Showing posts with label New York School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York School. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

(Photo: Alan Bernheimer)

Thursday, February 13, 2003

“Job share archivists” Susan M. Schultz & Pam Brown have augmented the Department of Dislocated Memory with a new installment of their collaboration ”Amnesiac recoveries.” It’s a project that raises all kinds of interesting questions.

I have never seen a history of poetic collaboration. A search in Google for all sites that use both “poetry” & “collaboration” yields 199,000 sites. A search for the exact phrase “history of poetic collaboration” yields none – or will until the Google crawler finds today’s blog. My sense – and it may be quite incomplete – is that poetic collaboration arises truly with the surrealists.* It enters the U.S. largely through the writing of the one group most heavily influenced by surrealism: the New York School. You will not find any collaborations in the Allen anthology. Indeed, the only ones you can actually spot** even in In the American Tree are in the section of critical statements, first a collaborative manifesto for the French journal Change & later the famous list of experiments that Bernadette Mayer & several groups of students at her Poetry Project workshops created. But if you look to Tom Clark’s anthology All Stars (Grossman Publishers/ Goliard – Santa Fe, 1972), a combination of NY School & beat writers that reflected Clark’s view from the Bolinas mesa, Ron Padgett’s selection consists of 17 collaborations – with Dick Gallup, Ted Berrigan, Tessie Mitchell, Michael Brownstein, Anne Waldman, Pat Padgett, Bill Berkson, Larry Fagin, Jimmy Schuyler & of course Tom Clark.

The absence of collaboration among Beats & Projectivists***, and for the most part from the San Francisco Renaissance+, is worth noting. It suggests, I think, a stance toward the author & literal authority that is substantially different from that of other communities of writing. Allen Ginsberg may well have been the Kral Majales or King of the May in 1965 Prague, but he also appears to have been a meticulous & careful warden of his own literary production. At the same time, Ginsberg took no credit for the editing job that literally transformed the pages on William Burroughs’ floor into Naked Lunch – a stance that parallels Ezra Pound’s similar editing of The Waste Land.

But the New York School had no such hang-ups with sharing credit. As with Surrealism, boundaries existed only to be transgressed, albeit with more of a smile & wink than the Europeans generally brought to the process. Boundaries are precisely what are at stake in “Amnesiac recoveries.” Here, for example, is “Shut-Lip”:
The investment banker sewed his lips shut. He'd arrived in a leaky ship, having paid dues to the dark haired man who answered to no name he could pronounce. Pronunciation is over-rated, he muttered to himself as he eased into the hold, arms bound in fetal position. His middle passage was punctuated (never leave metaphors of language behind, he added, pensively) by hunger pangs. No-name man told him nothing of the end, though his origin had been clear (he remembered, at least, his hard-earned MBA). He wanted to escape big words, like globalization, like fraud. Crusoe's accountant had nothing on his, member of the magic club in high school, artist of the extraordinary bottomless line.
In the end, it was hard to collect his story, through teeth clenched like broken-jawed Ali's. One had to assume consonants, or were they vowels, emerging as from some Afghan cave into the abortive syntax of a bombing run. What we heard had something to do with sea, and ground, and sickness. The south sea island that welcomed him (sic) has only years left before the flood (lawsuits are pending). On its coral, the banker sits, quiet as monk, though not so tranquil. He knows his days are numbered, so he counts them in his throat. If he were a poet, one might say he'd found his voice.
memoricide -
           bombing the library.
collective memory,
          the treasures of manuscript,
    the texts                 history, natural sciences,
      philosophy, poetry, mathematics
anthologies, dictionaries, treatises on everything,
            his story,
the bombing filmed
in the peace zone,
   Coca- Cola
       phones the film collector
seeking footage
                   of "real UFOs"
There is a political tone here that one hardly ever sees even with Gen XXXVII of the NY School, and it’s stronger even in several of the other pieces, which generally circle around the topics of oil, corporate corruption & U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, always impacted by questions of memory – & of why memory fails to beget a seemingly appropriate political response. Of course, neither Brown nor Schultz can by any remote stretch of the imagination be characterized as part of the old St. Marks scene – Schultz is as far removed from there as one can be physically & still reside within the United States, Hawai’i, while Brown is a well-known Australian poet. 
Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of this as a collaboration is how it challenges “the political.” Typically & traditionally, one key to the political has been what might be thought of as “angle of positionality,” which usually gets reduced to an idea of stance. This is visible at the surface in identarian texts of all manner: the poet writes from his or her historical/ethnic/social/gendered position & articulation of that position is often what the resulting text is about.  But Schultz & Brown come from different nations with different roles in the oil = global domination scenario. Schultz may be marginalized in her role as poet within the hegemon, but within it she most certainly & visibly is. Brown is at least doubly marginalized, living in a country that the U.S. has been known to treat as a branch office. There are of course further complications: Schultz is a haole, an Anglo outsider functioning in a role as authority by virtue of the teaching profession. The relationship of Hawai’i to the mainland is exceptionally problematic & a separatist movement continues to percolate there. Australia’s history vis-à-vis an imperial center & its aboriginal population is no less convoluted. Both of these writers are perpetually aware of these conditions.
Part of what makes “Amnesiac recoveries” so interesting is that it’s not possible to tell who in the collaboration is writing at any given moment, something that is so discernible, say, in a work like Sight that its authors, Lyn Hejinian & Leslie Scalapino, two fabulous poets who grew up in the same town in the same country within a couple of years of one another & whose fathers both taught at the same school, actually initial their individual passages.
But if we cannot tell who is speaking, or at least writing, in ”Amnesiac recoveries,” how does the reader then position these texts with regards to the issues of globalization that are raised? This is what strikes me as so remarkable:  Schultz & Brown have arrived at what I can only call a transnational voice, a position that steps quite clearly outside of the role of states precisely as it address the problem of the rogue hegemon. If there is a position of world citizen from which one might be able to write, this is it.
Brown & Schultz do this with wit, sharpness & élan. The entire project – I have no idea if the two sections that are up are all of the collaboration or only just the first portion of it – is gutsy & fun while being serious in the face of some extraordinary challenges.++ In connecting the dots north-south across the equator between their two homes, these poets are erasing lines that we often forget are “always already” there. & it’s fascinating to see what now shows through.

