Mark Wallace, "New Solutions to New Problems Might Be New Problems"

from Jacket #23 (August 2003)

New Solutions to New Problems Might be New Problems
The Individual as Social Process: Writer and Self in the Work of Nick Piombino

Of all the poets associated with language writing, Nick Piombino focuses most directly on the problem of the individual, both as writer and as source of experience. While the theoretical focus of most language writers can be said to be socialist and materialist, Piombino’s use of psychoanalytic theory and his experience as a practicing psychoanalyst marks him as different in focus while at the same time his work is closely related to language writing.

In their early essays, many language writers critiqued the idea of the writer as a self-contained individual voice who exists as an autonomous, transcendent self outside social interaction: “Subjecthood is not an essence preceding social existence... It is a convergence of practices, a point of production,” P. Inman writes in “One to One,” making a case for the self as a creation of social ideologies (Inman 223). In criticism about language writers the commentary usually stops there, frequently associating all of language poetry with the promotion of Barthes’ ‘death of the author.’ And in some early language poetics the problem did stop there, instead concentrating on how language helps create the notion of individual selves — selves that now should be eliminated from writing. “Author dies, writing begins,” Bruce Andrews insists in “Code Words,” as if the problem is solved, “Subject is deconstructed, lost... deconstituted as writing ranges over the surface” (Andrews 54).

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