Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Rejection Group Hits the Market


The Rejection Group.

It was an anonymous group for a while. Then Kent Johnson outed himself. Then he was (maybe) kicked out of the group. And now they’re back. The Rejection Group appears to contain five members that are tagged in the chapbook only by their initials:


More specifically, though, The Rejection Group is not longer anonymous. The museum is open: TRG was a six-month experiment in collaboration, involving Kenny Goldsmith, Christian Bok, Vanessa Place, Kasey Silem Mohammad, and Kent Johnson.


5 Works

In fine, handsewn production (with two different color-versions of cover) from Habenicht Press.

This is the first book by the Rejection Group (a second, larger collection, mostly translations from Rimbaud's Illuminations, is in preparation).

19 pp., $7 each. Copies (A-Z), signed by all five authors, available for $20 each.



While supplies last.


Good question. Thank you for asking.




The Rejection Group performs a necessary function. “Poets, hi.” it begins. “We’ve had it,” it continues. Uncomfortable things, impolite things, TRG writes, “never quite made it into your experiments.” Therefore, “Sometimes one just has to start from scratch.”

“Our poet,” in TRG's fusion, is a drover, it seems. And TRG is actually thinking of poets and poetry as worthy of satire and critique in art. I take this as a positive development, a positive project. Rimbaud is translated. Wittgenstein and Ashbery are mapped. And all assaults are full frontal. Even the bumper stickers make an appearance:




A thesis for the project, of sorts:

“There can be no sovereign music for your prefab amps and your cautious pride.”

Don't say I didn't warn you.


At 4/21/2011 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, this is bullshit.

1) Even though I've heard the group did exist, I've also heard from someone close to Kasey Mohammad that the work is published without permission of the members of the original group--i.e., that Kent Johnson, who apparently destroyed the group through his bullying shenanigans in the first place, has published the material without consent of the other authors.

2) I've heard, too, that some of the work is Johnson's invention and has nothing to do with the original Rejection Group: the bumper stickers, I've been told, were definitely not part of the group's work.

3) I haven't seen them yet, but the signatures on the more expensive special copies are obviously forged, since Goldsmith, Bok, Place, and Mohammad would (duh) not sign their names to something they have not given permission to be published.

4) I've been told the Rimbaud translation in the chapbook has been completely changed by Johnson after the fact: it does not represent the original text agreed to by the group, and one can probably assume that the forthcoming gathering of like Rimbaud translations "by" the Rejection Group will be similarly transformed.

The whole thing is pretty objectionable, I'd say.

At 4/21/2011 10:08 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, the introduction from the publisher does call into question the authorship, at least of CB and KG. And, I think, states that there is some evidence or argument that only KSM, VP, and KJ are the authors:

"The which for as much as the words are cleanly (although the thing ment be somewhat satirical) I have thought good also to let passe as they came to me, and the rather bicause (as master CB hath well alleged in his letter) the well minded reader may reape some commoditie out of the most frivolous works that are written."

At 4/21/2011 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But why would it be "bullshit," as the poster above claims?

I haven't seen the RG book yet, but it does appear, if he or she is right, pretty solidly in line with the principles of Conceptual Poetry, as officially formulated by Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin. In fact, looks to me maybe one of the most interesting and "put your money where your mouth is" Conceptual works to date:

Goldsmith, famously:

"Conceptual writing employs self and ego-effacing tactics via uncreativity, unoriginality, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts..."

And Dworkin, in the Introduction to Against Expression, the big new Academically sanctioned anthology of "Conceptual Writing" published by Northwestern UP, states that the next frontier to be crossed, not yet quite approached by Conceptual poets, will be to "sign" for other authors-- to gift one's creative work to the names of other writers, imaginary and actual (sorry, I don't have the exact phrasing in front of me, but that's the sense of it). There is irony and poignancy aplenty in Dworkin's proposal, inasmuch as Dworkin seems unaware of the long and rich history of such gestures; it's certainly nothing to be "discovered" by Conceptual Poetics!

So I dunno... Seem Legit and kind of cool to me, whatever the hell is actually going on here behind the scenes. To tell the truth, I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to light this is a work by KG and comrades, using poor KJ as a prop and foil, in application of Dworkin's call in the anthology! Has anyone considered that?

And one more thing. I don't care who wrote those Poetry Bumper Stickers. Those are freaking funny.

At 4/21/2011 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Araki Yasusada wrote it.

At 4/21/2011 11:12 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

The whole thing is very complicated, really, and the two Anonymous commentators above don't know the half of it, frankly. I'll leave it at that (more may be emerging at a later date) and share here a previously unreleased feature of some connection: two letters from a longer exchange I had with Craig Dworkin a couple months or more back, part of the fall-out of the RG implosion. I've deleted his side of it, as he declined my request to make the whole thing public. But some of what's here (the stuff about Signature, for instance), connects with comments the two Anonymous make previously. Also, the quote from the Dworkin/Goldsmith book referred to by the second poster is below. So for what it's worth, these two letters of relevance to Dworkin. I'll have to post each letter separately, due to length:

At 4/21/2011 11:13 AM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I so wish these people would leave poetry alone and pursue their true talents which would be, I don't know, spray painting their names on train cars or walls in alleys or something.