* Some writers characterize the relationship between William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge, especially during the Lyrical Ballads period, as a collaboration. An argument can certainly be made for that, even though they didn’t publish poems as composed by both.

** I believe that the phrase that is used as the epigraph to the West section of the book, “Instead of ant wort I saw brat guts,” was itself composed during a collaboration.

*** Thus when Daphne Marlatt works collaboratively, as in the book Double Negative with Betsy Warland, it’s because she’s moved away from the Projectivism of her youth toward a political feminism.

+ The notable exception was The Carola Letters co-authored by Joanne Kyger & George Stanley. See Kevin Killian’s article on the row it caused in the SF scene. Killian raises the possibility that camp, the arch subgenre of gay culture, was a major thorn in the side of Robert Duncan. Camp as a discourse erases boundaries not unlike the ones that Schultz & Brown are tackling.

++ The web site captures this beautifully with a photograph of the two poets in Hawai’i staring at the apotheosis of the problem, a stretch limo in a setting in which no limousine should ever appear.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Insurance Books will publish Knowledge Follows, a chapbook-length poem by David Perry, later this year. If the excerpt that appears in the first issue of Monkey Puzzle is any evidence, it already promises to be one of the best books of the new year.

At first glance, Knowledge Follows is a series of linked pieces, mostly (tho not entirely) in verse form. I wasn’t actually planning to read it, I was just thumbing through the issue, trying to get a sense of who & what were there, particularly given the unhelpful table of contents that lists contributors only by their first names, when I came across this:

Rome fell, Paris fell – that we can see
for ourselves: shoe trees, the original
rack, truncheons, pestles, magazines

everywhere reflection spreads
the rumor we were there – in the nave,
shooting up the cemetery, cracking
on the plain, running
from the unpredicted ellipse . . .

as if the universe were the ultimate
word-picture machine
with direct feeds to the head

Perry instantly lets the reader know that he’s in total control of his medium. The directness of address & level of detail invokes the genre of a top-notch page turner, even if the details are not what one might anticipate. Or, more accurately, precisely because the details were not what one might anticipate we are driven that much deeper into the text itself. By the third line, I was completely hooked.

