July 30, 2010

"My comment is bigger than your comment"

I love it when poetic boxing matches erupt. It speaks to my argumentative bones. Which is why I admire Rebecca Wolff, even if I don't always agree with her (do any of us ever always agree with anyone? I'm getting a vague flashback to a Star Trek episode). Since I first started reading FENCE, I've enjoyed most her editorials that take on some element of some current discussion of poetics -- and I admit I have an underdeveloped fantasy that she and I were born under similar star formations.

When these boxing matches erupt, the poetic blogosphere becomes much more interesting. Comment sections are where the real shit happens (I read recently on Harriet's blog yet another call-out of Silliman's blog's too-often overly aggressive comment battles, which Spahr & Young also knocked in their 2007 Numbers Trouble...and yes there's a sense of irony in mentioning the latter, read below). Remember Foetry? That was awesome. It was like my own personalized gossip column. I wonder what it was like before the internet (I was born in '79, so...). Probably similar, just slower, and hell people still start journals and presses out of some irreverent response to some fault they find in whatever came before it/them. Letter presses flying about, essays in the mail, I'm sure it was an exciting time then too for the poetry-gawker. Did any fights erupt at AWP Denver? That was an expensive transatlantic plane ticket for me to have missed witnessing a poetry boxing match in person. But if something did occur of that ilk, I missed it; I was either drunk at the Mercury or asleep at the Robert Haas reading.

So the latest (or, not really, I'm coming at this one a bit late) is the clash between Rebecca Wolff and the folks of the 95 Cent Skool, specifically Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr but presumably with rhetorical guns fired by others if I'm reading the signatures right (refer to Silliman parenthetical above).

Oh, don't worry, I'm not weighing in on this one really. I see positives and negatives on both "sides". I am saddened by but recognize the hopelessness implicit in the Skool's manifesto (which goes something like, "there's not a damn thing we can write that will get through to the world, so we're going to hang out together"), but I also feel that, like most manifestos, this one kind of implodes on itself, as Wolff points out. And reading the Skool's blog reminds me slightly of the Table X "barricade" in Denver and, well, I'm not old (is 31 old now? I can't really tell) but I never was really that cool, and I still believe in non-violence as a tool so I cringe at words like "barricade". Anyway, Versal was super far away from Table X, as the AWP Bookfair landscape goes. And just like in high school I wanted to eat on their side of the cafeteria but I also felt somewhat appalled. I however did visit Table X and, next to buying about $100 worth of books, had a nice chat with Joshua Edwards and Lynn Xu, which reminded me that most of this stuff is a) for show and b) we're all just trying to sell poetry without becoming capitalist jackasses. Which means sometimes, as in the case of the 95 Cent Skool now, we come across a little more militant and exclusionary for our own good.

My point is: I would have loved to see Wolff's expletives flying through the air at the Rethinking Poetics conference. I hereby vow to find the live version(s) of heated poetics discourse at AWP D.C. Since I don't live in the States and am not, nor have been, in a program there, I don't know who likes who or who has slept with who or who hates who or who's in what "school" or has been kicked out of what "school", so my focus remains on finding, simply, great work for Versal and knowing at least where the epicenters of the discourse are so that if I ever move back to the States I can carry on a conversation with one of those "who's" and make new friends. And here, I suppose, is the crux of my interest: knowing what you're talking about over there makes me feel, for whatever split second, a little less foreign to/in my homeland.