Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More...& Negative Charge

Michael Cross posted a nice run-down (with pics) of the Labor Day Event, below. Cross, whose new book from Cuneiform Press I am eager to see! (post below)....


Quite literally, I have no time to write negative book reviews. In fact, I don't review books per se. I've only ever written essays or critical objects, performing close readings of poetries, but working from the piece outward with an eye towards an enlarged politics. Lately I've asked myself why this is so. Maybe it's because I came late, as I'm wont to do, to a negative review post by Kent Johnson--who calls for more negative reviews. I admire Kent's politics, and I see where he's coming from in the sense that, yeah, I can see where writing the review, and a positive one at that, can be a vehicle for "ladder climbing" in a super-saturated MFA culture industry. To write a negative review of a book would then, by that logic, amount to a kind of career suicide, assuming that the reviewer thinks of herself as having a career in poetry. I find the whole discussion beguiling. I think it's because since becoming more aware of my mortality at a young age, I am often, in this macabre way, asking whether such and such is worth my time and effort. But more than that, I just don't understand the terms of the debate, having not myself gone thru an MFA chain to get my job, etc. And I love critically-engaged, meaty discussions that interface aesthetic practice (some particular practice) with politico-ethical practices, torque the terms as well as compliment them, and do so in ways that get the brain/body thinking/moving differently, cf. Halpern and why I reproduced his piece below. Work that is fueled by a spirit of cross-disciplinary research, curiosity, discovery--even if looking quite specifically at the lone poem, eg.--might necessarily collapse the negative/positive distinction. And emerging from it might be a question of whether the piece is worth writing on or not. I've read what I take to be a few shitty poetry books this year alone, maybe written one too, but why would I take a long time writing on it if, on the whole, my subjective sensibilities and interests don't at all jibe with the thing? So if the either/or is re-formed as "whether to" (make a project of  it...), it's going to be work that moves, engages, that can be riffed on, made further use of, and not only analyzed but refashioned viz. the making of meaning within a social-political context that runs counter a sort of institutional myopia. Work that appears in ON Journal, for instance, doesn't sacrifice the close reading in order to rethink what critical writing/poetry criticism is or can be. Just thinking out loud here...oh, and in that former Harriet post, nearly all the comments were written by men. I don't know if this means anything or not. But I suspect it does. 

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