Friday, April 24, 2009

KGB Report

The Corresponding Society in the red room again

We had fun --- that’s a monosyllabic summary of our convergence held at the KGB Bar this bygone week. The KGB, prestigious but friendly, is a lovely place to read and drink; we hosted our celebration for the release of issue one there (July, maybe) and were pleased to return approx. ten months later with a new book. Much transpired since our first downtown visitation; our petit club has developed by way of adventures and challenges --- we’ve continued publication, strategized further endeavors, explored/negotiated our definitions, toured the land, and &c. This event was fundamentally a birthday party for newly published issue two of Correspondence. We wanted to attempt giving the audience a taste of our quality (after all the work putting it together, we remain stubbornly amazed at what exciting letters we managed to collect in our pages). The featured readers included all the familiar editors of the journal, plus two new contributors to no. 2: Jennifer Stolhman (editor of something named Ubiquitous) and Mike McDonough (who we all were meeting for the first time and who, to speak rather idiomatically, blew us all away). One reader, Will Morris, cancelled the night before --- claiming, in an email, to be trapped in the Deep South. The show went on regardless and a small crowd of friends and friends’ friends, maybe a few unwitting strangers, arrived at the USSR-tinted bar upstairs. Thereafter, most everyone probably enjoyed the show despite the serious obstacle of unavailable bathrooms (some block-wide plumbing dilemma kept patrons out of the toilets until intermission). All readers delivered seductive peeks into the various contents of Correspondence 2. Most read poetry, with Adrian Shirk, and her short story about what happens around eating meals, the exception. Lonely Christopher acted host, making introductions, and subsequently presented his own work via enlisted substitutes (his parents, reading treated political speeches). Most fittingly, Greg Afinogenov, who was celebrating his birthday, closed the event by reading his translations of Russian poetry (by writers persecuted by the Soviet regime, ironical for a venue draped in communist symbolism and named after secret police). Reader, you ought to have been there --- and if you were, hi. Some pictorial evidence has already been made available, for those inclined to visuals, on the pictures page of our website (images of kids, dressed in sundry earth tones, framed by the red walls of the room). We hope that such a swell time will prepare us for the days ahead, for now our promotional efforts must begin in earnest if we are to convince hundreds of potential readers that our new book is handsome, special, and worth some attention. Here we go, then.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pertinent Data

Correspondence No. 2 is now available! Pre-orders will be fulfilled presently. New orders may and should be placed through the Pay-Pal system on our Online Store (or through email --- just email us). The book is priced inadvisably cheap, at eight bucks, and absolutely fatted with awesome new writing. What the fuck are you waiting for?

Well, you might be waiting for this Thursday --- when you plan to come and hang out with the Corresponding Society at the KGB Bar! Read all about it here. There shall be poets, drinks, and copies of the journal. Mark your calendars:

Venue: The KGB Bar
Location: 85 East 4th Street, Manhattan
Date: April 23
Time: 7pm
Featured Readers: Adrian Shirk, Greg Afinogenov, Lonely Christopher, Robert Snyderman, Christopher Sweeney, Will Morris, Jen Stohlman, Mike McDonough

Once you’ve picked up a copy of Correspondence 2, please consider sending us some of your work because submissions for Correspondence No. 3 are now being accepted! Please refer to the super-fun submission guidelines here. The plan is the have the third issue out by August. We shall see.

Also, for the curious (who haven’t already seen this): Adrian Shirk has posted the second part of her account of the Corresponding Society spring tour! You can read it on her blog.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stolen Glances

Terri delivers a fine video production on airbrushing
A questionable reading of Rob Fitterman’s Metropolis
by Lonely Christopher

As a poet who works extensively with “found” text and plagiarism as praxis myself, certain writers began recommending I discover the work of Rob Fitterman. Before I finally read him, he crept repeatedly into my life through such mentions and I even had a conversation with him, without realizing who he was (drunk party), about recent projects like Issue 1 that skirt legality by the unauthorized appropriation/use of intellectual property (that project, which notably incurred the blog-wrath of Ron Silliman, was edited by Stephen McLaughlin and Jim Carpenter and not written by any of the listed contributors; text here). When I got around to picking up the three books that constitute his long form poem Metropolis, I was initially confused. From what I had heard, I presumed Fitterman produced massive texts (like Kenneth Goldsmith’s monolithic Day, which wasn’t even proofread let alone perused by an audience) that contained unending vistas of apoetic data (like Issue 1, which is over three-thousand pages --- although I think the work is computer generated rather than stolen). What I found instead, in the first through the twenty-ninth entries of (thin) volumes I and II, were crafted, poetic experiments of compositional variety. Consequently --- I should say: because, like a brat, I didn’t get what I expected --- I concluded Fitterman’s project was not engaging with the idea of plagiarism as profoundly as I was given to understand by his recommenders. Volume II provides a “key” to the individual processes of some poems: the mash-up techniques include splicing the journals of Lewis and Clarke together with a café menu, typing Petrarch’s The Dialogs into a search engine, and listing final sentences of books found around the poet’s house. Such approaches are valid and can be seriously analyzed, but I worried they couldn’t thoroughly constitute a poetics of appropriation (not to say that was the intent). The poems themselves were enjoyable to read --- I am told that Fitterman likes producing texts that operate within the idiom of uncreative writing but don’t overstate that position; the verse has a humanity that more didactic/extremist texts like Goldsmith’s eschew out of separatism. Some of the poems are way more about aesthetics than conceptual function, tickling the lizard brain that arty conceits can’t as often reach. Here is the first page of a poem from volume I (forgive the brevity of my quotation):

