WHEN DID SCARRIET CHANGE POETRY FOREVER?

That’s right, class!  It was March 2010.

Poetry and criticism were moribund in the modern era.

The New Critics, springing from T.S. Eliot’s Sacred Wood and the ravings of Eliot’s “master,” Ezra Pound, were nothing but a erudite smokescreen for a modernist clique who invaded the academy in the 1930s and 40s, led by Professors Tate, Crane, Ransom, and Engle.

The internet, however, made Virginia Woolf’s printing press, Ransom’s Kenyon Review, and little magazines like Poetry seem tame by comparison.

Now the whole world could experience new art and ideas overnight.

All it took was one website, Scarriet, to change everything.

Even into the 21st century, American culture was hopelessly stuck in the past of 1830s Paris.  The glamor and “danger” of Bohemia had been recycled one too many times.  21st century America was like first century Rome, remember?  When sculpture realistically depicted old, bald men?

The ideal had been replaced by the fetish.  The genius had been replaced by the crank.

Starting in the middle of the 20th century, the films of Walt Disney featured hip jazz cats overturning middle class values.  The ‘avant garde’ has long been a harmless cartoon.  Now the “Disney Channel” shapes the lives of ADD drugged adolescents.

Long before the end of the 20th century, once-threatening  rock music (by some accounts an LSD experiment by U.S. military intelligence) entertained the elderly as they shopped in brightly lit supermarkets.

The so-called avant garde has not advanced since New York in the 1890s.   All that was outrageous and avant has been assimilated, marketed, and been in repeat for decades.

Culture has been backed into a corner.

Retro late-capitalist kitsch posters screaming “Freedom” are yellowing inside the prison cells of High Culture.

The same “avant” ideas are recycled over and over.

The latest hurrah in po-biz (Flarf, Conceptualism, Language Poetry) in 2010 is the “Found Poem” from 50 years ago and Duchamp’s ‘ready-mades’ from even earlier.   Yet the avant garde keeps pretending it is “new” and “dangerous.”   They naively believe they are an alternative to the “Quietists” and they will save society from “Official Verse Culture,” which, by Charles Bernstein’s own admission is T.S. Eliot—which is what Charles Bernstein in fact is: T.S. Eliot.

The spectacular Woodstock Concert and the moon landing happend in 1969.

The only new thing in 2010:  now you can read about these remarkable events on a computer.

It was as if the larger life of mankind had ended in the mid-20th century, and the only major advance in all that time was the P.C.

In the humanities departments of universites, academia has long abandonded its enlightenment role and become a for-profit babysitter, selling  psycho-babble degrees for an increasingly psycho-babble society.

Outmoded heroes of modernism adorn the minds of the intellectual curators of the age like celebrity photos of TV stars in teen bedrooms.  Modernism has gone completely unexamined and uncritiqued.   But it’s everywhere in academe, as history is increasingly forgotten.

Mid 20th century until now: Modernism is vaguely ‘avant garde’ and ‘radical,’ appealing to a certain conflicted type: the Modernist clique consists of European dead white males, like Mallarme, who can perplex the middle class—thus the Modernists are considered radical and conservative at the same time, a kind of magical formula for academics like Tate and Engle who were then taking over the English Departments and turning them into corporate supermarkets.

The radical, for decades, has been merely artsy-farsty.

A sweeping critique, a new examination of recent history, is needed.  But when?

Poetry is practically invisible outside the po-biz ghetto.

Enter Scarriet.

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18 Comments

  1. notevensuperficial said,

    April 28, 2010 at 6:38 am

    I’m often “perplexed” by Mallarkay.

    Can words not indicate and – not ‘instead’, but rather, as though without ever having indicated – be pur son?

    Is it possible to write poesie pure by trying not to disclose or refer or signify?

  2. thomasbrady said,

    April 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    “There is yet no general recognition of the possibility that an aesthetic effect may exist by itself, independent of morality or any other useful set of ideas. But the modern poet is intensely concerned with this possibility, and he has disclaimed social responsibility in order to secure this pure aesthetic effect. He cares nothing, professionally, about morals, or God, or native land. He has performed a work of dissociation and purified his art.

