Sunday, 3 December 2006


7-8 Oct 06 was the Women’s Experimental Poetry Festival in Cambridge. Andrea Brady, Lisa Samuels, Kathleen Fraser, Africa Wayne, Susan Schultz, Rod Mengham, Susana Gardner, Geraldine Monk, Peter Middleton, Redell Olsen, Carol Mirakove, Keith Tuma & Justin Katko, Marianne Morris, Tom Raworth, Catherine Wagner, Coupons Coupons (Camille PB & Justin Katko), Kai Fierle-Hedrick, Kristin Kreider, Tim Atkins, Ken Edwards, Wendy Mulford, Peter Manson, Maggie O'Sullivan, Lucy Sheerman, Caroline Bergvall, Kaia Sand, Leslie Scalapino. Organised mainly by Emily Critchley & Catherine Brown.

Speaking of remixes. Justin & Keith Tuma showed films. Why did Nicole Proctor get such a big laugh w/ her “complex intellect” line? 5 Oxford Poets attracted a lot of analysis. I can think of two possible pressures on its reception. (1) Fascination vectors in the mainstream-in-the-margin. Features quite ordinary in another domain appear impeccably weird in this one. E.g. when John Wilkinson sent his Condi Rice poem to the UKPoetry list? When Apple Juice performed at a London Openned night? Tom Leonard at the Cambridge Poetry Summit? Mairead Byrne at Soundeye in Cork? (2) Ken’s session might have functioned as a forum – he seemed to want that for it – but for whatever reason the chitchat didn’t kindle. I missed the workshops w/ Leslie Scalapino & Kathleen Fraser & wonder what they were like. These excepted, the event lacked any programmed discussion of whether importing most participants from America, & very nearly filling Lucy Sheerman’s slot w/ a mail order bride, were chosen or necessary, & why, & was therefore not a “festival, not a conference” (Catherine Brown) but a “celebration,” specifically of all the widdle women standing on they hind legs. Things began under that rubric which shrugged it off; & it would of course have been stupid to clear this discursive space for women, then use it for saying how nice it would be if we didn’t need to clear it. Me & my cock were never even made to feel uneasy & that for starters ain’t right. Yay to not valorising the chinwag but the idea that talk which shouldn’t be pinfolded into an academic event shouldn’t go there at all is fucked. The idea that the expectation of feminism from covens is anti-feminist by way of anti-pluralist confuses & appals me. These are ideas I made up myself! 5 Oxford Poets became, perhaps, an assembly point for the lost conversation.

I think two or four tuts had to do w/ the fact of the editing? Searching for a PIN in a strawman, but … if it’s true, the banal grievance shouldn’t be endorsed just because the good response are equally banal: Yet faire in that she neuer studyed to be fayrer then Nature made her? Nature is a tissue of contrivance. We cannot step outside rhetoric for a fag & the kind, clinical lens of Patricio Guzmán, the shot which does not cut or solarise or dub on the Wilhelm scream, is also a rhetorical gambit; it is the authenticity gambit. Even the hypothetical representation uncontaminated by rhetoric, the Youtube vlog noumenon, could only be witnessed by rhetoric like you & me.

But if Keith & Justin DO have all that footage, & a little web space … couldn’t hurt, could it? (Thus: "Speaking of remixes").

I am attracted to bourgeois feminism, as I am to any bourgeois ideology, on the points on which it holds the radical ground against revolutionary or otherwise far-sighted ideologies. It is not a matter of commitments but of burden of proof. I think the burden of proof is on those ideologies which tend to produce cocoon-like, waterskiing-like, carousel-like, library-like, sex-like, hammock-like & Poker-like effects around the bodies which correctly espouse them.

My general defence of 5 Oxford Poets’ ethics is that very little is at stake. E.g. if it were established to exemplify q, & where q is expressed in the language of the recognition of & resistance to patriarchy, at worst q could be a contorted & microcosmic version of q*, a feature of patriarchy. Facts about q* (like the filmmaker’s relationship w/ it) overturn facts about q (even when the latter are stipulated as morally vacant, as normative only within an aesthetic hobby). This is an insane defence, which could come between any artwork & any attempt to work out the nuances of its politics. It would have Emily's book, for example, be at best shadow feminist. It should be controlled by some good ideas about estimating the worthwhileness of beginning or continuing some instance of ideology critique but it isn’t & I can think of two possible pressures for its activation here. (1) touching nepotism; (2) it being a pity that the documentary slash exhibition film eclipsed the other two films, Swarm Intelligence & The Leap.

The form (video poem, I guess) is inherently protective: many channels open all at once, & if there’s nothing interesting happening on one channel, maybe it was happening on one of the others. A glass ceiling lain gently on a glass floor. Swarm Intelligence made something of that w/ a split screen, footage on the left & text on the right. Difficult to watch both & you tended to get punished by peripheral mischief. The text flickered w/ edits, Swarm Intelligence then warm Intelligence etc. These operations vibed of the sped-up ants of the opening shots. Their triviality was formally necessitated: lose the handicap of signification-by-pun & you also lose the effect of disputed movement in the corner of the eye (pixies go too far this time! & he knows something’s up!). (Though there were also violent changes. Don’t know how they fit in).

Swarm Intelligence could be read to promote humane mind as already swarm. The inconstant text reminded me a lot of Daniel C. Dennett’s application of his pandemonium paradigm to language generation. He describes a swarm of modules constantly discharging & evolving gibberish, language haphazardly tossed about, mutilated or bred together or pitted against itself in the de-centralised shaping of, say, a delightfully droll comeback (like “I see. The Market”). Almost a secular version of the unconscious. I sometimes think I can distinguish between the silences in my thinking which are or are not filled by the noiseless babble of a homuncular horde. (Cf. Poets on Writing). Dennett’s emphasis is on the lack of a Central Meaner. “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” (E M Forster)).

More later.