Monday, April 15, 2013
"work can wait; now is time to play" - Ke$ha, "The Last Goodbye"
in Ke$ha animality becomes unchained from necessity (as workhorse) and released into the wildness of outlawdom its foxiness makes possible. the mind/body Cartesian binary is broken because ke$ha is a little bit monstrous: blue lipstick, drunk hardcore, but in control: she relocates reason into rhythms of the animal body: the menagerie of dressed up plush creatures in the music video for "C'mon" is proof of this: the beast becomes sovereign in Ke$ha.
is her seductive obsession with dying young and living "like there's no tomorrow" an example of resignation is practice, or its opposite: resistance? Maybe the now-time of her anthems push to blow the continuum of history open viz. erotic drives committed to immediate gratification. (cf "blow")
of pop's turn to zoomorphism, even Carly Rae Jepson and Owl City (owl!) feature animal masks in their video "It's Always a Good Time," which takes place at a party in the woods. to see the human in terms of its animal spirit invites a wildness contrary to the production process. but does parading the art of partying as a revolutionary act overshoot the mark, insofar as play, as Ke$ha's "warrior revolution," is recuperated by commercial culture in actuality? the new mythology of the post-Anthropocene human being remains to be written, or, should we say, auto-tuned.
Monday, April 1, 2013
If they tapped my phone, fuck them. Topple the radar, sap the air.
I am a lost soul, without fortitude or ingenuity, halfalive & yet
An innumerable one among them, the survivors, messianic leftbehinds
riding the 6.
and what about those roadside carbombs?
Friday, March 15, 2013
I am writing to you personally, because as a rejecter of your work—which is aesthetically abstracting and consequently reductive in scope while elitist in insight—I find myself annoyed that you’re still writing grand inaccurate polemics. Have you thought about retiring?
In a grossly abstractive article on the state of contemporary poetry, Marjorie Perloff looks to the "Poetry Establishment" with disappointment, while giving short shrift to the multivalent world of small press writing, which she “remains convinced” are not as good as what came before. As she makes clear, “the lack of consensus about poetry of the postwar decades has led not, as one might have hoped, to a cheerful pluralism animated by noisy critical debate about the nature of the lyric, but to the curious closure exemplified by the Dove anthology.” Talk about exemplifying closure; what a lame conclusion!
It is here (and elswhere) where I think: Perloff is out of touch, for I do not really care about this boring Dove anthology and am sooner reading those “noisy critical debates” all over the poetic blogosphere (Jacket2, The Disinhibitor, Harriet, HTML Giant, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Claudius App, etc.), whereas Perloff prefers to attach a negative connotation to the diverse poetries of today and focus her energies whining about “the dominant poetry culture” (which she is undoubtedly a part of, unless being Emeritus at Stanford counts as marginal).
Again, I don’t know where Perloff gets her assumptions, but we young poets are not even READING Pinksy, Hass, Gluck, or the big laureates. Of course they’re conservative in style, how else do you become a laureate? It appears Perloff wants to see a Poetry Establishment that is new and exciting, yet her top-down gaze neglects that very base representative of just such a potential change, on the grounds of their not being established enough to warrant representation. Contradictory much?
Why, Yankelevich asks, don’t I cast my scrutiny on the “complexly lyrical but conceptually minded work of the younger poets doing interesting in-between work today, poets not fully conceptualist and certainly not conservatively lyrical?” This would certainly be the subject for another essay, but you can’t very well oppose the Penguin canon by bringing up the names of what are, outside the world of small-press and chapbook publishing, wholly unknown poets.”
Gee, Marjorie, god forbid you use your social capital as a dominant poetry critic to draw more public attention to marginalized poets to help make them more known. But of course, why do that when you could write about Duchamp’s urinal, again?
It is later in this same paragraph Perloff fails to qualify why she “remains unconvinced that the ‘every-growing margin on the sidelines of mainstream poetry’ is as rich and fruitful as Yankelevich suggests.” Does she expect us to implicitly share her cynicism, no questions asked? Immediately after this remark she goes on to condescendingly reduce the hybridization happening across poetry movements to Surrealist spinoffs. It is here again I wonder, why is Perloff re-scrutinizing the over-scrutinized establishment and under-scrutinizing the under-scrutinized margins? It makes her argument an (unintentional?) reification of the very establishment she’s discontented with. Ironically, a statement she makes such as, “Today’s poetry establishment commands polite respect but hardly enthusiasm and excitement,” is an accurate description of her own reception as well.
