2004-04-14

3) The following question is two questions, really, so points are double (tripled if the two answers are seamlessly melded into one): a) What is a flutter echo? Provide one example from the current English Poet Laureate and another from one of Jack Spicer's translations of Federico Garcia Lorca. b) Was Kurt Schwitter's Merzbau a visionary and mystical poetic text or a meaningless shrine to garbage, insanely imploding into an ever-more claustrophobic post modern space? Justify, being careful to note the possible irony in the question. For the literal answer to ‘a’ click here. This is a question about surfaces and parallels. You see, Mr. Motion is our flat surface. With his poems being on one side and his paymaster on the other, both are, to all extents and purposes, dull (unless you read the celeb pages) to the extent of unintelligibility. That is, so intelligible I can’t believe what I’m reading. Now enter the flutter, Jack Spicer (with his others) whose sense bounces off a Lorca we barely recognize were it not for the letters. Even still, through this absent dialogue between Jack and Federico in which Jack echoes Lorca and echoes Jack echoing Lorca and echoes Jack being Lorca through the transparent fa├žade of translation there is a surface intelligibility that belies the unintelligibility of layer upon layer of voices. In like manner, the Merzbow is a layered unfinished construct of garbage, urine, feces, and all sorts of (stolen) ‘stuff’. However, Merzbow is not a flutter echo. There are layers that form a kind of narrative that belies the chaos of its own construction. Its space is mystical in the way that Henry Vaughn is (for me) mystical. That is, in its perpetually unfinished state one is release from the burden of completion (tautological?). In fact, in the Merzbow is really the “mysticism” of an anarchic, Bakhuninian, impulse in which we are granted the freedom of our own willed construction through the destruction and manipulation of acceptability. In other words, the Merzbow allows one to do whatever one wants to do with the accumulation of shit – literal and figurative – from everyday life, memory, friendships (Schwitters became notorious for stealing friend’s belongings for his Merzbow), etc. There is irony in the question as in the answer. 4) What is more relevant to avant-garde poetry's possible coextensiveness with architecture: The Brooklyn Bridge or the ruins of a university after a riot? Explain. “Coextensiveness” reveals a certain agenda relating to poetry and architecture – and this is a point I’ve been trying to tease out. What would be the value of running parallels between poetry and architecture (e.g. a frieze is to architecture what Pre-Raphaelites are to poetry) other than a kind of flattery to one or the other practices? I’d suggest that co-extensiveness is less important than the actual correspondences between language and architecture. One interesting example of this is Matt Siber’s work. An example here: Perhaps if I attempt a direct answer to the question I can make myself clearer. The Brooklyn Bridge is certainly more important to poetry’s co-extensiveness with architecture. When I think of Whitman or even Sandburg, the Bridge figures prominently. I would say that the figure of the Bridge contributed to their New York as it did/does in architectural terms. And for certain strands/ strains of avant-garde poetry, the Bridge suspends continuity (sorry for being facetious) of a more representational mode of expression. Now, the ruins of a university I would say are actually co-extensive with the Brooklyn Bridge as I framed it. Thinking of the ruins of the University, I recall The Futurist Manifesto (“We will destroy museums, libraries, and fight against moralism, feminism, and all utilitarian cowardice”) and the early C20th idealist cult of youth (i.e. before Nintendo, Snoop Shaggy Dogg ??, etc). I recently argued that in Futurism one can find the seeds of the non-representational in art (C.f. my John Cage quote about perceptual art) in, especially, Russolo. However, my reading is based on an interpretation of Futurism less commonly found in literature and more often argued about by such luminaries as John Cage – and I think even Henry Flynt may have talked about them recently on Anal Magic. For literaries, futurist destruction links too nicely to making it new and has no architectural overtones. Thus, the destruction of the university is as much of an albatross to avant-garde writing as the Brooklyn Bridge. It is highly likely I am lost in my own ruminating logic. But I should add that for Situationists up to recent “Black Bloc” anarchists the destruction and reclamation of space does have a linguistic angle, space being what participates in the codification of interactions that will always be complicit in an exploitative (capitalist) system. Navigating through Paris with a map of London, rebuilding office space into aesthetic space etc.

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