[-empyre-] Starting the Fourth Week: Chris Funkhauser, Sally Silvers and Bruce Andrews

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Wed Nov 30 16:31:26 AEDT 2016

Bruce, thank your for your thoughtful responses. They do clarify where our
ideas converge and where they are very different.

"I put it in terms of the reader's (or readers') experience. Because 'the
text at the center' can imply something different from 'the reader reading
the text'. For instance, it's gotten somewhat fashionable for writers to
proclaim their lack of interest in the reader's experience or even the
existence of readers — at times, the apparent intention is to create texts
that are 'impressive', for anyone hearing it or seeing it (or hearing about
it or buying/collecting it) to elevate the status of the author...."

I very much agree with you, except for one proviso.

What the reader sees in my work or whether he or she responds to it is very
important to me. I hope to write open ended works that may move in multiple
directions. I am very interested in what direction the reader takes it or
how he or she is affected by it, if any way at all.

Where I differ from you is I believe there is no misreading of a text.
Particularly if documented, every reading of a text, every translation
(which basically is a reading of that text) becomes part of its history,
the penumbra of associations around it.

"Sure, even the reveries (or the wild associations or confusions or
mishearings) that get 'built' around the text reading it becomes part of it
— but I'd say the 'it' is the reader experience; not sure if those
constructions can be said to be an actual part of the text..."

I don't think those readings or reveries can be easily separated from the
text since one can not assume there exists an absolute reading of it. How
can we tell which readings belong to the text and which don't?

"Let me know if your essay on photography is something others could link
to....  To hone in on how the watcher dialogues with what is 'in front of
the lens', still emphasizes the representational/realist aspects of the
art. This brought to mind a fascinating article in the new issue of Louis
Armand's Prague-based journal, VLAK"

The Peripheral Space of Photography essay is not on line. It is published
by Green Integer Press and needs to be purchased through them. If you wish,
I can send you a PDF copy of the essay.

Reading the essay, you will see that I don't treat photography as a
representational medium at all, but to the contrary. For reason I explain
in detail the essay, photography is a very disruptive, subversive medium
that undercuts official "representations."

"... (a huge issue #5) on the way film animation confounds the
camera/indexical/realist tendencies of film theory, by emphasizing the
individual celluloid frame. Adrian Martin's "Game with DVD" is the piece.
He suggests that "contemporary cinema in the digital age tends ever more
towards the surface manipulation of a graphic image on a computer screen"
—citing Thomas Elsaesser & Daniel Frampton, the latter grounding his
"account of cinema on the basis of the constitutive *artifice* of the
medium — the idea that everything can be created and manipulated within an
image-bank, rather than (or subsequent to having been) 'captured' by the

This is a very ambiguous passage, and I am not sure whether you are for the
"surface manipulation of a graphic image" described or against it. My guess
is that you support and admire it.

As you may have guessed from a recent previous post of mine where I discuss
"color" and the continuous use of wide screen lens effects in commercial
digital cinema, I am very much adainst it. The digital technology increases
the "power" of the maker exponentially. As a result, it creates monotony. I
expressed the same idea succinctly earlier in the month quoting from my
catalogue essay on the black and white drawings of the Russian artist Olga

            Olga's Weak Art

iPhone6 destroyed photography, giving the photographer absolute power over
its subject. At the click of a finger, every  milli-inch of one's
solipsistic reality is mastered, replicating or giving it an intensity of
codified, algorithmic hue—of a violet panoptican twilight zone. The weak
power of black and white images— rebelling.

"Again, not sure about this. Poets' thoughts are usually claimed to be 'in
motion' in a text, foregrounding the (sensual?) process by which they get
articulated or 'projected' [as in 'Projective Verse'], rather than things
that are 'fixed' (what you're calling a "predicated idea"). Otherwise, they
get criticized for being dogmatic, overly intellectual, etc. But I'm still
wanting the exchange to tilt away from the author's thoughts, whether
predicated or in process — to open up a wider arena for the reader & for
the disruptions or near-infinite horizons that language implicates..."

I mean something much more specific with "tissue of thought" or "poetry of
motion" which have very little to do with projective verse or "the poet's
[individual] thoughts." The idea originally was developed by me in relation
to modern Turkish poetry and the poetics I call Eda. "Tissue of thought"
has to do with the agglutinative nature of Turkish syntax. As a result,
sound/music in that poetry (in Eda) does not derive from the physical sound
of word;, but from the movement among them them. I discuss agglutination
and its relation to Eda in detail in multiple essays, all of which are in *Eda:
Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry*. Agglutination is an elusive
subject for one who does not speak the language. One needs to read the
anthology. I had extensive discussions with Jerome Rothenber who has read
the book about it.

Because English totally lacks agglutination, when I apply the poetics of
Eda to American poetry, space replaces agglutination. One can understand
what I mean, by reading my poem The Spiritual Life of Replicants and the
essay "A Few Thoughts On Fragments" at the end of it.

