Why Globalization Will Work for You: a poetics statement
[a poetics statement for The New Long Poem Anthology edited by Sharon Thesen (Vancouver: Talonbooks 2000) with direcct reference to a poem from Dwell, "Interface."]
1) Poems both reflect, refract and rearticulate the social relations and the structures of feeling from the site they were produced.
2) "Hometowns are reformist idiots" -- Kevin Davies, Comp.
2) Structurally, "Interface" works toward conjuction: to link or articulate the local, the national, and the global as a reaction to the disarticulation or severing of these sites or territories in the ideology of globalization.
3) "Until economic isn't always the organizer / fear baby." --Deanna Ferguson, Wanke Cascade.
3) Structurally, "Interface" sets up contradictions and overdeterminations between the sentences, but also within the sentences, word to word.
4) "And who remembers the 'Gulf War' ."
4) I wrote 'Interface" to bring global capitalism to its knees. I never knew it would be so successful! Thanks to all my friends! Thank you!
"What to Do About Globalism"
People, the. Do I have to do
everything? Here's how it goes:
born work broken
and then you die. That's why
there is such love
in seventies guitar solos.
Learn to fight back against
your foes or the flows of those
global scapes and engines
of enterprise. When good times
get better, when "built space"
is inflatable and floats or roves
over water. From agitprop to diamat
I believe it was Tatlin
who said -- or was it Mark McGuire:
Learn to love leisure
over work, rumours over tumours,
strategies over tactics. I stand
before you asking to be memorable
for my memorabilia and
symptomatic for my mottos
in these times when we are told
that movement is what we all share
it's just that some have more legroom.
So when the robots come knockin
for your paper shredder and your lemon juicer
it will not be Jimmy Page who saves you
but the bright backlit unmitigated moments
of critical art projections that awaken you
to new spatial possibilities right there
in your globally defined local or glaucoma.
'Went on a little walk downtown
where the global hits the local
sweetest thing daddy has ever seen
to bring it on home
in the back of a pick-up
yeah, bring it on home."
And to disrupt
rather than just put up, to puke
than rut. Lyotard is appalled by their
aesthetic choices as people
of the former east block (bloc/bloke)
load furniture into trailers
to tow home. I'm
resisting selling this as "freedom
from exchange" ("even
if it is against his will"). In an international
heaven, you will be mine
with mobile hipsters. The wind
in Wien. The rain
in Wancouver, the onions of Walla
Walla are all specifics which should save
us (cast down oh cast
down the satellite dish). Strong
nation-state weak nation-state
arguments versus "global footlooseness
of corporate capital" saves
the high-school dancing ban (Kevin
Bacon). Mired in the past
(method) buttery soft social
state. Imagine, newly
capitalist! Hey the (telos) of modernism
etc with all this hunched up
crawling after daddy 's lawyer
and the petty threats.I don't have
any dot com stocks
so shut up (or market
defeatism). . Imagine as if all of it
were attached by a string and that
it made a picture which
was known as folk art. Be kind
to your cat, love
the animals as you cannot love
yourself (yet another reason
for labour unions). Representation, the rest
is just taste tarted up
as cake (former Hapsburg heart buried
in mystery area of Austria). How long
were you planning on sticking
with the two-party system? I look better
in sans serif now that I'm at
the Prada age (Prada beat America
on water). The title is a cynical
manouever to show up on
topic searches and not a manual
for action, so I will not be responsible
for any injuries incurred
(so far there is one
strategy $24.99). Fanning the flames of post-Steve
McQueen "modern agents" -- put simply
is to recognize what communities are
before we ask them to follow us. Sealand.
South is where the satelite dishes
point (Olson's tropos on Oslo). "Drunkeness
and cruelty". I changed
your reading practices, now go
change the world son, mussed my
hair and I'm off on my mod
grandpa's vespa. I would
explain it like this: yesterday's gone
the future is here so let's play
stocks to have a better future
which is really the present.
The Swedish little thing
Ikea's ever seen. Like Iceland
he's hot inside, cold outside, that's
the magic of malls.
[A different version of this poem, the Bombay Gin / Led Zeppelin Mix is appearing in _Bombay Gin_.]
from Culture Above the Nation: Globalism, "Multiculturalism," and Articulated Locals
This is an excerpt from a section within a chapter of a work I am in the process of rewriting (the transition from dissertation to book). It begins, obviously, in the middle of things. If you want more contextt & text, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extra-National Language: G=L=O=B=A=L=I=Z=A=T=I=O=N
Ron Silliman, Tjanting
But do we at least agree
that the human body is paradise
and that the United States
of America is not?
