I love this post at Poetix, which presents one of the more compelling recent versions of the claim that poetry operates via a negative principle of built-in inefficiency / irrelevance.
Interesting to compare this to Dale Smith's recent remarks on "Slow Poetry" at Possum Ego (here, to begin with, and in several subsequent posts). I'm all for loafing, so I'm sympathetic to a lot of what Dale says. I like his idea of a move towards a translocal (my term, not his) mode of poetic address based on commonality rather than a totalizing global one based on (largely ineffective) resistance. I wonder, however, whether there aren't some missing moments of exposition in his account, and whether slowness as such is really the most useful framework.
By turning away from innovations that increase the speed of production, poets could rediscover valuable skills from older methods. Pace in this slow poetry sense becomes a greater concern. Value could be placed on the withholding of vital details and the slow release of vivid particulars within rhetorical situations driven by a desire to disclose new knowledge.
Dale starts to lose me at "turning away from innovations that increase the speed of production." Which innovations, exactly? In what way has the process of poetic production been affected by them? Is composition, on the whole, really "faster" now than at any other point in history? I don't think Dale means anything as trivial as that, for instance, we should write using pens instead of keyboards. So what does he mean, exactly?
Thesis (not quite a counterthesis): all poetry is slow poetry, practically by definition. Shklovsky's criterion of attenuation (and tortuousness too, really) as a key element of defamiliarization seems relevant here, and entirely in keeping with Dale's description of "the withholding of vital details and the slow release of vivid particulars." It's almost a commonplace that poetry by its nature is something read (and written) against the grain of more efficient, "practical," streamlined applications of language. Even some of the more souped-up recent examples of conceptual and pop-culture-tinged poetry are, at their base, ways of slowing down "fast," dominant-system-supporting language use and poking at it with a stick, no?
As for turning to technologies like letterpress and xerox, well ... isn't that already happening, and hasn't it been for a long time? Dale acknowledges as much, but then says that "these relatively inexpensive printing costs have produced a glut in term of over-production of work with an under-production of relative value." But doesn't the point then have to do not so much with speed as with economy and/or degree of circulation? And what is the point, exactly? That many poets write substandard work? Well, certainly. But when has this not been the case? And are there really detrimental consequences, in the larger scheme of things, to there being too much bad poetry?
I guess I'm not entirely seeing how SloPo defines anything fundamentally different from the actual current state of material poetic culture at the level of production and distribution. Even at the "corporate," "mainstream," "establishment" level, the circulation of poetry remains largely an archaic affair, rooted in pretty typesetting and anachronistic humanist rhetoric.