Saturday, December 03, 2011

William Logan on Third (or Fourth) Generation American Surrealism

Off to a sleepover at William Logan's house!

Well, it’s not very much he says about Contemporary American Surrealism, really, but it was enough to get me all up and stomping around the room this morning. It comes in one of his New Criterion reviews. Logan’s not always wrong about poetry, but he often is. (This time I think he’s being too hard on Michael Dickman and too easy on Henri Cole and about right on Billy Collins, but that’s beside the point of what bothered me this morning.)


Here is a bit from Logan on what he sees going on in Surrealism these days. He’s using Dickman as the example, but he could be talking about any number of people, from Zapruder to Schomburg to Christle to Doxsee, or anyone even lightly (me and you?) inspired by Surrealism.

“Dickman represents the third, possibly the fourth, generation of American Surrealism, a style (or perhaps a sect) that has always seemed rather mushheaded in a hardboiled, go-ahead country addicted to facts, facts, facts. With its whiff of anti-religious sentiment, Surrealism may look revolutionary in France or eastern Europe—what better threat to Christians than visions that aren’t Christian? In America, it’s more like middle-class self-indulgence.

Dickman has little to add to the droopy watches of Surrealists gone before, but, now that the movement has grown ever more attenuated, he sees its possibility as a manner without a lick of necessity. If he says, “I was just whispering// into my glass// pillow” . . . you don’t think, “Oh, the young Apollinaire!” You think, “Cinderella!”

With his rabbity enjambment and insistent double-spacing, the poet tries a little too hard to be outrageous.”

First of all, Logan says this tendency “has always seemed rather mushheaded in a hardboiled, go-ahead country addicted to facts, facts, facts.” I agree with that assessment of its reception. It’s that mushheadedness that stands against the American tendency to “facts”, that throws that addiction back in the face of American culture, and does it with a healthy dose of absurdity in the context of the American fact fantasy complex. This alone, this “mushheadedness,” seems to me reason enough to investigate its power to reveal. It’s one way, there are others, of course, but it’s also a way.

Logan takes this notion in two equally simplistic directions. The first, the “revolutionary” look of Surrealism in “France or eastern Europe” because its “visions” aren’t “Christian.” I missed that memo that said Surrealism necessarily had this whiff of an anti- or other than Christian vision. I wonder what Max Jacob would have to say about that. Maybe it does have such a whiff, but if so, it could be said that American Realism also has that whiff in its anti-transcendent assumptions. Surrealism can, of course, be a contrary vision to the vision of Christianity, just as it can be a contrary vision to Capitalism or Socialism or the Moonies. But it isn’t necessarily so. Where one person sees “oppositions” another could say “complexity” or “complications of,” so that Surrealism could easily be defended as a complication of Christianity rather than an anti-Christian posture.

This leads me to my next point. Logan doesn’t allow this opposition into America: “In America, it’s more like middle-class self-indulgence,” he writes. OK, but isn’t that’s just another version of saying that people who write in this manner are rather mushheaded? This is the kind of accusation that’s been leveled at everyone from Eliot and Stevens to the language poets and everyone who does anything outside of the “facts, facts, facts” addiction that Logan first pointed to. Leisure-class fiddling. La la. If I had a dime, that sort of thing. Some poets, of any aesthetic flavor, could be described as writing from a position of self-indulgence. But this is “middle-class self-indulgence.” There could also, then, I suppose, be such a things as “high-class self-indulgence” or “low-class self-indulgence,” but no one ever seems to mention them. Why toss the class issue into it? Is self-indulgence at the middle-class level something especially ripe for Surrealism, or for critique, or for being tagged as a class issue at all? Ah, the poor maligned, shrinking middle class. It was such a good idea, to have one, and now look what we’ve done with it!

But say that Contemporary American Surrealism does have such an air. It would seem, then, if Surrealism can be seen as oppositional, as parable, satire, psychological enactment, then it would seem to be that Surrealism would be a useful and valid a way to talk about the psychological issues of the middle class. Or is Surrealism only to enact the self interest of the more (I suppose?) officially validated issues of the upper and lower classes? This is a tangent from what Logan was speaking about, but it’s in such moments, such transitory moments in reviews and essays and blurbs on books where biases and positions are reinforced, and there is also, often, a kind of sneering directed at the middle class while at the same time a kind of valorization of some abstract idea of a “real” American. The middle class is a cultural straw dog, draped with kitsch and narcissism.

“All my problems are meaningless. That doesn’t make them go away,” Neil Young sang, back in the 1970s, which was his version of whispering into his glass pillow. Which reminds me, Logan would have had a better case, but less of a Surreal one, by sticking with Dickman’s bit on Dickinson, for when he goes to the “Whispering into glass pillows,” it, for me at least, rather unmade his point. “I was just whispering// into my glass// pillow” is a good send up of what it means to disclose, to be a teller, of fact, fact, fact. I was thinking about that when reading it, not about Apollinaire or Cinderella. (I also apparently missed the memo that said Cinderella was now unsuitable landscape. I live and I learn.)

Just my two cents.

227 Comments:

At 12/03/2011 2:19 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

I didn't think of Apollinaire or Cinderella either; I thought of the Beatles: "Look into a glass onion."

In vacant or in pensive mood I must arise and don my beekeeper’s suit and go out into a night wallpapered with drawings by Vesalius, into the rain of lobsters with peacock feather eyes that crosshatches the mercury streetlamps. In my brain, women play whist beside a loom spinning a lavender keening; in my brain, crossword puzzle patches swivel motionlessly; in my brain, a crab apple tree defeats the Salvation Army. And the scintillation of the handcuffs of rain as they float toward Wolfgang’s nerve endings is like that of the greyhound and platypus brandishing belltowers and adorning the hollowed-out greenhouse which imparadises me. There’s an eyeball in my beer.

Mad, bad, and dangerous to read.

 
At 12/03/2011 2:39 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

If you decide to pass putting on a beekeeper’s suit, merely keeping a backyard bee garden is another good deed you can do for the honeybees.

 
At 12/03/2011 2:43 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I think his anti-Christianity bit comes from the actions of some of the early Surrealists. Apparently there was some sort of dispute between a local priest and the group. There are pictures of Peret insulting a priest and at one point, he tore up a bunch of church pamphlets in front of that same priest.

The problem, it seems, is that he's conflating these actions with the work, which is not explicitly anti-Christian.

 
At 12/03/2011 3:21 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

I think surrealism is inimical to the institutional aspect of Christianity, hence Peret insulting the shovel-hatted priest walking past him. But people aren't logical. I like the idea of, say, a Catholic priest who writes surrealism. I like the inconsistency of that.

 
At 12/03/2011 3:39 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

"The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it."

 
At 12/04/2011 7:30 AM, Blogger David said...

I think surrealism is inimical to the institutional aspect of Christianity ...

Perhaps, but it is also amenable to suggestion from the incarnational aspect of Christianity. There is something surreal about the Lord of heaven and earth nailed to a tree. Dali, a Catholic revert at midlife, saw this, as evidenced in his late work.

 
At 12/04/2011 7:38 AM, Blogger David said...

The theological notion that sin deforms the soul is ripe with surrealist possibilities.

 
At 12/04/2011 8:56 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

I haven't read this review yet, but I want to say, hate him or begrudge him, Logan invariably makes a point worth considering. I know his taste and mine don't overlap often. That's ok -- I don't need his approval, and neither do you.

The France thing is a red herring, though, and his concept of self-indulgence is a) vague and b) usually invoked when he detects in someone else's work something that might also be noticed in his own work.

I look forward to seeing how he deals with the brothers Dickman.

 
At 12/04/2011 9:07 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Red herrings, yes, he does that a lot, lobbing them out there. It makes him great fun to read (for some), but it’s often, as it seems to me here, to be a perversion of history and aesthetic positions.

He doesn’t do all that well with Michael Dickman, I don’t think. It seems to me that Dickman was just a convenient way for him to talk about those kids out on the lawn having too much fun with their nonsense.

There are books that one can see as exemplars of a style or school, but this one was something of a stretch that neither illuminated the Dickman nor was a successful assault on the generation.

I mean, in my opinion and all.

My hope is for a much more interesting conversation of the way that some version of Surrealism is back in the news in American poetry. It might be the current flavor of the month, but it’s been weaving in and out of the American strand for something like a century now. It’s time for some better thinking about it than what Logan tosses off here.

 
At 12/04/2011 9:29 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

I don't think I know what you mean -- I don't see much surrealism in the contemporary style. I do see the freedom to say whatever whenever at the expense of building tension. (Tension is overrated.)

Are there some recent books I ought to look at to correct my ignorance?

 
At 12/04/2011 9:38 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Nah, not really. You know them already. I mean, it’s Logan here who’s saying Dickman is an example of the whatever generation of American Surrealist we’re up to. I was just thinking that a lot of poets over the last century look to the French Surrealists for inspiration (Stein and Stevens to Dean Young to Zapruder and Christle, to say the easy names). That doesn’t make what they (Ashbery has said as much) do necessarily Surrealist, but with something of the openness that has some of the same general tendencies.

