such poetry cannot compete. Its edges cannot be marked, and its figure cannot be judged. Translation works this way. Its excess belies a deficit (of mastery, of fluency, of equivalence) and exposes deficits currently masked within a table of hierarchies. It uncouples priorities and lays bare lacks and needs. In the face of its unnerving debasement, material is unworked from frames and rushes to fill low pits and orifices. Strange mutants congeal at pit-level. This may be going nowhere. It goes on.

For further elaboration of our intersecting model of translation and disability studies, see our “Manifesto of the Disabled Text” in the Spring 2008 issue of /nor.
Davis, Lennard. “Bodies of Difference: Politics, Disability, and Representation.” In Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Snyder, Brueggmann, and Garland-Thomas, eds. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2002. 101.
Deleuze and Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Translated by Dana B. Polan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. 26.
“4.5 I reaktor,” from Mörk Materia, collected in Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg. Johannes Göransson, translator. Tuscaloosa: Action Books, 2005. Trans: “Come Leatherface, my love.”
See “Språkgrotesk” in Per Bäckstrom’s Enhet I mångfalden: Henri Michaux och det groteska. (Lund: ellerströms, 2005) 73-85. Translated here by Johannes Göransson.
Andreas Huyssen. After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986).
One such volley is lobbed at Charles Simic on Silliman’s Blog here: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/2007/10/in-recent-years-different-poets.html
Matthias Forshage and Aase Berg. “Surrealismen I den yttersta tiden”. Stora Staltet Nr 4, Mars 1996. Reprinted at http://www.surrealistguppen.org/surrmainsv.htm. Translated here by Johannes Göransson.
“Mamma Val” and “Mom Choice” reprinted in Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg. Johannes Göransson, translator.Tuscaloosa: Action Books, 2005. 46-47.
Ibid, 54-55.
Deleuze and Guattari. A Thousand Platueus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.Translated and with a foreword by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. 12.

Friday, November 21, 2008


[I'm working on a paper on Henry Parland. Here are some good quotes from Andreas Huyssen's After the Great Divide:]

“Modernism constituted itself through a conscious strategy of exclusion, an anxiety of contamination by its other: an increasingly consuming and engulfing mass culture.”

“My point of departure, however, is that despite its ultimate and perhaps inevitable failure, the historical avantgarde aimed at developing an alternative relationship between high art and mass culture and thus should be distinguished from modernism, which for the most part insisted on the inherent hostility between high and low.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008


People ask me why I'm so busy reading Dada nonsense when it's so far in the past. Or my interest in the Gothic and grotesque. The same question I suppose could be put to Joris and Rothenberg for their Romanticism project. Or Hoover and Chernoff for their recent Hölderlin translation. Or my new project of translating Swedish Romantic poet Stagnelius.

Here's what Hal Foster says in "What's Neo about the Neo-Avant-Garde?" (Also later in the book "Return of the Real")

"The move within these two returns are different: Althusser defines a lost break within Marx, whereas Lacan articulates a latent connection between Freud and Fredinand de Saussure, the contemporaneous founder of structural linguistics, a connection implicit in Frued... but impossible for him to think as such given the epistomelogical limits of his own historical position. But the method of these returns is similar: to focus on "the constructive omission" fundamental to each discourse. Similar too are the motives: not only to restore the radical integrity of the discourse but to challenge its status in the present, the received ideas that deform its structure and restrict its efficacy. This is not to claim the final truth of such readings... On the contrary it is to clarify the the contingent strategy of the readings, which is to reconnect with a lost practice in order to disconnect from a present way of working felt to be outmoded, misguided, or otherwise oppressive. The first move (re) is a temporal one, made in order, in a second, spatial move (dis) to open a new site for work."

