Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001
Subject: Re: Harpo's Index [*$@%]

Dear Patrick,

Thank you for your lovely, Bourdievian numbers. (Your on-List silence had been noticeable. I heard you hurt your shin. Condolences. And I was worried that maybe your silence meant you were cooking up some sort of mischievous heteronym! :) I'm relieved to see you're putting your time to good use.) Something seems muddled with your statistics for advertisements, though: 7.5 doesn't seem to correspond to 65, numerically, and you might've done better to stick it out for an additional count of 62 (= 214 - 149), I think, especially with randomness, as comparison between samples of unequal size involve chi-factors or r or something . . . but otherwise, I find these numbers neo-Pythagorean in their sense of "beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all you know on earth and all you need to know," and charming.

I felt tempted to do the same myself --- but upping nutritional supplements of Vitamin Shoppe 1500 MG Amino Complex to 10 tabs a day seems to have moderated my counting mania --- and I was more interested in plotting who responds to whose posts and threads, for more of an analysis of power and follow-the-leader.

I also find the number of advertisements distressing. It's like being on one of those servers with pop-up ads that keep cluttering the screen. One waste of time there, for me, is that poetry-dvertisers do not as a rule mark their subject header with their location,--- so I waste clicks opening ads for interesting poets' readings that are then disappointingly unreachable in far-away States I can't attend (given the impounding of my private jet), not that I ever leave the house anyway. So, (#1) I think it wld. at least be thoughtful of advertisers to mark location in subject header, . . . although I can understand that reputation accumulates through the redundancy of name, and why anyone wld. be motivated just to infiltrate Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein at every loophole, "fame"-building.

I've wondered if Christopher W. Alexander or Prof. Bernstein couldn't somehow "cordon off" or segregate ads from poetics discussion. In print, ads are generally separated to the margins and not interspersed with "articles." --- Pedagogically, insofar as the List is State U. educational outreach, it's like mixing in Save Fifty Cents coupons with class notes. --- Electronically, segregation might be effort, though (develop a co-site/cache), . . . but maybe not all that much effort: even free servers like Yahoo provide instantaneous group resources that poetry-advertisers cld. be given a one-time "warning" to post to, for those interested to consult, and then otherwise summarily blocked/deleted (as exploitative, mercenary, whatever). I've even considered as public "penance" taking it upon myself to maintain an on-line Poetry Calendar such items could be re-directed to and plotted more helpfully, systematically, the way Sharon Matling (name?) single-handedly started the NYC Poetry Calendar as a 2-sided broadsheet that became a company.

I do strongly agree that it wld. improve readering for ads to be segregated somehow.

There's something terribly American in this anti-social Buy This/Go There panhandling that's done on-List, by poets (communicators!) who have total impunity abt. addressing a community only to try to change peers into audience. Very lively, daily discussion (although abt. work of a different "taste" than the Buff' List's) goes on at PoetryEtc, for example, which is predominately UK and AU/NZ sign-ons, who don't seem as thoroughly permeated by mercantilism as Americans.

I'm very easily manipulated by advertisements (which is why I don't watch television or go to the movies, and have trouble with newspapers and magazines), --- psychology finds that some types are objectively more "hypnotizable" by ads/promos! --- and it's distressing to find my relation to poetry being bent into docile consumerism: I spend, easily, between a hundred and two hundred a month on poetry, average, much of it via SPD or checks to on-List book/journal advertisers. That's okay but, once upon a time, my naive attachment to poetry was because an endlessly re-readable enigma masterpiece and nothing but paper and pen/typewriter was a refuge from consumerism.