Bob Perelman, Captive Audience
To this point, I have outlined language writing's containment within concepts of national culture and an historical avant garde and its engagement with the logic and ideology of globalization at a methodological level. The next step is to define a poetics that has the ability to move from the material condition of poetry's production on a localized level to a geopolitical and geocultural level and to read the address toward globalization at the levels of semantic content and form. Here my inside/outside methodology alters; for the language writers have been read by their discursive exterior as an exclusively aesthetic or national phenomenon, or engaging with a siteless capitalism. Rather I turn to some internal tensions that create a fold within the reception and self-fashioning of language writing in order to move to globalization as a referent and determinant for their project. In this direction, a more recent internal definition on the part of some language writers establishes a relationship between their poetics and the crisis in public meaning caused in America by the Vietnam war. This is a movement in the internal definition of the language writers from the materiality of language ï¿½ "from writing as meta-sign to writing as writing," as Steve McCaffery designates it ï¿½ to the production of meaning via the productive reader, to an exteriorization of a politicized aesthetics in a dialectical relationship with social conditions. In the introduction to the "Language Sampler" in the Paris Review (no. 86 1982), Charles Bernstein notes the tone of "anger" in the Perelman poem included, as well as the "quieter distress" in Susan Howes' work, "[. . . ] is not, of course a formal dimension but a reaction, in part, to the events of the current period, including a barbaric U.S. military and social policy" (Contents Dream 242). This invocation of larger social relations is made more specific in Marjorie Perloff's initial sighting of the language writers: "Both in San Francisco and New York, the Language movement arose as an essentially Marxist critique of contemporary American capitalist society on behalf of young poets who came to age in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate" (Dance 233). More recently, in an essay on Bruce Andrews' work, Peter Quartermain draws the line from poetic production to the domestic and foreign politics of the U.S.:
Like most of the first generation Language Writers [. . . ] Andrews was a teenager and then at college during the Viet Nam War, a circumstance which points to the political element in his writing. The ten turbulent years before the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 saw an increasing manipulation of language by politicians and by the military: the doublespeak in which the "pacification" of an area meant the slaughter of all its inhabitants. (Aerial 9 162)
Posing the domestic effects of the international politics, Quartermain gives a broad context for the politicization of Andrews' work, but how such determinants are materialized into cultural practice is not explicated. Presumably, the misuse of language by the state leads Andrews and others to question the representational role of language and to apply critique to the ideological function of language. The "Vietnam War" then stands as a backdrop for the production of language writing.
In the collaboratively written Leningrad (Michael Davidson, Hejinian, Silliman and Watten) the authors specify that, with a crisis in the national culture, a parallel crisis of public meaning arose as the galvanizing aspect of this community and that "[t]he impact of the Vietnam war on one generation of American intellectuals cannot, and should not be discounted" (10). In response to an interview question from Andrew Ross, Watten responds more directly on the influence of the Vietnam war, expanding on what Quartermain raised:
The central problem of reference in this writing may be seen in a context as directly related to the administration of information about the War on the part of the government and media that elicited, from intellectuals-in-the-making, a radical denial of consent for the conduct of the War [. . . .] There was a denial of "national" culture in all aspects [. . . ]. The formation of radical tendencies in the arts discussed above occurred directly as a refusal of the larger context, but at the same time it was a response to the crisis of meaning at that level. (197-98)
Watten links the "national crisis of Vietnam" to an investigation of the language of subject formation and social identities, a distrust of historical representation, and the crisis of meaning.
