Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Even Slower Poetry Manifesto
Even Slower Poetry makes effective super-empowerment even more effective, the way hematite makes psychics MORE psychic, and has now gained control of poetry pricing on global poetry markets, esp. at Self-Appointed-Jeremiahs.com. Just as warfare in contemporary global cultures doesn't transform your experience of shopping at the local Food Co-Op (which you should be given a medal for, BTW), the Even Slower Poetry Manifesto was written under the inspiration of Poetry read by wonderful men like Paul Newman, like Moses, people like that, very highly respected people. Even Slower Poetry looks for ways to dismiss interesting thoughts, discourage reflection about habitual patterns of action ("cold medicine" causes fixation and paranoia), and contract capacities in audiences to help show how other poets should be aping everything Tom Clark has ever written or done.
These aspirations are informed in many ways by other "slow" movements such as the Slow Laundry movement. Slow Laundry is an idea: a way of cleaning your clothes using hot water and soap, and a way of falling asleep while you're doing it. It is a global, grassroots movement with hundreds of members around the world who link the pleasure of clean laundry with a commitment to rarely leaving the house. Even Slower Poetry, likewise, shares with such movements a commitment to understanding the means of promotion and distribution of plastic things that you're not sure where they came from or what they're for, but it's probably better not to throw them away. DAMN--I'm taking these bad boys down to Kinko's.
Although some may claim that Even Slower Poetry and other Slow Mind Movements are yuppie fads designed by people with adequate wealth to fund such endeavors, those of us practicing a slow poetics are not always complete Yuppies 24/7. Just sometimes. We're actually kind of dull, angry hippies with gigantic chips on our shoulders and some extra discretionary income that we're not sure what to do with without feeling white guilt. Joy comes about through fulfilling the plan of Poetry and having the power of the Poem moving in your life and knowing when you die that you are going to finally see your name in the Don Allen Anthology.
We need to ask more complicated questions and form practices with greater potential for ourselves—if no one else—to prepare for confrontations with people on the internet who think in different ways than we do. An Even Slower Poetry movement would bring focus to immediately accessible regions using technology such as scratching pictures of cats into dirt.
But instead of thinking of poetry as an instrument of transformation, we might start by using it as a means of pretending we are living in a different historical period than we actually are living in. Instead of forming arguments of resistance and beautiful scathing satires, we might consider pretending we are Charles Olson or watching all three Lord of the Rings again in a row.
Pace in this Even Slower Poetry sense becomes a greater concern. Value could be placed on the withholding of pertinent details and the slow release of numbing, self-righteous opinions. By turning away from innovations that increase the intensity of feeling in life and one's awareness of reality, poets could rediscover valuable skills from older methods. The solution must be for poets to formulate impressive-sounding ways of turning away from such confrontations with reality and write poem after poem about sitting around in parks with their children like they should be given some kind of award for doing this.
The Even Slower Poetry Manifesto says, “Judge poems as though they were kinds of people--if you think you wouldn't like the kind of person who wrote the poem, judge it." If you have authority over someone and you do not exercise that authority to bring them into line, this is one of the big abuses in the poetry world today. As the Conceptual movement is growing and being reestablished within poetry, we also need to reestablish the contexts where such meditations are more frequently discouraged. Even Slower Poetry perhaps could unconvincingly attempt to salvage ancient technes of group psychology in order to get readers to pay more attention to us. While poets in the U.S. for a long time have turned to letterpress, mimeo, and other production sources, these relatively inexpensive printing costs have produced a glut in term of over-production of work which is not mine with an under-production of relative values that resemble mine. Even Slower Poetry embraces greater consideration to covering over or misrepresenting the writing that isn't mine, in that if you have loose poets running around abandoning the models I was taught to believe in at New College, that is just not poetic, and the poets need to step into this one and bring this into correction.
If the compositional process and the poem’s value to audiences exists beyond my supportive coteries, that's an issue. Even Slower Poetry takes seriously the current impact of global financial crises and oil supply shortages and seeks to produce texts that address our predicament as individuals reliant upon diverse systems, even if your work is largely about sitting around your house, looking at stuff, and being amazed that you have offspring. Even Slower Poetry promotes this kind of irrelevance, but not other kinds. Even Slower Poetry provides a method of valorizing slower movements of mind because clearly we aren’t going to pick up the pace in the thinking or prose style department any time soon.
But what can poetry possibly do to strengthen networks of people involved in the ongoing complexity of getting someone to give a shit about any of this? Well, for one, Even Slower Poetry values communication between author and reader, even when that communication is just the author putting the reader to sleep and then implying he's taken a big risk in doing so. Its strong preference for the personal, the hand-made, the accessible, and anything that I don't have to get off the couch for or think too much about invites broad participation in the idea that potential exchanges in art can be even more excruciating than they were before, esp. when bad sin seems completely thrilling on every level.