The ensuing section extends this initial thread, but that’s the exception here, not the rule. Rather, Knowledge Follows ranges in several directions, while pulling out themes, particularly around communication, that become familiar because elements have appeared previously:

. . . as if children were understood
though neither heard nor seen. Eureka!

Who’s to argue with not only
communication but understanding?

Our lifelong self-experiment with perspective
found itself up against the wall.

As the section above, quoted in its entirety, suggests, Perry offers a wry, dry wit, but is ultimately more serious in his approach than we are used to from poets associated with the NY School’s Gen XXXIX.

Between these rather well-architected fragments & the question of the excerpt from the reader’s perspective, it’s impossible to know just how much of the total book is included in Monkey Puzzle. I can’t tell from the six pages here if this might be half of the eventual chapbook or if it, in fact, might simply be the first installment in something far larger – certainly Perry’s control in these sections indicates that he’s capable of it.

While there have been projects associated with the NY School that have entered into that intermediary book-length poem space, from Koch’s When the Sun Tries to Go On to Ashbery’s Three Poems & Flow Chart – a deeply underappreciated work – to longer projects from Bernadette Mayer, Anne Waldman, Paul Violi & even David Lehman, there never has been a longpoem from this aesthetic tendency – not in the sense of taking at least a decade to compose the poem. This taste of Perry’s work makes me hungry for someone to explore that possibility.

One clue here may the degree of finish in Perry’s sections or fragments. They are quite different than what, say, Rachel Blau DuPlessis has characterized as the “debris” that she incorporates into her own Drafts. The result is that each section of Knowledge Follows feels complete almost in the way of a lyric poem. One wonders how a truly long poem of infinitely digestible bits could be accomplished – there’s never really been anything quite like that. Zukofsky’s “A,” in which many of the individual sections approach that intermediate booklength poem range – is probably the best precedent for a work with such clearly defined segments, but there is a radical difference between even a short section like “A”-9 & a work that contains two or three such sections on every page. Imagine, if you will, Creeley’s Pieces stretched out to 1,000 pages. Would it work or would ennui eventually swallow up the project, regardless of how well written it was?

Another thing that is interesting here is that I come away with a strong sense of David Perry’s skill as a writer, but not one particularly of who he is as a person. He could 25 or he could be 55, at least based on these pages. All I really know about him is that he’s around the New York scene & Larry Fagin swears he could not be the same David Perry who studied poetry with Robert Kelly at Bard in the 1960s. Adventures in Poetry published an earlier volume, Range Finder. Based on this excerpt, I know already I have to read more.

Monday, December 23, 2002

How did Shiny get to be 16 years old already? Michael Friedman’s journal of poetry, now a biennial, has pushed quiet excellence just about as far it can go & managed to do a marvelous job in making each issue an event. Number 12 arrived just in time for Christmas & it’s hard not to simply throw out an infinite number of Christmas present/stuffed stocking tropes to indicate my pleasure at its arrival and all the great work inside.

When I lived in Berkeley & San Francisco, I would never save a magazine unless some of my own work was included in the issue – it wasn’t a question of desire, but of room. There is a point, somewhere around 2,000 books, when the amount of space to physically store a library becomes limited. I blew past 2,000 books years, maybe decades ago. A secondary result was that, since I knew in advance that I would not save the publication, I virtually never subscribed or bought copies of mags. The downside of this, of course, is that there is a lot of work, especially by newer writers who have not yet had a “big book” that you can’t learn about in any other fashion.

But we had long since maxed out of our book space in Berkeley, even with built-in bookshelves and a fairly impressive bricks & boards system in several rooms. When I was first contemplating the job offer that brought me to Pennsylvania, Krishna tells me that she could tell I was seriously thinking about because I went & got some cartons just to pick up the books that were lying around in stacks on the floor in case I wanted to invite a realtor over to talk about selling the house. It came to 13 cartons.

Now that I live in Pennsylvania in a house close to three times the size of our home in Berkeley, I still have stacks of books lying around everywhere – even as we’ve added nine book cases. So I’m still pretty rigorous about not getting or holding onto too many journals – my periodical collection has only five shelves allotted to it. Yet I’ve noticed that there are some magazine that are just too important to ever throw away – Chain is an obvious one, as is Combo – and I realize now that I’ve been saving Shiny for the past ten years. My only regret is that I didn’t get those early editions way back when.

