Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001
Subject: In~~Re: table of contents as mosh
"Patrick F. Durgin" wrote:
> I suppose if I'm young (30, to be exact), and "post-Language"
(which, in my
> day to day living / working, makes little sense to me, as much
> it is may bear on my circumstances or judgment), then so be it.
> My only regret is that "young" and "post-Language"
too easily become tags
> which, once spotted, keep the more timid of Kenning's potential
> bay. And so, they spend their hard-earned six bucks on a copy of
> instead of twelve for one of each.
I don't think it's the "young" part ("See half the
world maintains young Ganymedes!" --- Edward Thompson,
"The Court of Cupid," 1770). Maybe I'm timid.
I was one of those, in a sense, kept "at bay" with Kenning.
In a sense, Durgin is "a necessary evil": an extremism that
serves to define one pole of the spectrum. If you went away (counterfactual
logic), someone else would have to become the hard-liner. I was glad
to see your comic in the latest CHAIN, where you poke fun at
your own masculinist heroism ("Would I be willing to die for the
cause?" with brawny man hero cartoon in background).
After initial enthusiasm over Kenning, I sort of backed away. I originally
felt very in tune with your uncompromising stance. More recently, someone
(a Founding Father) mentioned you, quoting Durgin-esque "anybody
who has anything to do with ANYTHING WHATSOEVER is a capitalist defecter!!"
(paraphrase) with a sort of jejune world-weariness as though tsk tsk
tsk they bite the hand that feeds them tooth-shaped bubble gum.
You seemed to call for an absolutism where not only was no middle-ground
possible, but not even approaches within reach of the politburo
ideal. Like the Talmudic idea of "a fence around the law":
we cannot err even in the most trivial of ways, for fear that a relaxation
of vigilance at the front lines
endangers the Sanctum Sanctorum politick. Pretty damn close remains
CAPITALIST ENEMY, Kenning-ethos, seemingly.
Meanwhile (over 30, to be exact: "Me only cruel immortality /
Consumes" --- Tennyson, "Tithonus," 1907-8), that
definiteness looks different elsewhere, dubious. As far as words that
I can or cannot say (I cannot say inaudible words)--- "Capitalist"
is a term UNDER ERASURE, by virtue of The Fall of The Wall, the defeat
of Soviet Marxism. It is impossible, from where I stand, to retain
credibility and to invoke "Capitalist!" rhetoric. And the
same critique is difficult to navigate, to re-circumscribe, using "free
It is becoming increasingly unclear to me (presbyopia?) what this
awful evil is that we're fighting against, Patrick. Sure, every teenage
boy grown up into a feminist punching bag wants to be subversive, but---
subversive of what? subversive to what extent? Subversive like Samson,
pulling roof down yanking pillars? At some point, it became clear to
me: I'm too timid. I'm not prepared for chaos in the streets, in the
halls, on the door mat, "revolution". That's SURVIVALIST,
thinking you'll manage okay with a canteen of rations and a sandbag
waiting out the Internationale.
It was a remarkable paradigm shift, from aesthetic to poltical, and
in so many other ways, but there was something incomplete in
the Language critique, and I don't think we've managed a revaluation
that's determined where those moth hole soft spots are, and what continues
to stand, to motivate. Lately, I suspect it has something to do with
pluralism, Language's tendency to monolithicize the dominant and hence
to make resistance very untargeted and generic,--- whereas the political
may have its real pressure points at an extremely LOCAL level, and globalism
may serve dominance's end by diverting us to an abstracted political
ether, now New Media instead of neighborhood. --- And I suspect,
though unprepared to articulate, that there's something about IDENTITY
that Language missed. In its ongoing, correct critique of the personal
(as a screen that blocks the public-collective-political), it confused
personal with identity.
See--- again, not that you care but--- I find myself in the embarassing
position of being an avant-gardist manqué, a failed experimentalist.
I thought I was being "cutting edge" (AUTOBIOGRAPHIA
LITERARIA OF A COMPLETE FAILURE NOBODY'S EVER HEARD OF IN THE FIRST
PLACE OR WOULD NOTICE IF HE DROPPED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH depressiveness).
But the problem was: I wanted to be published! The desire to
be published kept me fashioning my styles by imitation, thinking
well if the radicals won't accept me I could always maybe sneak through
the middle-range into some college-sponsored journal or something
. . . And I read too much, I think.
Second Generation Language Poetry tends toward utter dilluteness
of meaning, rather than destruction of meaning.
