Saturday, August 23, 2008

Who Are Your Friends & What Does That Say About You?

It is not about what you do, it is about who you do it with, as they say.

I’ve been reading (devouring, might be a better way of putting it) Michael Palmer’s new book of essays and talks, Active Boundaries, for the past couple weeks, and one thing keeps rising to the surface, often unsaid, but obvious: groups of people are important.

I know this sounds as silly as it sounds obvious, but there is a tendency for us both to want to be islands as much as to want to characterize people by tendencies. I’m interested in this.

Are friends the same as groups? Do I have a group, then? Do you have a group? Is it as simple as just having friends? Would listing the names of one’s friends be the same as naming a group?

Michael Palmer, in his preface, gives us this:

Whatever may be good here is in great measure due to the exchange over the years with friends and co-conspirators such as Norma Cole, Robert Kaufman, Michael Davidson, Ann Lauterbach, Nathaniel Mackey, Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop, Fanny Howe, Susan Howe and Bei Dao, to cite only a very small number.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Could one just come up with a group name by listing the friends and co-conspirators of Michael Palmer, and then create a movement? And then an anthology? (I would like the anthology with the above poets as contributors very much, for instance.) Could you, likewise, take the constellation of your closest friends and co-conspirators and put a name on it? I know you want to. I know you don’t want to. And why would you not want to? And why would you want to?

Let’s say you’ve just written a book of essays. You want to acknowledge those who you’ve talked with at length. They’re probably your friends. They’re probably people you have something in common with. You list them out. Is it now an advertisement for a group?

Anyway, this is not Palmer’s point, I know, and perhaps I’m not saying much here other than that we arrive in context, and that context says something about us, and what that context says is interesting. It’s a preface.


At 8/23/2008 10:26 AM, Blogger Paul Gibbons said...

"Are friends the same as groups? Do I have a group, then? Do you have a group? . . . Would listing the names of one’s friends be the same as naming a group?"

Your questions made me think of a few sentences from another blog (I think it was originally stated with irony and perhaps some self-effacement from Lorcaloca blog):

"I updated my blogroll. Did your blog make it? You should be so lucky."

There's a list, a selection, a declaration of affiliation. Is it a group in Palmer's sense? I think it is an advertisement for a group, and one can, in this day and age, follow links among blogrolls to get a sense of groupings, however long distance, however deep or surface.

Interesting. How does/would/could this group(ing) influence/initiate/continue a "movement"? How much solidarity is needed? etc. . .

At 8/24/2008 5:35 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


True. Makes me wonder what, say, the New York School would have turned out like if they'd all had blogs.

At 8/31/2008 4:25 AM, Blogger Lara said...

Just came across your blog. Thanks for making me think.

(and thanks for your work on The Laurel Review, greatly enjoy it)

At 9/03/2008 7:14 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hey Lara,

Thanks for that! It's always great to hear from someone who's read The Laurel Review. There are so many journals out there... !


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