If there is such a thing, such a generational thing, there could be a map. Personally, I don’t have the enthusiasm for such a project, but if there is such an animal it might be nice if someone were to capture it and cast it in wax. All the best things are put in wax.

 
At 12/04/2011 9:51 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 9:56 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 9:57 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

God, you're boring, Kent.

 
At 12/04/2011 9:59 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 10:00 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

The problem I have with your assessment here Kent is that it’s so steeped in value judgment as to make any reply either sound defensive or as if I agree with you. But even so, I don’t think Logan does a very good job at deflating anything here. It’s not even clear what he’s deflating other than a group he names and then dismisses, using Dickman as his straw dog.

So, ignoring the sneering you’re leveling at some of these poets, some of which I like very much, and some of which I don’t care for much at all, I will agree that the “Montevidayo school” is a group that could be put in a Surrealist lineage.

But if Logan is really deflating something, then he’s also deflating this “Montevidayo school,” or, at the very least, the vast majority of its practitioners who are located squarely in Academia and have no problem attending the AWP conference.

 
At 12/04/2011 10:02 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 10:32 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 10:45 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well if we're just going for the hipster audience, I'd have a hard time deciding which is more hip, Montevidayo or the HTML Giant group.

And, well, from my dim memories of High School on Long Island, what's the problem with being a hipster again?

But I will say that no one (to my knowledge) other than Logan would place Dickman at the center of the Hipster/MFA/Surrealism generation, if there even is one. I'm sure Dickman wouldn't like it either. He comes from several strands of poetry, and Surrealism is a minor one in his development, I would think.

 
At 12/04/2011 10:51 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Poets who feel free "to say whatever whenever" are often trying to depict their thought process, and that's kind of surreal, isn't it? An attempt to express the real functioning of thought?

 
At 12/04/2011 11:05 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 11:20 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

But that Hoagland piece valorized Dean Young and you think Dean Young is terrible, how could you like that? The more Hoagland or you say this poetry is behind the dead and this and that the more you authorize it as oppositional to your and his expectations of what art is and can do. It’s how periods get made, in general. It’s pretty worthless to deride a whole generation or tendency. That way lies ending up with John Barr and all the other reactionaries.

I probably sound defensive to you, and perhaps I am being a bit defensive, as I also write poetry that could be lumped into this category that you are dismissing.

On the other side, if you have specific poets that do specific things that don’t measure up to poets of their time who do things well, then you have a point. For Hoagland, Dean Young is excellent, and some of the NYS poets are bearable, but these other poets (and then he names names I’ve now forgotten) don’t measure up. He acts like he’s talking about the whole generation, but I continually see his name on the jackets of books by poets I would think he’d be opposed to, so I’m not sure really what it is that Hoagland’s tilting at.

I didn't notice the death of post-modern architecture. But then again, I don't look at buildings much, though I do think post-modern architecture was much better than the faceless boxes of Modernism.

 
At 12/04/2011 12:34 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 12:49 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 1:46 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Will someone, anyone who might be reading this blog and who has been to AWP within the last few years please tell Kent that AWP is not half composed of the poets he’s referring to? How did we end up here again, this conversation?

Kent,

This is nearing the point where you and I get into a hall of mirrors and everything spins out into a complete inability to see what the other is getting at.

Here’s my problem. You talk in large school gestures, full of accusations of hipsterdom and meaninglessness and institutional intrigue and such, and then you say the type of poetry that is refers to is Post-Avant or some related term. So you’re saying bad things about these poets, I’m to assume.

And I really, honestly, don’t have a clue what you’re talking about when you talk about these general tendencies, as the description is so fluid. Do you mean the poets in the American Hybrid anthology? This is not a large group. But it is not tiny, either. And yes, the style of these poets at some point will fade, and might already be fading. Or it might be gaining strength.

So I ask you to talk about specific poets, and then you say these specific poets are “terrifically talented” and great people. This means then, you’re saying good things about these poets.

I mean, can it be both? Can you remain in strong, vehement opposition to some type of poetry like post-avant or experimental poetry (by the way, I think these labels carry little if no descriptive meaning, but they have consequences, so I end up having to talk about them) while at the same time maintaining that you like to read them and you think they’re great?

Either one of these stances must be disingenuous or else you are simply a tormented person.

This is becoming a well-rehearsed exchange between us. And to echo Jordan from earlier, it’s got to be as boring for you as it is for me.

I had warmed-up stew the other day. It was actually quite good.

 
At 12/04/2011 2:02 PM, Blogger Heather June said...

Great post, John. I'm interested in particular in the class implications of Logan's review (of Dickman). I agree with you that there is a kind of "sneering" directed here at what Logan describes as a particularly middle-class brand of self-absorption. One wonders if he would be more interested in the upper-classes' self-absorption, if that would seem more "real" and American to him (because it's closer to his own class position, perhaps?). Seems to me like there is plenty of surreal disjuncture and absurdity to be noted in the very real facts of middle-class American life these days...

 
At 12/04/2011 2:25 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

My contact with younger writers has varied depending on where I lived. In Boulder, the hybrid was all the rage. Here in NYC, I've found more of those "skittery poems of the moment", to borrow a phrase from Hoagland or whoever coined it. Of course, I've worked hard to find readings I would be interested in attending.

That really leads me to my next point. I'm not sure how anyone is speaking with any authority about what is happening in contemporary poetry. If you look, it's there. Rather than writing hackneyed essays about why X tendency is bad, why not write the poems you want to see? I mean, none of this stuff is going anywhere. It might fall out of favor or become slightly more prominent, but the conversation is elastic and will stretch to accommodate any tendency.

It's such a boringly obvious thing to type.

 
At 12/04/2011 2:49 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Heather and Fuzz,

Absolutely. Class positions, and what is and what isn’t acceptable to say, fascinates me. I imagine if someone called a poet as exhibiting “low-class self-indulgence” people would be up in arms, but the middle class is open territory.

Fuzz, I really like how you divide Hybrid from Skittery. A lot of people would toss them into the same hat. This is partly why I dislike labels (even as I’m forced to use them). We probably all dislike labels. They seem like finger-exercises for the void. We’re all going to be there soon enough, why court it?

Yes, let’s just write . . . but then Logan or Hoagland will get all up in our grills with some “you skittery kids are having too much fun” and then we have to either let their voices be the narrative, or attempt a counter. I think it’s important we don’t let them do the defining.

I was reading something this morning about Jazz (or not to Jazz) along these lines. I’ll post it when I get the chance. Today I’m packing boxes, as we’re moving in a couple weeks.

 
At 12/04/2011 6:03 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 6:04 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 6:13 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I don’t see anything to apologize for. I didn’t mean that troubled, like needing medication or something. Just that your appreciation of art and your artistic allegiances are at odds with each other. You don’t need personal therapy, but you might need aesthetic therapy. Just that if you call out a way of current writing as one that is dead and therefore useless and you then say you like reading poems by poets in that way of current writing, I am baffled as to what you mean by dead. If it’s a way of writing that is dead and therefore useless to pursue and written by wacky-po wannabees then it shouldn’t be able to produce good art. If it’s able to produce good art, then it shouldn’t be considered dead. That’s all I meant.

 
At 12/04/2011 6:29 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 6:31 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

As for the rest of it, you’re on your own in that one. I really know very little about careerism and how any of this works or doesn’t work in it. I mean this honestly. I have heard stories of people doing all sorts of careerist things, but I’ve not seen any sign of any of it having anything to do with how they write. It’s usually who they hang out with. Maybe what they say in reviews or something? This is where we got hung up the last time we went down this academic/aesthetic conspiracy route. You’re not going to be able to convince me, because I haven’t seen it, and I’m not going to be able to convince you, because—apparently—you have.

And, well, examples aren’t going to be coming because that would be indiscrete? But then if you’re really wanting to change things, perhaps you should toss out these academic institutionalized domination and career enhancement by aesthetic decision complex.

All I meant by the post was that whatever Logan is seeing in American poetry that he’s calling Surrealism is neither Surrealism nor unified. Am I being willful? I don’t know. I hate labels.

 
At 12/04/2011 6:54 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 7:02 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

No thank you. Now you’re just trying to get out of it. We’re not talking about old things. I like Shakespeare too, yada yada. We’re talking about art being made this week. If the art being made this week is somehow discredited because of some idea that it’s following a dead thread, then it shouldn’t be “good.” If it’s “good,” then the thread isn’t so dead after all. You should allow yourself to like what you like and stop liking it while complaining about it. I mean, to quote Sheryl Crow, “If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?”

 
At 12/04/2011 7:13 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 8:17 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/04/2011 9:15 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 4:31 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, if that works for you, sure, Batman. Keep it up. Keep fighting against Cole Swensen and Dean Young by day and enjoying their poetry by night. And don’t forget to put on the Sheryl Crow. Make it a dance party. I mean, if it makes you happy and all.

