December 30, 2010
December 29, 2010
Nigel Williams: Yes. Uh… How they…?
JG: How they explain that. Why they don’t come and chase me away, and chase you away too, and then say, “What you’re saying is so stupid that I really don’t feel like going on with this work!” Ask them.
NW: Okay, sure. (He speaks to the technicians and translates Genet’s question into English.)
JG: The sound man too.
NW: (Nigel Williams asks the sound man, Duncan Fairs, who answers that he doesn’t have much to say at the moment, that the people who work every day lose their sense of objective judgment about what they’re doing and remain prisoners of their personal world. He adds that the technicians always have something to say after the filming, but that if they spoke in front of the camera it would cost a lot of money and would be very expensive for the film production company.) Is that what interested you about your dream: disrupting the order of things? In a certain way you wanted to disrupt the order that exists in this little room?
JG: Disrupt the order of things?
JG: Of course, of course. It seems so stiff to me! I’m all alone here, and here in front of me there are one, two, three, four, five, six people. Obviously I want to disrupt the order, and that’s why yesterday I asked you to come over here. Of course.
NW: Yes, it’s like a police interrogation?
JG: There’s that, of course. I told you – is the camera rolling? Good. I told you yesterday that you were doing the work of a cop, and you continue to do it, today too, this morning. I told you that yesterday and you’ve already forgotten it, because you continue to interrogate me just like the thief I as thirty years ago was interrogated by the police, by a whole police squad. And I’m on the hot seat, alone, interrogated by a bunch of people. There is a norm on one side, a norm where you are, all of you: two, three, four, five, six, seven, and also the editors of the film and the BBC, and then there’s an outer margin where I am, where I am marginalized. And if I’m afraid of entering the norm? Of course I’m afraid of entering the norm, and if I’m raising my voice right now, it’s because I’m in the process of entering the norm, I’m entering English homes, and obviously I don’t like it very much. But I’m not angry at you who are the norm, I’m angry at myself because I agreed to come here. And I really don’t like it very much at all.
NW: But your books are taught in the schools, right here in England.
JG: Oh! What are you talking about?
NW: It’s true. I myself studied Genet at the university.
NW: Do you like that?
JG: There’s both a feeling of vanity.. and at the same time it’s very unpleasant. Of course, there is this double… this double imperative almost. Is the camera rolling?
NW: Yes, it’s rolling.
JG: Good. Ask me questions then, since the system says that I’m the one who’s supposed to interrogated.
December 16, 2010
December 9, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 27, 2010
October 17, 2010
1. New York Times Book Review: Has closed.
2. Atlantic Monthly: Project cancelled.
3. The New Yorker: Website has not been functioning for over a month; emails to the editor bounce; we are declaring this a "dead" market.
4. The New Republic: Website hasn't been updated in over a year; editor has not responded to our inquiries; we are declaring this a "dead" market.
5. Paris Review: Website has not been functioning for over a month; emails to the editor bounce; we are declaring this a "dead" market.
6. Ploughshares: Website has not been functioning for over a month; editor has not responded to us; we are declaring this a "dead" market.
7. Missouri Review: Website has not been updated in quite a while; editor has not responsed to us; we are declaring this a "dead" market.
8. Iowa Review: Website has not been updated in quite a while; editor has not responsed to us; we are declaring this a "dead" market.
October 10, 2010
Roland Barthes on Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden:
Eden Eden Eden is a free text: free of all subjects, of all objects, of all symbols, written in the space (the abyss or blind-spot) where the traditional constituents of discourse (the one who speaks, the events recounted, the way they are expressed) would be superfluous. The primary consequence is that criticism, unable to discuss the author, his subject, or his style, can find no way of taking hold of this text: Guyotat’s language must be “entered,” not by believing it, becoming party to an illusion, participating in a fantasy, but by writing the language with him in his place, singing it along with him.
Getting in on the language, in the sense of “getting in on the act,” is possible because Guyotat produces not a manner, a genre, a literary object, but a new element (which might even be added to the four Elements of cosmogony); this element is the phrase: substance of speech with the qualities of a fine cloth or a foodstuff, a single sentence which never ends, whose beauty comes not from what it refers to (the reality towards which it is supposed to point) but from its breath, cut short, repeated, as if the author were trying to show us not a series of imaginary scenes, but the scene of language, so that the model of this new mimesis is no longer the adventure of some hero, but the adventure of the signifier itself: what becomes of it.
Eden Eden Eden constitutes (or ought to constitute) a sort of eruption, a historical shock: the whole of an earlier evolution of writing, seemingly double but coinciding in ways we can now see more and more clearly, from Sade to Genet, from Mallarmé to Artaud, is gathered up, displaced, purified of its historical circumstances: no Story and no Sin (surely the same thing), we are left simply with language and lust, not the former expressing the latter, but the two bound together in a reciprocal metonymy, indissoluble.
The strength of this metonymy, sovereign in Guyotat’s text, might presage a strong censure, which will find here its two favorite pastures, language and sex, united; but any such censure, which may take many forms, will be unmasked by its own vehemence: condemned to being excessive if it claims to censure simply the subject and not the form, or vice versa: in either case condemned to reveal its own essence as censorship.
