Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Indurable Speech”: Kent Johnson on Ron Silliman’s Prevaricant Cant

Some Clouds

On That Alphabet Thing: Being A Few Further Poetical A-Musings

“Eliot Weinberger is an ultra-leftist with a touch of Pat Buchanan.”
—Ron Silliman

Come to think of it, I can imagine someone objecting to what I wrote here Monday, 7/12 [“A Rather Ugly Juncture in The Alphabet”], in something like the following way:
Those are all quoted materials from conversations I heard . . . Likewise interesting that you automatically assign every statement in the work directly to me in such an instrumentalist fashion . . . My intent in quoting those originally was just to note the incredible cattiness of the poetry world . . . Nothing you ascribe to those lines appears anywhere but in your head.
To which I could imagine the following, if longwinded riposte (I quote from Boswell):
This is poppycock, Sir, as my stern Mme Thrale so enjoys putting it. And how very convenient and most disingenuous, this, your plea of defense by recourse to quotation’s indifference: That you, forsooth, a legend of cattiness in our lyrical world, would blithely presume to proffer this unmarked “quotation” in such dark measure—you who evoke violent death upon another by name, I do mean, and for whose person you have yourself most infamously displayed such open and virulent displease in times past—and then yet proceed so earnestly of protest, when you be upbraided on the topick: that such black view in your Book, you remonstrate, is but animus of nameless others, that of course you neither mean nor feel any such objectionable thing as the tribunal of good and obvious sense would impugn, nor that, mercy be, your paratactik choice to enter such nominal suggestion has any thing [sic] to do with the ubiquitous records of your “affections” . . . Why this, Sir, is most disingenuous indeed. [The grossly overweight and profusely sweating Johnson pauses here to savagely cough and draw labored breath, then continues, hoarsely] “O, No, no,” protesteth you, our Most Innocent Poet: “My hands are clean and beyond reproach, for these are not my words . . .”

Truly, Sir, do you not see that your poetick appears, by all lights, to be the poetick politick of “I don’t mean anything I say, except when I mean it”?

You should be Ashamed, Sir! Now, may I trouble you to pass the relish and the brandy, both, for their taste does please me greatly.
Be such fancy as it may, I’d say it is also worth asking:

To what extent has a flippant and self-serving attitude towards the materials one “collects” come to inflect, let us say infect, a good chunk of current avant aesthetic, vacating it of any discernible sense of ethic or moral claim?

Think Flarf, for example.

(And please, if I may anticipate, spare me any dumb, irrelevant complaint about Yasusada.)

Actually, I should come clean: The passage in bold above is constituted of direct quotes from another person, from messages he’s sent me today, 7/13. Is it wrong for me to share them? Perhaps. But I’ve chosen to do so in the casual poaching spirit that seems to rule the day. It’s a free-for-all, catty comrades; it is the new dispensation.

Ah, that old-fashioned Pound, whom I’d recalled, without whose troubled poetics the notion of the “New Sentence” would never have been conceived (and how he loved to quote others!) Here he is, on the visualization of the ideogram for Truth:

“Man standing by his word.”

Now that’s a quote the dissembling Mr. Silliman should enter into the second edition of The Alphabet.

—Kent Johnson

Durable Speech (xìn, 信): man (rén, 人) standing by word (yán, 言)