Saturday, April 11, 2009

Predetermined Lament for Prefab Eulogy


As part of my sprawling, huge, often clunky multi-media expectoration, Prefab Eulogies, I've added yet another branch which dooms itself to the unpublishable. A note, first, about the work:

--interested in the discomfort in contemporary poetry of the poem as obsolete tekne, the accompanying dialectic between long-term practices and the modes by which such practices do or do not do what they set out to do. Not that poetry is obsolete, nor to condone yet another sweeping end of art thesis. Rather, unlike an anxiety of influence, which seems a bit on the wane in American poetry at this moment, there is, to situate the problem in the positive light of sheer possibility, a seemingly restless urge in experimental poetry and poetics, one in which poetry seeks to work out its own discomfort a) within the confines of the normative book page(s), and b) with all the toys electronic that are at our disposal - that do, certainly, open up possibilities for the poet. This seems to occur at intervals, often in parallel with the advent of another toy, or the obsolescence of once-functional materials now ripe for poetical appropriation. The page will not be exhausted (remember the Lettrists? For them, the page was exhausted at Victor Hugo), nor will the materiality of the book (remember the 90s when Drucker was interviewed like a million times about why the book will not simply vanish from the poetic toolbox?), nor will any one particular language game for that matter (cf Derrida's rather badly misinterpreted, but for our purposes useful, interpretation of the later Wittgenstein).

However, the impulse to explore technologies has been, not surprisingly, tempered in the past ten years or so by the swift commercialization of these technologies, specifically codes and platforms that were once open source. Open source work was absorbed by The Spectacle nearly as soon as various groundbreaking scripts - Python, XHTML, etc - were interfaced with the internet. And the neat/terrifying thing about information technologies is that their inventions speed up by orders of magnitude the rate at which The Spectacle absorbs and appropriates them. So, from the basic online journal editor to the new media artist, today's politically engaged and formally risk taking poets find themselves, it seems to me, wanting to exploit various technologies but concerned with perpetuating a corporatization that has every bit to do with class, access, power. How to make intimate, thoughtful work in new media when the very medium is now unavoidably malignant. [CF BLOGGER]

--also interested in product versus process: seems to me (again, a sense I get from my own eye corner) that we are in an exciting period in poetry. The avant-garde is increasingly interested in collaboration, translation, and ephemerality. These are pluralisms I can certainly live with. And again, these are interests that seem to wax and wane at intervals, as the (diverse) interest in specifically socially conscious interrogation of poetic language games in the 60s and 70s birthed, of course, one of the most vibrant poetry movements, that of LANGUAGE (too broadly speaking), North America has ever seen. Globalism, as opposed to globalization has done at least one good thing: it has sped up our interest to cultivate new, diverse, relationships across borders. And process-oriented work, a focus on how we do what we do, and who we do the writing with, taking some of the stage away from the poem-product itself, interests me insofar as it opens up the possibility for a new collectivism in experimental poetry. Yet, again, my excitement is tempered by the appearance of collaboration, connection, human interaction that falls outside normative interactions, the appearance of the discursive and dialogic, when often we are substituting information technologies and ease of the "communique" for the difficult work of the face to face poetic negotiation. We blog and chat and publish online at speeds unimagined a decade ago, and this is exciting, yet is also potential barrier.

And this plays out in the pastiche of some new forms, the un-self-reflexive use of digital creoles instead of the appropriation of such creoles with a mind towards imminent critique, doubt as to whether the hyper-non-closural empties itself of the disruptive-interrogative seen, say, in the earlier New York schools (1 and 2). There is a lot of cute visual poetry, especially cute hypertext and Flash work, work that for all its actual movement (like moving letters) has very little actual movement (like making the reader move, even move away from the poem itself). There are wonderful visual works as well, of course, but there are many, many hybrid and new media forms that are playful but do (and cause) a tenth of the work that, say, a Robert Duncan, or a Zukofsky, or a Tina Darragh poem does - each absent buttons and buzzers and ironies and mouseover acrobatics to which I am sometimes drawn.

With all of this threading in my head, spooling out as real-time quandary, the section I've added involves working from paper book to online medium, wherein the book's section "Emergent / Tense" plays with code-as poetry, plays with the visual, aural, and kinetic aspects of the languages that are often hidden from online viewing (the guts of that which we use, as it were), then links (via website prompt) to online pages, each of which houses a poem written in a quasi-lyrical mode, one that explores the language of the book artifact, the artist book, as it were. One such short example (spacing and formatting absent/messed up due to blogger limitations):

m v b e y e w n e

o a l t p a t d

: : lament post facto : :

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11cf-96B8- 444553540000" codebase="http://downlowed. swf 5,0,0,0" width="384" height="288">


me=scale value , moral =noborderfence>
ame=wmode va lue= transparent lies>
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pluginspage= " P1_Pro d_

ckwaveF lash out">< / e mbed>

Were the poems to work as poems, it wouldn't matter, of course. Who (and this is a semi-rhetorical question, but only semi-) will read a page of a book in their hands, then type in a web address to read its counterpart, then go back and do it again, say 26 times? (CA Congrad did it once in his Deviant Propulsion - & I did contact you, subsidy included $$$!) I am interested, though, in the potential for the book to make the whole body move (or at least more than the eyes), to, in effect, make large the bodily movements we often find ourselves trying to control when in the act of reading/meaning making. Regardless of outcome, the experiment thus far, and far from never having been done before, has been, from a process standpoint, agitating and worthwhile. Of course I've just begun, and these pages and links and etc. are mockups. Perhaps I will think differently about the whole whole in the morning.

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