The Emily Dorman Problem part 2

I was going to start this with a list from ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ with a list of people I didn’t know, followed by a list of people I’m aware of but have never read followed by a list of people the I’m fairly (reasonably) familiar with and then point out that I’ve never heard of Dana Ward but I have been making use of his site intermittently for several years.

I was then going to ask readers of this blog to mentally do the same with the lists (this would make me feel better) and then to read the poem. I’ve decided not to do that but instead write about Readerly Anxiety. This is a phenomenon that I’ve probably experienced for years but have only just recognised it as a condition. RA is different from the anxiety of the self-taught (which is not the condition as described by P Bourdieu) because it has no straightforward resolution. RA is about the nature of the text rather than the codes and references that trouble auto-didacts and ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ causes me deep RA because there are many things that I admire about it but I’m not sure how much of it is satire and how much (if any) isn’t.

The audio recording compounds rather than eases this worry. The anxiety is whether or not it is deliberately bad or parodic. I’m also not entirely sure of the ‘status’ of the image of the concrete slab that accompanies the text – although I have spent a few moments looking at images of the shiny new building in Chicago.

Vanessa Place comes in the third list and I have looked up both Zucker and Zapruder before I decided that I wasn’t interested enough to follow this through. I don’t think the last sentence is funny enough but I’m prepared to accept that the rest might be hilariously acute.

RA would be more manageable if all of this consisted of weak in-jokes some of it is both inventive and accomplished and there’s the rub- I’d rather have it as all good or all bad but this fretful middle doesn’t do me any good at all. Anyone who can write “Hephaestus loves Carol King with tongs. But no-one writes songs” has got to be good.

Of course, readerly anxiety may just be a sub-set of the bipolar and the problem may well belong exclusively to me but I’ve noticed RA twinges with ‘Kazoo Dreamboats’ too but that’s about trying to position it in what I thought was the J H Prynne project. RA isn’t pleasant, it’s nothing like the Pleasure of Bafflement whereby there’s things that the reader looks forward to doing in order to reduce/alter the degree of unknowing. RA is much more scratchy and queasy than that, more like ‘The Conversation’ than ‘Histoire(s) du Cinema’.

Enough of this, I’d like to draw your attention to the wonderful neediness of the ‘letter’ to Hamiri and the ‘being with’ device applied to both Van Gogh and Ruskin although much more fun could have been had with the otherness of Blanchot and Bataille even if (s)) is a nice touch.

I’ve just read the comments to the earlier part of this and I accept that my knowledge of most things North American is woeful and comes wrapped up in a cacophony of prejudice, I also accept that I’ve managed to steer completely clear of all things flarf and consider this to be an achievement. So, this should come down to frailties in my sense of humour or the inevitable resentment of the self-taught in direct collision with biting satire that is beyond my reach.

However, I don’t think this works as well as the first. To give a brief example- a riff on the ‘integrity of the fragment’ could have been very promising but any wit/satirical intent is fatally undermined by ‘grok’. Perhaps this is due to my ignorance but how many of us are familiar with the works of Thomas Percy?

I started this over a week ago fretting about fretting- now I’m of the view that ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ is a step backwards, except for the reading which remains completely glorious, obviously.

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5 responses to “The Emily Dorman Problem part 2

  1. I like your notion of readerly anxiety (RA). I have been involved in a project which demands that I read 28 poems in approx 28 days and write something “intelligent” (3-5 pages) on each. I started off strong (= confidently), but the RA grew the further I got into the project. Am I really reading? How do I understand what that means? What’s the difference between reading and projecting (if any)?

    You write: “RA is about the nature of the text rather than the codes and references that trouble auto-didacts …” I’m finding myself unsure how to discriminate between codes and nature (I don’t care as much about the references I miss – I mean, no one can know everything)

    In fact, the more I read the more I wonder if reading is even possible (yeah, I know that I sound like a Lars Iyer character). But thank you for labeling this condition RA.

    • This is Iyer paraphrasing Blanchot (again). I’m not sure whether I stole the idea from earlyish Blanchot but it’s certainly a real condition and one that I experience on a regular basis with regard to poetry and most criticism of poetry. It’s certainly worthy of further exploration between fellow sufferers.

  2. Well, I’m certainly willing to enter into discussion with you, if that’s what you’re suggesting.

  3. Why don’t we do it via email? j [at] johnbr [dot] com

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