Distribution Automatique

Thursday, October 23

It has long been my feeling that
in the U.S. we are in
deep denial regarding the
extent of the traumatized
state of our national consciousness.
It is in the nature
of Americans to rely on taking
action as a solution
to all problems, including those
of self-esteem. I am by far not the
only person who has noted the great
irony in The Terminator becoming
California’s governor. The persona of
the Terminator is constructed to be able to
act without any power being capable of
deterring that action. While Superman
had a vulnerable side (Kryptonite)
and self-examining side (Clark Kent)
we have moved on to an unfeeling
robotic superhero that keeps on
going:no interaction, no dialogue,
no possible deterrence.

Underlying this is a
form of denial created
to persist in the face of any trauma
or threat. This is at the heart
of the masculine ideal.
However, the symptoms of
anxiety that
result from the trauma do
resurface. They resurface in the
form of a growing and widening
sense of anomie and
in human endeavor and in
an increasing difficulty in finding meaning
in anything, or anyone,
an increasing reliance on a facade of
indifference, as a defensive reaction to
actual tragedy and the
resultant deprivation and despair,
summarized in the
far-right wing philosophy of “kill the beast,”
meaning, destroy all semblance of
vulnerability to the sufferings of others
and to threats of futher destruction.

Ron Silliman published the
following statement on his blog recently
offering his thoughts about the poet’s political
life, that grew out of a recent poet’s
retreat in Philadelphia:

“I point this out to note that the way to challenge & defeat “militarized language & propaganda” is not through poetry, but through same political action a steelworker or waitress might take. The idea that poetry is in this sense a different practice strikes me as a genre-based mode of megalomania. If poets are serious about taking on the forces of darkness, the avenues for action are plentiful.”

But poets need not turn
only to the available public
avenues to express their political feelings
or “take on the forces of
Are steel workers more needy
of political organization than poets?
I may agree it is certainly
somewhat futile for poets focus
on political change through the
application of the forms of poetry to
by means of metaphor or lilteral meanings
enlightening the "mainstream mind." And yes, this is
not the day of Dryden, Swift and Pope,
or Shelley, Keats and Byron. The culture
industry and the political industry are
united and we all realize
they don’t give a hoot about
what poets have to say
as a group.

I do think it may be worthwhile
for poets to see what might happen
if they were to work much more on
using their considerable knowledge
and intellectual insight and
experience in the direction of
changing the politics of the poetry
field itself. If we can’t do
much about our clout with the mainstream,
the least we could do is create more
fairness and mutual support, and the
probable resulting
effectiveness, in working
with each other.

It seems to me there is a next step
for poets to take
after so much insight has been
gained through innovative writing,
through the struggle with form and
formal innovation. I think so much
has been accomplished- the form issue has
not exactly been "done to death"
but it has been done, and done
very effectively at that, not that
there is general consensus among poets
and poetry readers by far,
but the territory, and the main avenues have
certainly been very well sketched out.

It seems to me the next step to take
is to pull together all this linguistic
advancement in verbal skill and work to
connect it to the "forms" or “genres”
poets choose to work together
cooperatively, not destructively.
To understand this means most of
all to examine the forms by which
we publicly acknowledge what each
of us has accomplished, rather than
perpetuate the conventional systems of
awards and traditional critical
and academic apparatus, canon building
and the like, negative reviewing and
piecemeal scholarly fiefdom
creation around specific earlier writers,
as well as personalized,
systematic, destructive “polemics,"
directed at particular individuals. This
activity attempts to achieve its own competitive
goals by means of a "divide and conquer"
mentality, that sometimes leaves
the polemicists
themselves pathtically isolated.

I realize that academic professionals in
the writing field face these issues in
practice much more that I do or
ever did.
I also realize that what I am
saying may be
interpreted as similar to the naive idea
of putting all the
power of decision in beginning
students' hands,
etc. This is not what I am
implying. I am talking
about (frequently covert, or unstated
or discussed)
what we think of
as a writing "career" and what the
outward trappings of
this "career" might mean, etc, and
how these assumptions might
ultimately interfere
with the process of the net of
writerly relationships
empowering the field as a whole.

I’ve concluded that the best
place right now
for me is to seek political change is
within the (sometimes covert) systems
writers employ to relate to each
other in their work,
and about their work, within academia
and outside of academia and to
come to grip with the ways that writers
can best work together to get the
message out about each others work.

Writers have been working collaboratively
so intensively for so long, that gradually
together many of the old customs
have already been eroded, as has the
need for the old system so much,
it could possibly now, with a unified effort.
just be tipped over, or gradually abandoned,
in order to scatter the essential
elements around, and to change our
own culture the way radical
linguistic dynamism operates
in our poetics changed our poetry.
There are social
implications to our poetics that
*none* of us are completely facing
up to in ourselves and with each other.