 
At 12/05/2011 5:53 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent, you put the FUD in fuddy-duddy.

 
At 12/05/2011 6:51 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Or maybe you're just profoundly lonely. Or both. Anyway, yes yes Bourdieu.

Yes, we know.

 
At 12/05/2011 8:34 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

It's that you never actually discuss anybody else's arguments, Kent, except to marshal them in support of whatever you're promoting at the moment -- Skanky Possum, Gabe Gudding, the Chicago Review boys, Keston's Gonville & Caius gang, or now the Montevidayo group. You *do* provide a little substance about those enthusiasms, but it's gilded, or rather larded, with Sillimanesque hyperbole. As for whatever discussion is ever actually taking place at any of these internet hideouts, you're hypercritical of *anybody* else's enthusiasms. All *those* interests are corrupt co-opted institutional sellouts. Only your interests are pure, confrontational, living as far off the grid of Bourdieuvian cultural capital as possible. It's boring, Kent, because it's predictable. Even now you are itching to use the word snit in a response to me, or to relapse into your fantasia/satire mode of imagining me, or someone else, in a costume, doing a funny dance.

If your mission is to close down all comments fields everywhere, may I direct you to Facebook?

And if your mission is to save me from commenting on blogs, well, thanks.

Someday you'll explain your malice -- not just toward me, or the poets who were on the Leningrad trip with you, but all poets. At the rate you're going it will probably be in the pages of the TLS.

 
At 12/05/2011 8:50 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 8:54 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Seriously Kent, the more you talk the less you say.

 
At 12/05/2011 8:55 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Kent,

I don't know if you got the memo, but Bruce Wayne is dead, and Dick Grayson is the new Batman.

This is all very relevant.

 
At 12/05/2011 8:58 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Fuzz,

I heard Big Bird's been subbing for Robin, as well. It has something to do with Mr. Snuffleupagus, sources say. Big revelations will be forthcoming.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:04 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

If Batman dances to Sheryl Crow, what does The Crow dance to? 13 Bats?

 
At 12/05/2011 9:05 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Until it turns out the bullets are real.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:07 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

The bullets are real, and they time travel. It's how they got Bruce.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's why it's best to be invisible.

-Snuffy

 
At 12/05/2011 9:21 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

As a serious recommendation, you should read Grant Morrison's work. He writes comic books, but his reading interests are mostly early 20th century International Modernism.

Here are some panels where he rewrites the National Anthem in Bizarro speak.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_IeKUjn_aHBs/Ro1vT0xD5LI/AAAAAAAAABs/7AsHEN7jq6M/s400/bizarro-anthem.jpg

 
At 12/05/2011 9:24 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

If you shoot an invisible man, your bullet will hover in midair for a moment, and then it'll drop quickly and stay frozen a few inches from the floor.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:31 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Do invisible people bleed invisible blood?

 
At 12/05/2011 9:36 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Yeah. So when they make a blood pact, they sign it in invisible ink.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:41 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Fuzz,

Well, since I've heard that corporations are people too, then yes.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:56 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Where do we bury the bodies once they've passed? I wholly expect an invisible tombstone with an epitaph written in invisible ink.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:58 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yes, and, without knowing it, "There's an eyeball in my beer."

Circle complete, wheel at rest.

 
At 12/05/2011 10:14 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've moved on, Mr. Johnson, can’t you see? No one’s waiting for you. The bus stop is boarded up. Your comments have already receded into the past. To revisit them now, though perhaps pleasurable, would be but to kiss the dead. Sorry.

 
At 12/05/2011 10:29 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 10:30 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you're ten times the THEATRICALLY MANICHEAN. And half as interesting.

 
At 12/05/2011 10:53 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Kent,

It’s rather unpleasant to have you come here and toss me into your fight with Jordan, calling me “VERY DEFENSIVE AND DISASSEMBLING” when in fact, I was simply disagreeing with you, and then to call all the other people who comment on this blog a “GROUPLET.”

I knew you were going to think I was being defensive. But it’s difficult for me to know if I was or not, because I still don’t really know what it is you’re upset about. On the one hand you characterize a group of poets this way:

“THIN AND CAMPY "SURREALISM" OF THE YOUNG SCHOOL YOUNGSTERS”

And then when pressed for names, you say they’re terrifically talented and you like reading their poetry. So I’m not sure what there is there for me to be defensive about. So once again a fight or something has happened and once again I still don’t know what it was about.

At some point now one of us is supposed to get mad or something and then you’re supposed to say that you’ll never post here again or something. I mean, it’s so pro forma.

 
At 12/05/2011 11:01 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 11:05 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Really Kent, must you keep on with this? Now you’re just throwing whatever you can grab. It’s just making you look like a cartoon.

 
At 12/05/2011 11:17 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 11:21 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 12/05/2011 11:22 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I’m tired of this, Kent. What do you want?

 
At 12/05/2011 11:32 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Brandon Lee

There’s an eyeball in my beer.
THERE’S AN EYEBALL IN MY BEER.
Il y a un globe oculaire dans ma bière.
Существует глазное яблоко в моем пиве.

 
At 12/05/2011 11:40 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

And what will you call the lawyers, Kent?

 
At 12/05/2011 11:47 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent, I would have thought you'd appreciate someone offering analysis of your major work -- your comments on blogs. Granted, it isn't entirely flattering, but you have to have a thick skin to be a satirist, right?

 
At 12/05/2011 11:48 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 11:49 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Also, "little squealy little" is rather poor work. C'mon champ, you can come up with a slimier characterization of me in your sleep.

 
At 12/05/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

You should be happy, Jordan, all I got was "Good cop/Bad cop."

 
At 12/05/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 11:55 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Prosecute, Kent? Prosecute what?

 
At 12/05/2011 11:57 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

I'd prosecute your cute prose if I could, but until it actually physically harms someone that's off the table...

 
At 12/05/2011 12:01 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like you coming onto this blog to talk about yourself never ceases.

 
At 12/05/2011 12:09 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 12:48 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 1:02 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent, I didn't quite hear you. Maybe you could rephrase that in all caps.

By the way, I hear you've found someone who wants to print 1,000 copies of the book Rich Owens did. Is it the exact same book, text pictures the works? (Rich never made good on that offer to send the Koch estate a copy. Imagine.)

 
At 12/05/2011 1:10 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 1:19 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Invitation to do what, Kent? But you still haven't explained what was supposed to be prosecuted -- not that you ever answer questions that don't fit in with whatever you're shouting that day.

 
At 12/05/2011 1:20 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/05/2011 1:25 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Gosh. Certified epistles! That's a fancy way to describe a letter. Sure sounds bad. Like piss, not that piss sounds bad. Smells bad, yes, when it gets on the carpet.

Rich promised a book. Took a while to send it. Didn't send it. It was almost as if he never intended to send it, as if he wanted to create anxiety to provoke a reaction he could use as marketing copy.

Hey! maybe you could get the book *banned* somewhere. This abusing the widow and friends of one of your favorite writers is penny-ante stuff. Get creative, big boy!

 
At 12/05/2011 1:30 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Thank you for confirming that Rich Owens did not send a copy of the book to the Koch estate, despite having promised to do so.

 
At 12/05/2011 3:19 PM, Blogger David said...

It really is a shame that we've lost the original substance of this thread. For instance, David Grove and I both picked up on this interesting observation by John:

Surrealism could easily be defended as a complication of Christianity rather than an anti-Christian posture.

Unfortunately, what could have been a rich discussion has gone nowhere, thanks to all the showboating ANTICS and narcissism.

 
At 12/05/2011 3:31 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

David,

It's too late on this thread to have such a conversation, I think, yes. I should post this (below) on the blog and get another chance.

G.C. Waldrep interviewed and reposted at Poetry Daily, Here's a bit:

http://poems.com/special_features/prose/essay_waldrep.php

What attracted you to surrealism? A certain writer, perhaps, or do you think it more of your temperament?

I'm interested in the various economies of the human imagination. I came to Surrealism late—in the early 2000s—at a moment when I felt possibility had all but been wrung out of the confessional and anecdotal lyrics that dominated American poetry in the 1970s-80s. What Surrealism emphasizes, of course, is the possible: the Marvelous, as Breton put it.
"What is still possible?" has been for me, for many years now, a sort of aesthetic mantra. The Surrealists, and their predecessors, the Dadaists, asked this question over and over again: in art, in politics, in life. Or, to quote from the famous exchange between Lewis Carroll's Alice and Humpty-Dumpty, "The question is ... which is to be master—that's all."

Why do you think surrealism—and not to contextualize that term in any way with the historical context of Breton and so on—has made such a resurgence in literature in the past few decades?

For the same reasons which produced it in the early 1920s: political exigency, combined with aesthetic and emotional exhaustion.

What, to you, is spirituality? And what is spirituality in poetry?