a may
vague &


a red


An obvious concern here is for material language swimming down a page --- meaning as the result of what words can do, not where they come from. I find it sexy. Questions of methodology don’t arise; the details of composition aren’t fundamental here. Conversely, writing that tries too hard to articulate a process is tricky. The above extract turns me on much more than this bit from the Lewis & Clark café menu poem: “a less rule-bound brandywine tequila / three Frenchmen in a canoe / Six Lettuce Towers observed / on the highest pinnacle[.]” The conceit nears vapidity --- some food then some history then some food mixed with history --- which challenges the whole stability and gets in the way of getting to like what it’s doing. This is not to say Fitterman, in the first two volumes, doesn’t have really engaging ways to find language, take it, and put it to a use shaped conceptually. My favorite piece from the first two volumes is also representative of Fitterman’s severest movement away from aesthetic expressivity and into systematic unoriginality. Each of the sixteen stanzas of an entry from volume II consists of a single brand name. Here’s the end:

K Mart
Taco Bell
J. Crew
K Mart
Taco Bell

K Mart
K Mart

I was pleased to reach the third volume of the project, Metropolis XXX: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, because it is a hardline project to develop the use of plagiarism as an instrument to shape the contemporary definition of poetry. Fitterman provides the structure of the book --- using the chapter titles of a history of Rome, from what I surmised --- but his treatment of the appropriated material that fills the volume is more curatorial than it is “creative.” Volume III doesn’t read like a creative adaptation, writing through, or even an erasure of apoetic sources; the point isn’t to liberate the source text by transforming it into art, the program is an arrangement of documents. The poet as plagiarist does not rejuvenate the lines he uses: his very act of using replaces that pretension. (Aside: grandiloquence about the poet’s gift to redeem anything is dislikeable rhetoric that encourages pompousness in us lowliest of unfortunates who still versify despite the futility of it all.) Fitterman presents the reader with a catalog derived from the hideous and boring pageant of our culture: promotional copy for a designer of miniature golf courses, website guest books, consumer reviews of products and services, questions from jury selection, poorly written religious tracts, &c. Each entry is a window into the semantic use of language in a capitalist society, a love duet for ungainly marrieds: the engine of consumerism and its fleshy bride, humankind. The accumulative result is a symmetrical architecture made from the non-poetry of everyday commoditization. It provides sociopolitical analysis without being embarrassing or preachy because it’s not a “mash-up” invested in the edginess of juxtaposing for resonance. It’s something like going to church in a small town and listening to a few hymns sung by a volunteer choir made up of a proud legion of tone-deaf ladies who drive two blocks from their houses to shop for tacky sweaters at Super Wal-Mart --- the voices of the ingenuously devout… untroubled by consuming uncritically, without irony. Maybe Metropolis XXX tries to frame this negatively (well, the epigraph tells us it’s “little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind”) --- and it is incredibly terrifying --- but because these texts were generated by earnest and regular citizens (presumably), there’s a remarkable sense that this is also a celebration of the ethos of late capitalism: a birthday party in the parking lot where plastic rubs against blood and guts. I don’t want to end up arguing for the importance of authenticity here, since that’s not what this is about, but I was struck deeply by the way this book framed the consumerist experience. The first miniature golf entry (the volume is split as a mirrored diptych) describes a putt-putt attraction themed after the Bible: “The New Testament holes are sparsely decorated, looser, at least one featuring elves and men in lederhosen where an Apostle or leper might have done the trick.” This is the history we write for our culture through popular media --- on websites, in brochures, and with spam and junk mail. Fitterman captures it like Andy Warhol filming the Empire State Building. (Again, the use of plagiarism effectually avoids the self-important taint of some poet trying to insert his voice into a discourse that doesn’t even know poetry exists.) Fitterman’s work as a writer becomes managerial, which I think is much more honest in the 21st Century than supporting the invented authority of intellectual property. Consumer culture won’t find the utility in poetry --- so poetry should find the utility in the grammar of consumer culture.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bloggy Links

On her blog, Adrian Shirk offers part one of a firsthand account of the Corresponding Society spring tour. She mentions the car breaking down, but doesn’t get to the driver being arrested later in the week. Her essay includes the quote: “They tried to tell me I had ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ or some shit but I just wanted to kill a lot of fuckin’ people.”

Relatedly, the touring poets can now be glimpsed on our website’s new picture page. The ensemble portrait (taken at Schoen books of Massachusetts) provides disturbing evidence that the editors of this press all look like either hippies or redneck Appalachian mountain folk. Importantly, this is not the case --- we are all thoroughly modern (and we hate hippies). Still: a friend of ours looked at that picture and shrieked, “The Manson family!”

Information re the Corresponding Society reading on the 23rd is now available on the online calendar of the KGB Bar.

Also, you have not ordered a copy of Correspondence No. 2 yet. What’s the problem? (Aka: wtf?) Order it here.

Unrelatedly, Lonely Christopher was found pictured in a photo essay, in Impose Magazine, called Throw Noise Shows in Your Basement. (As usual, he is drinking beer, sitting alone, and staring despondently at the ceiling.)

And know this: Helen Wu curated a show called Seeds of the Wild at the Puffin Room. You are invited to attend the opening reception this Saturday at 6pm. The show features work by Tallon, Ray Ray Mitrano, and Robert Snyderman. More details here.