He then talks about post war art's interest in the readymade and Russian Constructivism. We can also see it in Rothenberg's various challenges to the perceived idea of American Modernism, or the re-discovery of say Mina Loy. Or the language poets re-inserting "So much depends" into the rest of Spring and All and calling more attention to Stein. Or in Bly & Co's 1960s work recovering various avant-garde and surrealist-influenced poets in translation. In other words, "returning" to various authors and text can be very interesting and useful. It can of course also be the opposite.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Judging from the new Poems for Millennium edited by Joris and Rothenberg and Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg's anthology of gurlesque writings, there must be a long-awaited re-examination of Romanticism taking place, away from the simplistic dismissals that have so long been in currency (I admit I am occasionally guilty of this). Unfortunately the new Millennium anthology does not include the greatest Swedish Romantic poet (and most grotesque), Stagnelius. But I'm sure it's a fine anthology all the same.

My favorite example of neo-Romanticism is of course Aase Berg's and the Stockholm Surrealists' adventures in occultism, translation and grotesquerie.

One new and excellent point of entry is Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover's new translation of Romantic German poet Friedrich Hölderlin's work:

[This is a fragment]

The Tree

When I was a child, I planted you

Lovely Tree! How different we seem to each other now
How splendidly you stand there and

like a child.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


My brief report: Just like last year there was much talk about internationalism and transnationalism. Like last year, those panels were almost all about American or English modernists. Like last year, there was a panel discussion of how to make MSA more international. It's pretty pathetic. I mean, modernism was pretty darn international. Too bad these academics are so entrenched in their Eliot/Pound/Stein-centered worlds.

The saddest thing was almost when Per Backstrom and I went to the panel on East European avant-gardes (clearly the most interseting bunch of groups - heterogenous and extreme) given by a bunch of scholars from Eastern Europe, but there was only one more person who attended the panel. We went out with the chain-smoking presenters afterwards and that was fun.

Only a few more folks showed up to our grotesque panel, which still turned out really great. Per talked about "language grotesque", I talked about Aase Berg and the welfare state, Merrill Cole talked about lust murder, lurid sex cabarets and Hannah Hoch in the Weimar Republic, and Colbey Reid gave a really awesome paper that wove in HG Welles's "The Island of Dr Moreau" with the fabric patterns of Matisse and poems by Mina Loy, showing the importance of patterns to the grotesque.

I went to some other good papers - Plath and Surrealism, Berryman's Pound, Marianne Moore and translation, someGerman happenings, Chaplin in Latin America, Djuna Barnes at Coney Island and some other stuff.

Though in the end academic conferences make me feel a little uncomfortable. Not sure why.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


One problem with a lot of the post-Obama or even pre-Obama talk is the idea that poetry can/should accomplish some kind of utopian progress; that poetry should be ethical/progressive. This is just another way of trying to controll the pleasure; hitch it to an ethical stance.

See the most recent Action, Yes and the struggle between the very "good" and "ethical" socialist cultural establishment (ie controllers) and Bruno K Oijers grotesque excess. Stop trying to be so good.

No to progress.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

MSA in Nashville

Be sure to look me up if you're going to the Modernist Studies Association conference in Nashville this weekend. Judging from the emails I've been receiving, quite a few people are going.

Last year was pretty terrific.

My panel on modern poetry and the grotesque is on Saturday morning at 10:30. I'm talking about Aase Berg's "Anti-Body" and the welfare state.

Obama poetics

I just read Ray Bianchi's post about Obama.

Obviously I am very thrilled and optimistic about his tenure, but there's one important thing to call attention to midst all the hoopla over us electing the first African-American president: the extreme presence of heterosexual normalcy in his campaign. I don't blame him for trotting out his family etc all the time; that's how you get elected.

But it's not like the country became totally open to the foreign all of a sudden. This is underlined by the passing of Prop 8 in California, which is about who can marry, who can become that normal, all-american couple. The reason people oppose gay marriage is of course that it reveals a certain artificiality of normalcy. Of course funding played a big part in this.

I do agree with Ray that there is a great deal of obscurantism and elitism in poetry, but I don't think it's where Ray finds it. It seems to me Flarf for example has been a very popular movement, involving people from all over the place. My students seem to really like it and be inspired by it. I think it's actually a kind of populism.

The key is not to have a populist poetry that acts like Prop 8.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Raw vs Cooked (again)

I can't help comment on my pal (and constant straw man) Josh Corey's recent post about teaching.