    There are distinct styles of ‘modernity,’ but I think their net results, pychologically, are about the same. I have in mind what might be called the ‘pure’ style and what might be called the ‘obscure’ style.

    A good ‘pure’ poem is Wallace Stevens’ ‘Sea Surface Full of Clouds…’

    —John Crowe Ransom, “Poets Without Laurels” (1938)

    Ransom is pushing his Modernist Clique friends in this essay. Ransom ignores that Poe explored the issue 100 years earlier. Ransom, however, did write well on the subject, and since Ransom was instrumental in validating Modernism in the University, his writings have a great deal of historical importance.

  3. Desmond Swords said,

    April 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    The prose with the deepest poetic gravity I have read, is Yeats and Heaney.

    The theory goes, that you only learn about poetry when reading prose, if the Critic is someone whose poetic ability you consider superior to your own.

    Ransom, I think his poetry is weaker than my own and his prose shows that. He is only interested in saying how great he is, and never hasa joke at his own expense. He’s too uptight and suffers because he practiced in a false environment of flatterers and spindroids flattering him into beleiving he was far, far more talneted than he actually was.

    Once you can self-depricate, admit to being an idiot, that means you are confident in your abilities and don’t mind laughing at yourself as an artist.

    Ransom’s criticism reads like the writing of a scientist, dressing up invention in the register of a straight-faced engineering johnnie.

    He’s far more important in America than Europe, partly because he was American, but mostly because those involved in American poetry, have an inflated sense of importance, wholly disporportiionate to the facts. The facts being American poets are generally so far up their own hole they never lighten up.

    If any American poet reading this wants to have a debate on the question: American poetry is Rubbish – please show yourself and get gassing.

  4. thomasbrady said,

    April 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    The Ransom essay, “Poets Without Laurels,” (reprinted in “Praising It New,” ed. Garrick Davis) defends the puritan/modern impulse of division of labor into pure categories of self-interested capitalist efficiency as if Ransom were Count Dracula explaining his need to feed on blood to keep himself immortal. The old useful poetry must give way to the new, useless poetry. Or so the theory goes. Categories now live for themselves, but the global efficiency somehow operates trans-categorically, so that purifying other fields into efficient sub-categories requires that the same must be done in art as well: thus the pure poem of modernism.

    But, as usual, Ransom, the Modernists and the New Critics, get it all wrong. Modern poetry’s attempt to be pure has been a complete failure; in fact, the opposite has occurred: modern poetry is utterly impure, and has completely lost its identity as a recognizable category. Even when Ransom was discussing Wallace Stevens as an example in 1938, modern poetry was anything but pure.

    Secondly, Ransom’s idea that poetry can ever be without a moral is absurd, since art and morality share the same human purpose. The slang of teen text messaging is much closer to pure expression than poetry can ever be. Purity is the enemy of art. Art can always express its moral more efficiently, true, but for efficiency itself to eclipse art’s moral nature is contrary to art’s very identity.

  5. Anonymous said,

    April 28, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Have you been reading Kenny’d Gothlism an Christ i-bok, the Modernists on Harriet havin a flarf, Thom?

    Language has become a provisional space, temporary and debased, mere material to be shoveled, reshaped, hoarded and molded into whatever form is convenient, only to be discarded just as quickly. Because words today are cheap and infinitely produced, they are detritus, signifying little, meaning less. Disorientation by replication, mirroring, and spam is the norm.