Yet whatever the institutional peripeteia, the publication of this text is important: a whole body of critical and theoretical work will be carried forward, without the text ever losing its power of seduction: outside all categories and yet of an importance beyond any doubt, a new landmark and a starting-point for new writing.
Stephen Barber on Guyotat's Coma.
John Taylor's "Reading Pierre Guyotat" at Context.
October 7, 2010
October 1, 2010
September 24, 2010
September 7, 2010
Everything that Kent has written about the topic in advance of the book’s actual publication (for example here and here) clearly communicates that his project is intended as a thought-experiment, a reframing of the poem in the service of refreshing our awareness of it and the relationships and issues surrounding it, whether or not we decide that Koch, rather than O’Hara, was the poem’s author. Kent himself acknowledges that “the odds are still on O’Hara,” and adds, “I’d probably bet on him myself.” Nor does Kent impute any motive to Koch (who died in 2002) other than love for his friend, writing, “Such a ‘forgery’ would stand as one of the most beautiful, selfless, and idiosyncratically ethical gestures ever made in the history of American letters. It would ratify, and in singular, moving ways, both Kenneth Koch’s greatness as poet and Frank O’Hara’s greatness of spirit.” (For both quotes see the end of the article at the second of the two links above.)
It wouldn’t be surprising for a projected title with such a thesis to stir up a little controversy and some lively discussion and debate, but unfortunately it appears that the custodians of Koch’s and O’Hara’s literary reputations – which apparently aren’t robust enough yet to fend for themselves – have decided instead to assume postures of outrage and are now moving to stifle the discussion altogether. As Kent announced yesterday in an update at Isola di Rifiuti:
On 9/4/10, Richard Owens, poet and publisher of Punch Press, soon to release A Question Mark above the Sun: Documents on the Mystery Surrounding a Famous Poem “by” Frank O’Hara, received a certified letter from The Kenneth Koch Literary Estate. The letter unambiguously threatens “legal action” against the book.
The letter states, in part, that “Alfred A. Knopf (publisher of both Koch and O’Hara), Maureen Granville-Smith, executor of the Frank O’Hara Estate, and poets Bill Berkson, Ron Padgett, Jordan Davis, and Tony Towle [ . . . ] all are strongly convinced that this publication is a malicious hoax, one that denigrates Kenneth Koch’s character and dishonors his work.”
The claim that the book (which, it bears repeating, has not yet been released and therefore can’t have been read by the complainants) is a “hoax” is utterly without merit – speculation on a poem’s authorship doesn’t even fit the word’s definition – and the only thing “malicious” going on here is the bullying legal threat itself.
In a post at The Best American Poetry blog, David Lehman breaks down the network of relationships among the co-signatories:
Knopf publishes both Koch and O'Hara. Granville-Smith is Frank O'Hara's sister and the executor of his estate. Kenneth Koch entrusted his literary estate and legacy to a trio of persons including Padgett and Davis. Berkson was on very close terms with O'Hara, who addressed numerous poems to him. Towle studied with both O'Hara and Koch.
But the conclusion Lehman draws from this – that “if anyone is in a position to judge the case, it is they” – does not necessarily follow. The connections and shared history he cites could just as easily reflect an interest in maintaining a certain status quo. Note, for example, the insouciance with which the publishing company Alfred A. Knopf is included in the list of individuals’ names. Well, corporations are persons under the law, too, right?
But in this case it’s the 800-pound gorilla: Knopf is a division of the Random House Publishing Group, which in turn is a division of Bertelsmann Inc., one of the “Big Six” media megaconglomerates that currently monopolize commercial publishing in the US and elsewhere. So what we have here – in the name of Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch! – is a threat by a large corporation potentially to bankrupt a small independent press and drive it out of business if it dares to bring out Kent Johnson’s book, which in its turn dares to speculate on the authorship of a poem written over fifty years ago.
Punch Press, run by Richard Owens, is a publisher of a small number of finely-made and very cool poetry books, chapbooks, and broadsides, as well as the valuable journal Damn the Caesars. A lawsuit against such a press, with few to no financial resources, brought by a company such as Knopf – armed to the teeth with dollars and lawyers – has no need to prevail in court, or even come before a judge, in order to have its intended effect. No doubt the Koch Estate, Alfred A. Knopf publishing, and the other co-signatories of the letter to Punch Press are all anticipating that the specter of attorneys’ and legal fees alone will be enough.
This has plainly become an issue of free speech versus censorship. I have no doubt that the careerists will either keep their mouths shut or open them to side with power (after all, maybe someday they’ll be published by Knopf!), but those with their principles still intact have a responsibility to raise their voices, in whatever venues they can, in protest against this threat and in solidarity with Kent Johnson and Richard Owens.
Some other responses of note, here, here, here, here, and here - most of them eloquent and reasoned defenses of the book and the publisher. What's interesting, by contrast (dip into the comments threads, for example), is how unable those who explicitly or implicitly support the book's suppression are to mount any kind of argument at all, offering instead only snipes, sneers, shrugs, and serves-you-rights. But then power is always its own argument.