Now to get to the meat of my disagreement: Ever since beginning my MFA program at UMN in the Fall of 2012, I’ve slowly developed a resentment of the stereotyping—of MFA writing as standardized or toward a certain conformist style—that is frequently reproduced by the likes of Perloff and far too many others who should know better.
FOR LET IT BE SAID: my MFA cohorts are writing so diversely and publishing in a consortium of independent and alt lit places, and run reading series unaffiliated with our program (Our Flow is Hard/Dept. of Bohemian Studies), and develop working relationships with extracurricular institutions like The Loft Literary Resource Center, Rain Taxi literary magazine, and Coffee House Press; not to mention all the informal gatherings we have as a community existing across departments, genres, genders, and extending to include nonacademic writers as well, because what the hell do we care? I AM UNDER NO PRESSURE TO PRODUCE A CERTAIN WRITING STYLE. I AM NOT IMITATING MY FACULTY NOR IS THERE ANY PARTICULARLY CLOSE STUDENT-MENTOR RELATIONSHIPS OPERATIVE. AN MFA IS BASICALLY 3 YEARS OF PAID TIME TO WRITE HOW YOU WANT, PERIOD. This notion of the MFA program as a factory surely has some basis and no doubt plays out specific places perhaps, but to latch on to this foolish “cautionary tale” about how we’re all “complying with the norms” as MFA writers, is just plain ignorant of the reality.
Tell me, how do Carrie Lorig's Cattlehurter stampede prose-poems, Aaron App's fleshy shitstorm of affections, or Chrissy Friedlander's Avant Gauze image-text project, fit the New Yorker MFA mold? This stereotype is so far off the mark it’s laughable. People need to recognize every MFA program sustains its own culture/community and differentiate their opinion accordingly.
Furthermore whence this hostility towards MFA programs in general? Where else are American poets to go in a hostile, anti-intellectual marketplace? We aren’t here to be brainwashed, we are here to obtain funding for our own projects and ideas—more peer influenced than faculty, really—which we then pursue in relative autonomy. And my cohorts are very much socially-conscious people aware of the "Ivory Tower" problem and actively work against this stuffy reputation. We go to conferences, we go to protests, we read in public, we read in private, and we frequently shit talk the overblown masculine prestige of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which is perhaps what you mistake every MFA program for?
I hope this is the last time I have to worry about disagreeing with you.
With polite respect but hardly enthusiasm,
Monday, March 11, 2013
As a genre GIRLS edgy position as parody and realistic fiction creates an uncomfortable viewing relationship where we're unsure what or who to take seriously. The entire life-sphere of these upstart New Yorkers is so abstracted from an economic basis that both wealth and poverty, precarity and privilege, co-exist in shabby chic evening wear at gallery parties, where a whole lifestyle seems miraculously subsidized. This is both what makes the show honest and difficult to relate to, depending on your position.
The characters veer between being psychologically complex and slapstick; they seem to represent a scary parable for the next generation of hipsters: you will become spirited away by destructive desires and fail to integrate into the marketplace except as cheap goods, or an unpaid intern who's implicitly expected to put out. Why wouldn't you want to live in New York?
An anti-Bildungsroman, Hannah is so far developing the schizoid tendencies of late capitalism. Unable to recuperate herself against the forces of the market/nature/self (the pressures of the book deal, of becoming who she is, of dating), it seems like instead of assimilating into the adult life she's regressing into more childish forms. According to my friend Becca, who's studying to become a mental health counselor and knows a lot about feelings, "it takes a really long time for people to mature these days," suggesting Hannah's pathology is more normal than might at first seem.
Hannah paradoxically embodies intense qualities of self-doubt and self-determination. Her OCD appears as a way to regain power by ordering the environment, and is a manifestation of a feeling of hopelessness that our generation knows too well. I'm worried her outlook culminates in apathy, which is to say submission.