I can only answer this question as a Christian, as a Christian of a very particular (devout, indeed sectarian) flavor. To me, "spirituality" is a disciplined, passionate (in both senses of that ancient word) life in Christ, and in the community of believers which constitute Christ's bride. YMMV, as the children say.
I'm not sure what "spirituality" is or can be in poetry, qua poetry. I accept William Carlos Williams's basic definition of a poem as "a machine made of words" (although it can of course also be other things, perform other functions, in other offices, depending on the poem and the occasion). Flannery O'Connor argued that "spirituality" inhered in the writer, not in the text.

 
At 12/05/2011 3:36 PM, Blogger David said...

Great stuff, John. Thanks for the link and excerpt. I'll be sure to read the interview with Waldrep.

 
At 12/05/2011 3:47 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

What kind of temperament is attracted to surrealism? A romantic temperament?

 
At 12/05/2011 3:51 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It has something to do with pepper, I think. And a well-worn goose. Volunteers with flashlights in the aisles. The usual.

("Temperament!" the secret password said, "We don't need no stinkin' temperament!")

 
At 12/05/2011 4:01 PM, Blogger David said...

A restless temperament, perhaps. A dissatisfied temperament?

The Waldrep interview is wonderful. I was really struck by this observation:

What has remained with me [from Waldrep's AWP talk], though, is a question from the audience from a young man who feared the formal innovation of his poetry was driving him further away from the spiritual community in which he felt rooted. Bhanu Kapil answered. Essentially (as I recollect) she said that the bridge between the self and a community is not language, but the body: that if one is committed to community — both in theory and in fact — with the body, then the forms of connection (including language, including "difficult" poetry) will follow. And if one is not, well then one is not, and no amount of versification is going to make up for that distance.

A commitment to a community "with the body" seems to me essential to the Catholic religious experience, and we see that profoundly in someone like Mother Teresa. Now, for a Catholic poet, how does poetic form, e.g., surrealism, play into that commitment and connection?

 
At 12/05/2011 4:35 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

David, it seems to me that surrealism, which aims at some mysterious apprehension of an occulted reality, has a greater affinity with the mystical, individualistic aspect of Christianity than with connection to a community of Christians. Which is not to say that that young man must unchurch himself in order to write formally innovative poetry. He just needs to echolocate the dive where icebergs bossa nova with seamen, G-men, and she-men.

 
At 12/05/2011 5:07 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Well, I can certainly agree that any belief in organized religion is definitely surreal.

 
At 12/05/2011 5:34 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

Years ago I read about a novel by Robert Graves, can't remember the title or much of the details. It's set in the near future, when the UK is ruled by an oppressive totalitarian regime whose central tenet is "ice-cold logic." Anything that won't bear the scrutiny of ice-cold logic is banned. Religion and art are banned; sports are banned; alcohol,tobacco, and all other intoxicants are banned. No circuses, no jokes, no poems, no whiskey, no churches, no cricket. And people start to go mad. But the madness is unlike any madness the world has ever seen: it spreads like a plague, and it makes people fall to the ground and writhe and froth at the mouth until their brains frizzle out.

 
At 12/05/2011 5:43 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I think the topic of Surrealism and how it relates to Christianity (or spirituality in general) is a good one, and deserves a better presentation than how this has turned out. But, as this sounds productive, I’ll just toss my favorite Breton bit in, one of the foundational concepts of Surrealism: “Existence is elsewhere.”

No matter what one says about politics and historical situations, that is a resonant idea, and one that can inform many stances to daily reality.

 
At 12/05/2011 9:09 PM, Blogger David said...

"Existence is elsewhere" -- definitely a resonate idea, John!

David G, isn't the tension (stretched to extremes) between individual and community a central concern of surrealism?

GBF -- that same tension is also present in religion, as evidenced in some of your poems here.

I like this thought from the Waldrep interview:

For me, the origin of Your Father on the Train of Ghosts was a set of largely inchoate ideas about poetry and community—about art and life. It seemed to me that we were all still mired, largely, in a Romantic conception of the poet as a solitary singer: that poetry, from both a writer's and a reader's standpoint, was something isolated and isolating. But this wasn't how the Dadaists and Surrealists viewed it. As someone who has committed his life to a certain ideal of community outside the classroom and written page, the presumption bothered me. What sort of poetry might arise out of collaboration, that is, artistic community? Out of friendship?

 
At 12/05/2011 9:45 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

.

Faith

Put your faith in Nature,
in the sea and stars and the magic
of the mind.
Put your faith in being,
in particles and thunderstorms
and time.
Put your faith in living,
how you always seem to
somehow stumble through.
Put your faith in you.
God did.

Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

 
At 12/06/2011 3:50 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

"Real life is absent. We are not of this world." Rimbaud.

 
At 12/06/2011 3:52 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

"Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder." Ernest Dowson?

 
At 12/06/2011 4:09 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It's this absence, this lived-with absence, that points to the communal desires of the early Surrealists.

Absinthe, well, that also points, but I'm less inclined to promote that. I hate having my senses deranged.

 
At 12/06/2011 7:50 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Clearly, you're just not committed enough. I kid.

If you spend time with them, words can derange your senses more than Absinthe or anything else.

I wish we could have a comment stream hit the triple digits because of lively, relevant discussion.

 
At 12/06/2011 8:23 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Me too. These last few comments have been interesting to me, though, and I'm glad David brought us back to the topic. i think there's something to it.

I remember once, years ago, Jorie Graham talking about her difficulty in getting how young writers could write in various styles, or have various influences, without bringing along the history, the contradictory histories, of those styles.

I saw her point, but as I get older, I feel it less and less. It's a large picture, the world, and picturing it is always going to be incomplete, and each way of looking is a part, a real part, of the picture.

I suppose this is a relativistic, post-modern attitude, but it seems to me, as a writer, having an open view of "Surrealism" or whatever, might give you that much more of a step toward what we are, than the reductive terms and histories allow.

This is probably more of a comment on the post after this one, but I think they're part fo the same problem, the problem we're steeping in.

 
At 12/06/2011 8:56 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

The past, it seems, is very steeped in this binary history of traditional vs. avant-garde. As the world of poetry grew, and continues to grow, people are less interested in continuing all those old battles. That's not to say they're not interested in learning about them, but one is not required to bring that stuff into the room(s) where you write.

I think a conversation around collage and how it's changed is in order. There's the obvious jumping off point of the Surrealists and their exquisite corpse techniques, Dada merz collage, WCW Williams Spring and All, Zukofsky's "the", Eliot etc., but also the very thing we're talking about now: the mixing and blending of disparate styles.

As a side note, since it came up, I just wanted to mention I really enjoyed the collaborations between you and GC Waldrep, those last few poems in particular.

 
At 12/06/2011 9:11 AM, Blogger David said...

I just took a quick read of Dickman's "Returning to Church". A very nice poem, but not particularly surrealist. I had to chuckle thinking of GBF as I read these lines:

Kiss me in the pew among strangers who aren't strangers but His
other homeless children

...

Everyone's so nice!

And they don't even know me, they don't think they have to, hand
after hand
they take my hand

A prayer of bone


That last line reminds me of something that I wrote, which might be a little bit surreal:

http://anointedruins.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/bone-in-my-soul/

My question is, where is the surrealism at occupoetry?

http://occupypoetry.org/

 
At 12/06/2011 11:18 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Thank you, Shawn. That's generous of you.

 
At 12/07/2011 7:52 AM, Blogger damn the caesars said...

JORDAN:

I'm responding to this somewhat belatedly, having just now read through your stunningly aggressive comments. It seems essential to note that, while I did in fact offer to send a digital proof of Kent's book to the Koch Estate, my offer was met with nothing less than a belligerence I found it impossible to tolerate. And since my good faith was met by both the Koch Estate, the O'Hara Estate and Knopf with threats of legal action and, in at least one instance, direct insult, I chose to rescind my offer and just go ahead with publication of the book which, as you likely know, was just cited in the Times Literary Supplement as one of the "best" books of 2011.

In any case, it's always been unclear to me why people with cultural, political and economic power and privilege immediately assume they can so easily curb free inquiry, free expression and, in Kent's case, homage to poets he admires.

yr humble servant ... rich

 
At 12/07/2011 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just keep cranking that PR machine. Just keep cranking.

 
At 12/07/2011 8:52 AM, Blogger damn the caesars said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/07/2011 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep cranking. You'll get some life into this yet!

 
At 12/07/2011 8:57 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Aargh, these comment streams.

Well, here we go again.

Have a good day fighting, everyone. I'm going for a coffee and a doughnut.

 
At 12/07/2011 8:58 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Rich,

I knew Kent loves adverbs as much as he loves traducing anyone who doesn't write letters to editors on his behalf, but I had no idea you could go toe-to-toe with him.

I note your acknowledgment that you did not honor your promise to provide the estates with the text.

Always a pleasure,
Jordan

 
At 12/07/2011 9:02 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Sorry, John.

 
At 12/07/2011 9:06 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Oh, it's fine, I guess. Kent started it with his advert for the book.

But this fight. I suppose this is going to have a Wikipedia entry at some point. Someone will write a dissertation.