This framing of the aesthetics of the language writers as a determined response to an internal crisis caused by American foreign policy (and the function of the U.S. within the world system) foregrounds the role of the nation in cultural production ï¿½ even if the response is entirely negative, as Watten's quotation marks around nation indicate. Do these gestures of resistance to a national culture by the language writers then get read as a more critical form of cultural nationalism to counter the retrograde nationalism of imperialism? Is there a sense of national address, such as Olson's Miltonic project of "the initiation / of another kind of nation" or can the poetics of the language writers be read outside of the frame of national narration as a non-narrative site of resistance within the teleology of a nation? What Watten and others are identifying here is the relationship between nation and culture, but also how the interpellation of a national subject occurs through the cultural and how this then extends beyond the boundaries of the nation and into the world system. Laura Kipnis is precise in this set of articulations:
So the aesthetic discourse becomes first a strategic political instrument and a site on which foreign policy ï¿½ and the discourse of the nation and the constitution of "nationals" ï¿½ becomes assimilated to subjectivity: foreign policy becomes a lived relation of perception and knowledge that is exercised in the practice of the aesthetic judgment. (210)
Kipnis, in an Althusserian manner, covers the constitution of a national subject through the interiorization of an ideological aesthetic and national discourses. But beyond a powerful interpellation or determination, Kipnis locates this internalized "foreign policy" as part of culture ï¿½ recall Williams' definition of culture as a "way of life" ï¿½ by making it a lived relation. Foreign policies are lived through relations by national subjects in the cultural. This adept definition locates the cultural as a prime site of antisystemic rearticulation. It is this formulation, this set of articulations which allows the language writers to be simultaneously national (as a critique) and extra-national and able to extend their critique to the world system and globalization.
How then, at the level of method and address, do the language writers engage with globalization? A work like P. Inman's Uneven Development (1982) is unrecoupable into such a thematic, even if the term uneven development describes the form globalization takes. However, the fragmentation and the resistance to normative modes of meaning production make Uneven Development unrecoupable, into the culture-ideology of globalization. It is illustrative, or demonstrative, of the resistance to commodification, keeping in mind that, as Silliman wrote, "Poems both are and are not commodities" (1987 20). It is odd to excerpt an example from a book of this type as it is the effect of reading over a duration of time that the materiality of language becomes clear, when the words are not "misrecognized" as signifiers to be completed into signs. However, here is an indication:
cleek oddity ______________________________________________________________________ broken blackener. spod clouds.
Now imagine it on full page, sideways. Now imagine twenty-four pages of it. I use Uneven Development to show three things: its semantic uselessness (its resistance to meaning) even though its title frames it within my description of globalization; its rejection of representation; its sheer materiality. Let me bring back the discursive frames of language writing to at least give it contextual meaning. The materiality of the words (words?) returns (rescues) them from their fate as blank commodities awaiting consumption; thus there is an implicit rejection of capitalist modes of meaning production. This work also resists recuperation into a "national" culture at any level, so in the framework of the breakdown of meaning due to the "national" crisis of the War, Uneven Development is a withdrawal from the cultural at a national level. Extended to Kipnis' theory, this is also a rejection of the aesthetic logics that U.S. foreign policy is built on. As well, through the materiality of the language, the reader becomes aware of the ideology of consumption at the level of language; thus a defamiliarization to make ideology visible is possible.
Similar to McCaffery's speculations concerning the resistance to capitalist modes of production at the level of language, the type of reading I give of this text has been critiqued, or even updated. Perloff in her "After Language Poetry," describes McCaffery's essay which outlines his imagining of a productive reader generated by a fragmentary text: "As the Utopian manifesto of a twenty-eight year old poet, ï¿½The Death of the Subject' [McCaffery North 13-29] inevitably overstated its case." (not paginated). McCaffery, in the reprint of the original text in his collected essays, North of Intention, periodizes the aesthetics. In a note he writes: "A decade later I can safely speak of this concern as an historical phase with attention having shifted [. . . ] to a larger aspect especially to the critical status of the sentence as the minimal unit of social utterance, and hence, the foundation of discourse" (North 13). McCaffery sees a historical move within language writing from the morphological relations and sub-lexical units to the more social unit of the sentence. However, within the cultural logic of globalization, I want to foreground the speculative aspect of such sub-lexical texts, texts that turn from commodity and toward materiality. I want to emphasize this not as a text that can produce a particular type of reader ï¿½ for subjects and the process of meaning production are too erratic for that ï¿½ but a text that foregrounds the noncommodity status of a level of language at a moment when culture is expected to materialize and is judged on its performance as a commodity. Culture that matters, in Judith Butler's sense, is a commodity. Our critical methodologies do not provide a great deal of support for this speculative emphasis; it is impossible to track a sociological reception of such a text; reading it as a gesture within a positions war within a culture field is reductive; nor do I want to argue for it on a purely aesthetic level. However it is illustrative of the micro-aesthetic and macro-ideological conjuncture that a cultural poetics should emphasize. It is antisystemic in that it insists on a function for the cultural which is not outside of the logics of globalization, but which globalization rejects.