Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Issue 1 PDF Thing

I think there are three different basic kinds of irritation being generated by the Issue 1 PDF thing at for godot, on the evidence of the comment boxes at Harriet, Ron's blog, the for godot site itself, and elsewhere.

1. The simplest kind: outrage that a) one's name has been used without one's permission, and b) that the work attributed to one is not really one's own. Many, though not all, of the people who respond in this way appear oblivious to the fact that the project was clearly intended, at least in part, to provoke just such a response. These are the people who will try to start a lawsuit, or at least bluster about it for a long time. They are, in essence, the butt of the joke.

2. Generic reactionary resistance to the stuntishness of the hoax, and its typification of a certain "conceptualist," or more broadly "avant-garde" trickster mentality perceived as frivolous and contemptible. This response is not limited, moreover, to "mainstream" types; many so-called "experimental" poets are every bit as reactive in this regard, if not more so. One aspect of this response can be seen in a charitable light: as a protest of the way in which the experiment seems meant to produce the first kind of irritation, making the people who object on that level look foolish. The implied objection here is that it's just not very nice. In its most bullying form, this response plays a larger social-conscience card: "How can these idiots waste so much time on such a stupid, pointless joke when the nation/globe is in a dire state of crisis?" This criticism could be leveled just as intelligibly at poetry in general, of course, or for that matter at things like going to movies, eating ice cream, having sex, vacuuming the carpet, or playing with one's cat.

3. The anxiety induced by the pressure of worrying over whether one's response to the project will be perceived as naive, kneejerk, banal, or otherwise uncool. This blogpost could be taken as a case in point: notice how I have avoided, and will continue to avoid throughout the remainder of the post, any direct statement concerning my own individual feelings about the project. Notice too how I am attempting the preemptive social maneuver of formulating an inclusive social theory of the hoax that anticipates and defuses as many other responses as I can imagine. Undoubtedly, someone else will come along and trump me in some way, under much the same pressure. I take this to be a characteristic pathology of artistic/intellectual community on the web: the constant panic over whether one is presenting oneself in the most sophisticated and even-handed light, and whether someone else has outdone one in this regard.


Alex said...


I feel like a dummy now.

Doodle said...

Why is it "reactionary" to think it's silly??

Bryan Coffelt said...

I LOL'd.

Which category does that put me in?

Matt said...

Haha! Our agreeance in these matters is total. I like this part especially:

"I take this to be a characteristic pathology of artistic/intellectual community on the web: the constant panic over whether one is presenting oneself in the most sophisticated and even-handed light, and whether someone else has outdone one in this regard."

I have a lot less anxiety now that I've overcome that kind of panic—I'm now comfortable being an uneducated rube who says things in the heat of the moment without thinking and is often wrong. In other words, I'm tired of being sexy.

Chris said...

Yeah, what about those of us who aren't irritated, but pleased? Can we be irritated at Ron's post instead, which at least on the surface seems to be anti-free speech, anti-art, and pro-capitalism?

DUSIE said...

I think it is obviously trying to make people rethink voice, publishing, etc The young guys (I only imagine they are young from all the comments) remind me of the tomfoolery of Borat. In some ways this seems like a rip on one of those 'america's best poetry' anths that one could order from the back of mags 20 yrs ago... What I want to know is how did they go about collecting the data, are they computer geek types or aspiring poets (or both as having the interest to pull this sort of thing off takes work) Okay, there I said it, now what does Prof M. think?

Chris said...

What data was there to collect, besides a list of names (start with Ron's blogroll, work outwards)? The poems seem to be all written by the same Markov-chain-style process (it doesn't seem like many have bothered to read more than their own poem, but there are heavy formal similarities, although cleverly varied). But I don't think that the names have any connections to the poems besides the arbitrary association.

Providence said...

There are two poems in the anthology attributed to my name (one with the middle initial, and one without). The fact that attribution is so explicitly nominal is vaguely interesting. More interesting, to me at least, is that I like the poems attributed to me, and thus I'm reflexively interested in the "real" source of the text(s)! On that point, I think it's perhaps worth testing an analogy between the process of inclusion and attribution here and that I learned of by reading Sandra Simond's blog a few days back: that an editor of Poetry Magazine met with MFA students in that capacity to comment on their works, a fact which strikes me, still, as far more distasteful than anything the "Issue 1" editors have done.

sandrasimonds said...

I'm not ready to scroll through 5,000 million zillion pages to find the poem I "wrote" so, I hope that it's a good one!

ryan said...

I'm pretty sure I went through all three of these on my Facebook. Thank god I didn't do it in public. I'd be so embarrassed right now :P

Rauan Klassnik said...

I'm most interested in your #3:

i just don't see why anyone should be concerned about "presenting oneself in the most sophisticated and even-handed light."