I think of Shiny as being one of the last truly articulate manifestations of the New York School, the sort of generalization that is both true and not true at the same time. The journal started, I believe, in New York & didn’t acquire a Denver address until double issue 9/10 in 1999. Some classic New York School figures show up in every issue: Ted Berrigan, John Ashbery, Harry Mathews, Kenneth Koch, Alice Notely, Ron Padgett, Tom Clark, Brad Gooch, Joe Brainard, Tim Dlugos, David Shapiro, Larry Fagin, Paul Violi, Clark Coolidge, Michael Brownstein, Ed Friedman, Charles North, Steve Malmude, Tony Towle, Eileen Myles, Susie Timmons, David Trinidad, Elaine Equi, Jerome Sala, Kim Rosenfield, Lewis Warsh, Ted Greenwald, Michael Gizzi, Bernadette Mayer, Anne Waldman, Bill Berkson, John Godfrey, David Lehman & Clark Coolidge have all appeared in these pages. Yet langpo has never been neglected – in the current issue alone, I can find not only Greenwald & Coolidge, but also Bruce Andrews, Rae Armantrout, Alan Bernheimer, Stephen Rodefer & Kit Robinson. There are also a number of younger writers who resist any sort of grouping: Alan Gilbert, Lisa Jarnot, Kevin Davies & Dierde Kovac, Andrew Levy & Mark Wallace, just to pick a few. Plus a few older folks likewise hard to pin down: Steve Ratcliffe, Bill Corbett, Tom Raworth, Terence Winch, Anselm Hollo.

What makes Shiny a New York School magazine is Michael Friedman’s sense of active editorship – and here the contrast with Chain is fairly pronounced. In addition to the high design value and the inclusion, in every issue, of recent visual art*, Shiny uses positioning – Ted Greenwald leads off the current issue, Ted Berrigan led off 9/10 with a 25-page selection from his journals  -- interviews (Brad Gooch, Harry Mathews) and design to focus its aesthetic concerns. & while Shiny is quite ecumenical with regards to current poetries, it has generally shied away from non-NYS friendly poetries from the generation of the New Americans, including only John Wieners (twice), David Meltzer & some Allen Ginsberg photographs over the years. The current issue is dedicated to Kenneth Koch.

Running between 160 and 250 pages, each issue of Shiny has many, many treasures. It’s rare & wonderful to see four new Rae Armantrout poems in a single journal. And it’s simply wonderful to come across the long (14 pages) ”A Burning Interior” by David Shapiro, Kenneth Koch’s serial poem,  “The Man” –


Coldly the knife is Montana

– two pieces by Terence Winch (a D.C. poet whose work I haven’t seen in far too long), two pieces by Jacques Roubaud (my personal favorite of the Oulipo writers), 16 sections from Mark Wallace’s ”Belief is Impossible,” three poems by William Corbett, two by Ashbery, excerpts from a collaboration  by Dierdre Kovac & Kevin Davies (“The cultural badger is hungry”), two poems in tercets by Kit Robinson & an excerpt from Bruce Andrews’ “Dang Me,” part of his turn to a new mellower tone (“Treat me as well as your pets”).

There are pieces to which I want to direct closer attention. The first is Alan Bernheimer’s “My Blue Hawaii,” The first stanza establishes the poem’s sense of style & the kind of world it projects:

Every queen loves a lobster
with the nerve to kill time
since it’s easy to be sure in a bistro
where more than dogs are turned away

This is the kind of pop art landscape that John Ashbery pioneered & the second generation New York School virtually patented – Ron Padgett, Joe Ceravolo, Bill Berkson are all superb at this. Bernheimer uses the same devices not so much to focus on style as such – this is why he’s not “really” a New York School poet – but on the language beneath:

Your mother had the particle
but key words are too brittle
to warp the probity of a lifetime
for a perp walk through a wafer fab

While “wafer fab,” a facility that manufactures silicon chips, turns up more times in a Google search of the web than Anna Warner’s hymn, “Jesus Loves Me,” none of the 48 occurrences on a page that also includes “poem,” “poetry” or “poems” actually appears in a poem.** What we have here is not merely a moment of marvelous prosody – let those last two lines roll around on your tongue for awhile – but also an instance of the culture coming into the language of a poem for the very first time.

