Shabby-Old-Man Poetry, Etc.

This morning I woke up badly wanting to listen to Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman“–most likely triggered by its being the first of many wonderful tracks in the mind’s-ear-blowing playlist at the bottom of this fascinating piece on the “alternative scene” in 1990 Durban, South Africa.

Instead, I listened to “The Building” by the Mekons (and then the rest of the Lipstick Traces CD that accompanied one of my favorite books of all time, the same book Michael Robbins calls “the best book ever written about pop music”)–most likely because of how the experience in sound “O Superman” is seems to me to fit with the “sound poetry” that comprises the Lipstick Traces CD.

And then I remember discussions I’ve had with the friends I’ve made in the Creative Writing program I’m attending. Specifically, I remember talking about how my poems tend to contrast with those of my friend Shane, whose poems I feel are often intimate and quietly erotic whispering (although the two QLRS poems don’t quite demonstrate this as well as some others I’ve read).

My poems, however, I describe as the ravings of a madman on a street corner. Specifically, I’m thinking of what Greil Marcus calls in Lipstick Traces the “shabby old man with a tin whistle, standing in the rain trying to make himself heard (94)” a figure embodied in the desperation that seems about to destroy itself at the same time is is preserved in “The Building.”

Reading what Greil Marcus says about the song makes me feel both inspired and exhausted, reaching toward an ideal I can’t ever fulfill.

+++++

I’ve just discovered Brian Joseph Davis, whose most recent project is visual: The Composites, which are images of literary characters using “police sketch software.” I find that very exciting but not as much as his earlier sound-driven work, which includes a response to Marcus’s discussion of Theodor Adorno.

In Lipstick Traces, despite characterizing Adorno as “no doubt [understanding] the Sex Pistols as a return to Kristallnacht if he hadn’t been lucky enough to die in 1969 (72),” Marcus nevertheless asserts that “you can find punk between every other line of Minima Moralia (ibid.),” and that

After 1977, a spoken rant lp could have been made into an album called Big Ted Says No and it would have made perfect pop sense, and for that matter it did: listen to Metal Box by PiL, Johnny Rotten’s post-Sex Pistols band, read Minima Moralia as you listen, and see if you can tell where one leaves off and the other begins. (72-73)

Davis, in his words, “take[s] this pop wish and make[s] it come true” with four songs that use Adorno’s aphorisms as lyrics howled along to the backing of music from such songs as, say, Minor Threat’s self-titled song. Davis’s Minima Moralia is mentioned here, albeit all too briefly.

Davis’s other recordings include:

  1. Voice Over (a single track composed of 5000 movie taglines),
  2. a women’s chorale performing the End-User License Agreement on Sony/BMG’s notorious rootkit CD releases,
  3. 22 songs by the Carpenters played simultaneously as part of Greatest Hit,
  4. 10 Banned Albums Burned Then Played (from Stravinsky and Mahler to the Dead Kennedys and 2 Live Crew),
  5. passersby trying to remember the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Yesterday,”
  6. an Original Soundtrack of 20 television sets and DVD players playing the “endlessly looping musical cues” from DVD menus
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Peter Nicholls on Objectivist Poetics

This is from Nicholls’ book on George Oppen, an expansion I imagine of, among other writings, the essay I quoted from previously:

T. W. Adorno has a precise formulation for the kind of shift I am suggesting here when he speaks in an essay on Bach of ‘the emancipation of the subject to objectivity in a coherent whole of which subjectivity itself was the origin’. The subject is liberated from an impotent privacy into a world of material beings through the objectified form of the artwork. For the reader, such ‘emancipation’ derives not from some identification with the poet’s feeling, but from the syntax of the work, from a particular arrangement of words which, like the conjunction of planes in a painting, produces a sense of a materiality resistant to conventional grammars of thought and design. And, rather like the relation of abstract art to representational art, a language of ‘objectification’ amounts to a reconfiguring of the semantic field so as to accent particular items in a non-discursive way. Prominent features are inverted word order, indeterminacy or ambiguity attaching to pronouns, the emphatic use of prepositions to substitute for usual narrative markers, heightened attention to ‘minor’ parts of speech such as conjunctions, and a resulting disfigurement of anticipated speech-patterns. Such devices assure us that we are dealing not with ‘a performance, a speech by the poet’ but rather with ‘the poet’s self among things’ and a ‘thinking with the things as they exist’.

Adorno on Celan

Celan’s poems want to speak of the most extreme horror through silence. Their truth content itself becomes negative. They imitate a language beneath the helpless language of human beings, indeed beneath all organic language: It is that of the dead speaking of stones and stars. (405)

from Aesthetic Theory

Derivative

Wordle: Guilt Like Concrete

That’s the Wordle that was derived from a “poem” I inputted in the site. The poem itself was derived from three different sources, the result of an assignment to do a cut-and-paste poem. The title of “my” piece–“Guilt Like Concrete”–was derived, in turn, from the three most prominent words in the Wordle, although one may also say that those three words only loom large because of my poem, which was derived from pre-written texts from books I own, selections which I’ve chosen and which may be said to derive from my own reading interests…

…and so all these derivations within (alongside, over, under, within, etc.) derivations are perhaps best left entangled, even while it’s possible to at least cite the three pieces of text from which I derived “Guilt Like Concrete”:

  1. the first two paragraphs of Walter Benjamin’s 1921 fragment  “Capitalism as Religion”
  2. the entire section entitled “The Catechism of Goodbye” from the J. G. Ballard short story “The Terminal Beach”
  3. three consecutive paragraphs from “The Last Sex Pistols Concert” by Greil Marcus, a section of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century

(I started with the paragraph that begins, “Probably no definition of punk can be stretched far enough to enclose Theodor Adorno,” but the first line of “Guilt Like Concrete” is actually taken from the last three words of my selection: “aggression, domination, malignancy.”)

Poems: Reading and “Research”

The question of our respective and prospective thesis topics in my Poetics course was suddenly raised, pop-quiz style, last Wednesday. I babbled a bit about fragmentation and Chad Davidson calling poetry “the rebellion of language against the tyranny of meaning,” but all it did was remind me about how far I needed to go to think this through.

(I also thought about–but decided not to mention–Theodor Adorno, his suspicion of “identity thinking and instrumental reason,” his championing of art as “non-identity,” his decision to go aphoristic in Minima Moralia, his views on punctuation, etc.)

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