    Like a well oiled machine proseltyzing about what some say’s a revolution in Letters and others claim is, bugger all but how ka ka ka their Information Age of talentless duffers is; these two square prophets of nowt but their own holes. Publicity winding y’all oop in the straight-stream; having a limited intellectual shelf-life. Look at the modernist legend Gertie Stein; read by only a few plastics refusing to face their sincere inner ear and dance to the ageless sound. Bok had one novelty hit book and on the strength of that, acts like he’s Christ in an i-book. His biggest success has already happened Thom, and him and Dohltsmig, autistic lit-twichers ‘n Chief Arseoise ka ka ka ka: ‘journalists, spin doctors and politicians who interact in scenes that just scream “Come, friendly bombs…” – coined by Marina Hyde in a recent cif-reportage on ‘the abortion of democracy’ in Spin Alley:

    ‘the premise is simple. Even before the party leaders have finished debating, legions of spinners and spinners’ lackeys materialise to explain exactly why everything you thought you saw and heard was wrong. Think of it as the organ grinders taking over. They certainly act as though they regard it as such.

    “Having vapourised seconds before the debate, the spindroids were suddenly all back in the room, presumably having just slid through a haunted TV screen to begin immediately the task of dispensing weapons grade wisdom. “The only poll that really counts is the one where people put their cross on a ballot paper,” explained Harriet Harman. “It’s not a question of people voting right now.”

    In America, they call these media pens Spin Alley, so those searching for a suitably small-time UK equivalent should alight on something like Fibbers’ Close, or Bollocks Avenue.”

    Oh silken heart they’re waffle in nothingness, reliant on academic aid, spouting spam to their confused generation of 18 year old kids getting conned. Twenny years older, Christ and Doglthism, two square crazees i predict’ll end up railing against the very machine they now serve, these johnny-normals saying, what exactly?

    Blah blah blah, sleight-of hand, slip of tongue, spam-bit grifters with sinecure and skin-count hung by hours in shadow and shade, staring into fluorescent pulse, concrete walls, dead end trajectories

    Like light-waves breaking
    On the obese, adolescent world
    They discuss.
    How much more relevant, them
    Or us? Never too careful, empty
    Caring minds who’d tumble across
    Freshly pedestrianised streets

    They’re shopping child-protestors,
    Ourselves themselves, because
    Hunched and scrolling, sulking outside
    A shop whilst our parents rummage

    Around at a clearance sale, we wonder,
    Just for the attention, should we
    Accuse them, our teachers, of bumming
    Us in a basement of rough trade flarfists
    All up their own hole, sat at a desk
    Dreaming emails are stars y’all
    Aint gonna write, read, or know
    See all as/is for our benefit

    In the good place;
    We read

    KD

    ~

    So, souljahs of American pobiz, shout to the top of our world: You’re hiding in Nowheresville, flarfing and being so droll. O wot wisdom can y’all who can’t practice the snake-oil shaking tongue of ancients, give?

    Come on Bok and Goldsmith, c’mon and get spanked you bastards!!

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm

      “Words are cheap and infinitely produced…”

      Oh, the humanity!

      Words are cheap! And Kenneth Goldsmith is going to make them more expensive! Goldsmith to the rescue! LOL

  6. Anslem Berrigan said,

    April 28, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Stop bunching up your copy lad. If you divided it up into paragraphs, people would read it.

    At the moment, you’re shooting yourself in the foot and turning away readers, because of this obsession with the BLOCK-BUNCHED-UP-AVANT-GRADE-BOLLIX-YER-LITTLE-PRETENDER–YOU’RE-GONNA-REALIZE-ONE-DAY-IT-AINT-WORKING-AND-IT’S-JUST-BEING-UP-YOUR-OWN-HOLE-SO-ADMIT-IT-AND-NEXT-TIME-I-READ-IT-YER’D-BETTER-BE-FIXED-OR-I’M-GONNA-PRETEND-SOME-MORE

    ka ka ka

    Kevin

    Desmond’s words

    Lancashababru

    ka ka ka ka

  7. April 28, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    “Secondly, Ransom’s idea that poetry can ever be without a moral is absurd, since art and morality share the same human purpose.”

    Christ, Tom. That’s so wrong it’s delightful. Where do you get these lines? Even mutton-chopped Matthew Arnold would have considered that a retrograde equation. Do you even know what Modernism *is*? Do you drive around in a horseless carriage and read by gas lamp and think of Jane Austen or Edith Wharton as “cutting edge”?

