Tuesday, March 13, 2012

reprint from old blog circa 2006-7

look at this, which I cut and pasted from some website:

Meghan O’Rourke is one of the brightest new voices in contemporary poetry and American culture. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, earned her B.A. from Yale in 1997, and that summer began her literary career at the New Yorker, first as an editorial assistant, then in 2000 as an editor.  Since 2002 she has served as culture editor for Slate, and in 2005 was named co-poetry editor, with Charles Simic, of the Paris Review.


From Yale to New Yorker to The Paris Review . . . is how it goes.   The tradition continues.  The road is paved: see the quotes from Bourdieu below.


What is Meghan O'Rourke's secret?  Why her?  Why is she showered with these prestigious jobs,— why does she have a bigpress book that duly and automatically gets a rave in the NYTimes (prepaid for, as it were) when other poets her age who are a dozen times better than her (—okay, that wouldn't be that hard—) can't even find a publisher . . .  her "career" is a gilded glidepath, greased with opportunity.

What poet her generation wouldn't want the Kenyon Review to call them "one of the brightest new voices in contemporary poetry and American culture" . . .

I repeat: why her?  There have to be at least two hundred poets her age who write better poems than her.  And her prose isn't any better: Slatejournalese, N'Yawkerpap.

How can such a mediocrity be so successful?  . . .

These thoughts from Bourdieu might be relevant to the O'Rourke case-file:

Pierre Bourdieu: "School [the institutional education system] actually reproduces the cultural division of society in many visible and invisible ways despite its apparent neutrality."

(Or: [Po-Biz] actually reproduces the cultural division of society in many visible and invisible ways despite its apparent neutrality.)

London Review of Books, 20 April 2006: Bruce Robbins writes that

Bourdieu had "an extreme scepticism about the structures of formal democracy, which he believed functioned so as to disguise the hereditary transmission of privilege, allowing the success of some and the failure of the rest to appear as an innocent process of selection on merit."

From the same review (p. 18): 

"[For Bourdieu,] domains like art and science, which appear to be free from the political and economic constraints operating elsewhere, are in fact structured by an aggessive competition for 'symbolic capital' that is neither open nor equitable. In one way or another, things are arranged so that rewards end up in the hands of those who started at the top of the social hierarchy." 

reprint from old blog (circa 2006-7)


The paperback edition of my book, "The Unsubscriber," published in January 2006 by Farrar Straus & Giroux, bears near the bottom of its front cover a quote by Meghan O'Rourke, from her Poetry Magazine (Feb 2005) review of the 2004 hardcover. 


I didn't choose this O'Rourke quote; nobody at the publisher bothered to ask me if I wanted her words on my book, my book which is of course not mine, they own it, them, the publishers, Farrar, Straus and Giroux:—

I was amazed to see this quote there because I considered the "review" from whence it's excerpted as a total hatchetjob, a hit-and-run, a termination-with-extreme-prejudice piece, (befitting the nickname everybody calls her behind her back, Agent Double O'Rourke) . . .

Why would FSG use a quote from a negative (I say it's negative: read the excerpts below) review, and place it there so prominently . . .  notice that O'Rourke's name appears in larger type than mine (the author is the least important part of the transaction), and the suspicion arises in my mind that what is really blazoned there on the frontcover is not what's being said by O'Rourke in the quote (certainly its words are not laudatory, and in fact they add up to nonsense),—

no, what FSG has arranged to have displayed there is simply her name itself, as if positioning her name there is the point of it . . . it's more of an advertisement for her than for my unfortunate book (which proved actually a nonstarter, a failure both in terms of its critical reception and its sales figures) . . .

Why?  The only way I can make sense of it is to speculate that this promotional packaging of the O'Rourke brandname is a recognition, a payoff, a salutatory thank-you from FSG,— their way of rewarding her for having perhaps inadvertently accidentally incidentally (or perhaps intentionally) written the kind of spurious review they wanted my book to receive, 

i.e. a review which doesn't address or consider seriously the poems themselves, a review that spreads gossip personal rumors about me, a review whose aim is not to present any intellectual insightful perspective on the book's poetry, but to portray its author in the most freakish way possible, because the latter is what FSG wants to sell, FSG doesn't care about my poetry, to them it's junk, FSG hopes (hoped) to have with me a sensationalized oddity-commodity they could market in a downtrend mode—

which explains why O'Rourke is careful not to compare me with other poets of my generation or to identify or match me alongside poets published by FSG, because doing that would be treating me as if I were a real poet and not the freakish "outsider" FSG wants to merchandise, and so she equates me to a "Punk Rocker" poet . . . 

which is exactly what FSG wants, they have enough real poets on their list already, they don't need another, they need a spectacle they can libel, a scandal they can slander, an "undergrounder":

Not least of their reasons for having published me is that y'know everytime FSG goes to this party or that symposium or a lit-reading or wherever, they keep getting buttonholed by some plastered poetaster or some Langpo/Post-Ahole who always demands to know why FSG only publishes Establishment poets: 

and so FSG always manages to have a token "outsider", a token screwball, a token nobody on their list of poets,—solely so that FSG can always respond to that ubiquitous dope who constantly accosts them at these gatherings:

"Establishment?  That's absurd!  What about [Bill Knott (or whoever)]: he's not an Establishment poet."  