Thank you for the exchange. I hope my responses are helpful.



On Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 6:27 PM, Bruce Andrews <andrews at fordham.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I hope somebody can help Macon Reed with this!
> On Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 8:42 PM, Macon Reed <swapmeetproject at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Are my emails getting through? How do I unsubscribe?
>> On Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 7:04 PM, Bruce Andrews <andrews at fordham.edu>
>> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Craig, thanks for this.
>>> Really feeing that life on the web is recreating some of the 'distance'
>>> features of the scattered poets' life in the 70s: where you didn't have to
>>> choose between a local scene (with its shared & often narrow aesthetic
>>> assumptions, groupthink, life style-centeredness — often fondly recalled by
>>> insiders as 'community' & 'warmth') & isolation; now, if you already have a
>>> sense of who & what you're interested in, you can find a network out there
>>> to tap into — whether mail or, now, email & listserves & blog comments,
>>> etc. I remember being invited down to New Orleans to read by Camille
>>> Martin, who was corresponding with a clutch of (mostly women) avantish
>>> poets around the country & abroad, but was frustrated by a (mostly male) &
>>> less avantish local scene [dominated by something similar to the Poetry
>>> Project's mix of New American Poetry, a generation or so younger than the
>>> pioneers in the Don Allen anthology]; she started a small non-profit
>>> literary society that could apply for grants to bring poets in from out of
>>> town, more reminiscent of the work of the people she was corresponding
>>> with. Again, the issue of relying on an 'at hand' already constituted local
>>> scene or community, vs. reaching out to a farflung network of (usually)
>>> strangers. [Some of this is probably affected (or I could say, infected) by
>>> the dynamics of college-based Creative Writing Workshops & the tendency for
>>> graduates to stay close to where they graduated & trying to create a
>>> smaller but maybe even more narrowly focussed scene or community.]
>>> On the 3 editors you mention: I didn't get much sense of a
>>> close-knittedness between Williams, Higgins & Rothenberg, but the first 2
>>> had presses & I was very impressed with what they were publishing (&
>>> gratified that they responded very positively to work that I sent along to
>>> them: both Jonathan & Dick expressed a similar thought — that they might
>>> like to consider doing a small book of mine, but that I hadn't built up
>>> enough of a reputation [in the magazine world] to allow for the sort of
>>> name recognition that'd keep the book from just sitting in boxes. I was
>>> sending them work at the very start of my efforts to track down magazines
>>> that'd be interested in what I was doing. [Jonathan Williams, who I only
>>> met years later — true for the other 2 as well — was also a completely
>>> captivating & charming letter writer, so that encouraged me to up my game
>>> in response]. Rothenberg, as I said, was doing a magazine of ethnopoetics (
>>> *Alcheringa*, with the recently deceased & dearly missed Dennis
>>> Tedlock) that I sent work to; because he was pretty much only doing
>>> translations there, he put me in touch with Ron Silliman — who had just
>>> started *Tottel's* & turned out to be nearly exactly on my poetic
>>> wavelength, which began 45 years (!) years of close contact &
>>> collaboration; again, Ron & I didn't meet for 6 or 7 years.
>>> I never saw Bern Porter's magazine, but had seen his books a few years
>>> after I started writing:  I was in school in Cambridge, Mass. & made a few
>>> trips to NYC where you could find such things in the early 70s — as was
>>> true of perhaps the most radical poetry (etc.) journal of the time, *0-9
>>> *[which James Hoff put out a wonderful collected edition of — they had
>>> just stopped publishing when I got around to sending them work. But re Bern
>>> P.: I was asked by Michael Wiater to guest edit an issue of his magazine, *Toothpick,
>>> Lisbon & the Orcas Islands* — quite a title — & I wrote to dozens of
>>> people in 1973, none of whom I'd ever met, assembling their addresses by
>>> asking editors [Richard Kostelanetz, at the time, was a virtual Rolodex of
>>> contact information] & then writing them, saying I'd like to see an
>>> extremely large amount of material which I'd make decisions on very quickly
>>> & send the rest back. Bern Porter sent me a BOX of about 300 separate
>>> pages/pieces that I selected a couple from. Wonderful generosity of spirit
>>> was close to a norm in those days, again all in the mail. As for Gertrude
>>> Stein, I was lucky enough to have access to the Johns Hopkins library
>>> (while I was getting a Masters degree), which had the multi-volume Yale
>>> edition including her early & most radical work, within a year after I
>>> started writing, in 1969, so the Something Else Press attention was a
>>> welcome treat. [I'd probably say that a consensus among my peer
>>> 'language-centered writers' of the 70s/80s, Stein was the key writer of the
