Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Speaking of accessible, inaccessible, experimental, main stream, l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e, avant garde, narrative, lyric, etc. poetry, here are my modest thoughts: the very terms: (in)accessible and experimental are highly suspect.

Accessibility first. How is a non-linear, disjunctive poem less accessible than a narrative poem? This assertion is ridiculous as a qualifier as it posits some sort of authoritative determinism. It’s yelling at an apple for not being an orange. So what if a person doesn’t “get it?” What if no one “gets” it? What if the poet doesn’t “get” it? What if it nonetheless still has value as it may evoke emotions, ideas, conflicts etc. People can chose to bring their own mystification to the piece if they’d like, or they can decide to discard any preconcieved ideas.
More main stream poets often accuse avantgardists of elististism. This is, and is not, true. Sure, I am an elitist, as are most of my friends. We know our shit, and thus like to discuss complex ideas, argue our points into the ground, and, in a pinch, make pleas to authority. We know that few have decided to pursue, for whatever reason, poetry, language, esoterica, etc. to the same degree we have and thus, yes, we feel elite—we are an educated minority. This is pleasurable activity: It feels nice (and this is universal) to make sense and find solace in other thinkers; however, this is an activity open to all. In this sense, we are not exclusive--elitist yes, but anyone can join the club if they enjoy the club activities.
Andrew’s poem is a great example of how a supposedly elitist, inaccessible poem reveals itself to be just the opposite. I can almost guarantee that people will find their own unique way into the poem. This becomes tricky, as I could line up a list of words and let people “make their own meaning.” This, of course, would be pretty silly. Andrew’s poem however works as a locus of sorts: an area that has dimension and boundary, and yet can be explored in a myriad of ways.

Now to “experimentalism.” What the hell is contemporary “experimental poetry?” I understand how this terms works historically, but I fear the term is becoming too fuzzy. So Kasey Silem Mohammad, Lisa Robertson, Chris Stroffolino, Tanya Brolaski, and Ron Silliman have all been referred to as experimental. What does this tell me? It like saying, “I like alternative music.” What a dumb thing to say! Once, there was a difference, I think, between avant-garde and experimental—but now, often, there is absolutely nothing experimental about an “experimental” poem. People too often use the terms interchangeably. I think that if we are going to use the e-word, then we ought to refrain from using it unless we honestly feel that the writer is attempting some sort of linguisitc/poetic experiment, and NOT simply when this or that poet’s writing sounds unlike mainstream poetry. I suppose I’m calling for a sharper division between avant-garde (which is the larger term and can include experimental poetry) and experimental (which is intrinsically a more narrow term).

Anyhow, these are my cursory and off-the-cuff blog-thoughts. Maybe it’s something like B=L=O=G=G=A=G=E.

The other night, I was talking with Andrew Felsinger and he mentioned that he had a New Brutalist poem. Of course I asked to see it, and have now obtained his permission to post it here in full. Read it, friends, and find your meaning:

the newish brutalist      

[this superabundance, this tyranny] 

--Samantha Giles 

spheres. hearken the shifting music of the world succumbed to a phrase. the shifting shade shook the sauntered to, out of. as if to say, “…nothing this way comes: no models, propellers, roller blades." burnt comings consume the dust. “evade lost words like landscape." in the groin of this century goes the middle finger. we frig to know it. often conjoined in heated clock ticking. there were only this many fingers. terra firma emulated the emulated child as manwomen worked the diving rods of newer roads. (not unlike the bind. these cheeky little joints.) killing ache in the no wind. it blew outa there and continued forthwith into a prism. the new brutalists wear hats, sandals, fundamental jackets, accurate dungarees, authentic as frosting. new dreams burned like a slick residue. weeped like sandals, clothes lines. there are only so many –isms. she said / he said. how can i limit nothing. born as tiny specks. chickens parsimoniously left their thang-out. they shook their heads. wanted to envision their experience as having a greater, therefore lesser, degree of reality. things were like this and not altogether unmanageable. words like dreck made the scene. it was an occasion to take a life amongst the happy. the juice fairly spilt. the voice, often so unnatural, spoke without recourse. there are no roots matching this to that which this had been about. only bread, our daily wort.  

