Sunday, July 09, 2006

Deer Reader

Arrived, yesterday, a packet of materials from Kasey and Anne's new nano-press Abraham Lincoln--"Monsters" a chapbook by Kasey, the "Dark Deer," a sheaflet poem with a blue transparent cover from Anne, and broadsides by Joseph Massey, Anne and Kasey. And so now, beholden as I am to the dark imagination of Anne and Kasey it appears that I am going to have to talk, again, about poets associated with Flarf, but I'll try to steer away from discussing the movement in its entirety.

Monsters succeeds, for me, in sidestepping many of the critiques levelled at Kasey and his cohort by allowing the jumbled speakers (never given the mic for very long) to reflect upon the agency that puppets them along. No doubt, the work of writing these poems can be compared to Dr.Frankenstein's long nights spent "collecting and arranging [his] materials." It's always seemed important to me that Shelley directly compares Dr.'s "filthy creation" to the discovery of the Americas. But like Dr.'s monster, these poems do a fair amount of Oedipal hungering (with results usually no less tragic) after self-knowledge. In the first line of the chapbook's first poem, "The Kids / are all giving each other the virus " or later in "Grey Areas"--"the bad moment I had was when I realized / I am part of a list that is inhaling the wrong things / people saw my text and got the wrong impression." Or yet again: in his poem "In the Future," where "we all have gonorrhea for half an hour." This then is the moment of meta-flarf, flarf able to conceive of itself as a social construction, and by, perhaps, de-reifying the forces that surround, allows us to imagine something else. [OK, breaking my promise here, sorry] Perhaps this is characteristic of a good portion of that written under the sign of flarf--it's certainly the case with the book-frame of Rodney Koeneke Mus'ee Mechanique, and its postscript, which in considering the museumified entertainments mechanical and electrical of a mechanical and electric past, allows itself to think the discontinous machines in which we now find ourselves, and the tug-of-war between entropy and the continuous counter-entropy of the new, the neo- in say "Neo Adapts Badly." And, on the subject of monsters, isn't a pizza kitty a textbook definiton of the chimerical? My noting of self-reflexion in these poets could probably apply also to Mike Magee's Mainstream.

I'm interested in the way that, in Kasey's poems, the elimination of the noise (residue, perhaps, of internet searches) that had been characteristic of, say, some of the poems in Deer Head Nation, and the here finer-threaded, less perceptible (less "seamy"), inter-phrase stitchwork, actually allows the discontinuities in the speaker's voice to be more easily noticed. The more the speaker of these poems insists on being a unity, rather than a concatenation of incompatible language games (and no, Peli, I'm not using this term lightly, cf. Lyotard's _The Differend_) the more s/he begins to unravel.


I guess Anne is to be considered a flarf-writer now--whatever this appellation is worth--and the poems included here seem to muse upon what this means, as much as they are a consideration of Kasey's work--The Dark Deer a critique/reading of "Deer Head Nation," and her knockout poem "I Love Literature" is an ars (or perhaps, arse, to make a bad but (in)appropriately scatological joke) poetica if ever there was one. A two line poem in Monsters provides (to assume a perhaps fallacious temporality) the pitch: "an army of deer led by computer-generated dog / man-beasts / is more to be feared than an army of lions" ("Darkling Plain").

I take it that one of the critiques of Kasey was that "deer" is/are (a) metonym(s) for middle-america, poor whites, red states, what have you, and that Kasey used this tag to appropriate language that could then make fun of haters from S. Dakota. I dunno'*. Deer are fucking everywhere!--in Beverly Hills, Scarsdale, in gated communities, etc. In fact, in many (sub)urban areas it's usually the wealthy who have the worst deer problems, living on the edge of the natural, at the top of hills. One of the many, many things I've learned from reading Faulkner is how rare, at the turn of the century, deer were. In "The Bear," there are outdooorsmen who've spent their entire life without seeing anything but the mere traces of totemically charged deer. I don't know if this was, then, a result of overhunting or what, and if, at the time Wyatt wrote "Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind" deer were any more common (but he didn't write--I know too many hind). But how different from today! Deer, in these poems, are metonyms of overproduction, overaccumulation, overdevelopment of wilderness, and the gradual squeezing and starving of deer populations into smaller and smaller parcels of land where they work their multiplicatory magic. And what a perfect symbol, no?--an animal with rich poetic lineage and signification clusters now become as common as, and for some as beloved as, the cockroach. Deer, here, figure excess and lack, a nature imbalanced and both scarce and in excess of itself. So thick that they begin to colonize the internet!