>>> 20th century — something that's not a consensus in any other group of poets]
>>> On Sun, Nov 27, 2016 at 7:48 AM, Craig Saper <csaper at umbc.edu> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Bruce
>>>> You wrote, "most of the so-called 'Language Poets' only knew each
>>>> other through the mail, so one key was getting mailing addresses for
>>>> people: which led to an interesting focus on magazine editors or
>>>> publishers. …  like Jonathan Williams, Dick Higgins, Jerry Rothenberg …”
>>>> Can you say more about this poetry-of-publishing with at least these
>>>> three key figures?
>>>> Also, …
>>>> What role did Bern Porter’s *Berkeley *magazine play — or had it
>>>> folded by the time the East Bay poetry scene was flourishing?
>>>> Were you introduced to Gertrude Stein or any of the European
>>>> avant-garde through Something Else Press? Or, was Higgins picking-up on the
>>>> interests of a group of poets in deciding to publish?
>>>> Was there ever a synergy among these publishers? Did they talk about
>>>> their role in the networked and poetry scene?
>>>> Did Jonathan Williams’ *Jargon *grow from, or encourage, the
>>>> assembling of poets and artists spread geographically around the US in a
>>>> loose network?
>>>> Obviously — much more to ask — thanks …
>>>> Craig
>>>> On Nov 26, 2016, at 11:14 PM, Bruce Andrews <andrews at fordham.edu>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Murat & all,
>>>> some 'first responders' [more to come, but let's start somewhere]:
>>>> *you said *
>>>> "I agree with you about the ups and down of the Project. We all heard
>>>> our share of boring stuff there. I did doze off occasionally but the place
>>>> always seemed to come through. A lot of poets, artists came from different
>>>> parts of the States and the world and learned from and collaborated
>>>> with each other."
>>>> [As much as I appreciated the Poetry Project as a place to get to hear
>>>> & meet my peers & poets I'd only known on the page, what you're calling
>>>> 'ups and downs' probably are more reflective of changing aesthetics — or,
>>>> possibly these days, what identity group commitments are being reflected.
>>>> And a lot of that put some distance in my relationship to its central
>>>> pushes.
>>>> One thing relevant, I think, to talking about 'the digital' [which is
>>>> our topic & I'm as guilty as anyone of straying...] is how poets decide
>>>> what to present in a live, 'poetry-reading' situation. This has certainly
>>>> led a bunch of folks to put on sophisticated, elaborate multi-media
>>>> performances, often with off-putting tech troubles — to incorporate digital
>>>> formats, audio-visuals, sometimes the kitchen sink, into their (usually)
>>>> half-hour presentations. [In recent years, I've heard many — especially
>>>> younger — poets talk about how boring a straight, unadorned reading is,
>>>> compared with the additions of singing, video, photo slides, live musicians
>>>> or soundtracks:  very possibly as we shift into the 21st century digital
>>>> 'screen' world].  For me, moving to NYC forty years ago [coming from grad
>>>> school in Massachusetts, where there were basically no readings up my alley
>>>> — oh, I remember one fabulous exception:  Bob Grenier reading with Larry
>>>> Eigner — & my having given only one or two public readings of my own work],
>>>> meant figuring out *what* work that I'd written would work best in
>>>> that situation (having for the previous half dozen years only evaluated &
>>>> quibbled over & sorted my work based on reading it on the page):  so,
>>>> checking out audience reactions to various kinds of writing & seeing what
>>>> tended to get enthusiastically responded to [parallel? musicians, moving
>>>> from bedroom to the stage, from recording to live occasion]. This is still
>>>> a keen interest of mine when it comes to making music/sound for dance
>>>> performances — seeing, in other people's dance/music collaborations, what
>>>> seems to work or not. Anyhow, not only did I start to figure out what
>>>> poetry of mine might function well in a live environment, it started (&
>>>> continues) to affect the sort of writing I'm likely to do — I'm much more
>>>> prone to foreground the *sound* of the language & the sonic tone of
>>>> the rhetoric & address than I was in the early 1970s; also, I got much more
>>>> interested in not only discursive/social materials to 'deploy' in the
>>>> writing, but also to move away from an intense focus on individual words &
>>>> word clusters, to allow for more elaborate phrasing & 'speakable' material
>>>> — something that also tended to allow for a more
>>>> politicized/socially-revved up kind of work, but still with my usual
>>>> fascination with disjunctive/disruptive/abnormal language].
>>>> *you also said*:
>>>> "What the Project has been doing is what the Web is doing now. I have
>>>> had long term collaborations with artists over the years whom I have never
>>>> met. That is the huge positive of the digital world."
>>>> [Like I said, my aesthetic preoccupations were shared in the '70s by a
>>>> raft of poets, the ones in my baby-boomer age group being the most
>>>> accessible — & here I'm talking ye olde postal delivery:
>>>> most of the so-called 'Language Poets' only knew each other through the
