Can you eat your face while your mouth is drinking?
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Saturday, July 22, 2006
". . .plagiarism, a plain piece of plumbling."--Duchamp
"A great pleasure arose from seeing all those incoherent structures. This site gave evidence of a succession of man-made systems mired in abandoned hopes."--Robert Smithson
And then Noah at the rose garden, renaming them: "that one's called White Customer. And that one's called Light Conductor."
Thursday, July 20, 2006
When I mentioned, the day before last, to a fellow student, that I had read an article describing how the Israeli Defense Force [today's spin term: defense]uses Debord's Society of the Spectacle, D&G's chapter on "The War Machine, and the Situationist International's "Theory of the Derive" to better describe, exploit and reconceptualize the space of urban warfare in the modern age, she first said that "she didn't believe it" and then, when I explained further, "that she wasn't sure she was interested in it." I'm interested in this (if interest can come anywhere near the churning in my stomach), interested even if I do not or do not want to believe it. But I also understand her cool non-chalance, her assumption (which I will not, liking this person, chalk up to the disease of chilly, cynical all-knowingness which often infects graduate students and academics alike). It's history, right? The IDF uses '68-ism to register changes in which they have already participated, been the promulgators of, and already understood otherwise. But can we really think of this as an epiphonemon, a off-gassing of proto-super-capitalism, without real consequences? I think not. The excerpt in last month's Harper's of a recently published book, Fail Better!, on the insights of Samuel Beckett for contemporary business and marketing strategy (ambiguity, perseverance. . .), only confirms my sense that the power of Nabisco or IDF to capture and exploit the most intelligent kinds of negativity and criticality that "theory" has to offer must be examined, all the more if you believe that, eventually, Gertrude Stein becomes a billboard on I-95. [Note, here, the sale of Iggy Pop's fantastic song "Lust for Life" to Carnival Cruises (or was it Princess), a sale which sets Johnny Yen and his striptease and lotion in a floating mall where he has little chance of harming anyone.]
Of course, I'm not saying anything not predicted or considered by these writers themselves, especially Debord and the SI, who talk explicitly of a need to negate the negation, to follow criticality with an imaginative positivity--the dérive is a way of describing and breaking up urban space that would, ideally, then be followed by a restructuring of the city so as to better serve desire, needs, and better stymie enervation and immiseration. I'm rereading D&G, now, and everywhere finding their admonitions against exactly this kind of despotic application or manifestation of the BwO: "Even if we consider given social formations, or a given stratic apparatus within a formation we must say that every one of them has a BwO ready to gnaw, proliferate, cover and invade the entire social field, entering into realtions of violence and rivalry as well as alliance and complicity. A BwO of money (inflation), but also a BwO of the the State, army, factory, Party, etc. If the strata are an affair of coagulation and sedimentation, all a stratum needs is a high sedimentation rate for it to lose its configuration and articulations and to form its own specific kind of tumor, within itself or in a given formation or apparatus. The stata form their own BwO's, totalitarian and fascist BwO's, terrifying caricatures of the plane of consistency" (1000 Pl., 163). Or again, worryingly: "That is why the material problem confronting schizoanalysis is knowing whether we have it within our means to make the selection, to distinguish the BwO from its doubles: empty, vitreous bodies, cancerous bodies, totalitarian and fascist. The test of desire: not denouncing false desires, but distinguishing within desire between that which pertains to stratic proliferation, or else too-violent destratification, and that which pertains to the construction of the plane of consitency (keep an eye out for all that is fascist, even inside us, also for the suicidal and demented)" (165). From this and other passages, departs the kidnapping of D&G by the IDF, as well as the many formidable critiques that writers have directed his way over the last twenty-five years. Such a passage can help describe, too, what strike me--here on the blog-plane, and elsewhere--as misreadings of D or D&G (perhaps undenounceable), alternately too hot or too cool.
