Monday, April 19, 2010

oh, neoliberalism

I’d wanted to write about new poetry books every Monday in April, but getting my hands on new poetry books proved trickier than I’d bargained for, because the books I wanted to read were not to be found in the local indie bookstores that I frequent and I refuse to shop at establishments owned by Heather Reisman.

Instead, I’m going to talk poetics. I’ve spent the past several weeks wading through The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy, edited by Charles Bernstein, which, though published in 1990, seems to reflect my own concerns about poetics at each juncture. When I read in the preface:
With more than a couple of happy exceptions, the poets presented here are not affiliated with any university and their investigation of poetics and politics continue to be conducted without much institutional support. I find this encouraging; and it shows up the narrow frame of reference of those...who would insist that there are no longer “public intellectuals” in America. Perhaps the problem is that there is no public for its intellectuals, which means that a republic (of letters? of, as we now say, discourses?) needs to be found(ed), which is to say made. That task requires poetic acts, but not just by poets.
I thought of the recent flurry of posts on LH, harriet and elsewhere on academic poetry vs. non-academic poetry. (Ron Silliman explores the nature of the institution more fully in his "Canons and Institutions: New Hope for the Disappeared" essay, also in Politics.)

When I read, in Nicole Brossard’s essay “Poetic Politics”:
I have often said that I don’t write to express myself but that I write to understand reality, the way we process reality into fiction, the way we process feeling, emotion and sensation into ideas and landscapes of thought. After all, the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that the writer processes life through written language and by doing so has access and gives access to unexpected, unsuspected angles of reality – which we commonly call fiction.
I thought of the buzz surrounding David Shields’ Reality Hunger; Linden Macintyre had interviewed Shields on that morning’s The Current.

And wrote the following in my notebook: "Everything Brossard is saying about form/language/reality is now reinvestigated, 20 years on, by folks like Shields. So what does that mean?"

Then I looked down at the ripped bookmark stuffed into Politics: Duthies Books. celebrating 50 years. still proudly independent. Duthies, which once boasted 10 stores throughout Vancouver, closed for good in January 2010 after 52 years of business. From their website:
Everybody knows that Independent bookstores have been under pressure from the 'big box' operations for many years now and it is clear that it is not going to get any better; the likes of Chapters, and Amazon are ruthless in their drive for market share and we cannot compete on price anymore. The book itself is in the throes of a technological transformation and book readers undergoing a major demographic shift.
(Incidentally, Celia Duthie is also thinking Reality Hunger...)

Which brings us neatly to neoliberalism, and to Jeff Derksen, who read at KSW on Friday night as part of the Negotiating the Social Bond of Poetics series and as a launch of his Annhilated Time: Poetry and Other Politics. Annhilated Time is a collection of essays that "explores the ways in which seemingly minor forms of culture—poetry, visual art, and critical practices—encounter what (Derksen) calls “the long present neoliberal moment” of the imperialist agenda of globalization."

Poetry, politics, reality/fiction, globalization, bookstores, culture. Check, check, check, check, check, check.

Nikki Reimer [sic]

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