>>>> mail, so one key was getting mailing addresses for people: which led to an
>>>> interesting focus on magazine editors or publishers. Starting out as a poet
>>>> at the beginning of the '70s, with pretty definite notions of what was
>>>> what, that meant not having to rely on the dominant notion of what was
>>>> happening in whatever local 'scene' was in my area. Luckily. Because I
>>>> could get their addresses, it led me to correspondence with editors like
>>>> Jonathan Williams, Dick Higgins, Jerry Rothenberg (Jerry was key: he put me
>>>> in touch with Ron Silliman, in 1971, which jumpstarted what was the first
>>>> extended correspondance of our 'language centered writing' world). (This
>>>> didn't really change until later in the 1970s, when a small handful of
>>>> poets of similar aesthetics began to cohere in NY & in the Bay Area.)
>>>>  [And that 'non-localized' or 'un-scene' situation was what Charles
>>>> (Bernstein) & I always had in mind when we started, in NYC in 1977-78, to
>>>> plan out a journal dealing with poetics, that wouldn't be local/limited in
>>>> that way — L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E.]
>>>> The Web, as you helpfully note, is the current rendition of just this
>>>> exciting possibility — & again, it's not so dependent on whatever local
>>>> 'scene' (or, possibly more fraught, local 'creative writing workshop' value
>>>> system) is agreeing on or championing or excluding. So, especially as a
>>>> place for collaboration, it has real utopian possibilities. And when it
>>>> comes to writers with very primitive tech skills [& this has been true with
>>>> all my ventures into sound making], it allows for collaborations that can
>>>> bring folks like me into conversation with simpatico people far distant
>>>> spatially (& thus, not just having to rely on whatever is 'close at hand'
>>>> in the neighborhood).
>>>> But I'm still wondering about what type of work it overvalues or
>>>> undervalues.
>>>> And I'm still wondering about issues of access, recognition, publicity,
>>>> career, canon-formation, etc.
>>>> [didn't get to this]:
>>>> On Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 1:12 PM, Murat Nemet-Nejat <muratnn at gmail.com>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> "We did want to focus attention on language itself as the medium, but
>>>>> I'm not ready to embrace some of your characterization:  words & letters
>>>>> are not non-referential, but we liked to organize them in other ways beside
>>>>> what they were pointing to (which was too often, for us, the author's
>>>>> personalizing experience or expressiveness or traditional lyric
>>>>> expectations). We tended to want the readers' experience at the center —
>>>>> which cuts against some of this binary of yours about the sensual,
>>>>> movement-based vs. logical aspects of language"
>>>>> Bruce, when you say "We tended to want the readers' experience at the
>>>>> center," are you saying anything different than saying "I want the text at
>>>>> the center," the reader reading the text? The question interests me because
>>>>> in my essay The Peripheral Space of Photography, I assert that what is
>>>>> important in a photograph is not the photographer's focus (framing), but
>>>>> what escapes that framing. The real dialogue occurs between the
>>>>> watcher of the photograph and what is in front of the lens (human or a
>>>>> landscape, etc.). If, as I think you are to saying, it is the reader (and
>>>>> not purely the text), then even the "reveries" the reader builds around the
>>>>> text reading it become part of it. Is that not so?
>>>>> "Logical" was an unfortunate choice of words, on my part. I am more
>>>>> interested in the distinction between predicated idea (therefore fixed) and
>>>>> thought as process (therefore movement). One can have thought and/in
>>>>> movement (that's what Eda is). In that way, thought is sensual.
>>>>> "So if there's an "exchange" it's a mutual bending (which might be
>>>>> way too mutually disruptive to warrant being called a "synthesis"). Maybe
>>>>> that's more like the relationship between a 'dialect' & an 'official'
>>>>> language — [and by the way, doesn't "the dialectic" typically end up in a
>>>>> synthesis]?
>>>>> Yes, mutually bending and disruptive, not a synthesis. That's what a
>>>>> true, transforming translation does, bends, alters both languages,
>>>>> discovers potentialities in them. Walter Benjamin does see a synthesis in
>>>>> the process when he writes that in a translation "A" does not move to "B"
>>>>> but both move to a third place "C ," which he calls "ideal language."
>>>>> Some people believe Benjamin was being a "poet" (poet in the pejorative
>>>>> sense) here. "Ideal language" is a mystical fantasy. I am not one of them.
>>>>> I believe it is part of the core of his very original concept of
>>>>> translation.
>>>>> "... doesn't "the dialectic" typically end up in a synthesis]?"
>>>>> Not necessarily. I believe in an art or poetry of continuous
>>>>> dialectic. The Talmud, where the interpretations of  a holy passage are
>>>>> never resolved and remain always multiple, is such a text.
>>>>> To be continued (inviting others to join).
>>>>> Ciao,
>>>>> Murat
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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