Friday, October 17, 2003

The interview with Nick has helped me to recontextualize him and more fully understand his notion of time travel. What he has to say about the interrelatedness of everything—and the simple importance, for poets, of other people who are not poets—seems incredibly obvious and yet of course it needs saying. I also like to see him making acute observations that are not immediately situated in the literary and meta-literary; his description of how and why men talk to each other, and the role of psychonanalysis in perpetuating the deadness of that speech, rings true. How far we are from freely espousing. Men are so conditioned to take the erotic as the only zone in which emotion can be expressed that there's inevitably a little homosexual panic in the presence of another man's (naked!) emotion. Even gay men aren't immune from this. There happens to be an Edward Gorey postcard near my desk here at The Bookery depicting two Edwardian gentlemen, with Lawrentian quantities of facial hair, reclining on a couch facing each other, their hands laced together at the middle to form an arch that mirrors the bend of their knees. And there's a verse:
Were yout but mine, we'd sprawl supine
   Across a chintzed settee;
And slabs we'd take of pounded cake
   And swigs of Q.R.V.
Certainly it's homoerotic, but it's more a picture of fellowship, comradeship, Whitman's adhesiveness. In our eagerness to claim Whitman as a modern gay man (which is of course a much-needed correction to a century of willful blindness about his sexuality) we are apt to forget the possibilities he suggests for love between men that is not primarily sexual. I doubt any kind of bonding can happen between human beings without a libidinal investment of some kind, and maybe that's the source of the anxiety. As the economic language indicates, a relationship is an investment, and you could always lose your shirt. Better to invest in model trains, or your job, or shares in Post-Po-Faced Boy Inc.

Thinking about this makes me realize exactly what I've missed from not being a sports fan. The heartbreak, sure (incidentally my hat is off to Jim Behrle for his graciousness in defeat), but also the passionate community. It's easy to deplore the fact that so many men are only comfortable expressing emotion about the fates of sports teams (and it's usually teams, right? does anyone get as excited about a win by Pete Sampras or Tiger Woods as they do about the Nicks or the Islanders? [I realize athlete-icons like Muhammed Ali are the exception here]), but that only makes me feel the more impoverished for not sharing in it. There are people on the planet tonight in states of elation and deep gloom because of the success and failure of groups of men who they'll most likely never meet, who mostly aren't even from the geographical region they're supposed to represent. The game is a fiction; the emotions are real; male bonding is a real fiction. Which is simply to say, we need the eggs.

Anyway, Nick's ideas about time and dailiness as opposed to the monolithic nature of most literary production are valuable, and come very close to the definition of avant-garde (as opposed to modernist or postmodernist) that I'm getting out of a book I'm reading, Peter Bürger's Theory of the Avant-Garde. Here's what Jochen Schulte-Sasse says in his introduction to the book: "Modernism may be understandable as an attack on traditional writing techniques, but the avant-garde can only be understood as an attack meant to alter the institutionalized commerce with art" (xv). Tied in with what Ron said today about the interview and about blogging as a genre, I see the potential for blogging, which is daily without being entirely ephemeral, as a mode of attention and conversation which absolutely undermines the existing institutions, primarily academic, of poetry and its criticism. (This is why I'm surprised by the hostility to blogs Barrett Watten expressed in his Birmingham talk; as Ron points out, blogs are flexible enough to encompass both "serious intellectual projects" and The Jim Side—if we needs must make such invidious distinctions. I've got to go ahead and e-mail him to ask for a copy so I can see exactly what he said.) Of course, when a blog is ancillary to a conventional acapoetic career—like mine is—we see once again how no technical innovation is sufficient by itself to make a revolution. Still, my consciousness of what poetry can do—my imagination, in a word—has been expanded tremendously by this experiment we're all conducting in talking past each other. And how refreshing—in the full, drenched sense of that word—it's been to see the range of what's expressible expanded in the teeth of what Nick describes as the fate of finished-product writing in this culture: "Thus an opportunity for expressing and communicating one's feelings and experiences could now be subsumed under the universally acceptable and obsessive competitive drive for achievement and personal power and recognition." Instead we have a conversation that, at its best, goes on both between one poet and others but also between the poet and his or her internal others (this manifests in Nick as "writing from notes but also ignoring them, in a kind of improvisational way").

So long live ambient discourse and the riskers of boredom. Long live the blogs.

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