(sections 4-20 via "Read More" below)
This is the text and accompanying images of a presentation I gave last night at the RSC meetings in Quebec City. -- FD
1. In my recent biography of Canadian poet and lay psychotherapist bpNichol I outlined the arguments he developed around 1964 for writing visual poems. Unaware of the international concrete poem movement, he was calling his proposed new poems “ideopomes.”
2. These “ideopomes” would help him, he believed, avoid didacticism and self-pitying emotional expression, which he saw as the main weaknesses of his conventional poetry. He also believed that self-pity and narcissism were serious limits on the Freudian psychotherapy he was undergoing, and limits to the success of any psychoanalysis.
3. He would later call his visual poetry a means of resisting “arrogance.” In these arguments one can perceive the shadow of high modernist arguments against Victorian moralism and sentimentality, and in favor of imagism and impersonality; collage and “objective correlative” in early Eliot, and of Pound’s “ideogrammic method.”
(sections 4-20 via "Read More" below)
No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself by Robert Fitterman. Brooklyn, NY: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014. 78 pp. $16.00.
Rob Fitterman’s latest book comes without any jacket burbs or prefatory material except for an epigraph from the late New York School poet James Schuyler (1926-91) – from the title poem of his 1980 Pulitzer-prize-winning collection, The Morning of the Poem. An alert reader will likely notice that the line structure of the six-line excerpt is similar to the line structure of each two-line unit of the Fitterman.
However, in the publisher’s on-line catalogue, and reprinted from there by Amazon and other on-line booksellers, is this note:
Robert Fitterman's new book-length poem borrows its poetic form, loosely, from James
Schuyler's The Morning of the Poem, to orchestrate hundreds of found articulations of sadness
and loneliness from blogs and online posts. A collective subjectivity composed through the
avatar of a singular speaker emerges. But the real protagonist of No Wait, Yep. Definitely Still
Hate Myself is subjectivity as a mediated construct-the steady steam [sic] of personal articula-
tions that we have access to are personal articulations themselves already mediated via song
lyrics, advertising, or even broadcasters. No, Wait ... blurs the boundary between collective
articulation and personal speech, while underscoring the ways in which poetic form participates
in the mediation of intimate expression.
Fitterman is of course a well-known writer of conceptual and flarf poems, so perhaps his publisher was assuming that anyone who picked up the book in a bookstore or library would recognize that this was a book of “found articulations” – or perhaps they were assuming that all copies would be marketed on-line and that the purchaser would encounter the catalogue blurb.
No, Wait helps map the wide range of conceptual/flarf ‘transparency’ practices, with Kenneth Goldmith’s 2005 The Weather at one end, unabashedly acknowledging its source as a transcription of the the hourly weather bulletins on 1010 WINS, New York City’s all-news radio station, and Lisa Robertson’s 2001 The Weather at the other, with only a remark she made to surprised interviewer Kai Fierle-Hedrick that it was “all lifted” (Chicago Review 51/52:4/1 [Spring 2006]: 40) to reveal that it has been constructed of “found articulations.” In one sense it shouldn’t matter whether
Some things to note about this latest publication (from Denver’s Counterpath press) by conceptual poet Robert Fitterman. One, the Library of Congress cataloguing data on the verso of its title page doesn’t specifically name it as poetry. “1. Mass media-philosophy. 2. Photography. 3. Conceptual art.” Only Tim Atkins’ cover blurb (one of three) does, as “contemporary poetry (however it gets labeled.” This indicates not so much hesitation as how much conceptualism has expanded poetry generically. It also reflects how Fitterman’s reputation as a conceptual poet and theorist can mark, by default, almost anything he publishes as poetry.
Two: the book nowhere indicates which Holocaust museum is referenced in the title, though details within the text point to the photography collection of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which in its logo highlights the Fitterman's title words “Holocaust” and “Museum”. And if one googles any of this book’s passages, one discovers indeed that the passage is the caption of a photograph in the USHMM collection. That is, as in flarf, all of this book was most likely on-line before it was written or published -- ready to be composed by Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V.
