Monday, June 21, 2010

Scrapbook of my Life as a Flaneur: Poetics & Anxiety

At the KSW Negotiating the Social Bond of Poetics (NSBP) seminar led by Nicole Markotic (poet/critic/novelist, whose latest book is Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot)

(my notes taken during Nancy Gillespie's recap of previous seminars)

-We are entangled in the affect of neoliberalism / the society that demands complete enjoyment
-Fear of not getting on the property ladder (Jeff Derksen, NSBP seminar)

-Fear of pretty houses and their porches/Fear of biological wristwatches/Fear of comparison shopping/Dogs on leashes behind fences barking/Pretty little couches and floral pillows (Metric, "Patriarch on a Vespa")

-At the end of analysis, the Lack of the Other is addressed / realized.

(my notes taken during Nicole Markotic's talk on Freud/Lacan/Disability Studies/Prose & Poetry)

-The implication (in narrative/narrative cinema) that disability is an abject position

-Binary construction of abled body vs. disabled body

-Poetry as possibly rejecting the notion of a complete subject

-Can we think of hysteria as a social bond, as a confrontation to the Other?

-The patient constructs & reconstructs herself

-The hysteric's relationship to desire

-The fragmented body // the mirror stage

To explicate fragmentation in poetry, Markotic refers to a prose poem from Lisa Robertson's The Weather
The rain has loosened; we engage our imagination. The sentence opens inexpensively; we imagine its silence. The shrubs and fences begin to darken; we are deformed by everything. Therefore we're mystic. The sky is closing in; we mediate an affect. The sky is curved downward; we desituate memory. The sky is dominant; we lop off the image. We come upon our thought. The sky is lusty; so are we.
and a poem from my chapbook fist things first, and asks me if my fragmented incomplete subject poetic voice in the piece is the hysteric, or is it the truth that no one else recognizes?

And I answer Yes.

A joke, an evasion, a verbal tuck-and-roll to expose the tummy and demonstrate friendly submission, as is my habit. But also perhaps the truth that cannot be spoken, which is nothing if not poetry.

I'm Depressed, You're Hysteric

We discuss the fad of self-diagnosis (self-fragmentation?) Donato Mancini mentions the current fetishization of certain super- or supra-natural "mental disabilities" such as Asperger's or OCD, which suggests that the ideal or the new normal is now the super average. (i.e., "I have a disability, but it makes me extra smart!" or "I have a disability but it writes my poetry!" and also "I'm an asshole at parties because of my disability!")

And I, ever the Populist Flaneur, remembered reading Leah McLaren in the Globe and Mail that morning, getting it right for once on chemical imbalances by suggesting that "the disease was invented to justify the cure." But not speaking, not wanting to reveal my vulgar interpretations of theories I've only heard about or be seen quoting from the Globe instead of Althusser, or whoever I should be reading now.

Twitt, Twitt, Twitt, Twitt

That is, being intellectual, but not "an intellectual." On the poetry that never went to grad school. That my recent, glib online comment

(Nikki Reimer) has thoughts and opinions, she just can't back them up by citing any Known & Important Theorists

was liked or retweeted by several poet friends. C.L. suggested: "Play-invent a theorist. Throw a multisyllabic last name into the conversation, and people will nod, too afraid to admit they've never heard of Elsanov or Tattakana."

Wait, do we all feel this way? Then why the fuck do we all perpetuate it? Me, who's never read Zizek, but who may start citing Zelichosky (the name of my great-great-grandfather) when I need to express my own opinion, who wants to participate in conversations about poetry but who needs to keep one foot in the populist world because I need to know enough middlebrow-culture to be relatable when I'm out in the workforce. Or maybe that's a lie I tell myself. Maybe I prefer the middlebrow, am comfortable in the middlebrow, don't challenge myself enough to reach the highbrow, to digest the important or the difficult.

Choose Your Poison Carefully

That the choice between the Online Social Media World of Liking & Reposting and the High Theoretical Academic World of Ready-Made Opinions and conversations that require works-cited addendums is in fact no choice at all. I'm ever the flaneur, ever mixing poetry with theory with journalism with pop music, ever searching for a non-ex(is)tant third way to live. Always one foot in the colloquial mouth of the horse.

Ooops, I (read the Globe and Mail) Again

It was a John Barber article on books & e-readers. Barber quoted Kate Pullinger,

e-book pioneer and Book Summit speaker, (who) wishes more writers would make an effort to find out what today's horseless carriage really wants to be.

"Writers need to be really seriously engaging with the new ways to tell stories that these technologies potentially allow us,” she says.

On her own account, Pullinger is experimenting with hybrid forms that use images, videos, text, music and sound to tell a story. “It's a very different experience from reading a novel,” she says. “But I think there's room for this kind of form within the realm of literature.”

Me, one in the morning, hysterical that I have to figure out The New Way to Write. That my poems need pictures video flashing lights and hyperlinks. My partner, ever-patient, ever-suffering, "Writing is composition with words. Anything else isn't writing." He at 35 says he's too old to learn new media composition. Me at 30 on the cusp between Gens X & Y, not sure about that, not sure I don't need to immerse myself in new technologies to keep from being left behind. Hysteric, hysteric.

