Launch of small press

I’m starting a new small press, A Wanton Text Production, which I hope will champion a radically new literature–or, perhaps, non-literature as it were.  You are encouraged to submit your work. I have no funding. As I’ve said before, I’m just a middle-aged burnout without an academic/publishing network (we know who they are). It’s a one-man show, folks, just like my lit rag. Therefore, I will use print on demand to publish your work. I believe in Derek Beaulieu’s dictum to give away your stuff. Ergo, everything I publish will be offered as a free downloadable PDF.

I have argued on this blog that the two competing camps–Conceptualists vs. School of Feeling–would be best served if they embraced hybrid forms. In fact, I will argue, right here and now, that genres themselves should be completely abandoned in favor of intermedia.  Genre-less literature is not an old idea. Dick Higgins formulated this idea fifty years ago! It’s time we actually put it into practice.

Enter my small press.

Why Poetic/Artistic Schools of Thought are Limiting

In my previous post, I explained what I believe is a way to bring two schools of poetry together.  Why it should matter, I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t care. I mean, yes, I am amused by how both sides take it so seriously–but, in the end, it’s all a bunch of palaver and bull-hockey,

People try to direct a trend or tendency into a movement or school of thought in order to attach importance to it, and a lucrative career, but that’s bullshit too.  Unfortunately, the edifice erected by the Conceptual Poets and School of Feeling may crumble and turn to dust at any time.  Art is ephemeral. These artificial schools of thought mean absolutely nothing in the end. In fact, they are counterproductive. They don’t represent what people are really doing in the real world.

I guess, for me, when you try to do anything artistic, it’s not about logic/reason. Kenneth Goldsmith believes it is–that you can plot a scientific course (remember Marx & Engels?), with a predictable schema in hand, and arrive logically at “Art.”  It never happens that way, IMHO. You are surely influenced by particular modes and sensibilities, but the making of art is a completely arbitrary exercise. No one knows what they are doing, and if they did, nothing of importance would ever be created.

And that’s why it’s limiting and counterproductive to fall for the lie of the “dueling poetic schools.” It’s, again, good for careers, and an ego boost for well compensated rhetoricians in the Ivory Tower, but for burnouts like me, it leaves me cold–and bored. I’m sure Dick Higgins would approve.



Lyricism and Vispo

I’ll be honest: I much prefer lyricism in poetry than what’s in vogue at the present.  We’ve seen it all over. Deracinated, denuded verse.  Poetry that reads like prose (the “prose poem”). There’s also the stuff influenced by the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets. What these sub-genres have in common is they don’t swing or sing—at least to me.  There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s just another approach, as valid as epic poetry or flarf. However, a lot of this work leaves me damn cold.

Vispo (visual poetry) and concrete poetry, on the surface, seem to pursue the same basic goals. These sub-genres eschew lyricism.  This poetry looks like it was produced by a machine, and of course it was! (Back then, the typewriter was a pretty radical piece of technology.)  The twentieth century concrete poets were, in a sense, mirroring the mechanization of industrial civilization through their manipulation of clean lines and flawless text.  Here, the human element is sometimes lacking, and the poetry isn’t always singing.

What changes the equation is the advent of the computer.  Today, we can make vispo and concrete poetry sing, with vibrant colors and exciting graphics and imagery. Our textual work can be incredibly kinetic, moving all over the page like birds in flight.  And we can do this all at the click of a mouse.

Page as Canvas (the Visual/Textual Narrative)

Over the centuries, literary narrative, as we have understood it, has been built primarily on text.  However one wishes to organize narrative—whether through standard linearity or a willy-nilly approach—words/language have been at the forefront of our storytelling apparatus. Even the most experimental writers have stuck to that tried-and-true formula. The only break (I am aware of) with this well-worn paradigm is the so-called graphic novel (full-length comic book), whose narrative develops through both textual and visual  means.  Some say this is bona fide literature, and perhaps it is. Still, I am unsure that the graphic novel (over time) will engage us on the level of, say, a Joyce or a Proust—but it certainly incorporates all of the necessary elements we associate with Art.

The success of the graphic novel is a recent development we should be inspired by. Its example points us in the direction of a radical narrative of the future.  Textual and visual elements can be combined to produce an art form of untold possibility. The  page is now our canvas, unrestrained by static text.  We can decide to embed graphics of all kinds in a space heretofore reserved for language. The computer is the means to do so.

The only issue I see on the horizon is how to create a viable narrative out of this new genre.  There must be some sort of cohesive whole to a work, even if the intention is to reject conventionality  for a hodgepodge of image and language. Should there be a plot of some sort?  Perhaps. I would think there must be an overarching theme to a work. But since this new genre is concerned with the visual too, should there be anything that ties it together (especially if it is a long work)?  Does an image have a narrative itself, without textual explication? Does a particular painting, for example, have meaning (narrative) in and of itself?  As I develop my ideas, these are questions I hope to answer.