Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On Shelley's Birthday

This weekend, I was in New York to do a reading in Brooklyn, and I got my first chance to talk in depth to a member of the Flarf Collective. It was a stimulating, if invective-laden, conversation, but my opinion remains unchanged- I do not think flarf makes for the creation of memorable poetry, and I fail to see how it adds to the Duchamp paradigm (of the "ready-made") that was put into place one-hundred years ago; presented again here, in a mystifying fashion, as new: anti-art. How retrograde is it to want to produce durable work? Most manifestations of a post-modern sensibility encourage a sense of ephemerality, transience, "positive obsolescence." Post-modernists often tend to adopt the opinion that any other mode of perception is backwards; though, if the tide turns in my direction, this theoretical approach may itself be perceived as junky and corny. Anti-art is junky and corny. And I am developing a new philosophy of readings.

As per what the Flarf kiddies might turn against us: when emotion becomes stylized, it turns hokey. No one is going to have a problem with raw emotion, if it is presented with savvy and taste (even, I'm guessing, the Flarf crew). We must wrestle, at some point, with the notion of the trans-historical, where people, poetry, and history are concerned. New Historians believe that subjectivity is unstable, and that very little is trans-historical. However, if literally nothing were trans-historical, there would be no reason to read Shelley anymore, and there are valid reasons to read Shelley. It is not merely his emotion that remains compelling, it is the emotions produced by the textual enactments of his ideology. In other words, how his politics made him feel. This is a key that is important to us, if we want to document 2009 (as the Recession looms, festers over us) effectively, and it is something which Flarf cannot do: to take an honest look at our consciousness, make conscious the ideologies which determine our thoughts and actions, and both see and exteriorize what affect lies within this process. So, the Recession does not diminish or drain off our humanity.

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