I see the publisher took down his second comment. I feel bad, really, for him and for you and the estates. I hope he gets running water soon. Small press publishing is in bad shape these days.

 
At 12/07/2011 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, but come on. It's all so easy.

 
At 12/07/2011 9:30 AM, Blogger damn the caesars said...

JOHN:

thanks. fortunately we do have running water, rigged shortly after landing, but, yeah, we froze our asses off thru the winter. like the worst winter in Southern Maine for years.

against whatever stupidities, i want to be clear about how grateful i am to have published the first edition of Kent's book. it really is singular work that'll no doubt make its way down the line.

ok. seriously, this is the last of my participation in the maelstrom, tho it seemed necessary to respond to Jordan's strangely personal and public attack.

in any case, despite however extraordinary the work might be -- and it no doubt is -- i'm not sure Kent's book wld have commanded so much attention had the estates and Knopf *not* intervened.

again, thanks John -- and sorry to see this forum instrumentalized in such a way.

haste ... rich ...

 
At 12/07/2011 1:02 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I don't know what to believe about that, John. And besides, small press publishing is like every other human endeavor -- you reap what you sow (in Paul Eluard's case, blue oranges).

 
At 12/07/2011 1:34 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

I don't want to work. I want to smoke a blue orange.

 
At 12/07/2011 7:06 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Jordan, you seem a bit desperate.

Equanimity...

 
At 12/08/2011 2:56 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent -

You deleted your comments, right? So there's no other way to characterize you than cowardly.

Maybe I'm wrong and you simply had a moment of clarity about your writing and decided it would be kinder to everyone to remove it.

Given what you've published about authorship and concepts of love and friendship, I'm pretty sure that you're just aggressively seeking publicity at others' expense. Go for it, big boy. Bourdieu would be proud, but who would really admire your moves is Karl Rove.

Jordan

 
At 12/08/2011 3:35 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I remember when Silliman deleted his comments thread and Kent was saying that was a destruction of the public record. In that light, I try to archive as much of my comment stream as I remember to (as email notifications). So if anyone needs Kent Johnson’s comments from this thread for research purposes, contact me and I’ll forward them to you.

 
At 12/08/2011 6:25 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Not that I don't expect it, but it's still baffling to have someone derail a comment stream so far, defend the digressions, and then delete their participation in it. That is, by all accounts, the textbook definition of a troll.

 
At 12/08/2011 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a thought: Why don't Kent and Jordan take up their quarrel elsewhere?

 
At 12/08/2011 6:55 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Anonymous, when Kent stops traducing me and trading on a name I promised to look out for, I'll stop responding. So never, basically.

 
At 12/08/2011 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do we have to pigeon-hole our affecctions?

I don't check out the comment threads on John's blog to make sure people stay 'on topic,' but for lively conversation.

It's so easy to steer the conversation back 'on topic,' if that's really what one wants to do, or expand the 'topic' to include a new conversation.

I find the bores to be the ones who express 'outrage' that a topic is being hijacked, etc.

Why is Kent Johnson treated to shabbily? I find him very entertaining. I find it enlightening when Kent and Jordan get into it, or even when Kent and John go at each other. I often learn about the scene, and some of it is 'popcorn eating' entertaining.

Carry on, lads.

Mr. Topic (Thomas Brady)

 
At 12/08/2011 7:24 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Maybe people who like focused poetry like comment streams with many tributaries, and people who like skittery poetry like comment streams that flow "straight down the centrality." (I think that's from one of Ammons' all-over-the-place long poems.)

 
At 12/08/2011 8:06 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John, bad analogy. There's a difference between a person deleting his or her *own* comments and someone else taking it upon himself to delete thousands of comments by hundreds of *others*.

It's true, though: I probably shouldn't have deleted all those, because there were some decent things there, I think. I felt the tail end of it, when Jordan and I got into it, was "off," so I wanted to delete my half of that, and then on impulse I went ahead and deleted everything. But tell you what, given what you say about wishing to preserve the archive here: Feel free to restore all the comments except those that deal with the Koch/O'Hara book. You can do that, right?

Jordan, I'll let your remarks go. They speak for themselves as do your actions around the affair. Take care. We'll have occasion, perhaps, to talk about the book in the future, I'm sure, and perhaps others at that point might join in. We'll see.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:06 AM, Blogger David said...

I find this thread difficult and accessible by turns. Many of the allusions and references are lost on me, but it has a certain emotional resonance. With half of the comments now deleted, it will definitely have a "skittery" quality for future readers.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:19 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Yes, now is the part where you bring in others to repeat your misinformation rather than discuss facts. Keep on creating doubt and uncertainty, Kent. That's got to be good for you.

I'm sure someday in front of some audience or other you'll get the chance to account for your aggressive need to discredit all other poets.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Brady, I usually enjoy reading Kent's posts, often follow his links, and when I'm not interested, skip 'em. Unlike Brady, I don't always find Kent and Jordan, or even Kent and John, going after each other enlightening. Sometimes along with the popcorn, I get out my ruler to see who has the biggest dick today. Other times I just roll my eyes and move along.

WV: dialpo

No one can accuse you guys of phoning it in. Y'all care deeply, passionately, sometimes obsessively.

By all means, carry on, laddies.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:42 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>you'll get the chance to account for your aggressive need to discredit all other poets.

You can tell when someone has lost control...

Hang in, Jordan. I know you're upset that your extravagantly (another adverb!) unethical behavior--i.e. your participation in a concerted effort to suppress a book that offered a *hypothesis*--is getting brought into the open (is just beginning to, that is). But you'll survive, poetry Frat Boy.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, when Kent stops traducing me and trading on a name I promised to look out for, I'll stop responding. So never, basically."

Okay, Jordan, fair enough. Not being up to speed enough on the quarrel you and Kent are having, I at first took you for a stalker.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:45 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Kent,

Unfortunately, I can’t undelete posts. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. But I do have a file of email notifications when someone posts, so I have them all. It would take me quite a while to repost them, and, even then, I’d not be able to place them in the correct spot. So I guess this one’s a done deal.

Anon,

There’s a fine line, I understand, between disagreeing because one is standing for something, and disagreeing just to be disagreeable. I hope that I don’t fall into the second category. I really don’t care much for the ruler, measuring game, and I hate the fact that it might appear I do.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:56 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

No no, Kent: Liberté, égalité, Béyoncé.

 
At 12/08/2011 8:57 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John,

Don't understand the claim that you can't undelete those. You undeleted a comment just a couple weeks ago and then remarked openly about doing so! What am I missing?

but whatever is fine by me. I DO wish I hadn't erased all of those, as there are some good points made in the ones preceding Jordan's meltdown.

 
At 12/08/2011 9:12 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Malign away, Kent. Nobody's stopping you.

I believe John is being truthful when he says he can't restore comments deleted by the ones who posted them.

 
At 12/08/2011 9:32 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

I'm not questioning John's truthfulness! I'm just wondering if John might be confused and forgotten that he actually did do what he says he can't. When he undeleted that comment I mentioned, he referred to the poster as having deleted it!

I LOVE your use of the word "malign," Jordan. You need some glass cleaner for that mirror, buckaroo.

 
At 12/08/2011 9:47 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent, I know there are others as interested as I am to learn why you're so persistent about picking fights with me. What exactly do you imagine I did to you? Be specific. Try to avoid judgment and power words. Just state your version of the facts.

 
At 12/08/2011 9:54 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Hilarious.

 
At 12/08/2011 9:59 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Seriously, Kent. What's the deal?

 
At 12/08/2011 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordon, maybe you’ve explained this elsewhere but what is your main beef with Kent’s hypothetical proposal? I don’t know Kent; haven’t read his book. What little I knew on the topic I garnered from John Latta’s blog months ago. As a poetry reader, I didn’t then, and don’t now, get the outrage that apparently family, friends, publishers and literary executors are fueled by. I get the impression from some of your comments here that the fact Kent Johnson came out with the book is a double insult/outrage to you, but I assume it’s your belief that the underlying problem/outrage goes beyond (his) personality. That’s the part of your position I’m most interested in hearing, if you don’t mind addressing a peanut in the gallery.

 
At 12/08/2011 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, I don't know the "damn the caesars" guy, Rich either.

 
At 12/08/2011 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Be specific. Try to avoid judgment and power words. Just state your version of the facts."

Hey Jordan, if you do decide to answer my question above, if you could follow those instructions, as you would most likely be inclined to, that would be great, most helpful, and I would be much obliged.

 
At 12/08/2011 11:26 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Kent,


Whenever you ask a question like this, as much as you deny it and say you’re asking innocently, it comes across as an accusation. It’s a tone thing. And so then, whomever you’re talking with, no matter how they answer, they end up looking defensive.

And then it all goes more and more south.

But I’ll answer anyway. I have never “undeleted” a comment on my blog. The way I have my settings, once a person deletes a comment, that comment is gone. There should be a little box that pops up when you delete something that says “Delete Forever” or “Do You Want to Delete This Forever” or something like that.

