Disruptive Juxtaposition

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Eugene, Portland, Eugene, Portland, Eugene

The above shuttling over the past two days has given me means to think about the whole prospect of Post-post. See also Marjorie Perloff's "Postmodernism / 'fin de sicle'" for the following helpful quote: "Antin, who is obviously a member of the Olson team, is theorising his own practice, telling us what kind of poetry he wants to produce (the utterance of 'a man on his feet talking') and why." Without any irony intended, this quotation was just the pin I needed stuck in the balloon of my Post-post thinking. What Post-post shouldn't be in this intermittently-developing discussion o' mine is "a theorization of my own practice" - chief among reasons why is that there really is, I believe, a Post-postmodernity out there in the cultural mainstream, which crops up / seems to make meaning coalesce in your fiction, your poems of choice, your films, and especially your effective, thoughtful advertisements. I've hashed out in this space a few examples of where this aesthetic is at work. Important to keep in mind, here, I guess is the upshot, that this blog & this theory isn't a Fulton-esque index-of but really a simultaneous call for & defense of an invented poetics. Post-post is out there.

Perloff's article is of more general use, though, in pointing out the implicit, inevitable bankruptitude of postmodernity itself when it comes to making meaning - or perhaps more precisely, when it comes to insisting that there is no way to make meaning. Her gist is that postmodernity, while insisting on the mutability and Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle-ishness of all language and all fact, has supplanted the very metanarratives toward which it suggested incredulity. The Postmod revolutionary has killed the Modern dictator with irony &c, and has become himself a dicatory. "Why "The Postmodern Condition?" Perloff asks. "Why not "*A* Postmodern Condition?"

This point is a good one. Postmodernism has been in vogue for a longish time; profs and grad students love its haziness and open-armed embrace of local, mutable meaning, I suspect because it thumbs-ups, at least in theory, pretty much all academic discourse and genres of discourse. But the end result of Perloff's claim here is that Postmodernism should, if it wants to make good on itself, re-establish its priorities on those core tenets which first defined it: difference, local meaning, incredulity toward metanarratives *while avoiding becoming one itself.*

But this implicit suggestion hardly advances Postmodernism, does not redirect its potentials toward the cultural moment in which we find ourselves now. (And, of course, admittedly, Perloff's aims were not such; very well. But still.) It behooves us, now, to consider seriously that Postmodernism is still now as it always was on a direct heading with a brick wall, at least w/r/t its efficacy as a guiding principle in the composition of poetry, and in a larger sense too as an aesthetic capable (which I'm beginning to feel it is not) of processing the substance of American (et. al.) culture(s). As to the former, I see the more effective, felt poetry being that which insists not on the mutability of meaning and the atomic nature of language but rather on the ability of language and thought to accrue, clearly, into comprehensible utterance (comprehensible here being not some French Surrealistic or Language Poet-approved "impression" in the reader which results from the presentation of image after image, however beautiful, which technique I esteem as much as I would call dropped eggs in a parking lot "art", but rather received, articulated metaphorization, which --> communication of emotion). As to the latter, well I think it all goes back to Marxism & capitalism & globalization & technology's utter, Earth-engirdling range, doesn't it now. Postmodernism is beginning to look to me like a one-sided coin; it saw in technology only the potential to isolate & splinter (see TV) and didn't account for TV's latter-day ingratiation in the culture, let alone the reconnectivity enabled by new technologies (the Internet much?) and late-stage capitalism, in which a company's success catapults it into a rarefied zone of global attention where the globalized spotlight never ever clicks off.

Someone remind me to get back to poetry. I wonder to what degree Post-post poetics depend on, dare one say it, narrative or prose-derived speech. We've got to tussle with that, I think.