Saturday, 25 November 2000

From "Agoraphobia, and the embarrassment of manifestos"

By Drew Milne.

To attempt an art of public speaking with regard to contemporary poetry seems like a slap in the face of public taste. Is it possible to speak of, or address such a public? If the Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry (C.C.C.P.) institutes the possibility of a republic of letters, what might develop an appropriate form of collective public speaking with which to articulate its diverse voices? Indeed, is there a plausible art or rhetoric of quotation which might articulate such a public without disenfranchising some voices, and which, as if listening to several voices at once, might remain attentive to the unspeakable? This paper attempts to propose some questions for the time being, through a Benjaminian dream; a dream of a poetics of discussion and criticism as a solution of quotations. Here, an ethics of quotation forbids the imperatives of private property, and risks a community of borrowed voices, hoping to provoke such voices into some write of reply. Rather than parading a host of dummies laid out by the swift punches of scare quotes, each carefully collected word bleeds into the body of its own mixed metaphor. Passing on the baton of irresponible remarks let slip in other contexts, these notes hope that some community of risk might overcome the fear of speaking in public, the fear of the forum, agoraphobia, and the embarrassment of becoming all too manifest, even a manifesto.

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