Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is Disjunctiveness in Poetry Necessarily an Act of Political Resistance?

"Is Disjunctiveness in Poetry Necessarily an Act of Political Resistance?" (a short shot by Philip Metres)

One of the difficulties of contemporary poetry is its varying degrees of difficulty--and how to talk about the origins, intentions, and effects of difficulty.

There has been, of course, the avant-garde argument that "the poetics of disruption" is itself an act of poetic resistance, propounded not only by poets but scholars themselves (including me). But the question lingers, whether the politics of form, so eloquently articulated by language poetry, still succeeds to be radical, in light of the "scary ideograms" performed/written by the Bush administration. In other words, the disjunctiveness and suggestiveness of the ideogram can be seen, from a certain point of view, as an extension of the kind of elliptical insinuations performed by our political officials. The current administration can thus forward unsubstantiated assertion without being held accountable for their language, because we have narrated the gap between disparate utterances.

In a sense, this argument rhymes with Fredric Jameson's (oft-pilloried) reading of Bob Perelman's "China" in *Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism*. Jameson argues that this sort of writing is, in fact, not a resistance to late capitalism but a manifestation of it, a reflection of it. Jameson can only argue this because he neglects the supplement, the theoretical apparatus in which this poem (and the whole movement of language writing) exists. But the question remains whether we can ever necessarily control how the poem is read!

In a sense, we need critics who perform cognitive mapping (a la Jameson), and who articulate how a disjunctive poetry might participate in cognitive mapping, for making explicit political connections. That is why, in the end, I believe that scholars and critics invested in resistance need to interrogate the supposed border between avant-garde poetry and other poetries, and begin to admit and highlight the kind of writing (and, indeed, that kind of symbolic actions and material practices that move us beyond the page) that might enable making those sorts of connections

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