Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A smart and accurate diagnosis of the new neo-surrealist American mainstream over at Coreyville. I would add, however, that when a particular poet is not "tapping into an unconscious larger than his or her own," then what they are channeling is not the "unconscious," nor is the product surrealism in its uncorrupted, non-commodified definition. As I read psychoanalysis and its practice in surrealism, a true, explosive derepression will almost always be disavowed, a not-me, radically other, and if it seems to belong to" someone", then it is probably largely a construct of the conscious mind and its repressive mechanisms. This is my problem with a good deal of surrealism-lite, with the late, defanged and sleepy James Tate and the goofier version of Dean Young, both poets whose early books--Viper Jazz and Strike Anywhere--I admire greatly. I need to distinguish between clever, contrived mock-surrealism and the truly monstrous products of abreaction. Lara Glenum's "Manifesto of the Anti-Real" does exactly this, identifying surrealism with what I am calling surrealism-lite, a poetry whose dream-logics and conceits merely entertain, have become quaint and obsolete, and so represent the aftereffects of the containing, bounding force of the conscious mind with its feints and false wishes. I'm not sure that there can be any pure contact with the unconscious in language, since the conscious mind is always selecting, limiting and bounding what arises, but there are degrees of mediation, and something that isn't threatening, that doesn't discomfit like the poems of, say, Gabe Gudding do, misses the point of early surrealist experiments.

I'm not sure how much I believe in the notion of a collective unconscious. I find Jung's ideas somewhat terrifying, with the fascist overtones that come with "racial memory." Certainly, there are unconscious wishes encoded in cultural artifacts (just watch any advertisement), so perhaps a social unconscious better describes what I believe in. I'm loathe to locate an unconscious in the physical body, which is why I find Chomsky's generative grammar (as irrefutable as it apparently is) kind of scary. I'm scared of anything essentialist. It's a dicey topic, since these categories conscious/unconscious are static words that refer to a process and action--the unconscious becomes so through the repressive mechanisms of the conscious mind and our social superego, our inner Madison Avenue, and so the calcified structures to which Corey refers don't really belong to the unconscious proper; they are a byproduct of repression. I guess, in this sense, I'm somewhat Deleuzian--although his and Guattari's lionizing of the schizophrenic seems irresponsible and occasionally ridiculous to say the least. I believe that it's repression, largely, that makes the unconscious so nasty, that turns what is really a wish to escape the prison of the self, to become and enter into a compact with the other, into that terrifying blend of Thanatos-Eros we must acknowledge, or continue to suffer unto ourselves.

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