Sunday, March 29, 2009

House Style

For your consideration: Issue 1, a 3,785 page issue of just about every poet you can think of, writing a bit like trauma patients trying to explain how a dandelion is sexier than a rhinoceros, if said dandelion had read lots of linguistics textbooks. Here’s the hook. And the... apology?

Say what you want about the poems here (which can be best characterized as being the linguistic equivalent of “easy on the eyes,” but not in the attractive sense), Issue 1 has managed to add something to the literary world: a massive, simultaneous appropriation of poems not written by anyone.

Reactions abound. Many people comment on Harriet, seemingly unaware that the internet depends on people not stopping to think that when you look into the void, the void also looks into you. Then stays up all night composing a suitably arch and becoming phrase to conceal the scathing hyperlink to your comment.

I think my favorite reaction is this:



I’m sure that I have spent more time thinking about the nature of Issue 1’s stunt than the creator of said text. Which I generally find to be a bad sign. Hoaxes should be hard work, I feel; otherwise, one might suspect that the nature of your critique is to make someone else come up with a critique for you. Which means you are the intellectual equivalent of Brad Pitt’s character in True Romance, smoking out of a HoneyBee container, and feeling your brain dribble down your spinal column.

Jeffrey Bahr points out that even the sheet number of poem-like-things isn’t even evidence of hard work on the part of the impresario, as a few selective IF/THEN statements can reproduce the effect exactly. (Check out the accompanying manifesto and advice to students.)

Much cleverer, I find, is The Futility Review (where people are deliberately not published). Their submission interview is especially entertaining. It at least assumes an audience. Any audience, rather than a simple assertion that there is none, or that turning one’s back to the audience is the only cue required. I get irked when the more complicated a reaction I’m supposed to have, the simpler the gesture is. (And this holds true for both a lyric and an avant-garde piece).

I must confess that I immediately searched the .pdf file for my name. And this was after I read K. Silem’s Mohammad’s adroit little deconstruction of the value-making of aesthetics and naming. Does this mean I have been co-opted? Maybe. Ridiculously easy to shrug off, if so. Aesthetics involves arbitrary currency. Authorship involves some sort of bad faith contract in order to gain authority. I have an uncle named Stritch. Further bulletins as events warrant.

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