Sadly this particular awkward face-off or gaffe seems to greet FSG everywhere, but its recurrent occasions are usually allayed by such an answer;—

FSG's  precautionary measure of larding its po-list with a token niffnaff whose name can be wielded quickly to silence any spluttering fool who dares to question its traditional normative list of rich white guy poets, is an invaluable ploy. . . 

FSG needs that oddball, that biter-off-of-chicken-heads, you see, to alleviate those endless social confrontations, to avoid the numb of those tiresome arguments . . .

I assume O'Rourke's review wasn't directly specially commissioned by FSG, but it certainly provided them with the kind of thing they obviously wanted, it contributed a few notes toward the naughty notoriety they hoped my book might accrue to augment its specious value—

in vain, as it turned out—

Because as it happens the book bombed.  Both in its critical reception and in its sales figures.

Here are some excerpts from the O'Rouke review:

"[Bill] Knott's work tends today to inspire strong dismissal. . . . [He's] been forced to self-publish some of his recent books. . . . [B]ad—not to mention offensively grotesque—poetry. . . . appalling . . . . maddening . . . . wildly uneven . . . adolescent, or obsessively repetitive . . . grotesqueries . . . . [His] language is like thick, old paint . . . his poems have a kind of prickly accrual that's less decorative than guarded or layered . . . emotionally distancing . . . . uncomfortable. Knott . . . is a willful . . . irritating . . . contrarian."
—Meghan O'Rourke, Poetry Magazine, Feb 2005


reprint from older blog

--> *

excerpt from:

gustave morin's first interview / questions by Renee Tomsich for UPFRONT magazine, may 2003

2. What were your artistic influences/inspirations in making the book?.

i don't like this question, but i'll try and answer it. the biggest influence on my work is the life that i lead. all my work comes out of my life, first and foremost. that is primary. the other artists and writers i like i can list, but they don't necessarily have any bearing on this book, or my work in general, so that won't really be helpful. as i mentioned, a penny dreadful is a collection of concrete poetry. no one in the world even knows what concrete poetry is, so it would be futile for me to name some of the writers i like that have also mined this vein. (and i'm not trying to be vague, i'm simply keeping in mind the readership of UPFRONT magazine...)  since i was a kid i've had a love / hate relationship with comics. isimilarly have a love / hate relationship to the cinema. i read everything: poets, novelists, philosophers, social-scientists, theorists, art history, the pulps -- really, a little bit of everything. some of my favorite global intelligences are: jwcurry, d.a. levy, f.a.nettelbeck, Bern Porter, Wallace Berman, Roland Topor, E.M.Cioran, Willard S. Bain, Oyvind Fahlstrom,    Ian Hamilton Finlay, Werner Herzog, Ian Curtis, F.W.Nietzsche, Joseph Cornell, Mark Laba, Gordon Matta-Clarke, Marcel Duchamp, Antonin Artaud, Bill Knott, diter rot, ray johnson, Sidney Simes, Jess Collins, Gustave Verbeek, Ed Ruscha, Max Ernst, Goya, Ernest Buckler jr., Alfred Jarry, B.S. Johnson, William S.Burroughs, e.e.cummings, Northrope Frye, Thorstein Veblen, Cornell Woolrich, Ambrose Bierce, Heraclitus and Diogenes, just off the top of my head. this list could easily go on and on until there were 2000 names on it. (& people tell me constantly that i don't like anything!)


between artaud 
and rot
lies knott

what a spot

where can I go

to escape that lot


a concept that never really took


the marathon poetry workshop: an idea whose time has passed (presumably)


it was in the 1970s I think that the concept of marathon group therapy sessions was most popular . . . the therapy group would stay together in a house for a weekend, during each day of which they would engage in a group session that lasted 14 to 16 hours straight (including meals), and breaking only for an 8-hour sleep period . . . the sustained time and focus (and perhaps especially the stress and exhaustion) generated by these nonstop marathon therapy sessions would lead, supposedly, theoretically, to self-discoveries and psychological insights not achievable in the group's normal regular meetings . . .

so: the idea was to do the same thing with a poetry workshop group . . . imagine a workshop that goes on for 15-16 hours straight without a break, 3 days in a row: 45 hours of poetry workshop in one weekend . . . many of you reading this probably know the dramas and traumas of meeting for two hours once or twice a week stretched out over a semester (even most private seminars or peergroups are usually held only once a week) . . . what if you compressed all of that workshop time into a 3-4-5 days intensive?   what breakthroughs or breakdowns, what inscapes or outscrapes, what energies and enigmas might ensue . . .

maybe it would have worked better with a peergroup, where "leadership" rotates . . .

i wonder if group therapy is ever practiced in a marathon format anymore; the idea seems such an archaism from the 1960-70s, like living in communes  . . .