Sunday, November 19, 2006

On the Twentieth Anniversary of the Publication of "Howl"

Who, after I had crashed a dinner party for local Buddhists who shamelessly referred to themselves as "Jewel Hearts" & shouldered pointedly through circle after circle of syncophantic xanax-eyed celery nibblers, leered with benevolent grandfatherly eyes, & hit on me.

Who refused to read good goddamn poem but singing chanting squealing mashed a ditty on his miniature accordion to avuncular iambs of topical protest doggerel, finally relenting with Wichita Vortex Sutra, interrupted to remind us referred to our own “O Street” (“zero street”), only to conclude with his wretched rhyming “Capitol Air,” later loitered in the lobby, enmeshed in cheerful boy-English majors & listened to them enthuse & hit on them.

Who comfortable & robed & horny-eyed and sober sat up chewing macrobiotic rice with mentor Galek Rinpoche that evening at local restaurant “Crane River,” was accosted by boy-English major later known as Poetry Snark, received him gracious & genially, advised “breathing exercises,” & forgetting he had met him night before at Buddhist party, again hit on him.

Who stayed & stayed, coalescing bad local poets appearing magically as if cell-phoned in that pre-cell phone world, & drank only water & waved arms majestically reliving hormonal hippy shivers with the drunks & doters & ditzes until the generous hours dwindled, a memorable court holder, quixotically erotic at 64.

(Use this thread to talk about the times when Ginsberg hit on you ... or whatever. But do check out this worthwhile piece on him in today's New York Times.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ka-Boom! Joshua Clover Implodes in a Fury of Theoretical Jargon!

During the 2000 election cycle, I was once accosted by a Republican who, knowing a little about my politics, said to me something along these lines:

"So, I once heard you say that your politics are 'somewhere to the left of Castro.' I assume that you aren't selling out by voting for Al Gore, are you? I'm a conservative," he told me, "but I have respect for people on the left who really follow their ideals and support Ralph Nader."

I told him where he could stuff his "respect."

I later heard he had been saying similar things to others on campus who had been outspoken at one point or another with their political leanings. His intention was obvious: he was trying to elect George Bush by encouraging people with politics to the left of Bill Clinton to "follow their ideals" and not support Al Gore.

Joshua Clover, who judging from his blog knows nothing about either politics or Walter Benjamin, operates from the same playbook. From his blog:

"It is with mounting nausea that we watch poets race to cast their liberal votes for candidates more conservative than the Republicans they found beyond revulsion twenty years ago - and indeed race not just to feed at this trough but serve the slop." He goes on to chastise people for voting, which he likes to do, and equate Nancy Pelosi with Condoleezza Rice.

What a tool.

Clover has been chugging the po mo Kool Aid for so long that his brain has atrophied into a crispy little device that spouts phrases like "the endless circulation of used signs" in refence to political appointees and "open signifying chains" when discussing changes in administration. I'm not kidding. Get a load of this...

"To suggest that the staffing habits of the current administration are postmodern in their open signifying chains, unable to mean much while spastically invoking the hollowed-out quasi-meanings of past years, is only to say that we find ourselves not simply within 'postmodernism,' or 'late capitalism,' but the decline of empire."

You can't make that kind of shit up. In fact, I tried to write some snark in parody of this, but nothing I could produce came out as facile, pretentious, and intellectually bankrupt as that little nugget. With this statement, Clover epitomizes the "New Academicism" I posted about earlier--someone "whose idea of resistance to middle class values is reading Deleuze and turning over in their minds the idea that they are 'nomads.'" I've teased Cole Swenson a fair amount at this web site, including in the post I just mentioned, but Swenson, I'm told, worked her ass off knocking on doors and getting out the vote in 2004. Respect.

Clover goes on to sniff:

"If our disgust seems magnified, it's because we cherish the possibility that poetry allows forms of thought, of consciousness, which might imagine some retort other than celebrating the chance to eat shit as long as it's only the second-worst shit available."

I guess it never occurred to Clover that one can be politically active and still hold poetry to a higher standard than politics.

I don't have a lot of patience for lefties blind enough to believe that Democrats and Republicans really are interchangeable--or theory-addled enough to feel content to watch the "decline of empire" from their academic perch. But I'll give Clover his due. He has produced something I've found amusing. No, not his poetry, silly. I'm talking about this jacket photo from his first book.