Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Thinking about modernism the last couple days, my attempt last night to wriggle a happy perspective out of the morass left me feeling woozy. The nervous neurotic quest to find the newest of the new.

I remember why I left it behind. For a couple years around 19 and 20 I took part in a modernist poetry quest, writing poems and searching for new idioms, new ways of going about it. By ‘83 or ‘84 I had experimented with improvised multi-voiced performance poetry, multi-media performance poetry (with collaged pre-recorded and live music), and visual collage poetry. I quickly realized that the competitiveness and the historical orientation of modernism was a recipe for neurosis, for me anyway. The paradox of modernism being oriented toward history dissolves when you realize that it takes a wealth of historical knowledge to prove that something is new.

The nervous neuroticism of new-new noveltyism is all over the academy too. I knew a guy working on his doctorate -- a really nice, very smart, very progressive guy -- and I could see the hunger for new angles on intellectual problems in his face. That, and anxiety about finding a job.

In my own personal post-modernist period (my entire drinking-age life), I’ve trusted that my own personal web of experiences and sensibility would lead my expression to be my own and personal, whether or not it’s formally or technically new or novel.

People still on the modernist quest -- I regret that my mixed feelings and personal baggage got me sounding snotty last night, and still tonight -- snotty. That word “novelty” trivializes the quest; I can’t shake my ambivalence that the quest is admirably ambitious and can yield real rewards but more often yields trivialities. Like I said last night, I’m always curious to hear new sounds and see new sights. If you’re on the quest, I wish you well.

My snottiness probably came from a revulsion that I always have chalked up to a belief that life-oriented art is superior to innovation-oriented art. But now I have to consider that my revulsion could come from a sense of failure. If my stuff can’t reach those new grapes, they must be sour.

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