When I'm reading poetry or criticism (blogs, etc,..) I'm interested in personality and opinions. Spice. Flavor.

Intelligence is part of it. Technique too.

But what I'm reading doesn't have to be fair, or "even", or polite even---
it sure as hell can be rough.

So, if one's writing sober why should one worry about putting his opinion out there? (especially on this issue!!)

I recently read some of my poems in Cedar Falls, Iowa and after hearing the poems in the short open mic that preceded me I was vaguely tempted not to read some of my more sacrilegious ones. But, screw that.

Anyways, I tip my hat to whoever put all the work into the Issue enterprise. At the same time it's kind of retarded.

But, it's funny to see people who are so outraged (and here I see what you mean in your #2,...):

legal action-- i mean, C'mon !!!

(so, again, back to yr #2-- it's just kind of sad-- sad to be born so serious. sad to be without a shred of common sense in the humor department.... like someone born color-blind: you can live a good life, but in a real way you are missing out)

and, lastly, i laughed at yr last lines:
"Oh my god, I'm so embarassed."

And I felt for ya.

But, you should be embarrassed! Because you should have no problem telling us what you really feel. Your post is like lettuce.

phaneronoemikon said...

Didn't I write a poem that was published in AL called OMG I'm so Embrarassed. Anyway, obviously
your post is the best one on this phenomenon hands down, and I have linked to it as should all sentient poets. It's funny, smart, sweet, self-deprecatory, etc etc. Perfect
as usual. More perfect. even.
The one thing I am mad about:


or can't I spell?
I tried silem
K. Silem.


nad Mohammad etc..

I find the fact that your name isn't in it to be one of the most offensive things!

Chris said...

p. 2638. You had to search for "K.Silem".

Pearl said...

splog mag. it had to happen eventually.

to 3...would you be more embarrassed if you were vaccuming ice cream off your cat for peace while it was having sex?

mark wallace said...

"I" am not in it either. How deep is this ditch and how did I get here?

Chris said...

Mark, you're on page 703.

Matt said...

Sandra, you're on 2599:

An opposing earth

What kind of mere essence
is this?
That ivory boy has no retrospection for
Opposing smile beside you
on an earth
A trifle is slow, their
hand little with disgrace
They are too mighty; the trivial heat
recollects their wealth

Annandale Dream Gazette said...

To me what they did is part unreative happening, part social science experiment. It doesn't strike me as flarfy really at all (though obviously you would be more likely qualified to speak to its flarfiness than I).

Just the cover alone is like looking at earth from outerspace -- you can't see any of the specifics, it all blurs. Or it's like a taped voice being played faster & faster so that eventually you just hear insect-like buzzing. It does present a strong statement on our crowded little electronic pond here...or this chicken house where there are rows & rows of hens and if you toss something in there, they all start rustling their feathers & clucking. ....nah, the chicken simile is a little too cynical. The only thing that I wish they'd not done was include the dead poets. It's hard to buzz or cluck from beyond the grave.
bzzzzzzz bzzzz bzzzz

Ryan said...

my poems (one under "ryan daley" and one under "ryan clifford daley") are sucky awful dog breath.

I think the whole thing is lame.

Ryan said...

That makes me #3.

Nick Piombino said...

Mark: By the way the poem ascribed to you-appears on page 703:

Like a depth
What did your nerve
. do before it invited him?
Would you be stealthy?
You can be
. a shuffling, like a face
Nature will be sorry
Like a halo
Like a depth
Mark Wallace

konrad said...

4. The silent anxiety of the discluded author? Ron's first remarks seem to suggest they are numerous? Leading to the discussion of how the contributor list was "google-dredged" since that is the content of the "issue number one."

"Any perceived infringement is embedded in the proof of its dire lack of originality." John Oswald "Plunderstanding Ecophonomics" in Arcana: musicians on music, p. 11. A remark on his recording "Plexure" 20 minutes of over 1000 pop song fragments illegally sampled.

Ernesto said...

The thing is I suppose "a dire lack of originality" could actually be a good thing.

sandrasimonds said...

I HEART my poem.

Thanks Matt and thanks to the editors who were hard at work constructing my verse.

Boyd Nielson said...

I like what you say. I should preface what I’m about to write by wondering, though, about the widespread rage, esp from some poets who should know better. Is it to make the “pirating” seem to play for higher stakes? The anthology is really pretty consistent with a well-known set of theoretical assumptions and commitments. There is certainly nothing about it that is out of left field.

