Monday, October 29, 2007

Because apparently I utilize other people's comment streams as my own personal blog . . . .

I find it most helpful in my own writing to regard irony as simply a form of mediation, one that can be developed as a technique, but one that doesn't necessarily determine its application.

It can of course lead to the same sorts of moral self-splendor as apparent earnestness or sincerity (of intent) (as opposed to Zuk-ish conception of sincerity).

As a general cultural tenor, it seems a sort of 'blank irony' is the default setting; neither a formal ironic framing of a subject or object, or of relation, but just a general, never-ending situation of ironic self-regard (repose) that helps sugar the medicine as it goes down:

"Look, I'm going to sell you this bag of chips by not-too-earnestly selling them to you; I will do this by presenting this sales pitch with some kind of detached self-regard: I'm not directly selling you a product in this commercial, per se, but a general subject position that synchs up nicely with consumer culture (the running commentary on the synching up is the synching up) that leads inexorably towards your purchasing of the product."

Obviously, just replicating this sort of irony doesn't lead to the most interesting of writing, but that doesn't mean that this sort of irony can't also be used as material for really interesting writing.
The Thin Man from West Plains

RIP Porter Wagoner

surely the greatest country music figure to come from Missouri or the Ozarks

he looked exactly like half of my elder male relatives

now he has escaped the rubber room

almost an entire generation of hardcore Grand Old Opry stars have passed on now: Wagoner, Grandpa Jones, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff

Little Jimmie Dickens might be the last one left

Friday, October 26, 2007

As I'm reading and preparing for my prelims in March, I'm culling together a gloss I've titled: "Literary Terms Towards a Poetics of New Media." It's basically my attempt to construct a constellation of terms and usages that I find generative or that I would like to put into play in my own critical project (that is, I don't necessarily subscribe to all of them); it is also intended as a way to track different usages across differing contexts. Here is what I have under E so far. The ellipses are places where I want to place in exact usages from a certain writer or source.

Ecricture: a joyous textual intensity along the lines of schizophrenic disjunction (as an aesthetic conception) (Jameson)

Emblem: (gesture): one of two types of gesture (along with gesticulation), it carries out a social activity: a wink, a jerk of the thumb, a middle finger (Rotman)

Emergent Forms: from Raymond Williams, . . .

Emotion: “the conscious sign of a break, actual or impending” (Dewey 15); in the black radical tradition, it can’t be understood in opposition to structure (Moten 133)

Encountering: “a nondetermining invitation to the new and continually unprecedented performative, historical, philosophical, democratic, communist arrangements that are the only authentic ones” (Moten 22)

Ensemble: the improvisation of singularity and totality and through their opposition (Moten); in montage it occurs in, and is, the cut between totality and singularity; example: “the field of nonconvergence that we might call the Amiri baraka Ensemble, featuring Leroi Jones: are Amiri Barak, Leroi Jones, Johannes Koenig “three separate entities or personae or is there an essence or essential mode of being that exists as the condition of possibility of these beings” (Moten 138)

Epistemological Double: split off from the psychological subject (with all its personal history and idiosyncratic appetites), the epistemological double is assumed to be species-wide in scope: it is the abstract subject position that is taken in traditional empirical practice; it is one consequence of a fetish for method, and is coupled with “a belief in the repeatability and public quality of experience,” where inner experience is replaced by “confirmable data of the controlled experiment” observed by a meta-subject of cognition (the epistemological double) with a “view from nowhere” (Jay 35); other consequences: 1) the epistemological double’s lifespan exceeds that of an individual human: it accumulates only in perfected knowledge, as opposed to wisdom, as death is no longer the limit point of its knowledge; 2) for the psychological subject, memory of past trials remains a part of experience; via the objective, scientific methods of the epistemological double, “that memory is deliberately obliterated”; 3) bodily learning through the senses is replaced by ‘objective’ instruments: the experience of the epistemological double is displaced onto instruments and numbers (Jay); Agamben: “the reduction of experience to its scientific variant based on an imagined collective subject, at once impersonal and immortal, opened a space for competing options” (Jay 78); the religious and the aesthetic modalities are two possible means of exceeding the boundaries of the epistemological double (Jay)

