Friday, July 3, 2009

the fish in this barrel lack flavor/part one


... so I'm following along--reading the poetry blogs. Slo-po-con-flar-po, whatever--happy to not have to take sides. Telling myself that I don't care but after coffee and the Times I'm reading the blogs. All the various arguments are old news but the personalities are an interesting study--I've met the players, most of them have read at Moe's. I think they see me as the guy who sets up the mic, I don't push my own work--don't think they'd be that interested. They're mostly a generation or two younger than me, and I can't help thinking of them as nice kids. They're all quite professional, have good manners. You couldn't tell a flarf from a slowpo if you saw them coming down the street--mostly from the middle classes, or if not they've learned to "pass". Lefties, intellectual, socially concerned. Hard working--teachers, tech writers. Can talk the talk and for all I know they walk the walk (throw trash in the right bins, bike to work, eat locally grown...). The kinds of folks I like, feel comfortable with. And yet...something's not quite right.
Too good to be true...

Remember Teflon? Been replaced by other nonstick surfaces, but I'd bet that the new ones are just as toxic. Teflon still works as a metaphor, though, esp. now that we have another Teflon prez.

There's something that I believed when I was younger (and gave up on) that is coming back around to haunt me now--will (possibly over) use the Teflon meta. to try and explain: good poetry comes out of the gunk, the stuff that sticks to the pan. Great poetry comes when the pan isn't properly cleaned. Stuff grows there, and it smells bad--unpleasant, sickening maybe--but it changes perception--could even cause ecstatic hallucinations--but, also, fever, sickness...

I don't want to believe this--want to write it off as a late-middle-age (temporary) return to romanticism. I've kept my nose clean--kept those nasty bits hidden away, washed the "pan" whenever possible--


Maybe I'm working with too little information. Maybe there's an Artaud out there, a real loose cannon who will break away and be brilliant--and who won't be invited to the parties.

related note---Trying to work out why I'm so bored with found texts. Looking back at my own poetry, it's full of the stuff--and I used to really love that feeling I'd get from finding the perfect goofy/scary/poignant line buried somewhere--"I get my best lines from stupid people" -Burroughs. Nowadays I couldn't care less. Perhaps it's the fish in a barrel quality that comes from all the googling (jesus, I do it too--who can resist?). No shock of the new there--on to something else?

what I'm reading: We Did Porn by Zak Smith, Artaud Anthology (ed. Hirschman),
Slanted and Enchanted by Kaya Oakes


  1. This is an excellent rant, Owen -- scratches an itch I've felt from a vantage less sympathetic to the so-called movements to which you allude. I guess conceptual poetry wants poetry to be conceptual art? I can sympathize with wanting to do conceptual art -- it has a playful, pure authority to which any maker must aspire, and in the absence of making to boot -- but it's like kids trying on their parents' shoes and playing house to me. And Slow Poetry is just Slow Food done with poetry, right? Michael Pollan in the bookstore calling the language poets high fructose corn syrup?

    The Language poets will have much to answer for on the day of judgment, but at least one could have used their theory to organize firing squads. The new theoretical discussions just have the appearance of internet stalking -- speaking of which, your comment about appropriating spam also hits home for me. I was trying to do something like that with all the pseudo-linguistic e-mail I received, for a while. When I got to fifty pages of potential titles for abstract, appropriationist paintings, and hadn't painted any of them, I stopped collecting spam, no matter how resonant and redolant of my own old poetry some messages seemed...

  2. Aha! Now I understand why you never clean your pots and pans to the sparkling glean that I so strive for.

    Must be the difference between fiction writers and poets!

  3. Hi Alva--

    Thanks for looking at this. Feel like I'm slowly circling and may land on some critical point that makes sense (possibly?). Also trying not to fall into sounding like a grumpy old man.


    There's poems in them pots.

  4. Owen, you wicked secret blogger you, how dare you come right out in the open (well, the closet, with the door open) and say things like this, with no other excuse than the fact they are true and make perfect sense?

    And Alva, my heavens! Is nothing sacred?

    And Michael Pollan probably a customer too! Jumpin Jehosaphat! This must be some kind of radical blog, I'm out of here!

    In a minute, I mean. Not before sharing a bit of