Saturday, May 24, 2008

Conceptual Poetry

Questions in response to Laynie Browne's questionnaire for the symposium I wish I were attending.

1. What is conceptual poetry?

I want to say that conceptual poetry is a poetry that relies on an external organizing principle that is very often “outside” of the text, and not always even attached to it. It’s a poetry that usually relies on a body of information and discussion that spans genres and feeds into intellectual and visual conversations as much as poetic conventions.

2. Can poetry be non-expressive?

I think that poetry can be non-expressive to the extent that one person might assume another person’s work to be so, but no, I think that even a work that is designed to eradicate emotion and expression ends up emitting expression and emotion even if it’s negatively charged.

3. Is there such a thing as a “direct presentation of language”?

I would say so, though at present I wouldn’t want to respond further than that…

4. Intellect rather than emotion?

Why choose? I want—need—both. We all do.

5. Dismantle this line-drawing


6. What is the purpose of form and formlessness?

Thinking of the documentary Helvetica where one of the type designers talks about the space beyond the letters themselves as more important. For me, form and formlessness, just as emotion and intellect, are constantly engaged, and never taken for granted.

7. Distinguish between procedural and conceptual

Procedural occurs within conceptual, no?

8. What formal restraints do you practice every day?

I try not to judge.

9. What is the responsibility of the writer?

To be conscious not only of her own project, but its place in the larger project: the self doesn’t always have to win.

10. Why are women virtually excluded from the UBU web anthology?:

In reality I cannot say as I wasn’t part of the editorial process. One might also ask why the list seems so white. I am constantly surprised by people’s inability to see anything other than versions of their own ideas: whatever does not mirror back politely is rejected. Further, when the editor is extremely provincial, that other is then attacked. This is nowhere more evident than in the language of reviewing and criticism: that's when you see whole histories of a person's points of reference, and in so many cases they are male, male, male.

I suppose that's where the power is though isn't it?

When it comes to editing, in many cases this is what we are witnessing.

Addendum: Clearly there is something more afoot. Something more direct. I offer the following excerpt from Spahr and Young:
In the middle of all this convesation we wote to Craig Dworkin and asked him what was up with all the men and thei love of estictive, numbe based pocesses and he said he didn't know but he told us a joke about a photogaph he once saw of himself and Kenny Goldsmith, Rob Fitterman, Christian Bök, and Darren Wershler-Henry, all in a line, all basically the same age, same stocky build, same bad haicuts, and black t-shits. We could think of no photogaph of Jena Osman, Nada Gordon, Caroline Bergvall, Joan Retallack, Johanna Drucker, and Harryette Mullen all looking the same age, same build, same bad haicuts, same black t-shits. Fo some eason this wok did not unite them. And how thee still seemed, like Michelle Grangaud, elected to the Oulipo in 1995, oom fo only one o two women wites to build a caee in this categoy
This "r-less" text can be found on Drunken Boat along with responses by Kenneth Goldsmith in which he reiterates that gender has nothing to do with "grouping."

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