With Hannah's deepening mental breakdown, it seems like the show is setting itself up to become something of a painful lesson in co-dependence, and indeed the whole premise of the show can be boiled down to this basic question: why can't Hannah get her shit together? One can be neoliberal and say "even her suffering is spoiled" or be socialist and lament the human fallout of the foreclosed marketplace especially for artistic types she is a case study of. One could also argue the "self-journeying" of each character that empowers their agency is predicated on an Eat, Pray, Love bourgeoise notion of subjectivity handed down to it from Sex and the City and repurposed for an Urban Outfitters chivalry-is-dead demographic. You laugh, but ultimately, what it wants is for you to worship the hipster ideology it reifies. Nonetheless, the show is pushing boundaries, and it was clear when we first saw Hannah's tattooed, insecure self awkwardly undress before the longue-duree of the camera, that a new vision of femininity is being produced.
I'll be kinda POed if Hannah ends up recovering viz-a-vie reuniting w/ Adam. Even if they're soul mates, it would imply getting a boyfriend is the desired antidote to an identity crisis. Would that be a bad form of co-dependence?
The latest episode's perverse fascination with bodily mutilation viz-a-vie the (semi-accidental) q-tip incident created grotesque spectacles i could watch only whilst looking away from. all series long the script is particularly keen on the awkward voyeurism of watching Hannah undress, fuck, contract a yeast infection, piss outside, scrape wax out her ears, pull wedgies out of her ass crack, and last but not least pull a splinter out her ass cheek with tweezers from sliding across a wood floor; meanwhile Adam is cumming on his new GF's tits and relapsing. in one way or another the characters have all derailed. is this is what happens when you don't go to grad school or has Lena Dunham been reading Bataille?
Speaking of perversion, from my informal polls of peers (18-30) there is a tendency among many to almost viscerally dislike the show and refuse to watch it period. I wonder if this repulsive reaction to the show by an ostensible target demographic is a symptom of the "shock of recognition"? I suspect this show is of a kind that watched decades from now will appear so dated in its ideology, in stark contradiction to the fact that its contemporaneity now is so brutally honest we're offended.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
THAT the whole notion of the essentially programmatic trajectory of disney star (britney spears, hannah montana, vanessa hudgins, selena gomez) from "innocent, cutesy teen" to sexy adult star is treated as "scandalous" by the press fails to address the deliberate economic mechanism at work effectively producing their social capital as sex objects from a young (taboo) age, right down to the Olsen twins (many websites were dedicated to counting down the days till their 18th birthday).
the evolution is by no means a coincidence. rather, their future sexiness and maturity depends upon their previous formation as innocent girls in short school uniforms and pigtails. the dialectic of pornography, from Marquis de Sade on, is all about corrupting innocence and, to go further than that, discipline and punishment. no fantasy is more familiar than that of the school girl getting spanked for being "bad" by her teacher or principal after class.
this confirms a pedophiliac sex drive within man's "nature" repressed by culture and sold back in the form of "barely legal" archetypes. indeed in their casting process for leading high school aged roles, disney execs or producers act on that urge in the form of judgement calls for who they select whereby the girl's taboo present and future attractiveness is the prime consideration.
working at an after school program in Portland I recall knowing a fourth grade Somalian-American girl who wore a burka and frequently drew impressively detailed drawings of princesses out of coloring books. her backpack was a bright pink Hannah Montana pack with the star's smiley white-blonde face blown up on it. she was at that young age where it seemed she identified with the princess without noticing any ethnic discrepancy, but i found the neon colors of the pack starkly different from the darker purple and black shades of her headdress, and it frightened me to think of the fourth grader seeing herself reflected back indiscriminately by this obscene icon. how do these shallow notions of beauty assimilate other cultures into their ideal, and furthermore work to institute a culture of sexual predation?
idk, but fuck walt disney (unless the personified corporation wants to sue me for defamation).
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Just what is Ecopoetics? Was it Jonathan Skinner or Robert Hass who challenged us to explain the conference to at least one layperson before it was over? Ecopoetics is thinking language in conjunction with the environment, which is itself a politicized concept in an era of mass privatization and (sub)urbanization of public space. It is a matter of returning the word’s connection to things and developing a new ontological relationship to the world, one in which we are more in touch with stuff without using it: a non-manipulative interactivity.
Ecopoetics is about the protection and growth of poet-bear habitats, which have become endangered because of significant loss of sea ice and salability.
Ecopoetics begins where nature writing fails.
Perhaps I am not prepared to explain ecopoetics to a layperson.
