Monday, January 01, 2007

The best thing since...

sliced sonnet1

Sliced Sonnets:

Read the book.
Wear the t-shirt.
Eat the loaf.


Ms Baroque said...

LOVE your illustration!

But could you illustrate your point itself? Did something spark this post off, was there a last straw? Is there a particular line you hated in something?

I do increasingly find that I judge poetry on sound, that is on the ear.


I'm with you there Mark, but I do think there are - very few - lights which the dross drowns out. I have written elsewhere that the reason langpo's got a bad name amongst the lyric lover is because it is an easy form for the bluffers to - not - hide their lack of talent behind. Put a bit of effort sringing a load of meaningless words together and call it avant-garde poetry.

During my time at college the Rothenberg antholigies charting 20C langpo was the bible in class and most of it I did not connect with. I spent a night flivking through it and two poems leapt out at me, both from 1915'ish. All the other poems seemed dated and dead, but I could hear Myakovsky's voice as if it was shouting in my ear. The first one was was the opening stanza of his poem "Listen"

if stars are lit
it means - there is someone who needs it.
It means - someone wants them to be,
that someone deems those specks of spit


It has a manic quality to it which made me laugh out loud, as I was searching the book for something which represented "modernism", which we had been instructed to find and bring to our drama class on modernism. This had a manic quality about it and reeked of honest writing.

Then I came across this he wrote, but in the transl;ation I read it opened

"Hey you! People of the Future"

but the translation below goes

"My most respected comrades of posterity!
Rummaging among these days' petrified crap
exploring the twilight of our times,
will inquire about me too.
And, possibly, your scholars will declare,
with their erudition overwhelming a swarm of problems;
once there lived a certain champion of boiled water,
and inveterate enemy of raw water."


I found that the key to understanding all this uber serious langpo is to inwardly treat it with a pinch of salt and have a giggle at it, whilst keeping a very straight face when talking about it with those who claim its valisity.

A lot of the practioners of it are academics, whose audience is kids in the classroom and like minded colleagues spread about the global groves, who nurture and bolster a sombre mien and belief in it by treating their poetry as if it were on a par of complexity akin to brain surgery or interstellar space travel, and possessing the stature and urgency of an imminent nuclear war.

And a lot of them have only ever wanted to be poets, from the age of five and opted to specialise in this murky medium when they were 70's Oxbridge socialist, at a time when the intellectually dense poetry of 70 modernism had seized control at the poetry society and was going toe to toe with the old lyric guard in Earls Court, wrestling for control of the future wind direction in their effort to fan the flame of UK poesy down the route they wanted.

But a lack of strategy, talent and the politically principled "walk out" acts meant they effectively comminted hari kari and - on this side of the pond - the younger troops had to withdraw from the central command of a national HQ and settle for an office in academia from which to conquer the lyric foe.

The top brass of the movement today are naturally disgruntled at having seen their leaders come so close to seizing power - which gave them a strong sense of primacy over what they view as a simple minded rustic rhyming crowd - and so they put their efforts into being the cleverest poetical philosophers around and retreated further and further up their own bottoms until - like the emporers new clothes - they are talking utter bollocks.

We wee week
week wee we
wee we week

This is not something I've just made up on the spur of the mo, but a highly sophisticated response to the textual concerns of a fracturing within contemporary language, which is very boring to read and blah blah blah.

After a lifetime of railing against the lyric it is pyschologically impossible for them to turn round and face the truth now, so they keep up the pretence.

There are a few who are the real thing, Charles Bernstein most notably. He is the Heaney of this gang, and in America this medium has a lot more clout than here. And the reason Bernstein is so feted is because he has a great sense of humour and must be wetting himself with all the wannbees treating him with godfatherly respect. Who wouldn't love to be imitated and be the beacon of a movement?

I found out in the third year when studying the real crazee stuff in drama, that you soon find out who the fakers in the madhead gangs are, if you treat them and their work with more seriousness than they do, as this mob are naturally defensive because the usual respinse they get is complete bewilderment. Nothing makes them take a step back and think than someone whose waffling on about this medium than they are.

Don't let the bustards get yer down.

Happy New Year to all at your place.

Ms Baroque said...

By George, I think you've got it! Avant-garde, here we come!

What are you going to slice first? The real avants would write their own and then slice it.

Mark Granier said...

Of course slicing is just one remove (if that) from shredding.


The reason I say Bernstein is the Heaney of the American avant garde, is because his theory of the job - poetic - is, as he says - "...never more than an extenison of" his "practice."

His prose is straightforward, makes sense, and is clearly the work of a man who knows what he's on about.

I've been ploughing through the archives of the Buffalo listserve poetics list and it is fascinating reading. Bernstein initiated it in March 1994. I've just got through to August, and it's fascinating reading. Robert Creeley, Susan Schultz, Marjorie Perloff, Keith Tuam and a one for me - Michael Baughn.

All bright beacons surrounded by an admitedly less dazzling cast list and writing at the start of this new fangled net thing - in a time when I had a full head of jet black curly hair and my only concern was where my next pint was coming from.

Here they are to eavesdrop on and presenting their human side and offering a fully three dimensional picture of American avant practice.

This is the first time I've managed to get a purchase on the accurate picture, like a door opening and the pieces clicking into place. "Ahh, so that's the story," kind of thing.

Bernstein is particularly chatty, but I suspect he will drop out as the list changes and turns into one big ad-board for the scrambling masses, as at the mo - August 1994 - it's all new, exciting and intimate.

In a very prescient essay "I DON'T TAKE VOICE MAIL", he posted up on the 20 April 2004, and which was a presentation he gave at a symposium, sponsored by the Parsons School of
Design, on "The Art Object in the an Age of Electronic Technology", at the New School in New York, on April 16, 1994, he said

"....The most radical characteristic of the internet as a medium is its interconnectivity. At every point receivers are also transmitters. It is a medium defined by exchange rather than delivery; the medium is interactive and dialogic rather than
unidirectional or monologic.

At this moment, the most interesting format on the internet, apart from the basic electronic mail function, is the listserve: a series of
individuals join a list--any post to the list address is immediately delivered to all list subscribers. Individuals can then post replies to the entire list or to the individual that sent the post. Lists may be open to anyone to join or may be
private. The potential for discussion and collaboration is
appealing--the format mixes some of the features of correspondence with a discussion group, conference call, and a panel symposium such as this one (with the crucial difference
that the distinction between audience and panel is eroded)...."


Oops, that should read "in a prescient essay he posted up on 20 April 1994" I'm only ten years out,

Mark Granier said...

Apologies, but I've totally altered this blog entry, so many of the above comments probably no longer apply. Sorry bout that.

Ms Baroque said...


not a sonnet though

Andrew Shields said...

"they should resonate in the way that a good song or piece of music does. If they manage that I will forgive them much, including a good deal of impermeability." Beautifully put. This is not a comment on this post, of course, but I did want to comment on your remark on Reginald Shepherd's blog.