At the end of the blog post, the I was still the lack and remained othered to itself. The I was fragmented, disabled by its subjectivity. The I was hysteric, ran a red and end(ed) up/crushed under the wheel.


Nikki Reimer wrote a book called [sic]. She freaks out about stuff in Vancouver.


John B-R said...

I hope you don't mind a little reeponse from someone 25 yrs older than your partner; if he's too old to learn anything new, what does that make me? Anyhow:

1) re: the dis-eases you quote McLaren as saying that were invented to justify the cure", there's an intersting discussion of same over at Levi Bryant's Larval Subjects under the title "Depression and Capitalism".

2) The only reason to cite "theorists" (see 1, above) is if they're interesting and useful. I mean, quoting Kant or Zizek is like quoting Wallace Stevens or Lyn Hejinian or Etel Adnan or Andy Warhol or Daisy Duke. Personally, I've found that once one acquires the skill (reading philosophy/theiry is a lot like reading poetry ...),some theorists/philosophers **are** intersting.

3) As for the diff between middlebrow and high cultures, I learned a great lesson from my dad. He was a book collector. One day I came to visit him and he was sitting in front of the TV watching Sheriff Lobo (which was somewhat akin to watching CSI Miami - a really stupid guilty-pleasure show) while looking at his newly acquired 1st edition of Paradise Lost. I was young, I said Dad, don't you see the irony in what you're doing? He looked me straight in the eye for a minute and said, there's nothing ironic in what I'm doing. It took me years to get it, but I did.

Great post.

nikki reimer said...

Thank you, John.

1) The Larval Subjects discussion is of course infinitely more lucid than (sigh) Maclaren's take. Thank you for pointing me to it.

2) Absolutely, I don't disagree with citing theorists who are interesting, useful, or relevant to the discussion at hand, nor am I averse to reading some of them myself, for edification and pleasure.

What I do take issue with is pissing-contest-style name-dropping, when theoretical jargon is dropped into conversations in such a way that the listener doesn't understand what's being said and/or is made to feel like an idiot for not having previously read the entire oeuvre of Deleuze. This syndrome is either endemic to certain poetry circles of late, or I am too sensitive.

For example, to quote from the post you cite, there is to me a significant difference between this iteration:

"However, it should also be borne in mind that while we might recognize, following Levi-Strauss’s path as announced in An Introduction to Marcel Mauss –symptoms as essentially social symptoms, we must also recognize...."

(wherein though the reader may not be familiar with this particular reference to Levi-Strauss, the phrase after the en-dash "symptoms as essentially social symptoms" provides a quick & dirty reference so that she may continue to follow the thread of the sentence, and the citation also points her to where she may read up on this path)

and this iteration (my edit):

"However, it should also be borne in mind that while we might recognize the Strausserian model, we must also recognize..."

(wherein woe betide our poor reader if she has not encountered the proper texts to know that Strausserian refers to Mr. Levi-Strauss, never mind her ignorance of his particular theory in this case.)

It seems to me, and this is of course an unscientific survey, that the second example occurs far more often than the first, when it should not be overly difficult to vary between academic speech and explication speech. I'm not talking about academic contexts. I'm talking about social occasions and poetry readings.

But I rant.

3) See 2). Yes! Lovely anecdote.

Thanks for reading, and for your thoughtful comments.


Lemon Hound said...

While I'm glad Ms. Pullinger has found a way to experiment I hardly think she is a pioneer...look around at the world and all of the ongoing experiments...

A good story is a good story is a good story is a good story is a good story...

The page, the page, the page.

Rod Pederson said...

McLaren's comment on diseases reminds me of R.D. Laing's contention that schizophrenia is a rational response to an irrational world. (I am now guilty of citing a theorist.) Both pull little intellectual triggers, and we can get off on the fireworks, but both are, for the afflicted, not very useful. McLaren would seem to have us deal with 'schizophrenics' by halting the search for treatments and cures, and dropping the ones we have, because the search and the treatment creates the ailment - no treatments or cures, no disease/disorder - and Laing would have us withhold antipsychotics from schizophrenics. I think, sometimes, some theorists theorize to get off on their own tiny trigger pulling.

vintin said...

Nikki - I always enjoy your posts. I agree with John that as an intellectual-at-large, you should find / absorb the thinkers that work for your particular intellectual trajectory, and deploy / quote them as you please. There is an exclusivity to academic discourse - and much of that expanded vocabulary finds its way into the poetry and poetics that eventually reaches the public via readings. To each their own. But I think it is best to keep oneself anchored in the realm of 'middle-brow' discourse, if only to be at least comprehensible to the great unwashed - ie. 'our' (the poets') public. - Vince

nikki reimer said...

@Rod, @Vince:

Thanks for your comments on theorists and the public. True as well. Also, bang.