Lisa Jarnot’s two pastorals also jump off the page & into the ear. Here is “Hound Pastoral”:

Of the hay in the barn
and the hound in the field

of the bay in the sound, of the
sound of the hound in the field

of the back of the field of the
bay and the front of the field

of the back of the hound and the
front of the hound and the sound
of the hound when he bays at
the sound in the field

with the baying of hounds in the
baying of arms in the field

of the hound on the page in the
sound of the hound in the field

of the hay that unrests near
the hound in the barn in the field

of the bend in the barn in the
sound of the hound in the bay
by the barn in the field.

Jarnot may have the best ear of any poet under 40 – Lee Ann Brown is really the only other poet who comes close – so it’s no accident that she is willing to take risks like this – the actual climax of this poem comes with the word “bend” in the first line of the last stanza, the introduction of a new sound that completely shapes everything around it.

At the age of 21, Jarnot published a book entitled Phonetic Introductions. The collage that serves as the frontispiece to her 1996 Burning Deck volume, Some Other Kind of Mission, is built around a Perec-like phrase: “there are no ‘e’s’ in the other language.” Ring of Fire, published by the late, lamented Zoland Books in 2001, is filled with works that no other poet in the world could have written. I’d wondered at first why Jarnot, who seems so out of place generationally, could have been selected to fill out the Curriculum of the Soul series of critical pamphlets, but her volume, One’s Own Language may in fact be the strongest one in that entire series. It’s one of those “knock you on your butt” kinds of books – reading it reminded me of what reading Tristes Tropique, Proprioception & The Mayan Letters felt like when I was a youngster reading them for the first time. It also made realize just how very long it has been since I have had a reading experience like that.

I noted before that Shiny has generally steered clear of the likes of projectivism – Robert Creeley seems never to have appeared in its issues. Yet here is Jarnot, Duncan’s biographer & perhaps the closest thing in her age cohort to an extension of that aesthetic. Her appearance in Shiny 12 is not her first, either.

It has been Shiny’s particular contribution to poetry to show to us what has evolved out of the original (or at least second generational) New York School – it’s really the only publication now doing that. That it can also show us how this vision of poetry ties into everything from langpo to this multigenerational gumbo of mavericks is a test of what a great journal can (& maybe even should) be.

* Duncan Hannah has been Shiny’s art editor since the move to Colorado, and this has shifted the art included to figurative works mostly in neo-Pop post-post-impressionist modes, somewhat away from the more conceptual work of its earlier issues. Every artist in the last two issues has been represented by a New York gallery.

** I’m not certain how encouraged I am to discover that the editor of Chip Scale Review has penned editorials in verse, however.

Monday, October 28, 2002

It was summer 1985, the week after the Vancouver poetry conference of that year, and I was still in Canada, having a conversation with Vancouver poet & film maker Colin Browne. Specifically, I interrogating Browne about what the implications might be considering how few U.S. poets appeared ever to have read the work of Louis Dudek, a writer I had heard characterized as the “Pound” of Canadian poetry, though I think I may have told Colin I’d found Dudek more to be the Edwin Denby or F.T. Prince, if one were to yoke together those sorts of analogies.* Who else was out there that I didn’t yet know about? Which poets did the Canadians worry about? “Our monsters are your monsters,” Browne replied.

But not really, as it turns out. For the past month Louis Cabri and I have been trading emails over the absence, as a Canadian influence, of the New York School. I had mentioned Louis’ superb The Mood Embosser in a piece I’d written on the blog about Ted Berrigan’s poem “Bean Spasms,” given how deeply simpatico the two poets strike me as being. I had simply presumed that Berrigan was a Yankee influence that had been internalized by Cabri, since he and I had never discussed him during Louis’ time here in Philadelphia.** But, as it turned out, Louis hadn’t read as much of Berrigan as I’d imagined. In a note that Cabri sent to a list of Calgary poets for a reading group he’s summoning together there, he spells out his thinking in response at greater length:

