Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I encourage you to dig Tony Lopez's (British) take on avant-garde/language vs conservative poetics. One thing that I got out of Lopez's short piece was a confirmation of the fact that the very existence of poetics is evidence of precisely the LACK of threat posed by what Silliman calls the School of Quietude, all the while re-affirming the cultural/political efficacy of an avant-garde, n'est pas?



Blogger Kim Lacey said...

I dig. And yes, I think his reference to artist-as-academic enforces that SoQ doesn't carry so much as a threat, but moreso opportunity for such a re-vision (the early mentioned "radical revisions of the Romantics" description of some readings). Also, I especially like his recognition of, well, recognition: "Novelists, as we know, are measured like footballers by the money paid in their advances, whereas for poets it is not so clear how they can feel that they have begun to arrive. It can seem that envy and hatred is all there is." That the 'academy artists' are enforcing 'an avant-garde/language poetics awareness' calls for an amen, sista. But, I've just recently jumped into this debate, so if I'm off, call me out :)

11:45 AM  
Blogger kfd313 said...

Well, I wouldn't put on your party hats quite yet. While I'm often annoyed by the simplifying binary Silliman constructs between SoQ and (post) avant poetry, I think his point is well taken: modes of distribution and cultural capital remain in the hands of a very sedate and "unmarked" hegemony. So, yes there are now quite a few important language-y people in academia who are making a case for the AG but even if you look at our own dept we can see all the resistance and almost hysteria that surrounds it.

And I'm not sure what either one of you means by "revising" the SoQ. Why and how? I mean, following Silliman, if SoQ is implicated in and as a mode of production *and* a literary form that takes as its central premise a kind of conservative, individualistic tradition, which mainly serves to bolster the capitalist status quo, why would we want a "revision" of it? Isn't that precisely what the avant garde critiques in its alternative avenues of distribution, its "outside" perspective, etc. etc.?

So, even though I have problems with the over-generaliztion of Silliman's binary I think it's useful. It's *reductive* in the sense that class politics a la Marxism are *reductive*. It allows you to recognize the big picture. And that big picture is still very much in place.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Matt Chambers said...

crashing dialogue to advertise - i am putting a mag out of buffalo this summer that will feature tony, some other brits like redell olsen, alan halsey, & adrian clarke - if you want a copy (free, of course) - drop me a line: odiorne2000@yahoo.com - btw, i know jessica, which is how i got here

although, has anyone considered ron as a sort of "mini-institution" of his own careful fashioning? - perhaps this has been said - further, how stale is rhetoric that was honed in late '60's san fran & seemingly never left? - i dunno - long, complicated history with the man

10:46 AM  
Blogger kfd313 said...


First, I don't really care about Ron as "mini-insitution." This seems to be thrown at him so often in debates it's almost meaningless, and expresses more anxiety than it does truth. I do find the repetition of his main thesis --SoQ v avant -- to be annoying at times, sure, but... I hardly think this amounts to some kind of control over discourse. Ron didn't create his intitutionalization (however minor), ironically, those who protest but keep arguing with him do. At least I think so.

And as for the whole 60s San Fran thing... don't you think it's a short view of history to say that debates arising from the 60s are old news? I would argue that they're hardly known, barely perceived. This is, in part, Ron's point, and the counter-narrative he attempts to construct is hardly in a position of power. The anxiety of influence that young poets out of Buffalo exhibit(and perhaps elsehwere) is strange (and strangely annoying)to me. No offense to you as a person. I'm using Buffalo as a synechdoche for younger avant garde poets in general who have been "raised" to think the world revolves around the East- West- experimental poetry debate, and that it is a debate that's over or that it doesn't need to be thought through in larger terms and contexts. The cultural logic of avant garde poetry's place in the literary and the wrld at large needs to be thought through in relation to the historical and socio-economic forces out of which it arises and which it is a constitutive part. Is that "stale rhetoric"? To whom?

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Matt Chambers said...

Matt's comment as "meaningless": saying it often, does not make it less so. I would refer you to: Language Poetry as it is fashioned in _In the American Tree_, the rhetoric in _The New Sentence_, and even some of the claims made in _Writing/Talks_ (this is excluding his overwhelming, longstanding blog). Finally, on this note, what the Langpo were esp. innovative at was self-fashioning. Just because he opted out of university doesn't make him any less of an academic. BTW, I have no anxiety about Ron Silliman. I have more anxiety about the tofu I just ate.

Matt's comment as "short view": argue social/political efficacy of AG poetry today. Sure. Fine. I guess I am critiquing style and rhetoric here. He is suffocating to read at times.

