Archive for the ‘L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry’ Tag

Grammar, linguistic and literary production, and related matters: a note for Kent Johnson

If there’s one thing that indefatigable gadfly of a poet Kent Johnson and I share it’s a stubborn, irritable tick of concern with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry and poetics and their “post avant” wake (so wide now few poets or critics seem aware how much they operate within its horizon…).

Recently, his most recent online persona linked an article he had written for absent, “competence, linguistics, politics & post-avant matters”. Therein, he rightly takes to task Charles Bernstein et al. for their loosey-goosey way of discussing (and thinking about) language, grammar, ideology, and society. I can’t say I’m in full agreement with Johnson on all points, but the drift of his argument is surely in the right direction.

It was with no little delight I read in a recently acquired copy of Slavoj Žižek’s 2012 Less Than Nothing the following passage, which sums up pointedly and neatly the fundamental misunderstanding of language (the identification of linguistic or literary production with that of commodities) that underwrote, at least, the early days of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E:

The basic premise of discursive materialism was to conceive language itself as a mode of production, and to apply to it Marx’s logic of commodity fetishism. So, in the same way that, for Marx, the sphere of exchange also obliterates (renders invisible) its process of production, the linguistic exchange also obliterates the textual process that engenders meaning:  in a spontaneous fetishistic misperception, we experience the meaning of a word or act as something that is a direct property of the designated thing or process; that is, we overlook the complex field of discursive practices which produces this meaning. What one should focus on here is the fundamental ambiguity of this notion of linguistic fetishism:  is the idea that, in the good old modern way, we should distinguish between “objective” properties of things and our projections of meanings onto things, or are we dealing with the more radical linguistic version of transcendental constitution, for which the very idea of “objective reality” of “things existing out there, independently of our mind” is a “fetishistic illusion” which is blind to how our symbolic activity ontologically constitutes the very reality to which it “refers” or which it designates? Neither of these two options is correct—what one should drop is their underlying shared premise, the (crude, abstract-universal) homology between discursive “production” and material production. (7)

I am skeptical Žižek’s characteristically canny observation settles the question (one that extends back to the advent of philology (the science of language) and literature-as-such), but it is surely sharp enough to cut through much of the underbrush!

Poeticritical Serendipity

Gloria_Graham_Lyn_HejinianDonald Wellman reviews Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing, describing it as follows:

Fourteen lines on each page, that’s sonnet length. Little rhyme [or] syllogism employed. No tidy conclusions. Each line as long as it needs to be. Most discontinuous with one another but not necessarily so. It seems there may not be a logic other than method in the construction of Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing (Omnidawn 2016). Nothing follows, no conclusions, the title says it all.

The well-read might be circumspect about a book composed in this manner, sections riming with a sonnet’s length, parataxis the lines’ principle of arrangement, by a poet long-associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry (Hejinian is included in both Silliman’s In the American Tree (1986) and Messerli’s “Language” Poetries (1987)), published in 2016.

Such readers might be prompted to further reflection over the implications of these guendercompositional characteristics of Hejinian’s book when they read in Alice A. Kuzniar’s Delayed Endings: Nonclosure in Novalis and Hölderlin about Karoline von Günderrode’s fifteen-verse “Ein apokalyptisches Fragment” (published in 1804), that “…each verse appears as a disjointed fragment in an unconnected, nonteleological series”.

I leave this juxtaposition to speak for itself, for readers with ears to hear and hearts that care to.


Baraka in 2010: a final interview

Baraka-Buescher-Newark-09-23-2010Dennis Büscher-Ulbricht, a crackerjack Amerikanistik scholar, interviews Amiri Baraka in an informed, engaged, and compelling way–a must-read for anyone concerned with “engaged” art. Read it, at Jacket2, here

New Selected Poems of Paul Celan

Celan-JpegI’ve been hunting up and following those of my contemporaries eager to slip between the Scylla of Academic L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry and the Charybdis of the Mainstream Workshop poem, and synchronicitously I see a new selected poems of Paul Celan is in the offing, one whose selection upsets the reception of Celan that would make of him an anti-lyrical, formalist, proto-L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet. As Station Hill’s catalogue puts it:

Paul Celan, arguably the mid-20th century’s most important German-language poet, is commonly pigeonholed as a poet of the Holocaust—a term, however, he never used. Undoing facile assumptions about Celan, Corona charts a more idiosyncratic and personal path through Celan’s large oeuvre, choosing 103 poems from among the more than 900 Celan published. The bilingual selection includes work from all of Celan’s periods and genres. Without ignoring the poet’s well-known work of memory and memorialization, it seeks to open a space for new appreciation of Celan’s love poems, as well as his poems on political events, painful reflections on his stays in mental hospitals, and quasi-burlesque verse.

My interest is piqued!

Corona:  Selected Poems of Paul Celan