6.06.2008

The odd thing about the latest blab movement, which they're calling Conceptual Poetics, is that it seems to be made by poets who have no ideas. There are no themes, no topics, & no artistic concepts about how to shape & present same. The only idea in play seems to be the same one that underwrites the making of processed cheese (although processed cheese is more substantial). Take a prior artefact and run it through a processor, or homogenizer. This will get a laugh & win you a place in the Conceptual Poetry Movement (or Process). It's sort of like Flarf with a straight(er) face, a more determined (prosaic) pose. I don't know why I'm bothering to talk about it. I guess it's part of my Friday-at-work process.

"Knowledge is Power". & there is a kind of will-to-power on display in the foregrounding of conceptualization for its own sake. It's the fascination with finding the magic algorithm, the inner overlap structure, the handle-grip of the machine, the key. Like starting a lawn mower : sudden burst of control over all that grass. Then to pretend that it's not about power, that it's simply (un)artistic (unvalued, unoriginal, uncreative) free play : classic move of every intellectual game & ideology.

John Latta's post today, on the other hand, is classic Latta. Here the self-consciousness of the writer - the knowledge-overlap, reflexivity - becomes a useful gauge of limits, a rebuke to hubris & self-delusion. Humility as realism - the still-human comedy.

6 comments:

Nada said...

Conceptual Poetics is absolutely nothing like Flarf. Henry, you don't understand Flarf if you can make that kind of generalization. I've said it once, I've said it many times, and I'll say it again. Flarf is an ATTITUDE or a STYLE. It is not [primarily] PROCEDURAL, PROCESSUAL (I detest that word) or CONCEPTUAL. It is "self-conscious,""reflexive," and LIMIT-PUSHING, certainly "a rebuke to hubris and self-delusion [not, I should add, a rebuke I've seen in anything from that meanie Latta].

Henry Gould said...

I guess the link I see between the two, Nada, is that both are essentially parody. As such, they will always be something like a "criticism of poetry" rather than poetry per se.

But you're right, I am not an expert on either. I'm just blabbing.

Nada said...

But why do you think that poetry and parody are mutually exclusive? Underlying this idea seems to be the notion that poetry is "pure" and parody is "impure" – a notion that is to me both illogical and uninteresting. If we embrace the impurity of linguistic matter as art, that's poetry, or at least flarf poetry. I think there are no autonomous zones, temporary or otherwise.

Henry Gould said...

Nada, "pure" was your word, not mine. Parody necessarily involves a pre-text. Poetry always holds out the promise (maybe never fulfilled) of something absolutely new. This is their difference. But sure, poetry has a history of great sex with parody, & vice versa - they couldn't live without each other.

My point was that parody is what flarf shares with so-called "conceptual peotry".

Nada said...

Is it really possible for there never to be a pre-text? I suppose that's what I meant by the notion of "purity."

Also, I'm not convinced that Conceptual Poetics is parodic, or if it is parodic, sufficiently so. The very word "concept" implies a kind of seriousness or at least marketability.

Henry Gould said...

Good question. & you cornered me there, since my argument against pre-text is an argument against a lot of my own past theorizing (Acmeism, tradition...).

But let me feint to the left a little. Parody "plays up" the pre-text, makes it explicit - for the sake of humor, irony, debunking, & SELF-parody - right?

The self-consciousness of parody parallels its foregrounding of the pre-text. Parody surrenders to the pre-text in the act of transgressing against it.

In this sense, I agree with you, Ken Goldsmith's conceptualism seems too ambitious for parody - since it means to displace the pre-text, evaporate it altogether (absorb it into its own "uncreativity".)

That's what I meant by "flarf with a straight face".

Poetry straight (un-parodic) meets the pre-text on its own ground. If it contradicts or rejects the pre-text, it does so without tricks - ie. it stays at the same level of seriousness. It echoes rather than ridicules. If it does ridicule, it does so as satire : which is not the same thing as parody. Parody puts on the mask of the pre-text in order to diminish both itself & the original. Satire takes down its opponent by way of logic rather than japery (which merely apes the logic of the original).