Articles

From Oceania with love

Parnell Dempster, 'Down to Drink,' c1949, Pastel on paper, 586mm x 764mm, The Curtin University Art Collection, The Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Artwork.

Although we can debate the historicization of literary modernism, particularly by attending to its formal rather than authorial delineations, it is less contestable to suggest that it had a prominent position in the cultural life of the 1930s. This was, of course, the decade of Pound’s Cantos, Beckett’s Murphy, Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, and Stein in America.Perhaps this canonized imperative declined somewhat in subsequent decades, but arguably it is not until the 1960s that we see modernism’s replacement in high culture; hence, Charles Olson’s letter to Bob Creeley about his generation being “postmodern.” The 1960s, of course, sees the flowering of a whole raft of poetries, not least among them ethnopoetics, with Jerome Rothenberg’s seminal Technicians of the Sacred being published in 1969. But what of the prehistory of the field of ethnopoetics?

Messing with the beholder

Claudia Rankine's 'Citizen' and embedded Conceptualism

Reproduction of Adrian Piper's 'Calling Cards' (undated). http://www.spencerart.
Reproduction of Adrian Piper's 'Calling Cards' (undated), which Piper distributed when racially insensitive statements were made in her presence. Calling cards also addressed sexual harassment and other issues.

Dear Divya,

You conceived this forum in the midst of attacks on Conceptualism for being a pain machine wielded by and for white people. I wondered whether your goal was salvific: could Conceptualism’s reputation and potential be rescued, could its soil be aerated and fertilized, could histories, lineages, practices, and ideas not normally associated with the current branding of Conceptualism become part of our sense of it.

José Kozer's stylistics

Religion, the surreal, and the neobaroque

Photo of José Kozer (left) by Carlos Blackburn.

Across a long, extraordinarily prolific career, Cuban poet José Kozer (born in Havana, 1940) is remarkable for the consistency of his style. His work has been viewed as part of the Latin American neobaroque movement — a loose grouping of poets from the 1970s onwards who preferred a dense, multidimensional approach rather than the then-common plainspoken colloquial or conversational style — yet Kozer’s poetry is very much sui generis.

Drafts and fragments

Rachel Blau DuPlessis's (counter-) Poundian project

Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads at Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia, February 5, 20
Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads at Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia, February 5, 2008.

It is among these three epigraphs on Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s ongoing (since 1986) serial poem Drafts, what she calls a “series of interdependent, related, canto-length poems,”[2] that this essay positions itself. “Drafts and Fragments,” of course, both is and is not Poundian, invoking — to state the obvious — the title of Pound’s late book of Cantos, Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX–CXVII. But my title also marks DuPlessis’s Drafts and its relation both to Pound and to fragments.

“To say this project [Drafts] was involved with and against Pound from the start is almost tautological”

“I wanted to make an alternate Cantos, a counter-Cantos.

Drafts explicitly positions itself as not-Cantos”

— Rachel Blau DuPlessis[1]

The plural of us

Uses and abuses of an ambiguous pronoun

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 brought with it a surge in the use of the first person plural. While most would agree that this tragic, history-changing event must be memorialized, I know I’m not the only one made uncomfortable by the ready invocation of this public We. It seems at once abstract and presumptuous, and it plays to a dangerous human desire: to become part of a crowd, and to define oneself against Them. Does this “we” have any real antecedent for an unbounded, diverse populace? Does it claim to speak for me? Whatever the founders may have meant by “we, the people,” it rings hollow in the arena of contemporary politics and popular journalism. With Tonto, I want to ask: What do you mean we, kemosabe?

The first person plural is an indexical pronoun, dependent on context for meaning, but the boundaries are often unclear even to the speaker. And there’s something not only ambiguous but also incoherent in the pronoun.