But it isn't only the alienation that poets are dousing colleagues with here that bothers me (I find it tacky if the automatic footer at the bottom of a poet's discussion post leads to a book of theirs and a price for where to send for it, too): it's the lack of creativity, or imagination, or even--- guile! in how matter-of-factly and mass media-like they style their "Satisfy Me" commands. Utopian, I think it's holding back a potential new poetry of inventive free market gamesmanship, a "litvertizing," as it were, where poetry would grow into being ironically/ambiguously conjoined with the zeitgeist of advertisement-seduction. What were all those names of friends doing in New York School poetry, if not a collective stategy of shared advertising and name-redundancy? (How could Bill Berkson be advertised on-List this week if, in the golden age of genuine inspired "litvertizing," Frank O'Hara hadn't paved a reptutation for him by dint of including his name in O'Hara immortality?) Forgive me if it seems vain of me to use myself as an example, but it took much more than an hour to put together and post my shoddy little

with no self-interest in Christian Bok's reputation other than I genuinely find him to be among the two or three most remarkable. It was advertising, though, disinterested advertising, labor-intensive advertising. And I was lead to doing that, and to ordering Bok's book and to hearing him on the Cabinet CD as a result of Brian Kim Stefans posting a micro-review that brought out the nature of Eunoia in a way I'd previously missed, and as a result of Christopher W. Alexander bringing out points about glossolalia that mentioned Cabinet.

Already here, it shows, I'm more concerned about/focussed on the on-List advertisements, whereas you're more irked by the absence of discussion (the latest Fence takes uniquely unprecedented and admirable candor in presenting their distributors' actual print-outs--- with sales figures! Congratulations, Rebecca Woolf/Rebecca-informants while Rebecca is on her doubtlessly tiring but envigorating Manderley road show. The charts should be framed, it's so good. --- Tragic, hopefully not, that their optimism was fueled by the "irrational exuberance" [Greenspan] of the now antediluvian lost "New Economy," and that recession nihilism may well show Fence's charts' upward curve to have been sub-sets of a larger upward slope mania that's been broken by three airplanes and thousands and thousands of deaths, "jinxed").

Maybe that's because I see advertising as an unstoppable semiotic that's really a major vehicle for graphic artists, designers, actors, models, epigrammatists, etc., and quite "avant-garde" in its ingenuities. And I'm mainly disappointed by how anemically we pursue marketing and how uncreative and ascii ads are, on-List.


I don't think we're marginalized; I think we're bad at marketing.

But thanks for your own statistical avant-gardisme, --- the future is Neo-Pythagorean! --- which I read as a Herron poetic artefact in and of itself. Bar charts would've been nice (Ron Silliman did Rae Armantrout pie charts in A Wild Salience).

P.S. The "BICKERING" and fighting that you condone as the spice of discussion also greatly contributes, I suspect, to the drop-off in discussion: you have a thicker hide for and propensity toward it than many. Poets are sensitive plants, and people of substance aren't going to risk their vulnerability where at any moment their "lessers" are given full clearance to pounce and lash out over imaginary slights. (But I'm debilitatingly conflict-avoidant {meek!}.)

Professional academics tend to participate less seriously in on-List discussion, too. Perhaps they see it as "work," or their interlocutors as being unqualified; they're more "careful," though. On-List participation sometimes parallels how long a batch/klatsch enjoys grad student status together. They clam up once they've gotten tenure-track

P.P.S. I rented Being John Malkovich the other night to see the Emily Dickinson puppet, and the puppeteer's employer, Lester Inc., reminded me of your coincidentally named marionette Lester.

"One in the sun. Two in the sun. Three in the sun.
One not in the sun. . . . Four benches used four
benches separately."

--- Gertrude Stein, Four Saints in Three Acts, 1927


--- Patrick Herron <patrick@PROXIMATE.ORG> wrote:
> Discussion Statistics, UBPoetics E-mail List
> November 2001 vs. November 1998
> November 1998
> number of e-mails: 984
> number of threads*: 174
> average length of thread, adjusted to remove
> outliers: 3.6 e-mails
> discussion, as % share of total list e-mail: 67
> percent of list posts that were advertisements,
> announcements, job postings,
> or responses to such postings: 7.5 (based on random
> sample of 211 e-mails),
> November 2001
> number of e-mails: 404
> number of threads*: 38
> average length of thread, adjusted to remove
> outliers: 2.5 e-mails
> discussion, as % share of total list e-mail: 29
> number of advertisements, announcements, job
> postings, or responses to such
> postings: 65 (based on a random sample of 149
> e-mails)
> *-threads with more than one e-mail