Daily Archives: July 2, 2009

The Good Guys when it comes to the avant garde

Why use your own words when you can express yourself just as well by using someone else’s? And if your identity is not your own, then sincerity must be tossed out as well. Materiality, too, comes to the fore: the quantity of words seems to have more bearing on a poem than what they mean. Disposability, fluidity, and recycling: there’s a sense that these words aren’t meant for forever. Today they’re glued to a page but tomorrow they could re-emerge as a Facebook meme. Fusing the avant-garde impulses of the last century with the technologies of the present, these strategies propose an expanded field for twenty-first-century poetry. This new writing is not bound exclusively between pages of a book; it continually morphs from printed page to web page, from gallery space to science lab, from social spaces of poetry readings to social spaces of blogs. It is a poetics of flux, celebrating instability and uncertainty.

that’s Kenneth Goldsmith in Poetry. The bad guys undermine that statement by whining that the latest (and worth buying) issue of Poetry DOESN’T treat their poems with enough respect. Or else over-dissing the non-flarf poems and over-praising the flarf ones. Tom Philips, in his book on 20th century postcards astutely observed that the conceptual artists of the 1980s — the kind who would dress up in vinyl and stand dead still in busy streets for hours — were oddly and consistently  humorless, even though what they were doing was prima facie funny. A lot of conceptual poetry charms on its ability to crack me up with its spontaneity and lack of weight — I wish its criticism was less war-like in its agenda. The way they discuss lyric poems — you’d think you were reading about Iran in the Weekly Standard.