As always, I disagree with Josh's split of poets into the crafty and the wild poets (who, according to Josh, "hurl feces"). In Josh's discussions, the raw camps are set up as free and crazy, unencumbered by the rules of art, while the cooked - his own camp, he repeatedly points out - are cerebral and concerned with rules etc.

Of course this dichotomy is totally false. Josh has used Lara Glenum and Ariana Reines to exemplify the raw crowd, but these poets take great care to explore certain formal registers. I would say they are both formalists in the way the Bolsheviks used the term (negatively). But they are concerned with form in fluid, dynamic way; not as a set of rules passed down through creative writing classes.

Perhaps the best example of how wrong this binary divide is: Artaud. His "theater of cruelty" is often misinterpreted as a mayhem-gone-wild of violence. But cruelty, as Artaud repeatedly points out, has to do with the precision of movements, and cruelty against him (Artaud that is). His model was the precise movements of Balinese dancers.

This is also why I reacted so negatively to Jim's cliche idea that avant-gardism is just chaos. Dodie Bellamy has repeatedly pointed to gay porn as a source for her writing - a highly formalist theater.

Another point: In David Lynch it is extreme formalism, aestheticism that leads to the "unconscious" - zigzag floor patterns, strange songs from the 1950s etc.

Rather than actually describe a crowd of poets, I think Josh's binary shows a strange longing for a Freudian model of the mind: a desire for a Freudian unconscious to exist, the wish for a barbarian force that needs to be technologized, restrained chaos.

In Josh's new post he moves this raw-vs-cooked model into teaching. He writes: "It's relatively easy to teach the first column, and in fact the notion of poetry as teachable derives from that zone. What's seemingly impossible to teach is the second column, and that more romantic notion of what a poet is inspires the saying, "Poets are born, not made," and lead all sorts of people to doubt and calumnify the value of creative writing programs. The best we may be able to do, as Bob suggests, is to offer students Noulipo-type constraints which will produce a poem of the second column using the methodology of the first." [That's a reference to Robert Archambeau, who wrote the post he respond to].

One way to move beyond this impasse is to pose student-centered, problem-based challenges, in which student have to read up on poets and writers in order to solve a problem in their own ways, based on their own views and interests. For example, you give them a bunch of ideas about performance and some performances and you leave it to them to figure out what a performance should do and how to do that. The teacher is according to this model more of a guide and less of an authority who imparts knowledge. But you have to abandon the set idea of what good poetry (or craft, form) is.

The only way Josh can see the "Dionysian" poet as a teacher is Jorie Graham's charismatic style of teaching. I think actually Jorie is an extreme example of teacher-centered, craft-based teaching. She depends on the dynamic of herself as an Authority. Although she plays the persona of a Romantic Genius, she teaches with very basic, craft-based critiques - re-arranging words and changing word-choices in order to make for a more breathless experience.

I saw a lot of fellow students learn a lot from Jorie's workshop in Iowa - and become much less original. That is the problem of that kind of teacher-centered teaching. It makes for conformists. And thus: a lot of the problems of a contemporary American poetry that is filtered through teacher-centered classrooms.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New European Poets

Chad Post has a nice review of the anthology on 3%.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

UGA students

There's a new issue of Lamination Colony, including work by University of Georgia alumni Ian Davidson and Ryan Downey. They are part of the seemingly endless group of great young writers (it also includes Daniel Spinks and several others) who studied with Lara Glenum, Danielle Pafunda, Kristen Iskandrian & Co there.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Poetry in chicago

Poetry & Chicago Convocation

On Friday November 7th, Loyola University Chicago will host a Poetry & Chicago Convocation featuring talks and readings by:

Lisa Fishman (poetry & farming)
John Keene (poetry & collaboration)
Robyn Schiff (poetry & publishing)
Jennifer Karmin (poetry & activism)
Abraham Smith (poetry & performance)
Quraysh Ali Lansana (poetry & history).

Lake Shore Campus of Loyola in Rogers Park
12pm Friday November 7th
The Multi-Purpose Room of the Simpson Living Learning Center.

The event is free and open to the public, and lunch will be served between the poets' brief talks and readings. The Simpson Living Learning Center is on Sheridan Blvd. about two blocks from the Loyola train station on the CTA Red Line.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Why is using metaphors so often described as "indulgent"?