Of course, the conceptual unity of this avant-garde academic field was intentionally resisted through binary-complicating discourses and interdisciplinarianism, innovating a new language (a new paradigm for social reflection and action) at the intersections of scientific and imaginative discourse.
Jonathan Skinner framed it best during the opening conference remarks, calling ecopoetics “a fungus,” breaking down higher philosophic discourses surrounding humanity, nature, wilderness, etc., into a new language of sustainability and post-anthropocentrism. He went so far as to call it a non-site: that is, it’s not a field per se but a form of critical inquiry into other subjects.
Nevertheless we can surmise the term ecopoetics emerged out of a need to think the “green” or environmental movement and the social justice movement together, viz. the gentrified prioritization of basic resources, etc., and so marks this new possibility to think of race, class, gender and environmental struggle in dynamic interaction. Because these connections and their material impact are not made apparent, there is a real aesthetic need to imagine potential solutions into being, beyond haphazardly laying down lines of containment boom for a deep spill we don’t yet know how to stop. In other words, art is somatic.
We can also infer that ecopoetics, while uneasy with being an academic field, has an affinity with fieldwork and praxis, like that of the sociologist, the wildlife biologist, the ethnographer, and the flanuer. Unlike the pastoral or the fabulated tableaux’s of France in Paul Vidal’s “Outline of the Geography of France,” (made to look exotic: landscapism), ecopoetics is not afraid to get its hand’s dirty, or at least contemplate doing so. Its landscapes are empirical, historicized, and social (as well as surplus).
The tenor of the conference was utopic and dystopic, or as some might say, utopacolyptic. We’ve exceeded the healthy 350ppm CO2 levels in the atmosphere and ecosystems along with economies are collapsing in domino; that said, we are the next wave of global aesthetical-eco-activism, and our being here [at this *sold out* conference] represents a strong demand for more ecopoetics, more action.
Depending on the panels you chose to attend one’s experience of the conference was wildly diverse: from “Thinking About Nature in Pre-modern China” to “Electromagnetic Fields as City Mapping” [which have an incidental linkage in the Daoist understanding of spatial energy flow], the subject matter of each panel and within that, panelist, ranged across various thematic boundaries and rarely, if ever, synthesized. As such it’s true as said on the Volta blog, you won’t have come away from the conference with a clearer idea of ecopoetics, but you’ll certainly have a multifaceted one, and as such there was something to excite everybody.
As goes academic conferences in general, I have some reservations about how useful it is to listen to someone think really hard about an author or concept in a form that feels rarifying and so unshareable: the problem of over-intellectualization to the point of hypostasis. For this reason the panels I liked most were performative.
In their panel “The Thingness of Things: Connecting with Culture’s Material Trace,” a superstar team of poets cast their practice in terms of things—trash mostly—so as to use the poem to reorient the reader to their relationship with the world into one that is more aware. How so?
Kaia Sand, who has previously stitched poems in large hanging drop cloth, continues to move outside the book. Sand read a poem about e-waste written in tiny lettering across a spool of electrical cord belonging to a device that had been planned into obsolescence. How it wrapped around her arm as she unwound it line by line created a cadence rooted in the object, and it made me think of radical passivity as one theme evoked throughout the conference in various threads.
Jen Coleman presented a video that overlaid oceanic and societal structures of life (coral reefs, the trading floor) in paralleling montages, effectively positing a homologous relationship between “the too big to fail” myth that brought the big banks down, and the crashing ecological state of the ocean (in terms of acidification, overfishing, etc.) which we likewise have treated as too big to fail. In both cases, one is dumping toxic assets.
This leads us to our next conclusion: ecopoetics is defined more by action/desire than genre/tone: the politics of the encounter determines its form; intentionality over instrumentation. One way this thinking went was to argue for the reintroduction of a discourse of love into the political/academic sphere, or of developing a language of care to restore/recognize our damagedness as subjects of a cold master narrative. One thing I liked about the conference overall was its willingness to take feelings seriously.
So, have we reconciled the alienation of Man from Nature? Cured his schizophrenia? TBD, but I can tell you, I felt sufficiently hypocritical throwing my cigarette on the ground before heading inside to catch a panel.
 Weyerhauser mission statement (good example of distancing direct effects from representation): "Weyerhaeuser creates sustainable solutions to the world's challenges through the development of innovative forest products that are essential to everyday lives."