    Is this an extremist version of New Old Über-Fogeyism? If so you are clearly its leader. I expect you’ll be starting that cult soon. Obedient Chicks in wimples and so forth.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm

      Steven,

      Modernism is you, your ranting reductionism.

      How far can Ransom’s “pure” experiment go? Oh, that’s right. It didn’t go anywhere.

      You’re confusing material scientific advancements with modernist literature, a common mistake.

      Tom

      • April 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm

        Tom:

        No support of Ransom intended. It was your “morality” pronouncement I was pointing out as absurd, man!

        “You’re confusing material scientific advancements with modernist literature, a common mistake.”

        Putting stupid words in other people’s mouths is one way to “win” an argument, Tom. But can you at least *support* your argument that “art and morality share the same human purpose” by fleshing it out a bit, rather than stating it as a given?

  8. April 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    “The spectacular Woodstock Concert and the moon landing happend in 1969.

    The only new thing in 2010: now you can read about these remarkable events on a computer.”

    As though that’s a minor detail! The instantaneous linking of more than a billion people across the face of the earth and the subsequent sharing of heretofore “rare”, “lost” or even “forbidden” information is a revolution in both social control/anarchy and information control/anarchy that dwarfs Gutenberg, makes a million heretofore-silenced voices “heard” (some quite wonderful) and all at the modest price of A) the cost of an internet connection and B) the task of filtering.

    The removal of the Middleman in transactions involving Music, Lit, General Opinion and Politics… the short-circuit of the old authority-filtered-and-monetized data-stream… represents a revolution so profound that it fulfills the first symptom of the truly revolutionary paradigm-shift: it is absolutely taken for granted *almost immediately*. As evidenced by your comment!

    Where would “Foetry” be without the Internet, Tom? A samizdat one-color pamphlet on cheap stock on the bottom shelf of the Poetry section in the back of several local book stores? Think about it, man. The fact that we’re bloviating to a global audience, uncensored and for almost no overhead, doesn’t blow your mind? It should!

    “Scarriet” could not have “changed” anything if the Internet hadn’t changed *everything* first.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm

      Steven,

      It goes like this.

      1. Moon Landing and Woodstock 1969

      2. Captain & Tenille 1976

      3. Challenger Disaster 1986

      4. Internet 1996

      5. Foetry 2004

      6. Steven Augustine points out #5 was not possible without #4 on Scarriet 2010

      I can get into this. This is going somewhere, defintely… I’m excited!

      Tom

      • tom said,

        December 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

        Where would foetry be without the internet, Tom?!!! Lol. Hey you spelled “artsy-farsty” wrong. 😀

  9. April 28, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    You’re also incoherent, Tom!

  10. Daisy Fried said,

    April 29, 2010 at 12:54 am

    But at least he’s got some fwendzzz.

    It’s pointless arguing with him Steve, in the sense that he’s gonna roll over and take it like a real man; admit it’s all just spam and hot air coming out his hole, comrade.

    I’m just happy the dynamic’s different; like a few more dots in the conspiract theory joining up to a clearer shout-out fo y’all ka ka ka ka

    Tom lost his closest colleague a few weeks back and it wass just me and him, ranting at one another, but then you came, Tom had a pop at McRumens and is feeling a bit less lonely, hey Graves you twat?

    ka ka ka

    He’d been moping about feeling the world was against him, and now he could be gettin his mojo back.

    You counter his position brilliantly; it certainly slapped me in the chops.

