Tuesday, April 19, 2011

three brief paragraphs on conceptual poetry

Conceptual poetry might be less regressive with respect to visual art than mainstream or avant-garde poetry, but it appears to have traveled back to the future and straight into futurism. The “importance of… innovation”; the text “begs to be seen blankly for the novelty of its concept” (Bök); “words were almost always found imprisoned on a page”; now, “the possibilities are endless” (Goldsmith). Moving forward. Marching forward. Charging forward. Is this poetry or industry or war? What is the importance of innovation? What good are liberated words if we’re still asked to see blankly? What good is novelty if our problems are older than our archive? The possibilities are endless, but the necessities are always limited.

Capitalism is a metastatic system. It’s premised on the manufacture of consent to un-ask questions about justification. Sweep telos under the rug while teleology remains displayed on the mantle. Conceptual poetry, like capitalism, grows because it can and seemingly only—necessarily—because it can. It sounds like it might foster an anti-demotic elite in the way that competition infects social environments with the terroristic impulse to eliminate one’s rivals. I don’t want liberated words any more than I want liberated capital. I want both words and capital to remain circumscribed by the needs of people. I want them to service just usage, not to attain freedom of injustice.

“if socrates was a poet / ill consider it” (Goldsmith). Socrates was a prick who insisted on the wrong questions out of patrician disdain for people and politics. What sort of essentialism does conceptual poetry endorse if it takes the identity-obsessions of Socrates as respectable? The metaphysical pretensions of the individual. Pretend self-effacement but never forget to publish your name.

[Citations: Christian Bök, "Two Dots Over a Vowel"; Katherine Elaine Sanders, "So What Exactly Is Conceptual Writing?: An Interview With Kenneth Goldsmith"]

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