"Cultural logic of avant garde poetry's place in the literary and the wrld at large needs to be thought through in relation to the historical and socio-economic forces out of which it arises and which it is a constitutive part." I swear I have read this somewhere before. So, yes, stale.

I think we are on the same page with a lot of this. I just don't find any of the discussions (or even more acutely, the poetry) hovering around this issue to be especially interesting. This is not coming out of some "Buffalo-elitism" (I was born here, so I actually am not sure what that means), but rather a longstanding distaste for recycled discourses (apologies if I am too closely aligning style to discourse, but it is the crux of my beef).

You are right, though, after writing this, I guess I am guilty of not finding this especially of concern to my apparently provincial situation. However, as my career depends on the fact that I begin to care, I guess I have located my anxiety.

4:38 PM  
Blogger sarah ruddy said...

Huh. I'm not sure where to go with this - perhaps the present argument seems a bit far afield from my original comments, which were meant to suggest a departure not so much from Silliman himself as from his commentors, who often perform precisely what both of you are against. I'll try to break down my position simply, thus:

1. I don't think that Ron's discussion of the SoQ as "hegemony" is especially productive, in part because it doesn't take into account so much of what's going on IN academia. His points about modes of distribution and cultural capital are undeniable - but I don't find them helpful because once he has pointed that out, he stops. And then his comment fields become flooded with "victims," a stance which mostly serves to reproduce and repeat the problem.

Forgive me if I'm oversimplfying either of your points. These comments are meant to "explain" yours, but rather to articulate my own, which may, in fact, be simplistic.

2. But I also don't think that "Language poetry IS the hegemony" is very helpful either. The cultural logic of avant-garde poetics is only a stale argument if you cast it as stale. That is to say, those of us in grad school are in the position of making cultural poetics - as begun, perhaps, in the "self-fashioning" of 1970s SF Langpo rhetoric - do something. We are charged with actively making this argument not stale so that we can make something out of it and continue to eveolve as a field. Paradoxically, this might mean that we can form an adequate response to former and current poetic traditions that doesn't simply recast and repeat Oedipal violence.

Essentially, we all want the same things here. If we simply keep repeating Oedipus with different villains, whatever it is isn't going to happen. We (emerging grad students and scholars in the field) HAVE some cultural capital; how can we redistribute it?

12:15 AM  
Blogger sarah ruddy said...

"AREN'T meant to explain yours," oops, sorry, carry on.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Matt Chambers said...

Hello all,
Yes, I should mention (as I am an interloper here, and you do not have proper bio. to "get" where I may be coming from) that returning to grad school after a bit of an absence was frought with these questions. I mean this both theoretically and practically (I point you to the extended string on Jessica's blog concerning "university life" v. a "real job". What is even weirder is that I decided to return to Buffalo (did my undergrad & now "in the grad") despite a real personal concern of "doing it" under the sign of Charles & co. (even though the man's gone, the aura remains).

I guess a way to be productive...is to be productive. Rather reductive, I know, but this debate has given me writer's block for going on 2 years, and I am now finding that I have to leave the debate aside to get anywhere.

I decided not to include an editorial statement in "Pilot" for this reason, and as you will see once you get a copy (if any of you want one, please let me know), that the people included could not easily be plugged into a framework of "inheritors of the east/west or langpo lineage." Which is what makes their work so fascinating to me. It seems to work in proximity with langpo without "doing langpo." Whatever all this means, I will leave up to you, but for me this meant a saturation of writers geographically located elsewhere (2/3 are from Canada or UK).

An editor I know just received a bunch of poems "in the style of" Charles Bernstein, and said he could contribute others "in the style of" Ron Silliman, etc. I think this points to our discussion rather acutely.

Finally, and please forgive my ignorance, does anyone reading this have work of their own they could point me too? Please read the tone as genuinely inquisitive, and NOT snarkily confrontational. And I am talking any media, not just web-based "stuff". Let me know. This is fun.

10:25 AM  
Blogger sarah ruddy said...

strangely enough, the only "work" of mine that is at all out in the world exists in extant copy in Buffalo, of all places, in the care of one C Fritton...

"work" in scare quotes because i wouldn't say i am especially proud of it. and matt i don't read you as snarky.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Matt Chambers said...

good - no snarky then - i may see fritton minutes after i type this at a mutual friends grad party - it is hard to say - he is hard at work as "captain chris" in the summer, piloting tour boats in the erie canal locks near us (no joke)


i just posted some old work i dusted off & edited on my blog


let me know what you think, if you want - otherwise, enjoy the fine memorial day/weekend air - we finally have sun in b-lo! - in touch

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice colors. Keep up the good work. thnx!

2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ring ,where you disappeared? Call to me fast!
- sarahruddy.blogspot.com y
spaghetti alla carbonara

12:45 AM  

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