The comment to which you’re referring was not me undeleting a comment, but instead “reposting” a comment. if you go back to it, you’ll see that it’s posted as John Gallaher, not Kent Johnson. What I did was copy the text from your deleted comment, which came to me in an email update, and then post it into the comment box.

I said to you above that I could do that, but it wouldn’t be practical in this instance due to the high number of comments you deleted as well as to the fact that if I reposted all your comments, I’d be unable to put them in their proper places, in other words, they’d all appear at the end of the thread as “new” comments.

 
At 12/08/2011 11:33 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

OK, John, I see what you mean now, thanks for clarifying.

As I said, I wish I wouldn't have deleted those. Some kind of deletion seizure, there, feeling like no matter what I say it leads to personal attacks on me from people who are regulars on this blog. I know I have a way to pushing buttons, I don't deny that, and sometimes my tone gets the best of me, but I do think things on this blog have become overdetermined, if that's the word, and there has certainly been, imho, some undue personal venom directed my way.

 
At 12/08/2011 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan,
Been rereading some related stuff on Latta’s blog. Want to clarify that I am not asking you to disprove Kent’s hypothetical but wondering why the fact that he proposed one has caused such acrimony. That’s the part I don’t get. Seems to me readers who are interested can take a look at his case, take a look at the counterarguments and arrive at their own conclusions. Is the issue financial? Fear of a tarnished reputation (fear doesn’t necessarily equate with reality)? Bear with me as I'm probably missing something obvious and egregious. Maybe I'm too much of a romantic, or not enough of one, or maybe I've have read too much Byatt or Lodge.

 
At 12/08/2011 11:53 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

This is an event: An Anonymous who isn't writing in to say I beat my wife!

 
At 12/08/2011 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnson, please stop posting as anonymous. Yer being a little obvious.

 
At 12/08/2011 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn fiction!

I am not Kent Johnson. Kent, please stop beating your wife! I'm glad to know you have one. I didn't think you did, seeings how you are so lonely and all.

 
At 12/08/2011 12:03 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

I think John should be able to verify that Anonymous is not me...

 
At 12/08/2011 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's Kenneth Koch.

 
At 12/08/2011 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kenneth Koch sleeping on his glass wing!

BTW, John, I read the Waldrep interview the other day before you posted the link and enjoyed it. Also listened to a few of the poems from "Your Father on the Train of Ghosts" as a result. Enjoyed those as well.

 
At 12/08/2011 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnson, why can't you figure out who posts here? You are the one who writes detective fiction.

 
At 12/08/2011 1:26 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Anonymous (love your work), you ask good questions. The terms of those questions, though, have mainly to do with the marketing for Kent's work of fiction, which last I heard consisted of labeling it as speculative non-fiction suppressed by the literary estates of its subjects. It is neither.

My role in this: I worked as Kenneth's assistant for twelve years and have been an advisor to the Koch estate for the last nine years. I'm writing on my own behalf, by the way, not the estate's.

The main concerns of any literary estate are collecting the work and if necessary republishing it, handling permissions requests for that work, and looking after the reputation of the author.

The allegation that Koch forged work he then inserted in O'Hara's Collected Poems is a challenge to Koch's reputation (and possibly O'Hara's). This is not a matter for debate -- it's an accusation of literary fraud, something, by the way, that Johnson has a history of being accused of.

In any case, the hypothesis is less than unlikely; manuscript evidence has been provided that demonstrates that the poem was written when and where and by whom it was known to have been before Kent attempted to create doubt with his speculation. If Kent were actually testing a hypothesis, he would have let it go in the face of evidence to the contrary. At this point it is no longer speculative non-fiction -- it is fiction.

It is unfortunate that Rich chose not to seek permission to reprint texts by and images of the two authors discussed in the book until late in his production process. In the course of that process, the estates asked to see the text, and were promised it. It never came. Instead they got Rich's acrimony. He may have gotten some back; none that I saw before it went out. I feel badly for Rich that funds he probably needed to maintain his house in Maine were diverted to reprint the Punch Press edition of Kent's book omitting the text and images he did not receive permission for. It was an entirely avoidable situation, though. His and Kent's continual use of heightened language suggest to me that there was never any interest in avoiding the situation -- it may be speculated that they sought to bait the estates of the two authors Kent claims to admire. In any case, they succeeded in getting the idea out there that their book was suppressed, which, it may be speculated, was always only the goal: to create interest in the book and therefore profit by manufacturing a scandal involving the good names of two writers not around to set the record straight. It's a shame, all right.

 
At 12/08/2011 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be much more interested in the precise reasons why there's such hatred for Johnson.

Johnson at least puts it out there. Cries of "Johnson, go jump in a lake!" get old fast.

Johnson is a rara avis, and should be appreciated for that.

You who attack Johnson and think you come across as virtuous? You don't.

Johnson at least attempts to explain himself. At length. But so what? Your torture of him is unkind.

Is Johnson murdering people to get into Poets Corner?

Listening to the Johnson-haters, you'd think this were the case.

Am I missing something?

Obviously...

Brady

 
At 12/08/2011 2:32 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

[In two parts for length]

I want to say a few words about Jordan's comment above. Rich may want to chime in, as well, don't know.

There is a lot of misinformation in Jordan's post.

Let me try to correct a few of the distortions:

1) No one has said the total work was suppressed. The book was published, so it's obvious the parties with whom Jordan is associated were not successful in suppressing the work. The point to understand is that there WAS a concerted attempt to intimidate a small publisher into not publishing the book. In three different letters, one from each of the estates and one from Random House, there were unambiguous indications that legal remedies would be sought if the book was published. We have these letters. I may choose to publish them in the second edition.

2) But *parts* of the book were indeed successfully suppressed. Rich can speak about the response he directly received; I'll speak to the answers I got: I wrote extremely polite letters to both Estates, asking for specific permission to cite passages from poems by both Koch and O'Hara. I quoted exactly what I wished to use in the book. The amount of material very obviously fell within the usual parameters of "fair use." I'd have to go back to count, but there were maybe six to seven lines of poetry by each of the poets. I never heard back from the Estates. About a month or more (I can't recall exactly, it might have been more), I received a formal letter from the Editor of Random House, roundly and emphatically denying me permission to quote a single line from either Koch or O'Hara. The letter concluded with a clear threat of legal consequences for me and the publisher if the denial was not observed. Thus, it was decided by me and Rich that we would replace the quoted materials with paraphrases of their content. The second edition intends to follow this practice.

 
At 12/08/2011 2:33 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

[continuing]

3) Jordan says that my book sullies Koch's reputation by suggesting that he committed literary fraud. I deal with this in the book. I argue therein that the hypothetical act of Koch's writing a poem such as 'A True Account' should in no way be regarded as mere "fraud"; just the opposite: that such an act, were it shown to be true, would constitute one of the most moving gestures of mourning and tribute ever undertaken in the history of American poetry. The first part of my book, a lengthy essay, lays out the reasons for there being a strong case of reasonable doubt about the poem's authorship. I completely respect Jordan's right to have no doubt of the poem's authorship by O'Hara. But his claim here that all the questions, lacunae, and circumstantial evidence have been decisively answered is simply not true. His assertion that "manuscript evidence has been provided that demonstrates that the poem was written when and where and by whom it was known to have been" is wrong; in my book I show that strong questions remain, and I present hypothetical scenarios that might help explain them. I would encourage people to check out the second edition of the book when it appears next year and to judge if there is a case for reasonable doubt. To come to that conclusion does not mean that one KNOWS the answer, it just means that one acknowledges a very unusual and mysterious situation. That's to say: In no manner does the book *assert* that Koch wrote the poem; it presents a hypothesis, a case for reasonable doubt, showing that the history surrounding 'A True Account' is deeply irregular. If Jordan believes that legal threats against another poet and a small press for such hypothetical critical investigation are appropriate, then I fear there is not much I can say in riposte. Ultimately, one can't argue with a censor who is intent on controlling access to controversial points of view.

As to the charges of Rich's "acrimony" and the use of "heightened language," I will just say that I was privy to the sequence of events and that it is an outright falsehood to suggest that any aggressive language was initiated by Rich; to the contrary, he extended perfectly polite, substantial, and professional queries to the Estates (as did I) and was met with hostile, threatening, and insulting response. But I will let Rich deal more specifically with that, if he wishes.

The truth is that my book set out to raise some very legitimate questions about a very mysterious poem. Other O'Hara scholars, like Lytle Shaw and Marjorie Perloff, have agreed with me that the questions are legitimate ones to raise. And I believe that it becomes clear, in the process of my presentation of the *hypothesis* for a hidden authorship, that I *honor* the memory of both Koch and O'Hara, two of the greatest poets of America. Jordan and his three poet associates who joined in the campaign to derail the book feel, apparently, that it is *their* right to decide for others how and under what parameters critical questioning is to be conducted, or what nature of homage is to be deemed acceptable.