Three: the book is a narrative; one notices this immediately on reaching the table of contents, which begins with
Marjorie Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century was first published in a hardbound edition by the University of Chicago Press in 2010, but was made available last fall in an inexpensive full-size paperback. The book is printed on heavy photographic paper to accommodate its numerous images, some of them in colour. Perloff, for those who don’t follow “poetry by other means,” has been for the past two decades the most influential global scholar of alternative poetries – aka the avant-garde.
Thirty years ago I presented a paper at McGill in which I lamented that term for its apparent linearity, like an army on the march, and quoted Baudelaire’s mistrust of its overt militarism. Perloff here offers a strong case for retaining both it and its category, positing a historical avant-garde that began in Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century and which developed until approximately 1916 when it began to be overwhelmed by the Great War, the Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War and the conservative expressive poetics all four events encouraged. The recovery of that avant-garde, and the creation of new poetries built on its methods of appropriation, quotation, collage and montage, are what she finds to be simultaneously both avant-garde and arrière-garde today. A military avant-garde usually has an accompanying arrière-garde, she points out, writing “[w]hen an avant-garde movement is no longer a novelty, it is the role of the arrière-garde to complete its mission, to ensure its success. The term arrière-garde, then, is synonymous neither with reaction nor with nostalgia for a lost and more desirable artistic era; it is, on the contrary, the 'hidden face of modernity' (Marx 6)" (53).
She declines the association of “progress” with both “avant-garde” or any intellectual movement, including the ethical progress often claimed for literature by post-colonial theorists (in Canada see Diana Brydon in “Canada and Postcolonialism” 64 and Pauline Butling in Writing in Our Time 122), implying that the most that literature can aim to accomplish socially is to be formally relevant to its cultural moment (53).
[There were amusingly lyric moments in Barack Obama’s marginally encouraging speech this Tuesday on climate change. They led me to wonder what he might have said had he been concerned about poetry climate change. ]
Fellow citizens – remember that man in the moon
looking over at Earth, beautiful; breathtaking;
a glowing marble of blue oceans. But even he can now see
that poetry has been changing
in ways that will have profound impacts on all human poets.
12 of the longest poems in the history of our language
have been written in the past century. Last year
the automated re-use of words in some areas of poetry
reached record highs and the pool
of words considered unpoetic shrank to the smallest size on record
faster than most sociologists had predicted. These are facts.
Now we know that no single poem event is caused solely by climate change.
Haiku, epigrams, and sapphics, they go back to ancient times.
But we also know that in a world where there’s more words being used
than there used to be, all language events are affected by a planet ever
more robotic and garrulous. The fact that most of our poetry books
are a half-inch thinner than a century ago
didn’t cause books with titles like The Alphabet, Draft , Footnotes, Day
or Metropolis, but it certainly contributed to
to the shrinking that left large parts of our mightiest canon
feeling small and overshadowed.
The potential impacts go far beyond falling word levels. Here at home
2012 was the most silent year in our history. The plains were parched
by the longest sentence drought in its memory. Visual poems scorched
an area larger than Leaves of Grass. Only last week a conceptual poet
in nearby Alberta published a whole book made of 90s.
As a resident, as a father, and as a Poet I’m here to say we need to act.
My plan begins by cutting language pollution
FRANK DAVEY: Poet, former Coach House Press editor, co-founder of TISH newsletter in 1961, co-founder of e-mag Swift Current in 1984, editor of poetics journal Open Letter, 'author' of Bardy Google in 2010 (Talonbooks), author of the tell-much biography of bpNichol, aka bpNichol in 2012 (ECW), and author of the recently published poetry collection Poems Suitable to Current Material Conditions (Mansfield). He has two other websites: a personal one at FrankDavey.net and one (co-managed with David Rosenberg) focused on poet bpNichol at akabpNichol.net -- have a look!