Monday, March 06, 2006

Resistance to Criticism

Seth Abramson is "suspicious of any poetics which resists criticism". In an earlier post, I said I disagreed with the idea "that it is ridiculous to have critical opinions", which I don't today think is one of the Flarflist's ideas (but I go back and forth on this). Certainly Kasey's poetry and criticism suggest that it is possible to write Flarf and respect the formation of critical opinion. But my own take on Flarf has in fact sometimes been to posit or imagine a "disconcerted critic" who is unable to apply familiar critical tools in reading the poems (Mr. Abramson?). My readings often try to imagine exactly how this critic feels and that image becomes part of the effect of the poem; once that reader has been shaken off, we get the critic who finds the poem open and walks right in (i.e. the reader of Ben Lerner's and Tony Tost's poems, to take some paradigmatic examples of this opennes without begging the question of flarfiness: these are not Flarfists.)

Picking up on McCaffery's suggestion that "there's a legitimate place for a small set of 'avant-flarf' poems being produced every so often", Abramson says the following, which puzzles me a bit:

while there might be much to defend in a single flarf poem--and while the concept itself may, like so many other, more interesting sorts of poetics do, engender some excellent and necessary dialogue on meta-topics--it's unclear what if any additional value is derived from the 836th flarf poem, as opposed to the first. The "point" (as it were) has already been made, and since the poetics which underscores that point is not itself intended to elicit any visceral enjoyment or comprehension in the reader--or, if it does, it is somewhat "beside the point"--why beat a dead horse?

What I don't understand is whether he means that the effect of that "single" poem will simply be that "point" he is talking about. That is, is there anything besides the "point" (I keep the scare-quotes because I don't think Flarf is best understood as making a point) "to defend in a single flarf poem", on this view? Can we imagine saying this sort of thing about imagist or confessional or nature poetry? I think the reason to produce a great deal more flarf all the time (not every so often) is to see what it can do and make it work better. But the reason to keep the good ones on your bookshelf is because they afford real (actual, serious) aesthetic pleasure. They are able to take note of emotions that are very difficult (and perhaps impossible) to register by other means. But I have a long way to go before I'll convince very many people about that, I expect.

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