What, then, for those who would resist? What, then, when the IDF and U.S. military and Hallibruton as well as Al-Qaeda, can be described and empowered by such terminology? Is this view too blurry? Is there a way to dechunk and reassemble at the same time? to make by breaking? It seems that I can get either: 1) a slippery tone, a worrisome ambiguity 2)or a careful, patient and intelligent analysis that defers any answering.
Property damage, propaganda.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Saw Lytle Shaw's O'Hara book, The Poetics of Coterie, in Moe's yesterday. Perhaps this will stave off some of Jordan's hunger for O'Hara's side of the story until the biopic (one imagines, sadly, cellular tissue on a slide) arrives. But Kevin Spacey is starting to look too old, don't you think? Jude Law has the look but probably couldn't pull it off. Come to think of it, Jordan, you're not a bad match yourself. How's your acting?
Sunday, July 09, 2006
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.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Two summers ago, this when we still lived in Ithaca, Anna and Noah (6. mos. old at the time) and I were driving north from Berkeley to a house that her parents had rented in Mendocino when we passed the establishment a photo of which now adorns the banner above, and wherefrom, by way of a Tom Waits song, this blog takes its name. I recently had the chance to retrace our route, and although my memory had placed "Red's Recovery Room" about forty miles away, in a much nicer spot on the erstwhile "Bohemian Highway" between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay, probably because Tom Waits, I was told at the time, lives around there somewhere The bar is actually in Cotati, just off the 101, right next to a seemingly uninhabited surfeit of tract-housing. I didn't get a chance to go in--but I imagine looking, on the inside, like the setting of Iggy Pop and Tom Wait's wonderfully maundering and inconclusive conversation in Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes."
I haven't listened to this particular song, or in general any Tom Waits, in the intervening time but not for lack of admiration for what he does as songwriter and noisemaker. I'm taking a break--like I'm taking a break from the Pixies, from Charles Mingus, from Dylan, from Nirvana, etc., and all kinds of music I've worn through from overlistening. In general, I feel pretty dumb about music but I like this song, and I feel drawn to and repulsed by its lyrics, their recovery and preservation of a historical moment, a U.S., that the sign above refuses to any longer portend--"sawin on a jaw bone violin there /Kathleen was sittin down /In little reds recovery room /In her criminal underwear bra" (the credits here belong to Waits and the aformentioned Kathleen, his wife I think). Sometimes, it seems that majority of us poetry-bloggers (late babyboomers or gen-x'rs) are trying to sort through the leavings and residues, failures and wrong turns of the revolutionary moments of the late 1960s and early 1970s--the artistic products of which are now the dominant voice in poetry and art, and the political legacy of which (liberalism's auto-cannibalization--which is not, Jordan, to say democracy sucks but rather what democracy, whose, which one? Lots of people speak for me. They get paid to do so even) needs to be better understood if we are to understand where we are since 2001--the neoprimitivists and constructivists and post-situationists and neo-Mallarmeans and dialecticians and techno-artists and the macaronics, all of us blindly feeling our way along toward the promise of the promise of promise betrayed. A song like this, retrospective as it is, makes some of that work easier.
But if this is a space for recovery, it's largely the recovering of things that were never mine to begin with, that I either did not know I had, didn't have any idea what to do with or just plainly did not have at all. Starting a blog, and starting to read blogs, and argue and befriend and confabulate with poets, has completely changed my sense of what it means to write and to read--and it's pointed me in the direction of more points of interest than I could ever countenance with an army of self-clones. Where before I saw scarcity and a moribund artform I practiced dutifully and for the benefit of seven or eight people, I know see abundance. Maybe that's community--but it's a community that overspills and fails to encompass any term like "the poetry blogging community" or "the Bay Area poetry scene." Less like the avant-garde neighborhood watch and more like a garden where you know the vegetables much better than the hands that tend them.
But there's something to be said for solitude, for the eremite, too. I think that's the (un)happy medium that blogs offer--a social hermitude.
(I know this has a strange valedictory ring to it, but don't worry--or do--I'm not going anywhere).