Epistemological Wit: irony relies on cultural norms, but wit transgresses them; Duchamp and Breton are epistemological wits: “we might still discover that Duchamp’s laughter has never yet been heard” (Bohrer)

Erfahrung: one of two German terms for experience, it refers to temporally elongated experiences that can be described in terms of adventure (Jay); experience in Kant is always Erfahrung, both journey and spatial location, which is inherently relational: the I is the substratum, locus of moral autonomy, the self understood in epistemological rather than psychological terms: “inner experience is itself only indirect and is possible only through outer experience (Jay 74); for Benjamin . . .

Erlebnis: one of two German terms for experience, it refers to lived experiences that are pre-reflective (Jay)

Ethnic Group: for Stiegler and Leroi-Gourhan, it is defined by its shared future as opposed to its past, dismissing the question of origin; “the unity of the ethnic group is governed by the relation to time, more precisely the relation to a collective future sketching in its effects the reality of a common becoming” (55);

Ethnic Unity: momentary, essentially becoming, not acquired, “conventional, without any other origin than a mythical one” (Stiegler)

Ethea: Greek: the ground of ethics, meaning lair or hearth of an animal; ethics moved from ethea to an abstract notion of patterns of behavior; as binding as nomos, but more personal (in lair) (Havelock)

Experience: “when the material runs its course to fulfillment” (Dewey 35); includes both doing and undergoing as ingredients, giving it pattern and structure: not just alternation, but in a relationship: “the action and its consequence must be joined in perception” (Dewey 44); “like breathing is a rhythm of intakings and outgivings. Their succession is punctuated and made a rhythm by the existence of intervals, periods in which one phase is ceasing and the other is inchoate and preparing” (Dewey 56)

May you grow up to be righteous,

May you grow up to be true,

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you.

May you always be courageous,

Stand upright and be strong,

May you stay forever young,

Forever young, forever young,

May you stay forever young.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Evening Cage Match


"we seem increasingly incapable of fashioning representations of our own current experience"

(Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism)

And the winner is . . . .

Posted my thoughts to a new Stan Apps' post over at his blog. I'm registering them here as well mostly for my own record, to track my current intuitions.

1) I don't know how generous or generative it is to say that Nick and Simon are simply saying "you can't get away from tradition"; I guess putting it that vaguely helps keep one from baldly saying that their position is "one must be beholden to the tradition in order to be legitimate," which seems to be the unstated tenor of what you're arguing against.

2) (Stein)(Roussel)(Lautreamont) (Tzara)(Ball). A genealogy of non-genealogically inclined writers? Or does the presentation of them as parenthetical instances stand as what's going to keep them as individual rupture points (which also implies continuity)?

3) I consider the poetic tendency to re-imagine historical and cultural logics of relation as an endless, useful and permission-giving tendency; a refusal to fall back on a passive acceptance and perpetuation of some master narrative, but also a refusal to passively accept the contemporary economic/cultural norm of regarding the present as this perpetually bracketed now-point in which no critical distancing (to either a future or a past) adheres. To imagine a relation to tradition isn't to roll over and play dead for it.

4) I have a hard time matching up the Stein I read in Lectures in America and the Stein you present.

5) I don't know, but I've been told: even if you're not thinking about history, it is always thinking (of) you. What change takes place if "tradition" is substituted for "history"?

6) I like the ways Fred Moten renders these sorts of questions in his book on the black radical tradition, In the Break. He uses "ensemble" as a vehicle for his discussion. He regards it as the improvisation of singularity and totality and through their opposition; in montage it occurs in, and is, the cut between totality and singularity; example: “the field of nonconvergence that we might call the Amiri Baraka Ensemble, featuring Leroi Jones: Amiri Baraka, Leroi Jones, Johannes Koenig (another of his pen names/authors): are they “three separate entities or personae or is there an essence or essential mode of being that exists as the condition of possibility of these beings?” So, conditions of possibility (for ______) being one organizing principle for a tradition or even genealogy, as opposed to orthodoxy.

7) My personal stance is that a relation to a tradition, and what a tradition is or may contain, is to be perpetually improvised and pursued, and that it is most effectively done so in some sort of collective, shared context, and that allowing one's self to forget/ignore/wish-away one's ties to what is taken to be a tradition is a vital aspect of that improvisation.

[the following added later]

8) I wonder how national cultures and literatures will come to function and be regarded as the nation-state become continually less relevant as an economic unit with the prevalence of multi-national and finance capital. Giovanni Arrighi claims that trans-national companies are becoming “free from the constraints imposed [on capital accumulation] by the territorial exclusiveness of states.”

This, then, signals/triggers a declining significance of national economies and societies, which, for Arrighi, leads to: 1) trans-nationalism (companies and treaties not bound by national boundaries), 2) regionalism (NAFTA), 3) tribalism (emphasis on diversity and identity).

[ click images to enlarge]

Steve McCaffery, from Carnival

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm not sure if my comment over in this interesting little comment stream will go through, so:

As Brent knows, I've been on a little Pragmatist jag recently, and I like what John Dewey has to say:

Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply engrained attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction persists—-though history shows it to be a hallucination—-that all the questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of questions together with both of the alternatives they assume-—an abandonment that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest. We do not solve them: we get over them.

In poetry, I find it rare for me to abandon a writer or position because of its apparent immorality, but "decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest" gets me to drop a former beloved like a hot potato.

I'm not sure setting up the abandonment of inherited traditional terms would stick as a system for exciting writing (a technical system tends to just evolve and replicate itself through its own recurrences). To paraphrase some German guy, I think to establish around a technique a system or stable position (even if it is a stable position of destabilizing one's relation to the past) can get in the way of writing interesting things, because then that technique is no longer put to use and instead just starts replicating and evolving itself by its own terms.

Maybe that's somebody's idea of good politics? I think snapping off one's tether to the tradition should always be an option for an artist, even if it's a delusion. It might even be a chosen tendency for a number of artists and poets.

I'm just really doubtful one can set up anything more categorical than that, let alone utilize it as a coherent (or even useful) organizing principle for discussing the way people write, or like to believe they write.

[ click to enlarge ]

graphic from Andre Leroi-Gourhan's Gesture & Speech

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Evening Ideogram
(or, The Blog Post Is the New Paragraph)

For my buddy Paul, the ideal death would be this: to walk in the woods, chance upon a bear, and then rush into it, hoping to land one good punch.


Making my rounds as self-appointed part time security guard for the way my two favorite writers get presented, I stumble recently upon a notion of Stein as a writer "who simply does what she likes and for whom the tradition is not a source of frustration or turmoil" as well as Olson and his famous notion of the "saturation job" (immerse yourself in any topic until you know more than anyone else about it, and then you're in) as a kind of "Taylorist efficiency models for poets." In the first instance, Stan Apps is arguing against a rear-guardist position of validating innovation through precedents in a/the tradition: my take is that he wants to advocate an avant-gardist position of not being yoked to the boundaries imposed by the past: if not a liberating aesthetic utopia, then at least establishing that as a viable possibility. In the second instance, John Latta is maybe in a middle of a self-conversation that I'm just picking up scraps and bones from (I'm kind of saying that I had some trouble making heads or tails).

But anyway, I think both Apps and Latta, who are (from what I can tell) pretty wildly divergent in approach and taste (my sympathies, if I were going to measure them, I'm sure would fall on the Latta side of this imaginary binary the vast majority of the time), are in tenuous agreement in their desire to be out.

Latta: "Isn’t the longing, the hereditary growl, to remain perennially, yea, savagely, out? Not to find oneself suddenly squatting on the edge of what Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©line calls the “lyrical bidet,” that tidy kingdom of the grand shimmery falsehoods, that culture of egoism and vacuous sentiment and amour-propre that is the “collective consciousness”?"

Apps: "what is at stake is that, from a "rear-garde" viewpoint some sort of normative account of literary value has to be explicitly valued and taken as the basis of innovation (and all literary practice), whereas from an "avant-garde" viewpoint normative accounts of literary value can be simply rejected."

Latta is more staging a complaint, I think, while I think Apps is actually pursuing an argument.

My two cents: as others say in Apps' comment field, I think Stein certainly does not simply reject normative accounts of literary value, nor does she simply just do what she wants. My sense is that she makes a considered, deliberate argument against a normative aesthetic or poetics, but that she does so at a point prior to what is usually taken to be revision or alteration. Friedrich Kittler has a great chapter in Discourse Networks on the change of the primal scene of writing around the turn of the century. My sense is that Stein's recognition of her own historical moment ("any one is of one's age") is what spurred her to base her practice on a more rigorously pursued imagining of what John Dewey calls "the living animal" involved in an aesthetic experience.

The best guide for me in reading Stein is still her Lectures in America; her understanding of precisely what she was doing, and how it diverged from normal practice, is part of what makes her such a stunning figure. Her off-the-cuff history of British and American literature and its relation to empire and to form is one of my favorite handful of pages from the 20th century, especially as it produces her claim that, in her present moment, sentences are no longer emotional but paragraphs are, which is maybe the best one-line guide for reading not only Tender Buttons but also Hejinian's My Life and Waldrop's prose poems. And although her scope and style couldn't be more different from Pound's, I see this notion of the paragraph and Pound's ideogram as complimentary organizational units that are far from being exhausted or irrelevant at this moment.

Ultimately, I take Stein's as being an especially imaginative track of going in to a tradition, and that tradition's relation to history, in order to generate aesthetic and creative space (and relevancy) for one's practice. Likewise, my take on Olson's conception of the saturation job is that it is a similar, if more explicit, way of re-imagining a relation to a tradition. For any troubling notion of mastery implied in Olson's hectoring, I always take as antidote his corresponding praising of Keats' negative capability, of the riches of a purposeful surrendering of one's ego beyond recognition and control and into a different logic of perception, one that corresponds more acutely to Stein's mentor William James and Olson's preferred philosopher AN Whitehead's (also an influence of Stein's) view of a universe consisting of co-influencing events, as opposed to a world-view that posits a controlling, active, consistent subject and a controlled, passive, pliable object.

With both Stein and Olson, my sense is that to go in is to embrace and pursue a fundamental element of the world, which is its mutability. In correspondence, my embrace of a tradition I am continually co-inventing and co-ordinating with (while also apart from) my peers isn't merely a way of measuring whether my writing, or theirs, is first-rate, though I think that's always an interesting question, one that is more interesting and useful the more it remains a question: my going in is also a desire to seek, invent, and enjoy the terms of relation between myself and the traditions that (either by myself or my readers) my writing is thrown into.


One trait of Stein's and Olson's complexity is that their work can support very different views on this matter. I fully concede that mine isn't the only reading available on these matters. Mine is, however, the best available one.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rob McLennan asked me 12 to 20 questions that I answered here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ashley Howe & Brian Howe, "Maybe You Had Wooden Fingers in a Past Life" 16 minutes, debuted at the minor/american reading series.

[ click on above to enlarge, or, better yet, follow link below ]

Mipoesias presents us with one of the, if not the, best things Matthew Henriksen has ever written. All four poems are great, but "Aubade" is spectacular.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Zachary Schomburg has some amazing poems here. Read 'em.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Leigh's birthday today!

Here's to my beautiful chicken!