At 4/21/2011 11:16 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Dear Craig,

OK, this is interesting.

Yes, I know my version has a different meaning. And its meaning has very much to do with what you say about the "Signature" towards the start of that section. That's why I think it would have been relevant to mention it in context of your discussion of KG's DAY. My act of theft and displacement (I say this fairly serenely, even as I'm aware it may sound like I'm about to have a breakdown) deactivates the invisible shock-fence of paratextual protocol surrounding KG's DAY and collapses, immediately, the material object of the book itself (including, centrally, the ideological complex of its Authorship, publication, copyright, and so forth) into the "total aesthetic" of the appropriative gesture.

Yes, as you say, KG's gesture is an original act of unoriginality; but so is mine-- as an antithesis and not derivative in the least. In fact, so far as I know, my DAY is the first instance in American poetry of the open heist and repackaging of a whole *Book,* and if that's not conceptual, I don't know what is. Plus, my book is a more elegant example of deskilling, given that I almost didn't have to do anything! And by the way, I don't know why you continue to push the myth that KG typed the whole thing, when he's already admitted he scanned most of it... Anyway, why Kenny, Vanessa, and Christian should still be so snitty about it is beyond me. You'd think some months of friendly collaboration would have smoothed things over a bit.

Seriously, though: The ambitious experiment is fine, and the people involved are brilliant, no question. But official norms of Authorial positioning and self-fashioning are really the elephant in the room of Conceptual writing. And these norms are in no way necessary or organic to the experiment, you see. It's amazing to me, after what's happened to the A-G the past 100 years, that Flarf and Conceptual writers (forget Langpo) have such a safe and rehearsed notion of the experimental. I mean that. They *still*, after all their good ancestors have been so neatly hung in the Museum, take as "natural" and benign the ideological forms of ascription and claim that are the very fuel of institutional legitimation and capture. And it ultimately guarantees their poetic sorting, classification, and domestication within parameters and forces the "conceptual" might begin, I'd suggest, to think itself beyond.

Or to put it another way, no more Conceptual poetry without four-dimensional institutional critique.

And as for conversing further with Kenny, well, I've already tried a number of times and no response. Disappointing, since the official claim is that Conceptual writing sets out to engage ideas and spark further dialogue and thought. I mean, I'd love to talk to him about why this analogy he keeps shouting about, the web and photography, is a false one...

all the best,


At 4/21/2011 11:17 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...


Dear Craig,

Thanks very much, appreciate the reply.

On this, just by way of note:

>and the twist is that the really radical intervention comes ONLY when it goes unnoticed.

I've been intimately involved in, I think fair to say, the most discussed work of past half century in the above regard.

And as for Jacques Debrot, I only noticed the footnote about him after I went back to your essay last night, where you say:

>"Signing a text that one hasn’t written will surely become less remarkable,
and the next frontier of propriety will materialize when conceptual writing antagonizes the institutions of poetry by signing for others under texts that they have not written. Jacques Debrot published a number of poems under John Ashbery’s name, as well as a fabricated interview (Readme #4)."

I don't know if you've seen Dear Lacan: An Analysis in Correspondence, published some years back by the CCCP in UK and also in an anthology by Bad Press, also UK. Therein Jacques Debrot is analyzed in somewhat detailed letters by Jacques Lacan and Jacques-Alain Miller. In case of the last two, no secret, they are being "signed for." Slavoj Zizek wrote an actual short preface to the collection, though I think almost all those who have read it think it's faked-out. Anyway, regarding Debrot's interview with Ashbery, a cool thing, I agree, wonder if you've seen my book A Question Mark above the Sun (probably not, a small edition quickly sold out), the middle part composed of four essays serially published in Chicago Review, in which I deal with the works of recent Brit poets. There I move the "fake interview" genre into criticism proper-- in each of the pieces. Not gratuitously, but as part of the critical-aesthetic of the gesture... Only J.H. Prynne, who fell asleep on me in the middle of our conversation, has complained so far.

Finally, regarding the "sloppy stoner stickers" affixed to my edition of DAY and your other remarks regarding it: 1) The book IS being sold and last I checked it was outselling KG's version on Amazon, though I think Amazon has taken mine down, since it's too "improper," as it were (Kenny's, though, is still there!); 2) It's been collected by a number of libraries (special collections, granted, but still indexed); and 3) Of course my book comes with "its original context in clear view," and it couldn't have been done otherwise, no less than KG's comes with *its* context in clear view. You are missing the dialectic of it. In that sense, the "sloppy" attribution is all to the point: Paratext is ideological through and through, affixed (stuck) via convention, potentially peeled off in conceptual dimensions of critique. But Kenny Goldsmith, you see, DOESN'T wish, it seems, his Signature to be peeled off; he wants it to be permanently stuck. Well, that's awkwardly put, I know, but it relates, again, to what I said about the elephant in the room of Conceptual Poetry-- one that stands uncomfortably in the center ring of your Academic Book.

