Friday, March 31, 2006

open cover letter

Toward a Pornography of the Sublime is a collection of poems about—but also “of” and “to” and “from” and “for”--Los Angeles.

That said, a book of poems “about” Los Angeles is like a piece of jewelry about homelessness.

I am not the first to suggest that hyper-visibility is one of the form common forms—one of the most conspicuous types—of invisibility. It is “the nothing that is.” LA’s long shots of long shots, its aerial views and mirror play, memorializes its own speechlessness, its lost voice. But Los Angeles only pretends to have no voice. Its voice, its many voices, are not really lost, only thrown, its would-be observer led astray, toward the bright patches.

Los Angeles is anti-poetry—is narrative and image, which are poetry too—and so for my purpose, that voice is poetry, just as the content of the expensive piece of jewelry does turn out to be poverty—poverty zero-degree, invisibility zero-degree, poetry zero-degree.

Poetry is blind; it doesn’t see; it can make images that are not visible. And for this reason, poetry has carte blanche in Los Angeles. It breezes right through the checkpoints. It goes everywhere without anyone noticing. It is LA’s open secret, its theology; the city is laid out on top of a series of lines and stanzas and enjambments cobbled together from land deeds and labor and diaries. Ed Ruscha knows this; that’s why he can represent the city with a few words on a chemical-acrylic backdrop. All of the Europeans who came—Adorno and Fritz Lang and Schoenberg and Stravinsky and Baudrillard—they all missed the poem for its words (which were pictures).

And now it seems almost too late, since every city has its Los Angeles, a little pastel and Pilates whereby it can feign its own authenticity as elsewhere. When an American says Los Angeles these days, she means modernity, she means secularism, she means a concept or an evacuated category of the understanding.

So a book of poems about Los Angeles is a book about modernity and Pilates but also a book about this concept and how it misses the place for its replacements and clichés; how the place everywhere exceeds the concept and cliché; which moves into the clichés and decorates them wildly and in colors no-one has invented yet.

Like LA, Toward a Pornography of the Sublime spreads from multiple and competing centers. Like LA, poetry is not a genre but the absence of genre and the form of this absence (abundance), for which Los Angeles is a metonym. Poetry as cinema, as utopia and its dear friend dystopia, as sprawl and suture and cars and tele-__ ; as race and class in the wrong sit-com, the wrong .com. It has its real: subdivisions, historic buildings, pools, theme parks, surfaces and depths; its riots, floods, fires, earthquakes; its childhood and old age, paved-over trolley lines, beaches, piers, cul-de-sacs, freeways, backalleys; its countries of origin, its history of chauvinism, racism, intolerance, its romances, political corruption, police, movie sets, myths and weathers. All these poetry can do.


Joseph said...


Joshua Robbins said...

Brilliant. Agree completely. Would the same apply to Kansas?