Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001
Subject: In~~Re: table of contents as mosh pit

"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 as whatever
> 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 audience at
> bay. And so, they spend their hard-earned six bucks on a copy of The germ,
> 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 market."

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 gates.

"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.