Because of poetry’s
commitment to authenticity and
truth, we have the rare opportunity
to attempt to assure social avenues
for that authenticity and truth
to be activated
in our ways of experiencing and
responding to each others work
(and, as a result, each other’s lives)
that don't exist very much overtly now, but do
exist covertly. They exist covertly
because of what we have learned from
non-narrative techniques, from cut-up,
enjambment, defamiliarization and
deconstruction, catachresis,
free association, Dada, surrealism, collage,
abstract expressionism,
automatic writing, visual poetry,
acoustic experimentation, hypermedia,
collaborative writing, conceptual art and
many other technical
processes. Obviously we have not been
studying and practicing
these techniques for so many years to
become better union organizers
and workers for the Green party
or the latest hip Democratic
party leaders.
There's a missing link here. If there is
so much meaning in the formal
operations of our poetry
and poetics, then couldn't it also potentially
reside in the meanings we
give to our writerly judgments,
and the social avenues we endorse
that activate these judgments in
our real life relationships,
the ways in which we share our work
and ideas, and as a result,
and how we compete
and receive and give support,
recognitions, response to our work
as writers; how we condemn, and undermine,
criticize and exclude each other; how we connect
and how we cooperate and we try to destroy
these connections and cooperative efforts?

The archaic system of accumulating stacks of
manuscripts to add to more stacks
of books,to be evaluated and processed
by experts, labeled and distributed as significant
and important, can frequently amount to so much
canon fodder
(I am a decent speller plus I have a
spell check and the word "canon"
is spelled right).
The reputation industry,
the way we expect each other to live it out,
is our politics. It is what we live and breathe
as writers every day. If my perception
is apropos,
what we are doing is
compiling technique after technique
of critiquing and reconstructing form in writing,
while frequently neglecting to take the implied next
steps by closely, and together, examining
the implications of
these significant discoveries and resulting
changes of formal applications that
we employ in our writing work
in the way we organize our writerly
relationships, our working relationships.
All the politics are right there on
the table within the implicit formal
critiques of mainstream writing practice
that have been accumulated by so much collaborative work,
meaning carefully shared and discussed accomplishments in
the area of technique and the application
of writerly ideas of a work's
form to its content,
(therefore thinking), and much opportunity,
so much potential for change has
already been accomplished.

Just as professional government
representatives and corporations
have to deal with assumptions
regarding competition that have
awesome real life implications
regarding survival and the
utilization and control of violence,
as writers we will either be doing
what is needed to convince the world
by following our example,
to work together for mutual advantage,
or be submitting to their
observing all of us work
against each other, because of
unbridled competition,
towards universal mutual disadvantage
and destructiveness.
Writers also compete, and like the
rest of the culture,
we are necessarily obsessed
with competition. In this area,
I think we are well positioned
to exploit a deficiency in our culture
as an advantage.

Since, as we all know,
few are paid very much
for writing,
what's the point of so
much emphasis on competing
in the writing field?
Or intensifying the small amount
of competitive feeling that others’
accomplishments arouse in us,
but that one may relatively easily overcome
by means of acknowledgement and support
of others, as well as self-challenge?
I understand that increasing and exposing competiveness
may appeal to those reponsible for
creating excitement, and for obtaining some attention
to bring revenues to cover the cost of publications
and their distribution. The problem with this is that
the politics underlying this assumption may not be the
best one for writers as a group to support.
Could we not undermine and parody and
illuminate and complicate and
basically turn the whole business
of competition inside
out in our own community?
Aren’t we are all sophisticated
enough with techniques of enclosing
form within content,
with "nesting," with
using mirror reversals
and randomizations of content
and innovative modes of
organization to struggle with such
complex philosophical issues? Isn't
it perfectly clear that the next
step is to apply this to our ways
of sharing and collaborating and
finding purpose and meaning in
each others work?
If our work is at heart
composed of our meditations,
and it is not-for-profit, and
it is resonant with
writers works and with
what other significant,
valuable and interesting
works we can track down
to read, and should we not
work to link that
understanding to each other on
as many levels as possible
(in contrast to the
slow-paced linear
movement of culture
industry products)?
In applying this
of writerly
forms to the forms
of our writerly
and informal,
would we not be using our
writing on
our own behalf
directly, politically
and in the arena
that we know best:
our everyday life , the one we
are most trained to comment on:
our everyday lives?

Political representation
is obviously a fraud:
in this era. It no longer
exists. This is one of the
main reasons why things
in our culture are
unraveling so quickly.
Public media are
an unhealthy but fun
fast food meals at best,
hypnotic poisons at worst;
the political/government industry,
the entertainment industry,
the culture industry, sadly, even
the education industry,
all interlocked,
horribly enslaved, frequently against
their own better judgement,
and their united will,
as the Third Reich of the
contemporary intellect and imagination.
This stagnant situation
prevents any possible
political change at the same time
manipulates writers into working to
undermine all previous political change
by participating in these utterly
compromised institutions.
(“Starve the beast.”)

It is my sense the best chance
writers have to change the political
situation is to use our
own writing culture
as our political workshop.
In turn, we will be empowered
with tools that can be used to
powerful advantage in critiquing the
system that we are replicating in the
traditional ways we empower our own
work, each others work, our own “careers”
as writers and each others “careers”
with each other: the modes by which
we exchange and interpret each others
writing work,
sometimes helplessly
permitting its exploitation
and subservience to the system
we purportedly want to change,
that must be changed so that
we can rediscover and redirect
the most productive
and generative political