I agree with most of this post, but I can’t agree with two things. First, the point about the “larger social-conscience card” is off target and, ultimately, in itself bullying. Social justice (or its absence) is not a card. It is the table on which the whole deck is shuffled. Accepting even the possibility that it can be reduced to a “conscience card” is like naming the Patriot Act as the Patriot Act. Second, and this is really a part of the first point, there is playing with one’s cat and playing with one’s cat. Or, let me be more concise. Going to movies, eating ice cream, having sex, vacuuming the carpet, and playing with one's cat are all things that should be enjoyed and perhaps encouraged. Choosing Sarah Palin as VP, not so much: Woo-hoo! Big crowds! And then?

mark wallace said...

Thanks, Chris and Nick. I'm relieved to know that a random spambot of thousands of poets actually does pick up my name. If that ain't the big time, I don't know what is. Success is so sweet!

Boyd Nielson said...

Maybe I should have noted above also that though I see the wisdom of diffusing in advance “[g]eneric reactionary resistance to the stuntishness of the hoax, and its typification of a certain ‘conceptualist,’ or more broadly ‘avant-garde’ trickster mentality perceived as frivolous and contemptible” I don’t see why this “hoax” should really typify either in the first place. Certainly, one could make an argument that it does. But one’s reaction to it could also be logically independent of and not at all predicated on one’s reaction to other (frivolous or otherwise) forms of trickster mentality. Neither necessarily follows.

Boyd Nielson said...

Of course I meant "defusing." Oh my god, notice that I'm blushing like Clarissa.

Jack Morgan said...

Just, thank you so much for not taking advantage of the cheap trick of copying and pasting the whole list of poets. I am really getting sick of that.

Kayincat said...

I guess initially I was more of a #3. Now I'm just having fun with it:

1) Learning how many people who visited my page since the post are on Google Alerts.

2) Helping Bryan Coffelt look up links to the names for his project

3) As a result, I get to visit pages that I wouldn't have otherwise

And, I actually kind of like the poem that's attributed to me even though it makes no sense (it's on pages 523-524), but then it's a kinda going back to # 3: should I say I hate it but secretly like?

Oh, well.

Boyd Nielson said...

A gesture toward a more interesting response than the meditative or chuckling or blushing bollocks we all of us have managed above can be found here

And with Silliman’s cute confirmation today in the comments section of his blog that this “hoax” indeed constitutes a criminal act, let me repeat (what I said elsewhere) that surely such huffy pronouncements, feigned or not, say much more about American fantasies of judicial justice than they do about the potential for such so-called vandalism either to effect or confront anything that resembles an actual crime.

Jordan said...

Our name is American Poetry Legion, for we are many.

Jordan said...

I was just saying that there are at least 3,000 poets publishing more-or-less good enough work -- or rather, pick up a recent book of poetry at random and you're likely to find something somewhere in there worth reading. It's usually some work, but still.

Does anybody else read anthologies from beginning to end?

Lemon Hound said...

Jordan! Where are you! The blog is lonely without you.

michael said...

being included (& my heteronym too) in Issue 1 makes me feel like i've finally made it in the poetry scene. w00t!

--now all i have to do is conquer chess.


bluenightpress said...

What I find so funny is the fact that we all seem to think of these as "our" poems, or that they're somehow "attributed" to us because our names happen to appear on the same page as a bunch of flarf'd words. There's zero indication in the (sorely missed) .pdf of Issue 1 that any of us are even considered "contributors". Are we all that overwhelmed by the rhetoric of "magazine" that when we see our names on a page we instantly assume proprietorship of that page?

So much for the freedom of the signifier and the play of the marginal...

Emily Lloyd said...

Agree with bluenightpress and blogged it here:

My first published poem of 2008! Damn right, it's goin' on the cv and the grant applications.

Jack Morgan said...

My only annoyance is that it is taking too much of my time.

I thought it was cool because I was included and because it stood out.
For a second I thought I was just flattered, but I think I would have laughed at the law-suit people just as much had I not been "involved." I also love that everyone has to "use" quotes when talking about "Issue 1."

It's entertaining.

John Gallaher said...

I'm continually shocked that people care about this. It's impossible to find any name here unless you search for it. Eh. I keep forgetting all about it, and then stumble across it again.

michaelf said...

i think its cool.. i dont feel got ..i wonder about its effect on a certain style of limp abstraction.. it makes a joke of editing.. how i spend thousands of hours for a slim anthology..its existence is therapy

Daniel Nester said...

"Notice too how I am attempting the preemptive social maneuver of formulating an inclusive social theory of the hoax that anticipates and defuses as many other responses as I can imagine."

Replace hoax with X, with X=any other topic in Poetryland, and I think it applies for many of us when we blogwrite out here on the poetry internets. Well put.

kyle said...

having already read all the comments both here and there, i was searching through the wall of names on the "cover" for mine when i started laughing because i was willingly and knowingly engaging in being the butt of the joke.

this is now the only publication credit i will mention in future poetry submissions.