    You’re ao right. No web and Foetry’s like the microcosmic equivalent to the macrocosmic Concrete rads of early seventies Earls Court in the Poetry Soc HQ; the first time the crazees had control. Bob Cobbing and a few mates opening up the state poetry apparatus to their mates and closing of the square-stream normals. Peter Barry wrote the book Poetry Wars:

    An odd thing happened in British poetry in the 1970s, but the full story has never been told. A small group of ‘radical’ or ‘experimental’ poets took over the Poetry Society, one of the most conservative of British cultural institutions, and for a period of six years, from 1971 to 1977, its journal, Poetry Review, was the most startling poetry magazine in the country. Some revered it, others reviled it, but nobody in the 70s who was seriously interested in poetry could ignore it. Then, in the summer of 1977, it was over, almost as suddenly as it had begun. Of course, when looked at closely – which is the business of this book – these events neither began nor ended as suddenly as all that. But the conflict at the Poetry Society was a key moment in the history of contemporary British Poetry, polarizing the rift between the ‘neo–modernists’, who sought to continue the 1960s revival of the early twentieth–century’s ‘modernist revolution’, and the neo–conservatives, who sought to further the ‘anti–modernist counter–revolution’ of the 1950s.

    When Chris Hamilton Emery of Salt Publishing in Cambridge, had his ‘Just One Book’ drive last year, when he got mixed up about his funding and had to come up with a lorra lolly sharpish; Poetry Wars was first on my list, because the Concrete poetry Tradition was the one my undergrad course came out from and was founded on.

    I bought four books, just to wind up a poster called kolf who works in poetry publishing in Cambridge and writes how great Salt publishing is, anytimefrances back-up goading, saying how lucky Hamilton was I was bunging him a few quid in his hour of need, how kolf, I mean Chris, will no doubt be very very grateful I was buying four books, for a laugh.

    Anyway, it’s a fab read coz the Barry was there as a young anorak whose settled into bespectacled moonish middle age, the earnestness Tom exhibits now, the years have rubbed off for Barry to grasp the essential ceomdy of the situation; though at the time it was all out arty souljahs on the barricades, drinking for England, bringing in the their own cans, publishing Concrete practitioners, dumping out the squares mon, job well done in Babylon yeah, well lets see…

    Foetry had one head-name and Scarriet was set up coz we three, me Christopher Woodman, in Thailand with more going on than here at present, plus Tom, were all slung off Harriet by a young poet, Travis Nichols, doing sterling work at Foetry Poundation for the straighter rewards of back-slap job well done, and this blog was all yaboo and grr, till these last few weeks and Tom lightening up now, well, who knows, he might get back on form, stop wasting himself on summat unimportant. Let himself get lectured to me in a condescending tenor, and take on your sage advice, get with the rads Tom, let your hair grow long and toss of that poe straight face..

    lurve ‘n pahz

  11. Travis said,

    April 29, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Hi Tom.

    Look, I’m really sorry about what happened; with everything that went on. I was under a lot of pressure at work. The board had been reading you and wanted you off. It went all the way to the top Tom. The wife of one of the Foundation’s most prominent members didn’t like the way you were winning all the debates and complained to her husband who complained to me. The red/green idea was actually not mine. If it wasn’t for my job, if I didn’t have so many pressures at work from the higher ups, this would not have happened.

    Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge now Tom. I’ve left. Well, asked to leave. I got caught giving a blow-job to one of the member’s sons, in flagrato (is it?). His parents found out and cannedc my ass, and now, I’ve come here to ask if there’s anything I can do to help out, please, as a way of attoning for the cowardly way I treated you.

    I really like what you’re doing with the blog. It’s something I’ve long wanted to do; to speak what I really think and not parrot the pablum of those who pay me money to act like I’m on their side.

    Where do I go Tom? Let me join you and we can really do some damage, emotionally. I know all their secrets and fears. I’ve got the full dirt on quite a few. You’d be surprised at how stupid they get after a few drinks. There’s plenty of guys there who don’t wanna blow me out, if you get my drift. Just one word and … well, where do I begin?

  12. thomasbrady said,

    April 29, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Where the hell is Barbara Jane Reyes?

  13. Al Cordle said,

    April 30, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Sorry Travis. Nothing can save you from Poetry Hell now. I suggest you curl up with a nice roll of toilet paper and know that everyone knows the truth.


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