What do you do? You let the Even Slower Poetry take care of it, and you let the Even Slower Poetry bless you, and you get on with your life. By your good conduct, you will make ashamed those bringing exciting new things into the world. That is what the Even Slower Poetry Manifesto says and that is the way to do it. If you try to fight it and try to swat down every animated idea or breath of fresh air in the world, I promise you, the world will bring forth a thousand more thrilling and fascinating things. You kill five vibrant ideas and you will have five hundred more.
Even Slower Poetry values tradition, too, as a way of understanding the past and our familial histories. By tradition I don't mean that we must abide by canonical texts established by literary authority, even though I do mean that. Tradition is nothing more than a contested history of the uses of books and objects that have produced active conversations and responses for particular people who question their identification with the world around them. Can you even believe anyone could write a sentence that torpid? JESUS. How did you even get through it?
As we discover our affinities for particular books or types of people, we must remain open to challenge by guys who have practically the same opinions as us but maybe diverge on some minor point. While Even Slower Poetry values openness and the freedom of exchange, it also promotes a sense of intolerance to unproductive practices which diverge too much from our tastes, conversations outside of our living room, between an author and a reader, between a trained dolphin and the use of firearms by plants. Hopefully the dolphins don’t have to use deadly force, but, nevertheless, it’s nice to let the poetry criminals know that the dolphins are armed. The amazing thing is that they're all in one place, I think in Mississippi, that mandated that all the Slow Poets had to carry firearms against dolphins. And you know something? The poetry crime rate dropped dramatically, because the poets couldn’t find the words, and ourselves exist as words and images when carrying firearms—the imagination of how we may live in the present and honor the past and basically just have a series of hissy fits in comment fields.
There's a lot of work to do, however, in terms of realizing the situations we face--particularly as they are not the same ones confronted by previous generations. New strategies are needed to move us along. We just don’t want to have anything to do with these strategies.
While Conceptual Writing and Flarf provide contemporary approaches to poetry, it seems that people who are practicing Flarfists are the kinds of people I don't like. There is no way in a "committed Flarfist collaboration" that you are going to conceive a poem that sounds like it was written in 1972 in a watered-down attempt to imitate George Economou. If two Flarfists conceive a poem without the help of Google, I will admit in this essay that I am wrong. But they haven't done it so far--it usually involves like 20 of them. It's just unnatural. Flarf can change organs from male to female and vice versa. It’s pretty traumatic. And on top of that, Flarfists are shot full of the various hormones, either estrogen or testosterone, to make it happen. Is it a sin? I can’t say it’s a sin, because I don’t have any Poetry authority one way or the other.
Now, you say "Doesn't Flarf want me to be happy?" Well, this may be happiness for you now, but what is going to happen is when you die, you are going to poetry hell (see 1 Ed Dorn 6:9-10). I don't want to overstate it, but that is what the Even Slower Poetry Manifesto says: You shall not enter the kingdom of poetry: you shall not go to spend an eternity with loud overweight middle-aged dudes talking loudly about recycling their own feces and Joel Oppenheimer.
Poetry loves you, but It says that you must produce rhetorical constructions driven by a desire to get someone to care about incredibly boring dreck. Such recycling of shibboleths, disclosures of petty bigotry, and expansions of the capacity for living in the suburbs empower potential agents for other forms of mixing the disputatively boring with the irritating. Poetry, if concentrated on plausible conjectures of reality (oh YEAH), can help transform other conjectural something-or-others against what is an abomination and is wrong. It is just that simple.
Poetry is not there to make us happy. Poetry is there to show us what is right. What It says to do will make us happy. If we follow Its principles about finance, about sex, about marriage, about love, about commitment, about all the other good things that It says, if we keep Its commandments, we will be happy. It will bring us happiness. But happiness is never going to come if we actually set out to do something that is interesting or subversive or life-affirming, because It will not give you the witness of the Poetry Spirit in your heart that you are doing something right.
Poetry is made to be enjoyed, but within the confines of a new Deep Image between consenting hippies, partially for the propagation of Even Slower Poetry and the admonition against anything not connected to my narrow band of interests. Poetry can prepare readers for the disruptive shocks of enervated tedium--"black mood" events--that increase as global open-source poetry becomes an even more threateningly free thing.
We are over-stocked with too much of everything, little of it related in any way to the laborious work we've fussed over for like a decade. There are never enough poets, but we're saturated with poems. We have access to anything, and yet we are empty. I'm sure that this emptiness is caused by said access and other things in the outside world, and not by something in our personality. These problems of creative surplus are obviated by the Even Slower Poetry Manifesto. Nobody can ever do anything--that's how slow it is. It is very radical.
Nevertheless, the Even Slower Poetry movement should not stop writing and publishing, of course, but diversify our interests by applying poetic energy to other pursuits, too. This means that many Slow Poets will go unrecognized by anyone, ever, and for good reason--but as the local takes on greater importance in our lives we will be gratified by at least forcing our children and neighbors to listen to our latest efforts.
I've got that satellite radio thing, and I've got almost six channels of poetry. I've got outlaw poetry, roadhouse poetry, traditional poetry, bluegrass poetry, gospel poetry. No, there should not be Only One Kind of Poetry.