Wednesday, 21 November 2007

A Note on Bile by Emily Critchley (1/2)

Her sequence contains four poems, “Repeat Reclaim Regurgitate!,” “The indicible (for Caroline Bergvall),” “Dear J H” & “[edit] Criticisms (a prynne tribute band).”

They are mostly in the open field, hypertextual, palimpsestual, macronic, multi-coloured, many-fonted format I by now associate with Emily’s “OK so like bluetits pit wire on wire, in must, but please let there be more to it than ‘since we are seeing the meadows newly blossoming, / you could have some things for me at the back of your vag’” attack-pluralism.

“Repeat Reclaim Regurgitate!” is a shadowy & provisional criticism of certain tendencies, which it may or may not identify with Keston Sutherland’s poem Hot White Andy (“& where does that leave us poetically in 2007 Keston’s poetry seemed to scream?”). It probably does make the identification; one of its quotations (nearly cited – I suspect the omission was accidental) is from Jennifer Cooke’s recent essay on Hot White Andy, which appears in Complicities ed. Ladkin & Purves: “[…] performing this unpleasant consequence of capitalist thinking entails replicating it […].”

Skimming that essay just now has sharpened my sense of what “Repeat Reclaim Regurgitate!” is about. Jennifer turns the hoary idea about satire’s structural affection for its objects into an idea about complicit critique (not her term). She applies it to Hot White Andy, identifying its critique with an analysis of love as narcissism crystallising in a matrix of substitutability, & identifying the mechanism of its complicity with the authorative self which in Hot White Andy is still staying on your sofa, and also, sort of, the man behind the iron curtain (see note 1). Emily’s poem deflects & scatters the force of the prose criticisms it draws on.

“Dear J H” & “The indicible (for Caroline Bergvall)” are probably pretty minor – grace notes filliped down others’ oeuvres. As a pair, they seem to suppose a zero sum game: as if praise in one sector were impossible without compensatory aggression in another. “Dear J H” is a short prosaic lyric – vaguely redolent of a Ben Péret ad hominem, but more passive-aggressive – that contains two echoes of William Carlos Williams’ much-parodied “This Is Just To Say.” The allusion (it makes sense to think of it as an allusion to the parodies, actually) is evidence of thoughtlessness & remoteness, which may have been planted, as part of an anti-art or otherwise deflationary scheme. “The indicible” also has a conspicuous deflated component – it’s a mash-up of found texts. “Constructed from fragments collected from an internet search on the word indicible.” It’s a faintly funny poem, hinting that the Untellable (see note 2) is really just in [sic] Google? My copy contains a typo (“[...] in reponse to her [Caroline Bergvall’s] attention to suffering [...]”).

Note 1: The first identification seems much more plausible to me that the second: I’m not sure complicity happens through mechanisms, exactly (not her term). But I may be eliding Jennifer’s point with some of the famous bits of the Language programme, all that anti-Romantic hypernormative ego stuff. Cf. for the Hell of it this from Nicholas Manning's blog:

"[...] The last question concerned the idea of a lack of “unity” to Dale’s transcription of sense-data, which led to me being called ‘totalitarian’ (see on this Godwin’s Law) I think this is the most important point to clarify, as I wasn't at all meaning to imply that poetry needs to seek a sort of Schillerian, and thus fundamentally Ienaen, High Romantic unity, which has so fundamentally and comprehensively been undermined and showed to be dangerous and destructive, and of course I’m in with the Althusser/Adorno anti-Heideggerian lineage [...] But of course I wasn’t talking about this sort of all-subsuming epiphenomenal neo-Platonic Plotinian One! I was just meaning to question the value of such an annotative poetics, if we don’t dig down into such annotations, perhaps via a more englobing formality or praxis. I know Adorno especially wouldn’t want us to reject a complex formality or governing poetic teleology just because of the risk of it being, or becoming at some stage, hegemonic . . . Perhaps it’s a risk we sometimes have to take [...] All of which doesn’t quite yet make me a Fascist . . . I think [...]"

Note 2: L'indicible, the untellable, unspeakable, unsayable, etc. Here's Caroline: ‘The question is not so much to represent as it is to conceptualise identities that are not socially or culturally “presentable" [...] to allow for the whole of language-use to be coloured by homosexuality and its residues of unnameability. Such an agenda is as conceptual as it is political. It’s set up as a posture of writing and works against the social paralysis of representation. It isn’t so much about the figuration or representation of a body type, but rather about language behaviour in relation to censored realities and the way this in turn creates body types’ from ‘ex/cre/men/tal eating’ (from an interview with Marjorie Perloff. Thanks Sophie rriaow).

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