Got all steamed up over the discussion following Rob Fitterman’s talk last night at the Poetry Project on appropriation, sampling, “greening,” “plunder”.
Alan Davies was particularly damning of writers who use such techniques. He says they (we) are lazy and compared the works to landfill.
What if, inversely, non-appropriating writing techniques were considered “unresourceful”? Like… why wash everything by hand when we have Laundromats? *
Maybe it’s just a choice between the landfill of collective consciousness and the landfill of the “individual” psyche?
With Gary this morning, discussed Alan’s analogy of writers who appropriate/manipulate sought language to Nero. Me: “All writing is fiddling.*” Gary: “Was the issue that Nero was fiddling badly?”
To be honest, I agree with Alan in some respects (I remember when I heard Dan Farrell read the Rorschach piece at the drawing center, I felt at the time that it lacked necessity, and that it was in a sense “too easy” – although I really heard a lot last night in the small excerpt that Rob read — I think the real issue when I heard the whole piece was that I got numbed — bored — by its repetitive structure), although not even remotely with the way he expressed his opinion. He sounded downright curmudgeonly, defensive of his own blatantly lyrical practices**. I know that when I come into contact with work that is “merely” appropriated, I sometimes have a strange feeling of loss. As if… a bridge has been burnt. However, I don’t always feel that way. As with all creative works, the key is in the selection. If I can sense the motivation of the writer’s subjectivity in her selections, I do not feel that loss – rather I admire the writer’s ingenuity in having freshened his possible modes of expression..
As I said in my comment the discussion, 1) everything is material for poetry, and 2) comparing appropriated writing to imperialism (which Alan did not do – that was a separate thread to the discussion wrapped around the problematic – though not to me — term “plunder”) is absurd. Absurd! Have people no sense of scale?
Alan also said that, unlike the text samples that Rob presented, his and Bruce’s included a kind of critique of language. Ex…cuse…. me? How does one measure critique of language? Is there a kind of critique detector we can run over any given text until it beeps? Where is “the critique”? Isn’t that like asking where is “the meaning”?
*After the discussion I said, to Brandon and Gary, “All language is appropriation. If it weren’t, we’d all be speaking mutually incomprehensible idiolects…. just like (as my mom says) all culture is a cult.”
**I’m sure I’ve sounded the same way many a time, particularly after having written Swoon. But even in Swoon I was appropriating Milton’s vocabulary for my own. I think I search – in my own “practice” — for a kind of collaboration, — a “pavan”, if you will, between orphic and manipulated language.
&&& Think of the Japanese method of appropriating culture. They may borrow or “plunder” outright – but they tweak it just so until it finally “feels Japanese,” and as such it is inimitable.
OK I gotta get ready for work.