Combinatorial Arts. By this I mean to suggest when possible a deformation of traditional demarcations or boundaries between the Arts, but also a kind of dialogue that has appeared at various times throughout history, most notably in the early C20th. Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism (Russian & Italian), Vorticism, etc all shared a tendency to allow for “readings” done in one field, say painting, be reinterpreted in another. Certainly in the popular imagination painting and sculpture were the memorable products of these movements. I will be bold and arrogant here and say fuck popular conceptions. A paper on music theory I’m reading at the moment suggests that often the mediocre is often the most memorable.. and popular culture is certainly mediocre. That is not to say that the works appreciated are not good works, actually. I do believe, nonetheless, that popular explanation of the works, which has thus made them comprehensible, has also killed them. To return to the theme, often these dialogic works (I’m reappropriating Bakhtin’s term for wholly other purposes), were still distinguishable as genres. A surrealist poem was recognizable as a poem etc. While I still favor this dialogism, I also favor the type that renders genre impossible. Conceptual artists were highly successful at this, though as far as I am aware they still tried to explain their work in relation to historical precedent. Because they have done that it will always be problematic to look to conceptual artists as predecessors. The Poetry Plastique exhibition held in NY last year seems to contain, save some egregious inclusions like Rob Creely, much of the type of work of which I’m speaking. Still, the question, “so what of poetry?” is nagging me. To answer this, I will answer a the question, why combinatorial arts/poetry? Firstly, for aesthetic reasons. Much as I love John Donne through Roethke, I don’t want to read a 21st century rendition! Another reason is political. Suffice it to say that the nature of capitalism and communism is specialization, and we become specialized to the extent of reification. In this field, look at poets who look at past poets who were also looking back! Mine is a call for poets (primarily, as musicians and artist are less guilty of this than them), to look left and right before they cross the road, instead of over their shoulder. That is look around! If poetry is really a human art, then why are poets simply responding to issues such as cloning with Ethical concerns? Is poetry now just the editorial? Poets, clones will be made, regardless of the amount of ink you pound out of your breast. Even Star Wars offers us an ethic! That is not to say that poetry has to engage only cloning, but that it needs to become playful again with what is going on in other practices, not only the arts or philosophy. Personally, I think that poetry can deal with these issues much more effectively than Science Fiction.. Finally, I want to reject, very flatly (pun intended) the assumptions of language poetry and post-modern linguistic theory, that language makes us. Yes language is important, and the manipulation of it is crucial to the production of good writing, but do we really want to waste our time defamiliarizing it for the purposes of deconstruction and self-reconstruction? Biological bases for cognition are becoming more convincing, poets as well as theorists need to take these seriously or run the risk of no longer being taken seriously. I don’t want to deny the importance of language, that it plays a part in cognition, but that it is not all. So what of poetry?? Well, I don’t see mainstream poetry dying, unless, that is, there is a revolution in education. But for the avant garde, which is the most worldly arena of the arts, there needs to be a let up in specialization. A dialogue might really begin between artists in all disciplines, and the concerns and practice might be carried over to poetry. Today, I don’t see poetry engaging on the same level as the arts. Many arts are takng risks combining forms, sculpture/photography/ etc, with ideas in science, medicine, philosophy etc. One key point here is that the arts have flattened practices to an equivalent plane. They come together to give something of a view or even world view, there is no separate practice. When poets come together to put songs to poems or poems to songs I can’t do anything but cringe. Why not poems that become songs, that become more than poems with music? This is not new.. musicians are still doing this (Paul Lansky).. I’m out of time and steam!

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