the new brutalists saw to it the piano had been broken by wires. saw the purple recording device and flashed, their indelicate motions gripping the frenzied public which bleed like a thorny bush, like irony, like a yellow brush of paint left to wallow in the helium. in punching the clock i thought of you, briefly. there are not a thousand brilliant dots but one identical cauliflower to be and not to be, as is the question. the dynamo held the new brutals like a scalpel and withdrew into the back room where all the pennies were counted. songs not spirituals. the TV super suck color picture true pitch or as the house lies divided in its path. the office workers find their way home as the dust settles on that room. a gigantic truck lurches its way through the city. cars began to honk then slide off the entertainment embankment. the home drifted toward that golden ravine. divine the diving insects who rupture space toward the comeuppance of truth. the wailing experiment not normally associated with time. on Wednesday the new brutalists had this new way of becoming loud. it required a helmet and thirty thousand dollars. i gave it a push, like a wind up toy that had had old batteries. in the dark there are stories of the timorous xenophobe who sold his teletype to the rodeo then projected his hate unto the untold masses of telepeople. this sounds like strobing static. like television but was only a kind of mellifluous consternation whipped up by some confused church going children who had run out of monies to watch their favorite imbroglio. she held the stick firmly between her legs and called for the sentence to be about that which had not transpired but might have had the furniture not been made of super heated love and kinky cotton candy jumping jacks. the yellow pressed itself into the rummaging square only to find that the roll over had indeed incurred the wrath of umpteen numbers of gorgeous fabricated quietnesses. the little factory chimp cried in the outlandish air as the men said that they were nowhere to be found, only working to stave off that thought in which they too would scratch and wiggle. we burned the decks of pirate ships then dozed off as an indigo moon swam beneath us in the sorrel sea. the last words were themselves forced to lend their not so famous selves to the fight to end the income gap and were then finding themselves newly dreamed in the newly fashioned world which rocked to then fro like a giant advertising sign glimpsed imaginatively under a noon day moon. we gave the forest a trumpet and it did play a mushroom. earthen thoughts break the silence of a dedicated sentence. popular as the motion was it didn’t catch on for long, the wrong-headed axle bent itself like a pretzel and was given to the show. people could indeed become the new brutals they had watched on tv or those they had thought were on tv but who had never been. 

indelicate evasions map enormous titles the moment fabricated versions of you. we don’t see but move toward light at the point of assault. the lollipop gald held the kaleidoscope retroactive factions in the mojo of hipper lullabies that defend the totting horn of the zoo object. this we call youth. in diametric opposition the kitchen sits awaiting the blunder of cant to obscure those whom shall come & abjure the tony lakes like bits of ornamental tooth decay. the floundering of this radioactive standard, this short-wave felony. ugly retractable plug. the popular retraceable mouth shatters the matter of meaner meaning. this side of chandeliers. thought of misanthropic calendars accounting for chance at the birth of imagined nothing. there is the space that is so before the ultra that it is brought indoors and generated like a broken hand. i scratched my arm with worrying that soon the money will be shook. a wisp of smoke flew vertically into the above air. at some point the new brutalists can be seen using language. this is not you father’s buick. at some point the point is given back to those whom had originally lost it in the myriad of circus events called populace. in the standard way we go to this prescription. but that ain’t the junction of so. this question we evade in the totality of this saying. this voice only mentioning itself as a counter-attack to that which we can only predict in the lunchroom. the new brutals laughed then gathered themselves like cartoon characters and sat around sniffing the broken pickle. you there smiling in the assonance of prescence. 

--Andrew Felsinger