 
At 12/08/2011 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan, I remembered reading somewhere that you were connected to Koch's estate. After my last post, I took down "Sleeping on the Wing" and "Making Your Own Days" from the bookshelf, and in the latter, read: "Jordan Davis was my indispensable assistant." I didn't know that, but it does explain why you feel so passionately about the topic. I appreciate your respectful, straightforward reply, so I hope you don’t think it disrespectful if I say I don’t think that if Kent’s hypothesis is true, and I’m not saying it is (I have no opinion on the matter), it would automatically constitute a scandal or mean that Koch had intended to perpetrate a fraud. Framed one way, and depending on one’s speculations about Koch’s motives, it could be viewed that way. Scandal and fraud are loaded terms, and if that is how the issue is framed, I guess reputations would be tarnished. When I first considered Kent’s hypothesis in a general way, I didn’t think in those terms. (Maybe in part because he didn’t ).

Yeah, I’ve heard references to Kent Johnson and a possible literary fraud, but that’s way before my time online and trying to research the topic brings up a lot of contradictory material I don’t know how to sort through, so I got no opiinion on that one either. Your pointing out this part of Kent’s history clarifies why you find his authorship of this book particularly problematic. It’s not personal for you in the way I was thinking, but there is a history involved that is doesn't sit right with you.

 
At 12/08/2011 2:55 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent, your reply is not an argument but simply a long-winded contradiction of my statements. But do feel free to keep talking, and do let me know when you decide to delete these comments.

 
At 12/08/2011 2:59 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Anonymous,

When Jordan slides in the innuendo about "my" having committed "fraud," he's referring of course to the Araki Yasusada controversy. As that work's caretaker, I reject the accusation there, too, and have for a good many years. Jordan, again, is entitled to whatever opinion he holds, but there's been a lot written about it on both sides, and there are quite a good number of critics who have written with intelligence on the matter. Since Jordan has alluded to that work as a means to trying to undermine my reputation in this case, I wanted to mention that some of the record around the Yasusada debate is contained in this book, whose publication is imminent:

http://www.shearsman.com/pages/books/catalog/2011/freind.html

 
At 12/08/2011 3:02 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>Kent, your reply is not an argument but simply a long-winded contradiction of my statements

Jordan, wouldn't have expected anything more from you than such faint reply... It's typical of your evasiveness when you have little to say.

The "argument" would be in the book.

 
At 12/08/2011 3:02 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kent, congratulations on having inspired confusion about Yasusada. Your turn to answer my questions.

 
At 12/08/2011 3:03 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

The book you instructed Rich not to send.

 
At 12/08/2011 3:09 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Feint is spelled with an e, Kent.

 
At 12/08/2011 3:13 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>Feint is spelled with an e, Kent.


You can tell someone is on the ropes when they start calling out "typos."

The funny thing is, Jordan, you should check your OED:

"Faint: lacking courage or spirit. Cowardice. [etc.]"

 
At 12/08/2011 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you both, Jordan and Kent, for your replies. I understand better what's a stake for each of you.

 
At 12/08/2011 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a joke, right? This isn't serious? Like a real book? In which Kent Johnson, for a whole book, wonders about who wrote one poem? There's got to be a joke in here. And then Jordan David is upset about it? And a publisher decided to publish it? And then another publisher was upset about it being published?

This is the most amazing non-story I've ever heard in my life. I can't wait to tell the grandkids.

 
At 12/08/2011 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Transcript of Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch Conversing at an Unspecified Cafe, As Found on WikiLeaks"

http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2010winter/johnson.shtml

Contains a few jokes and raises some good points.

 
At 12/08/2011 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take two?

http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2010winter/johnson.shtml

WV: blynesse

 
At 12/08/2011 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't get the link to work. Look for: "A Commentary on Kent Johnson's A Question Mark Above The Sun (Punch Press)" by John Bradley at raintaxi.com

 
At 12/08/2011 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is neither humorous nor honorable.

 
At 12/08/2011 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnson gives himself away by his continued inability to post links. Will he never learn?

 
At 12/08/2011 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, I'm still not Johnson, despite my inability to post links, which is a shame because I've just been very much enjoying this one:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/237636

"Fresh Air" by Kenneth Koch at the Poetry Foundation

(Can someone tell me how to post a link? I'd like to learn.)

 
At 12/08/2011 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my enthusiasm for Koch's poem, I forgot my manners: Can someone please tell me how to post a link? I'd like to learn.

 
At 12/08/2011 6:40 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

.

Politics

Through tall grass two stones fly
from opposite directions, simultaneously.
Kill the same rabbit!
Two men, surprised, look up through the grass
from opposite directions, instantaneously.
Then at the rabbit.
Circling, both approach slowly, slings dangling,
curious, suspicious, eyeing each other,
then look at the rabbit both sought.

Both hungry under Neolithic skies,
each has need of what the other’s got.
Both move, drop slings for spears and throw!
One man dies. One eats, one not
for two have claimed one rabbit.


Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns-New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

 
At 12/08/2011 6:52 PM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...

I blame this all on gertrude stein.

 
At 12/08/2011 6:59 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

There were a number of excellent blog posts written back when the story of the legal pressures was breaking. Here's one that makes some good points, I believe, and goes some ways towards dismantling Jordan's misinformation. A number of these blog posts will be in the second edition.

http://thechagallposition.blogspot.com/2010/09/you-and-what-army.html

 
At 12/08/2011 7:55 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/08/2011 7:56 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Yes, I'm sure there will be a great quantity of prose in the second edition. And the third edition will come with a shovel.

"Look, look! Watch him, see what he’s doing? That’s what we want you to do. Of course it won’t be the same as his at first, but . . .”

 
At 12/09/2011 1:10 PM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...

I just read Edmond's excellent blog piece on the Johnson controversy and it's surreal, alright: Random House freaking out and making threats is the important issue here, no matter what you think of Johnson, and I don't see how any of this harms Koch or O'Hara.

I have a question, though. Can handwritng analysis help? Or was the poem in question slammed out on a typewriter?

Tom

 
At 12/10/2011 10:35 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

No, Tom, it's only in typescript (unless someone has an unreported holograph somewhere). The poem is typed on a machine that is NOT his trusty portable Royal-- very strange, given that his roommate at the time, Joe LeSueur, reports he had it with him on the trip to Hal Fondren's, where the poem was supposedly composed. I have the xerox of the original poem, and there is no handwriting on it, something unusual for poems O'Hara personally gifted to friends--he tended to write generous signed dedications.

 
At 12/10/2011 10:35 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Also, there's a post on A Question Mark above the Sun at Montevidayo blog today.

 
At 12/11/2011 1:48 PM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...

Kent,

I just went on the Montevidayo blog, read not only about you and Davis and Koch and O'Hara, but Gallaher commenting on the "Row Row Yr Boat" thread on this blog, where I've been commenting, so I feel very 'house of mirrors' at the moment. Then I wrote something, which is 'awaiting moderation' right now, and in case it doesn't get posted, and to give you an idea of how crazy I'm feeling right now, I may as well put it here, with apologies to John, our host...

Two of Koch's later poems, "A Time Zone" (references to co-writing with O'Hara, trying to write like O'Hara, etc) and "One Train May Hide Another," ("one...reputation...may hide another") support Kent Johnson's hypothesis.

I'm curious why Random House/the estates are freaking out---my guess is Kent's hypothesis isn't the issue, but rather 'ownership' of what is allowed to be said about an author that a publisher 'owns.' If this is the case, you'd think every poet and free-thinking person would automatically be on Kent Johnson's side---instead of attacking him as 'mentally ill.' I participated in the thread before and after Kent erased his posts, and the head games played against Johnson amounted to mental 'bear baiting.' It's sad to see. Gallaher is a reasonable man, yet he 'bear baits' Johnson with the best of them. Not sure why. Maybe Johnson offends so much because people feel he's a 'virtual eccentric' and not a real one? Or a 'virtual famous person' and not a real one? Maybe we feel fame 'just happens' and Johnson is trying too hard? But I suspect these things are getting in the way, and we should just listen to what Johnson's saying. Or perhaps we're tired of keeping up with all the energy of a O'Hara and a Koch in the first place, and Johnson just makes us exhausted? There's so much information out there now and our heads are exploding. In the 1950s and 60s maybe it was OK, but in 2011, we can't take anymore?

Look at us here---reading on a blog about a blog which directs us to another thread on another blog...and we look up from our computer, and we had a dozen other things we were going to do and our afternoon is shot.

I hope I haven't crossed a line---posting the same words on two blogs...

 
At 12/11/2011 2:06 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Tom, I fail to see you point, in regards my (I’ll leave anyone and everyone else out of this) disagreeing with Kent Johnson. Yes, I disagree with him. But I don’t see my disagreements as bear baiting or personal attacks.

Kent comes here to disagree with me, and to advertise his projects. When he says something against (or which seems to be against) poets or poetry I admire, I state my position and ask him to clarify his. Kent Johnson is not interested in clarifying his position. He’s a provocateur, and sees his mission to stir the kettle, and to have everyone watch and wonder. In that way, he’s the same as you, which is why you want to defend him. And why you want to keep this thread going. There’s now no content being added except for “Kent Johnson” as subject. I’m not interested in “Kent Johnson” as subject.