We should continue this; there is more to talk about it, and it may prove fruitful. What do you think? And please feel free, if you like, to share anything I've sent you with others in the RG circle, given they don't want to talk to me anymore.



At 4/21/2011 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

5 Works is a fresh and interesting animal, even if much of it was ripped off of letters I wrote to Jack Spicer that I did NOT give permission to be printed.

- Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca

At 4/21/2011 11:51 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

"But Kenny Goldsmith, you see, DOESN'T wish, it seems, his Signature to be peeled off; he wants it to be permanently stuck."

There's a long history of this problem in art and literature.

In other news: Hi Kent! Long time no see!

At 4/21/2011 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems silly that a group bent on disrupting normative modes of authorship would be upset in any way over what gets published under their collective moniker.

Anyway, welcome back KJ.

-The Rejection Group.

At 4/22/2011 7:47 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Here, by the way, is the Introduction to the Rejection Group chapbooke (Hurry if you desire one--they are going fast, I hear. AND rumors of an impending lawsuit to stop distribution have begun to buzz around. So):

The Printer to the Reader

It hath bin an old saying, that whiles two doggs do strive for a bone, the thirde may come and carie it away. And this proverbe may (as I feare) be wel
verefied in me which take in hand the imprinting of this poeticall Poesie. For the case seemeth doubtful, and I will disclose my conjecture. Master C.B. (in a separate missive) hath cunningly dischaged himselfe of any responsibilitie for this texte, as the graver sort of greyhaired judgers mighte (perhaps) conceive in the publication of these pleasant Pamphlets. And beside that, a message from K. G. (with whome as seemeth, the original
copie hereof was passed from one to th’other), doth with no lesse clerkly cunning seeke to perswade the printer, that he (also) had no hande in its making; and bothe gentlemen woulde by no meanes have it published. I am not privie, forsooth, to any declaratione at this date from K.S.M., nor from
V.P., nor K.J., these most notorious persons, too, assumed in some quarters as the Authores. This in despyte of what the venerable C.D. hath recently
informed us, namely, “’Tis come a time when affixing one’s signature to an alien text be in no wise remarkable, and we fain arrive at the next frontier of proprietie, when the institutions of poetry shall be agonized by *scriptores
conceptiones* signing for others under texts the which themselves have not written.” Now I feare very muche (all these words notwithstanding) that the
aforementioned C.B. and K.G. were of one assent compact to have it
imprinted: And yet, finding by experience that nothing is so wel handled now adayes, but that some malicious minds may either take occasion to mislike it
themselves, or else finde meanes to make it odious unto others: They have therefore (each of them) politiquely prevented the daunger of misreport, and suffered me the poore Printer to runne away with the palme of so perillous a
victorie. Notwithstanding, having wel perused the worke, I find nothing therein amisse (to my judgemente) unlesse it be two or three wanton places passed over in the discourse of a dubious enterprise: The which for as much
as the words are cleanly (although the thing ment be somewhat satiricall) I have thought good also to let them passe as they came to me, and the rather
bicause (as master C. B. hath well alleged in his letter) the well minded reader may reape some commoditie out of the most frivolous works that are
written. And as the venomous spider will sucke poison out of the most holesome herbe, and the industrious Bee can gather hony out of the most stinking weede: Even so the discrete reader may take a happie example by the
most vicious verses, although the captious and harebrained heads can neither be encoraged by the good, nor forewarned by the bad. To conclude, the worke of the most mysterious Rejection Groupe is so universall, as either in one
place or other, any mans mind may therewith be satisfied. The which I
adventure (under pretext of this promise) to present unto all indifferent eyes as followeth.

New Rejection Groupe chapbookes available: $7 each, black or white cover;
$20 for a *very limited edition* signed copy by K.G., V.P., K.S.M., C.B.,
and K.J.

visit here

At 4/22/2011 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet another version of Kent Johnson "winning."

At 4/22/2011 8:30 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>Yet another version of Kent Johnson "winning."

How are things at the Nation, Jordan?

Well, if there IS a lawsuit, I hope I win, yes.

At 4/22/2011 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan who? But thanks for playing, KJ.

At 4/22/2011 9:11 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Sorry, if not. Out of practice.

At 4/23/2011 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The subject to this post his "Who" but shouldn't it really be "Who Cares?"

I mean, if this is the fate of the avant garde-- a bunch of unfunny AWP bumper stickers written by rejects from Marjorie Perloff's Home for Troubled Boys-- then Billy Collins is looking better every day.

At 4/23/2011 8:38 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It would have to be the Home of Troubled Boys & Girls, just to keep it accurate.

As for caring or not caring, your version of not caring sounds like you care, at least a little bit.

I hate to throw things at Billy Collins, as he's had SO much thrown at him, but, to be honest, I've gotten to the point where nothing could make his poetry look better to me. Except maybe doing a random recombination of sentences. I'll have to give that one a try.


Post a Comment

<< Home