The literary-political tactics of 1980 are rendered obsolete twenty
years later, by the ever-changing nature of The Beast.
And--- the main means of de-fusing that "capitalism" has
is--- to absorb, to represent its opponent, to include
(thus, the heart-rending Fence/Rebecca Wolff "problem":
it's very difficult to take exception with them or irritate by condemning,
because they're doing good work, in spite of it all). Dominance
re-proposes that its enemy is its Alternative. There will be an Alternative
festival of what used to be the unacceptable, the Barbarians at the
"Resistance," that Kenning means to stand for, might only
be able to be accomplished by being un-reproducable within the
conduits of "the system." I'm far from anti-academic and I
think the extended longevity academia is giving Language is a good thing,---
it's significant that the unacceptability of Language Poetry found a
weak chink, the curiosity of the academic intellect
after the difficult-to-understand, and the compulsion to explicate,
and that through that pore --- subcutaneously? --- it's perpetuating
itself and has found a break in the fire wall that's forcing incorporation
into what should be rejecting at as a foreign body, as its nemesis.
The International Center for Photography presented Hans Bellmer's
"puppe" (Ger.) doll parts series under a new explication:
Bellmer resolved that throughout the Reich he would do no artwork that
could be of service to the regime. And so, found something un-reproducable
within the surrounding culture. It could not even be shown so as to
make a laughingstock or to point to it as what's wrong--- the way those
anti-NEA ministers managed to publicize postage-stamp sized porn negatives
out of context from a David Wojnarowicsz (sp?) collage.
I'm not sure I could write avant-garde/experimental even if I tried,
as I did try. Some of this may be constitutional.
ANOTHER UTOPIAN MANIFESTO PROPOSITION: Every poet, like in 1984, should
adopt a deceased or "disappeared" poet, and carry that author
around in her/his work as the missing Ego/Other surrogate. We do not
need new poetry. A new danger is resulting from overpopulation.
All this "great"/not-"great" talk has been rendered
silly, outdated: "great" was possible only within a very small
population, was patriarchal, leader-of-the-pack, competitive. The sheer
numbers of poets at this point threatens to drown out perception of
any one. Unforeseeable positions are called for, when a few dozen has
increased to a few hundreds has increased to . . . thousands, I guess,
there must be tens of thousands of poets at this point, right? Collective
may be insufficient. WHY can't "radical" poets surrender their
proper names?! Why is a poetry of the signed and autographed,
authored, perpetuating itself in an age where advertising, journalism,
etc., etc., etc., are all anonymous?
Anyway . . .
I don't think I "get it" anymore. Where's the How To manual,
please? There is no conscious or articulated politic for this politicized
writing to adhere to. It's all Wittgensteinian beetle-in-a-box.
Your politic is Patrick, but is there any guarantee, any chance
that the Top Ten list of political blue meanies on your hit list match
Jeffrey's, or Rebecca Wolff's, or Rasputin's? Jeffrey's: 1.
Cars are bad. Global warming. 2. Movies/video-in-any form is bad. 3.
Caffeine is bad.
Now, PETA is succeeding at a genuine radicalism (!). The starting
point seems to be--- I am complicit. I am unable to stop participating
in and supporting the very things my "conscience"/ideals condemns.
But--- most of us very possibly live in utterly idiosyncratic country-of-one
auto-cultures, us X-poets. We don't need to resist. We're such
a bunch of freaks, anyway. Like, the rebellious mutants. It's enough
that to be a poet is already so fantastically weird. Even the most "conservative"
New Yorker poet stands in a position of freedom that insults
the larger culture at every step by ignoring it, disdaining. This attempt
to be doubly a Cro-Magnon and subversive is---
Any how . . .
So, that's why I'll re-subscribe to Kenning and send you six bucks.
They will each be six inches long, Patrick. I will press them flat with
my hand as if ironing them, to smooth them of any wrinkles or creases
before mailing them. And the postal office worker, momentarily diverted
from yet another post office madman rampage, sniffing the scent of dollars
ISSUED BY THE GOVERNMENT, may tear open the envelope, nibbling at it
like a rodent, so all Kenning will receive will be a torn-open envelope
with the SCENT of money in it.
HOW BIZARRE that you're talking "radical" and at the same
time proposing prudent usage of "hard-earned six bucks"! like
a Farmer's Almanac, Consumer's Digest of poetry. WASTE
money. Nobody here works hard for six bucks. We do jiggle dance and
they slip bills in our busts. In our g-strings.