More on Ashbery/readings/poetry/the biz. Anyone else wanto to jump in, put on your shitkickers and kick some shit.
"There's a whole minor literature waiting to be written on laughter at poetry readings. Some of the laughter is territorial, of course—"I am in this poet's clique and share his outlook"—and some is awkwardness a la the American moviegoing audience's reaction to the kid getting his brains splattered in the back of the car in Pulp Fiction, but there is a low-level chuckling I hear/participate in at a lot of poetry readings which the nearest I can figure is just registering small insights: startlings. It sure as hell isn't intended to indicate uproariousness."
"Re: Ashbery. First, an hour a week? Not a day? That makes me feel better. Second, and apologies for anything that is not new information, since you sounded like you were going on intuition, I will confirm or at least second it: Lehman is a yahoo and a hanger-on. Antitheory is, as you heard, his thing. The very title of The Last Avant-Garde is a dig at language poetry, as is the final chapter. That book has OK information, but makes the common mistake of ignoring women (Guest, later Notley and Mayer) involved in the (not-a-)School. Ten or more years ago, Lehman also wrote Signs of the Time a pop anti-semiotics-decon-pomo 'expose.' Much of the argument boils down to: DeMan wrote for a collaborationist paper, so fuck 'em all. I don't know his own poetry.
It's said that JA doesn't read academic criticism of his own poetry (I wouldn't either if I were him), but I think he affects a little know-nothingism in on-the-record conversation, again for self-protection, I guess. From what I understand, he'd just as well talk about '30s movies as anything else. The 'author' v. 'idea' bit sounds like someone's paraphrase of something he himself said in an interview, and later disavowed. I just looked in a couple of places for the reference, but I can't find it. But I did find this exchange in a recent interview w/ the less-annoying-than-Lehman Mark Ford (UK poet, strongly supported by JA, I've only glanced at his work):
MF: Did you like rock and roll? I know you once went to a Velvet Underground concert.
JA: That was just an accident -- it was because they were playing at the same time as Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls which I wanted to see. No, I've never had anything to do with rock and roll.
MF: Well, what about that song by Peaches and Cream, which 'inspired' "The Songs We Know Best" in -A Wave-? 'Reunited, dum-de-dum-de-dum...
JA: ...and it feels so good' -- and I'm afraid, dear, it was Peaches and Herb. They were more disco, I think."
Re: week vs. day. It was either unclear from context or it is too bad I didn't take notes. It could have been one hour a day but it really seemed like he meant per week.
Re: JA's gee whiz interface. I noticed it and figured it was part of who he is. I assume he foregrounds it at public events because it gives him a way to guard his cultural capital and not spend the evening breaking up fights. He has strong opinions and chooses to unload them carefully.Posted by Sasha at February 9, 2004 12:27 PM | TrackBack