But, here are my motivations, guiding at least this email, in case you're curious. I could see reading some poetry from the 3+ generations of the so-called "New York School": John Ashbery to Ted Berrigan to Bernadette Mayer to maybe Lee Ann Brown or others. My interest in this partly stems from an email I sent Ron Silliman, who has recently posted some thoughts on his blog about Berrigan. I wanted to give Ron my sense of how Berrigan and the New York School generally has been received in Canada: hardly at all. Why? That’s the question that would interest me most of all. A New York School influence in Canadian poetry can be detected in the work of some poets associated with the founding of Coach House Press (e.g. Coleman), and CH did publish Lewis Warsh (Part of My History, 1972), co-founder of Angel Hair Books, a mainstay press of the second generation NYS. But, the various spokespersons and their ideological filters that brought continental theory to the Canadian poetry scenes (and to the academy) in the 80s left a poetics such as Berrigan's off the redrawn map. The story on Berrigan the way it got told me, for instance, was that he was "off limits." One might even say that leaving Berrigan off "the map" was key to opening new lines of influence for the poetic word, particularly the influence of "Language Writing" as understood in Canada via Steve McCaffery's famous mid 80s essay in North of Intention. Clint Burnham rehabilitated Berrigan's name as a general contemporary influence, in a short essay Rob Manery and I published in hole 5, in the mid 90s.

I’ve put that one phrase in boldface because I find it so intriguing. What it proposes, at least implicitly, is that what New American Poetry might have looked like without the active influence of the New York School is something not too dramatically unlike what Canadian poetry became.

It does seem, at least at the distance from which I get to observe things***, that the two primary sources of influence were, first, the migration north to Vancouver in the mid-1960s of people around Jack Spicer and his circle – Robin Blaser, George Stanley, Stan Persky – and then somewhat later the presence of Olson & Creeley in Buffalo, in close enough proximity to Toronto (and with some Canadians actually trekking to the eastern shores of Lake Erie). With the Spicer Circle to the west and Projectivism to the east, it does seem harder to see where exactly either the New York School or, for that matter, the Beats, might fit in.

In an email, Cabri expands on this take:

The absence of NYS is to me precisely how "Canada" differs from the "US," and by an unconscious social logic of mutual exclusion based on divergent histories.

Some for instances. American abstract expressionism hit French Quebec before the rest of Canada (around 1948 with Emile Borduas and the highly politicized "Refus global" manifesto for secular independence for art and culture in Quebec) and 1st gen NYS was not to my knowledge ever translated then (ever in Quebec? I doubt it) -- and, besides, the poetry would not necessarily have served the self-interests of political autonomy that the Refus global artists translated out of US abstract expressionism. Quebec poets nurtured surrealism, what with its anti-religious furor and suggestive connection to the idea of a repressed unconscious, long after Breton visited the eastern coast.

NYS is culturally sophisticated, urbane, American, and, with the 2nd gen., decadent, in a way that, say, Olson/projective verse never was, appealing as it did to those who had such as Davey, Wah et al rural working class backgrounds and a sense of the "autochthonous." NYS was literally urban in a way that Canadian city living could not understand in the 50s/even in the 60s and 70s (look at Ray Souster's squeaky clean city -- poetry of the individual, of pitiless "loneliness" and observation). And Berrigan et al flourished in the 70s when Canadian cultural nationalism and a befuddlingly stupor-inducing "regionalism" was at its heralded peak.

2nd gen NYS seemed to be of interest to some of the poets first associated with Coach House -- Dewdney, Coleman. But these poets were sidelined by both the kind of rustic theory that Nichol invoked in a straight-forward but entertaining way (pataphysical invention, concrete) and the highly abstract kind that McCaffery distilled from continental philosophy and art (in Steve's version, as you know, a conceptual artlike approach to language never gives language back to the five senses).

When I asked Louis yesterday if I could quote from his emails, he expanded even further:

Hi Ron,

Sure. Thanks for asking. A "second-order commodification" role that I perceive formally innovative Canadian poetics playing in its contribution to US/Canadian poetic tendencies -- from projective verse (the Vancouver 63 conference) to Language poetry (the 85 conference) -- connects to my sense of NYS's absence in Canada.