 
At 12/11/2011 5:35 PM, Blogger Thomas Brady said...

"I’m not interested in “Kent Johnson” as subject."

Kent Johnson is not the subject, though; Kent Johnson's interests might be, however; but that's still a significant difference. When you and Kent Johnson lock horns, one might call this "John Gallaher/Kent Johnson as subject," but that wouldn't be fair.

This really comes back to 'what is a subject?' I'd rather that subject be a free person than a subject, per se. I'd rather let Kent Johnson make 'the subject' than 'the subject' make him; I'm that much of a humanist---especially when it comes to comment streams. The self-portrait is a modern invention and it means a great deal to me.

 
At 12/12/2011 8:32 AM, Blogger David said...

I'm only commenting so we'll get closer to the magic number 200.

Seriously, though, can we just delete all of the comments after John's reply to David Grove (re: the beekeeper's suit) and start over? Kidding. Sort of. ;-)

 
At 12/12/2011 8:44 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

David,

At some point, I'm going to strip out all the stuff on Surrealism and make a new post from it.

There's still an interesting question there.

 
At 12/12/2011 11:21 AM, Blogger David said...

Sounds good, John. I look forward to it!

 
At 12/12/2011 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we can make the two strands in these post meet. Whilst googling Koch last week, I came across this in "An Interview With Kenneth Koch":

David Kennedy: Would you describe yourself as a surrealist?

I like his answer

 
At 12/12/2011 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious why Random House/the estates are freaking out---my guess is Kent's hypothesis isn't the issue, but rather 'ownership' of what is allowed to be said about an author that a publisher 'owns.'

Who gets to control/dictate what gets written about these two poets seems to be the issue. In one corner we have family, friends, former assistants, literary executors and publishers, the men and women in white, good guys and gals (I don't doubt). In the other corner we have Kent Johnson, provocateur and pot stirrer. A writer who is seen, by some, as an exhibitionist and infantile attention whore, a pitiful creature who wants to piss on someone else’s parade in order to get his 15 minutes in the sun. (Wow!)

When the attacks against Kent become so personal and over-the-top, I agree with Brady when he says: “You who attack Johnson and think you come across as virtuous? You don't.” White coats are impossible to keep clean, but ad hominem attacks that don't pass a satirical smell test don’t much help the Koch/O’Hara cause, IMO.

 
At 12/12/2011 2:34 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Anon,

You act as if you're quoting something here, with this:

"In the other corner we have Kent Johnson, provocateur and pot stirrer. A writer who is seen, by some, as an exhibitionist and infantile attention whore, a pitiful creature who wants to piss on someone else’s parade in order to get his 15 minutes in the sun."

But I don't see what it is you're quoting from. Your comment does look quite a bit like an email Kent Johnson sent to me earlier today, though, for whatever that's worth. Not to accuse this anon of being Kent Johnson (as I see another anon did earlier about yet another anon). Just that the conversation is following rather familiar patterns by now, as such conversations tend to do.

Not in defense of whomever wrote the comment, if it is indeed a quote, but I will say that Kent Johnson is indeed a professional provocateur, for he’s built his career on what he has termed satire and provocation. I don’t think it’s an ad homonym attack to note that. Provocation is something I would think Johnson would, or should, admit to. It’s an outcome of his form of satire and projects in authorship.

If one looks at his career, from his first Araki Yasusada hoax, to his Rejection Group (where he claimed authors who weren’t authors) to his writing his name over Kenny Goldsmith’s, and now his Koch/O’Hara “authorship” dispute, it’s been a journey of authorial provocations. He is seen negatively by some, because of this. And his uses of authorship have caused some to accuse him of such things as hollow attention-seeking behavior.

He’s accused me of several things as well in emails that are also directly personal. If anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to forward his most recent one to you.

 
At 12/12/2011 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John,

In that paragraph you point to, I was semi-quoting you in the first part and paraphrasing a poster over at “Blog as Theater” in the rest of it. Why my comments follow closely an email you had from Kent earlier today, I can’t say. I honestly don’t know him. I agree with you when you write he is “a provocateur, and sees his mission to stir the kettle.” Merely “to have everyone watch and wonder”? I give him more credit when it comes to motive and method than that, perhaps naively? From what I’ve seen here, I know that Kent is not above making personal attacks, including ones directed at you.

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming already in progess.

 
At 12/13/2011 4:01 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hi anon,

By that, I meant that he’s a showman who enjoys hyperbole and innuendo. The way it works can be seen easily in this comment stream and the one under “Blog as Theatre.” (Thank you for directing me back there, I hadn’t read the whole thing.)

As that post said about his Koch/O’Hara book, that by the end of it Kent Johnson didn’t seem to really believe that Koch wrote that poem of O’Hara’s. But, when Kent appeared in the comment stream, he went back to the argument that Koch did write the poem (he didn’t claim that Koch did write the poem, only that the circumstances around the writing of the poem were mysterious and that Koch could have written the poem). The only way to disagree with such a thing is to then say that he is insinuating something, or that he has his facts wrong. When someone does that, then Johnson cries foul, saying that he said no such thing, and that the person arguing with him is making it personal and they’re being defensive.

And once he says that, it all becomes about who said what and who means what and what everyone’s motives are/were. And voila, the conversation is now about Kent Johnson. And once that happens, it’s then noted by someone (sometimes me) that this whole thing started because Kent Johnson appeared in a comment stream with an off-topic post about a book or project of his own, and when that is noted, he then says, once again, that he’s being hounded and persecuted.

 
At 12/13/2011 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As that post said about his Koch/O’Hara book, that by the end of it Kent Johnson didn’t seem to really believe that Koch wrote that poem of O’Hara’s. But, when Kent appeared in the comment stream, he went back to the argument that Koch did write the poem (he didn’t claim that Koch did write the poem, only that the circumstances around the writing of the poem were mysterious and that Koch could have written the poem).

John, are you referring to this comment stream or the one at “Blog as Theater”? I’ve just reread Kent’s comments under the latter, and I can’t seem to find where “he went back to the argument that Koch did write the poem.” Maybe I haven’t had enough caffeine yet this AM.

James Pate’s comments prove the point I was trying to make to Jordan about the use of frames such fraud, scandal, damage to Koch’s reputation:

“I’ve been reading Sun, and I have to admit, I don’t understand what the ruckus is about. I find it a surprisingly moving book. Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch have been two of my favorite American poets for decades now, and the portrayal of their relationship in the book seems, to me, the opposite of scandalous.

Taking the whole “conspiracy” part aside, the book paints nothing but a flattering picture of Koch. Here’s a poet channeling his close, late friend, and he ends up creating one of O’Hara’s most beautiful poems. Talk about hauntology!

I’ll admit, I don’t actually buy the theory. And in the book itself, Johnson seems pretty skeptical of it too. But as a kind of re-imagined history, it’s a very beautiful work.”

WV: wormss

Oh no! Not the persecution hounds!

 
At 12/13/2011 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one looks at his career, from his first Araki Yasusada hoax, to his Rejection Group (where he claimed authors who weren’t authors) to his writing his name over Kenny Goldsmith’s, and now his Koch/O’Hara “authorship” dispute, it’s been a journey of authorial provocations. He is seen negatively by some, because of this. And his uses of authorship have caused some to accuse him of such things as hollow attention-seeking behavior.

Well, when I read about the Goldsmith cover-up, I laughed and thought, Touché!

WV: pownedn

 
At 12/13/2011 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I’m at it, just wanted to say I enjoyed “Kent Johnson Is the Author of Beowulf.” The Spicer quote Hadbawnik cites is also funny.

linky-linky

 
At 12/13/2011 6:45 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hi Anon,

So your original questions were about Kent Johnson and the way things go around him in comments. I’ve tried to answer that as best I could. It seems, though, that you know a lot more about Kent Johnson’s work than you let on at first. I wish you said up front that you knew so much about his projects already. It could have saved some time.

As for your question above, yes, I was referring to his comment on the other blog. And, yes, you are right, he never did directly go back and say Koch wrote the poem in question, but he did go back and give a lengthy description of the mysterious circumstances around its composition, insinuating that there was a cover-up or something like that (all the stuff about typewriters and no note on the poem when O’Hara usually wrote notes, etc), which means the authorship of the poem is in doubt (although, though, to go back to the post about the book, no one, not even Kent Johnson, seems to really believe anyone other than O’Hara wrote that poem. All I meant by taking note of that was that Kent Johnson, by and large, doesn’t say things directly, he insinuates things, which allows him to both claim innocence when disagreed with and also to claim something like victory in all disagreements. It’s a rhetorical strategy that seems to be working very well for him, as here we are, once again, talking about him and his projects.

 
At 12/13/2011 8:32 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

One more!

 
At 12/13/2011 9:03 AM, Blogger David said...

Bam!

And to ensure that this 200th comment remains on topic, let me add two words:

Kent Johnson.

 

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