What piece of poesy is not indulgent. One indulges in poetry.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Go Gary

Voter supression in Indiana

In the voting polls in Indiana, the county added a piece of paper into the rule books claiming that the poll voters had to finish counting the early votes and absentee votes before 6 pm. This is explicitly against state laws. Just a little way the Republicans are trying to shut out Obama. It may not have any effect on the overall map, but it's perhaps indicative of a larger strategy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Review of Dear Ra

[I found the following review of Dear Ra on Amazon.com. Not the kind of place one might usually see such in-depth readings]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Candy and Cousins, September 16, 2008
By Kevin Killian (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Here the unnamed narrator writes compulsively to Ra, perhaps the Egyptian sun god, perhaps a teenaged penpal, telling him (her? For "Ra" is sometimes a spectre of a girlfriend, a coy mistress, a Mom) of his days, complaining of his life in a white suburb in a carpeted basement and living with his parents. He speaks of his missing twin, Jesse Garon, a phantom self that won't let him go--"Jesse Garon" was the name of Vernon and Gladys Presley's second son, stillborn in the same birth as Elvis--and in such passages a note of genuine melancholia and acedia enters the rhythms of the life unfolding. Otherwise it's a boy's world of discontent and horny fantasy and the belief that the whole world revolves around one's ups and downs. "I can't jack offwithout history peering in."

In the second half of the book, as in life, our boy's circle of acquaintance grows larger, and he experiments branching out with letters to others. Godardian maxims, so beautiful when Godard first coined them, undergo the angst and strain of being pulled to pieces by a born deconstructor, and guns enter the picture. We get the image of a Swedish boys transplanted to the USA at an early age, a teen perhaps, and made to live in a house of his own imagination. No more hands across the water, "You've got a handgun, I've got a hand to shake." At an unnamed academy he is surprised to encounter lessons in writing divorced from specific social contexts, to avoid using the word "napalm" in a poem, for example. "Say `knife' instead. A knife will always mean the same thing." Goransson's achievement here is to collapse, successfully, the bildungsroman into the "Paris Spleen"-esque sort of prose poem that is the bedrock of today's mainstream poetry industry, and to both genres he applies the two fingered salute, while managing to strike all kinds of emotional, narratological, and sexual sparks. Me likey!

Feisty stalwart Starcherone Books has given Johannes Goransson's book the luxury treatment, and it is handsome almost beyond its means. The back jacket copy is a little misleading however. "Each sentence," it says, "is like being stabbed by a beautiful murderer." I did not feel that. "Each entry [is like] crossing the border into some new language." That's a little bit more reasonable.

Nevertheless the book has its startling passages and a general air of anything goes, which made me enjoy the rollicking ride. If occasionally DEAR RA sports the jaded air of having been written by one who has seen too many Sofia Coppola films, it reminds us of why we liked her in the first place--her fresh eye on the sweet and cheap wares life sells us.

Reverend Wright Rides Again

Apparently the McCain campaigns secret last-minute weapon turns out to be.... more sleaze. They are covering PA with ads about that dangerous black minister Reverend Wright who is secretly controlling Obama. I assume they waited to go to Wright to the last few days so that Obama wouldn't have time to reply.

"Redistribution of Wealth"

Can someone please explain to these morons that the biggest "redistribution of wealth" is the Bush tax-cut for millionaires.

And now the right has created this meme that Obama = "handouts." Give me a break. If that works (along with the "socialism" and "terrorism" memes), then this country isn't a democracy. You can't have one candidate just making stuff up about the other candidate.

I don't know how I will be able to stomach being "led" by such an immoral couple of politicians as McCain/Palin. I have been thoroughly repulsed by McCain's behavior from the start (for example his unwillingness to actually debate Romney on issues in the Republican debates, not to mention his racist ads about Obama and Britney Spears). Ugh.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Shining

I don't know if I've written this before but I'm watching The Shining and it's amazing how Lynch pretty much had everything he needed for Twin Peaks in this film - the possessions, the visions, the hotel, the floor patterns, the camera shots, the acting style (the way Jack Nicholson leans his head down and looks up).