In Anne's poems--here and elsewhere-- deer specifically and animality in general are figures of art in an age of electronic reproduction. They are symbol and sign of informational excess; where deer appear, so too does reproduction and sex. Last year, some will remember Anne talking about Giorgio Agamben's The Open, and I think this short work (an essay really) is key to understanding what she's up to. At the very end of that book, in typical Agambenian cryptic cliffhanger fashion, he suggests with prophetic immodesty that the future holds two paths for humanity--a return to animality via the technological as means of absolute control or a return to animality via the technological as means of absolute freedom. The provocative claim of this book is that, rather than see technology as anti-animal and anti-biological, we should instead look at the technological as drawing us ever deeper into a series of circuits and attractions that might, at last, fundamentally destroy the subject/object split, Heidegger's standing-over-against- the-world (one can read The Open as essentially a critique of Heidegger's "What are Poets For" and the notion of the open therein). Like animals, a pure technoworld means living in a continuous loop of stimmung (attraction-affect) in which there is no longer an I and a thou, only a snaking-through the labyrinth. I don't like this vision so much, and neither does Agamben. The other option--well, he ain't so clear. I think we're supposed to stay tuned for the end of the series, since everything he's writing is essentially an expansion upon or footnote to Homo Sacer.

A very intelligent friend of mine, who shares the name (except for an initial) of a well-known poet I've never read remarked, once, in conversation that one of the things he loves about Anne's blog is her continuous hurling of images of the natural and the animal into a space (the internet, the blog) that is seemingly, constitutively, anti-biological, anti-visceral, that means community in the dry abstract and post-democratic sense. In this sense, Anne flouts these kinds of distinctions, and moves closer to Agambens' notions, without perhaps some of the ontological utopian convictions of Agamben. I'm going to quote "I Love Literature" in full, so that you can get a sense of how clear all that I've been mentioning is within it:

I was attacking Culture.
I have seen her and she is so big and beautiful.

Pulling a thirty-six-inch-strip out of Language
and eating it,
she has given me an opportunity

to pattern gothic specialties, small farmers, and starfish
out of the reddish-brown essence that implies a native land

Outlines of legacy are a minimal-production glass creature.
I worry it's too much like voice and structure.

What's better is when we can eat our fermenteed hurt

and someone gives a seminar on Kathy Acker's
regional, agricultural, and mining sectors.

I am not free to be mad.

When I smell Archer Daniels Midland
it is as if an oligarchy has dived into wreck

Yes, I love Literature
but what I love about it is
the reproductive organs of Capital.

Here, Anne perhaps moves beyond the "document of culture/document of barbarism dyad," or at least does something different than recover or expose the barbarities latent in culture. She knows that our literary activity is subsidized in one way or another by surplus-value and exploitation, subsidized like Archer Daniels Midland (a personified name for a faceless mega-agro-corporation) is by billions of dollars of cash inflows that keep alive the lie of free market economy. But she also knows that the problem for capital is, aside from the age-old problem of how (like Kasey's virus) best to extract maximum-value without killing its host, what to do with its massive cash holdings now that information and production (in some but not all places) is being informationalized and no longer requires large outlays of capital. I'm not sure I fully understand her answer, but I think it's something like this: honor the relationship between these gifts and exploitation without pretending to know the exact way the connection works, and turn the excess into affirmative affect that, who knows, might be a difference that makes a difference.

[Note on debts: I am here, basically, paraphrasing the basically unparaphrasable final turn of an essay by Chris Nealon on the poetic defense which concludes with a reading of Jennifer Moxley's "On this Side Nothing," a poem that also ends, after a tortuous process of reasoning, with a similarly improbably and open-ended affirmation.]

* Correction: I mispoke here originally. I realize that a good deal of the language in the deer head part of the book does appear to have this provenance. But a good deal of it doesn't.

No comments: