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

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

it started out as an email . . .

I love the malleability of blogs. Put it up, revise it, take it down, whatever -- it's YOURS.

Reading Robin Skelton's edition of Penguin Poetry of the Forties -- British only. Kathleen Raine is the shizzle. Want to read more Henry Treece -- someone new to me. What strikes me -- Skelton's frame is "how these poets reflect their times and vice versa," more-or-less; his intro is fine fine fine, if not as dazzly-witty as his intro to Penguin [British] Poetry of the Thirties. Also: He was putting the anthology together in 1968, a mere 20-ish years after the decade under discussion.

What would a "Poetry of the Eighties" anthology look like? And how would it be different than what we got going now? My sense is -- not a whole lot different, stylistically, unless there was a concerted effort to include the Slammers -- and even they got started by the late '80s. Given the political realities of poetryland, an anthology inclusive of both the Slammers and the new generation of the old-guard avant-garde would be really unlikely to happen -- "separate and not really equal" seems to be the unstated mutual doctrine of the Slammers and everybody else. As a rule, Slammer anthologies have slammed my joy buttons more consistently than any other post-Beat anthologies I've come across.

Just looked it up: The Slam movement started in '86 anyway. So I'm talking about '80s poetry here.

I'm not up-to-date.

I knew that.

* * *

Lately, irony has been feeling so Eighties, man -- maybe especially since the New Times bought Village Voice Media, owners of the Seattle Weekly; and the aesthetic of the de-politicized, sarcastic, presumed-hip post-takeover paper seems straight out of the de-politicized, sarcastic, presumed-hip Chicago Reader, where I worked for a couple of years starting in '89. It's not just the sarcasm of liberal despair as a response to Reagan and Bush 2. It's a sarcasm of middle class anxiety about cultural aspiration and economic uncertainty, tinged with the assumption of superiority in all directions. (Damn! Another unexpected self-portrait.)

Second thoughts, later: Both the Reader and the Weekly publish good criticism and excellent news stories, including stories with important political content. It's the combo of snarkiness with a studied refusal to take an editorial stance that seems so dated. The Weekly got rid of its political columnists and its endorsement committee. The Reader never had any.

* * *

Like in the '80s, rock is dead again. Except now we have museums to prove it. Patti Smith accepted her ascension into the Rock Hall of Fame with preposterous (though possibly sincere, and somewhat charming) humility.

* * *

Since the '80s, nearly everybody has gotten cell phones and internet access. I remember the first poem I wrote on a computer, in about 1985. I was fascinated by the drag-and-drop capabilities, and the page layout stuff.

Globalization has become a big deal culturally and a bigger deal economically. This has affected music -- hippies are better drummers now, for one thing -- and it has affected movies -- more people watch international film than before. Has it affected poetry? I have no idea.

* * *

The Slammers are Wordsworthians, in a sense -- they've brought the rhythms of speech back into poetry. "Performance poets" like John Giorno and Laurie Anderson (both of whom I love) had been doing that as well (David Antin too, maybe my favorite living poet), but the Slammers are more multi-registered than Giorno or Anderson (or Antin), have a broader palette for the timbres of speech. It always astonishes me to see accounts that tout John Ashbery's style for being so inclusive of different "levels" of speech -- "levels," for Ashbery, indicating a melange of argots coming from different socio-economic subcultures. BUT, with Ashbery, he flattens all these argots into his monochromatic deadpan murmur. Not to say he hasn't written lovely poems -- he has -- but for all his vaunted tonal eclecticism he always sounds the same to me.

* * *

Peli hit the nail for me when he said,

What makes Langpo amazingly important and different than futurism or any earlier innovative literature [except for Stein?] is not any formal innovation or technique [except for The New Sentence? the rest was already there since the beginning of the century] but being more interested in langue than parole [both literally and metaphorically], for nearly the first time in all literary history.
And what's interesting here -- langue without parole means, there is no body. Langue without parole erases the body. And without the body, there is no changing of register -- again: monochromaticism. (Which -- and this is just a personal whine -- is why Ron’s obsessively insulting equation of "quietude" with "prose-like syntax and paragraphing" drives me nuts -- because what could be quieter than bodilessness?!?!?!? I'm not crazy about prose-like organization in my poetry either ["Who put prosaicisms in my poeticisms?"] -- my own prose often avoids prose-like syntax -- give me a run-on sentence any day of the week, and give me a cliche or two too, [tutu] -- but gee whiz!)

Bodilessness is Platonic.

Plato founded the Academy.

Bodilessness is academic -- in the dry, dusty, Rock Hall Museum sort of way.

I love museums. Even Rock Museums (if I'm in tha mood).

Patti Smith -- I don't like her poetry away from her singing -- but I loooove her singing.
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