By "second-order commodification" (a term modified from Barthes's 1957 theory of the ideology of myth as a second-order semiotic system) I mean the following scenario. I'm quoting from an essay on hole magazine at

"Second-order commodification" is a condition of reception of the cultural "new" (a relative matter) where the emergence (of the new, from "here") and the arrival (of the new, from "elsewhere") intersect in a contested site-as-dialogue. That condition existed for us [i.e. as hole magazine eds.] in employing the term "language-centred." Second-order commodification refers to a myth-inducing condition in which there is simultaneously (a) the emergence ("here") and arrival (from "there") of primary writing only later to be identified as "new" (for instance, as "language-centred") with (b) the emergence/arrival of a metalanguage (in this case, conveyed by the term "language-centred") identifying the work as new. Second-order commodification results from a cultural context in which primary language without a name, and its metalanguage that brings a name, temporally co-exist. One reception-effect of second-order commodification, particularly in Canada, is to have poetics stances appear clearly staked, already amplified, distinctly audible, a critical lexicon already worked out and available to draw from in identifying aesthetic tendencies in possibly opposing, even reductive, ways.

Further in the essay, I consider three kinds of responses to this predicament of Canadian culture: resolute intransigence (Deanna Ferguson), resolute participation (Lisa Robertson), the resolute itself -- squared (Alan Davies). (Alan Davies is never considered in this inter-border context, but, originally from Canada, some of his first work is published in the anthology Now We Are Six [Coach House, 1976].)

Perhaps, then, the absence of NYS in Canada is due to an absence of a NYS metalanguage?

The role of absence is a traditional motif of Canadian literary cultural history. In its more interesting variants, "absence" is paradoxically ontologized and centred in an author's body of work -- for instance, Robert Kroetsch’s. But absence has never been discussed as a term in relation to poetic lineage, the back-and-forth of influence across the southern border (let alone in relation to KSW's and TRG's 'erasing-something [i.e. NYS]-that-is-in-fact-absent').

But the absence of NYS in Canadian poetry is to me precisely how "Canada" differs from the "US," and by an unconscious social logic of mutual exclusion based on divergent histories -- a difference that in these terms ("NYS") has never previously been articulated, to my knowledge, in all the efforts -- from the 70s on -- to identify "the difference" between "Canada" and "US" poetic cultures.


Cabri here entertains the possibility that the lack of a New York School metalanguage may have contributed to its inability to move north – it may even explain why the sudden disruption in the mid-1980s that the 2nd & 3rd generation New York School poets themselves experienced, wasn’t more immediately & easily overcome directly by those poets themselves. “Personism,” Frank O’Hara’s one serious statement of his poetics, does more to point up the absence of a metalanguage than it ever did to constitute one.+

* Part of the “problem” of Dudek to us Yanks, when one tries to place him alongside the history of U.S. poetry is that he comes along right during that fallow period of the Second World War – that is, after the Objectivists but really before the New Americans. Robert Duncan, the one major poet to have emerged from that same period south of the border during that same period, was cagey enough to avoid by aligning himself with the mostly younger poets of the NAP. Several of the other poets of interest who emerged during the war decade – May Sarton, Muriel Rukeyser – have remained more or less permanently in limbo, never really adopted by either of the major traditions of U.S. verse. To make any sort of simple analogy (Dudek = X) thus really isn’t possible, because X itself doesn’t exist.
Or, another approach, one might argue that Dudek = the Duncan of The Years as Catches, and most especially “African Elegies,” but without the later impact of the New American Poetry. What poet would Duncan have become without the push-pull influences of Olson, Creeley, Ginsberg, et al? It might have been something much closer to the Dudek captured in Infinite Worlds (Montréal: Véhicule Press, 1988), edited not coincidentally by one man who knew both quite well, Robin Blaser. Dudek was born one year ahead of Duncan, closer in age than either Olson or Creeley.

** Cabri’s contribution to the poetics of Philadelphia is worth a blog or two in itself. He proved to be the single most influential spark to the various elements working more or less independently around the region, at least in the seven years I’ve lived here. The scene as he left it had many times the power (precisely of interactivity) as the scene as he originally found it. It left us all asking ourselves, “Who was that masked man?”

*** More distantly than it might have been. In 1962, my grandfather actively explored moving to Calgary as he helped to set up a paper recycling plant there. My grandmother’s mental illness finally functioned as the veto to that impulse.

+ Kerouac & Ginsberg gave the Beats a rough, but very usable metalanguage. In addition to his various notes on spontaneous prose, Kerouac’s ideas about writing creep into his prose on several occasions. Ginsberg’s many public statements served a similar purpose. Of the primary New American formations, only the New York School actively avoided discussions of their own practice.