Saturday, May 27, 2006

My Conclusion

1) "I donÂ’t know, to choose PC as a target these days in America seems a little misguided, to put it generously." (Anonymous, Chris Chen, I think)

After reading all the posts this week and chatting with Kate and Michael about it, I have to say that I don't think the poem works. Or, more accurately, I don't think that the way "Their Guys, Their Asian Glittering Guys, Are Gay" works is particularly useful. It was interesting to hear from Michael about the poem's relationship to Yeats, but I would have never caught that on my own, even with poem in hand. In the end, the poem still reads to me as a critique of PC, I think because despite the fact that the poem is collaged and thus stops and starts in small fits, there is a loose narrative, the narrative of a Point of View, the Point of View of a fairly cohesive white "I." The irony has the effect of an acting out, a "there I said it" followed by a smile. The voice is more engaged in floating through the stereotypes, rather thancritiquingg them.

2) "Technically, tho, I think anything that pulls language down off the Web--whatever that language is--might be thought of as a kind of documentary approach. Very different in not just technique but in intent, to great extent, than people who consciously write "out of" other voices that they have internalized."(Gary Sullivan)

In relationship to this poem at least, I couldn't disagree more. The language may be borrowed, but is cut together to become it's own thing. It's definitely a whitefish salad, rather than a goldfish in anaquariumm.

3) "i like flarf. in the end, because it is useless (and annoying) to try to legislate via poetry." (kevin.thurston)

As for flarf in general, I don't have many ideas about it, other than it is collage and I'm all for collage and the flarf I know best is Rodney's and I really like Rodney's verbal energies. That's all I can say about flarf in general.

But I don't know what you mean by legislating via poetry. What I do know is that we are all involved in an underground community because we live in a culture that doesn't value something so economically useless as poetry. And this makes me particularly protective of the community. And thus I think it important to discuss work as being in good or bad faith because it affects relationships in the community. When I heard the poem, I felt embarrassed and as a knee jerk reaction immediately scanned the room to make sure there were only white people there. There weren't. And that made me feel bad, because suddenly I worried that the community space was a space most comfortable for whites only. And I think though I feel a little silly about this reaction, mostly because it's the reaction I had as a kid when my parents were talking about race in front of people outside the family, I think it's valid in so far as poetry does not exist in a vacuum. It's a public conversation we are having, at least until we're dead. It has very much to do with how we end up relating to one another. And I think most of us write these poems, at least to some degree, in order to figure out a satisfying way of discussing the world with one another. And I find it sad, though not surprising, that the only Asian American willing to come on this blog did so anonymously at first. Meanwhile, the poem was generating tons of discussion among Asian American poets on another blog. In that sense, the poem reified the separation of poets by race: "Can one imagine “Their Glittering Guys” being read in front of a group of Asian Americans, and in that context would the poem be an example of “Yellowface” or of something else?" (Chris Chen)

OK. Over and out. And for me, hopefully, over. Thanks to everyone for their energy and thought-provoking comments.


Friday, May 26, 2006

aw, today



i'm 34.


as for this Flarf discussion:

yes... we Minor Americans were raised by our Mothers... which means we believe strongly in Polite Table Manners...

and this Blog is our Table.

so... we thank everyone for not allowing this blog to become Negative.

we, and i think i'm speaking for both maggie and i, have never had the intention of 'attacking Flarf.' and i believe that you all know that. and i believe that we never did that. and i thank michael magee for being ... well... receptive and understanding re: this sometimes uncomfortable discussion of his poem.

but discomfort is good.

and open honest questioning is good.

and anne boyer and michael nicoloff are ROCKSTARS, i believe, for being so willing to engage in this discussion and genuinely so.

and also ANON [i think i know who you are ANON!]

and Gary



maggie has more to say re: Flarf. i'll let her take over.

happy my birthday to everyone.
take the weekend off... monday, too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


dear minor american readers,

we have decided to leave the comments in the comments section now that we are convinced that we have you hooked into reading our blog religiously. [= we think you get it and want to stop cutting and pasting now].

as i said before, i am really grateful for this conversation [especially the eavesdropping we get to do on Nicoloff and Boyer]... because it has truly helped me understand Flarf a little more. [a lot], or, at least, it has helped me to think about Flarf in different ways.

i am wondering... way back to Magee's reading... to the beginning of blog thread... and specifically wondering about the public performance of 'Their Guys' which seemed to cause such a stir amongst the attendees. after this reading... there were a lot of discussions about racism and a lot of upset/offended/concerned/scoffing poets all chattering about "asian chicks" and "what was that about?" and, in fact, i must confess that i was surprised by these conversations... and i don't know if it is because i was michael magee's opening act and still recovering from my opening act jitters and therefore unable to concentrate... or if it was because i was not offended... or what... but i was surprised, although, in understanding after the fact.

and so... these others... who have not joined in our discussion [but who are, in fact, reading these posts] i really would like to invite you into this discussion. and to specifically address *what* offended you... *why*... *if* ... all these things.

because it is really easy to simply write something off as *not my thing* and never go into why or share the why with yr fellow viewers... but it doesn't do the work of this poem, or any other poems, any good.

and i can see why the work of this poem is being called into question and also, i can see why people might think there is no work to this poem.

and so. i am wondering about this statement that Anne [excuse the familiarity] made way back in her first response to Michael Nicoloff:

"However, I know enough about Flarf out-loud to know it can create the effect of monody. This is one way I find Flarf to be cunning. It is understandable, then, that MZ would hear this poem and think it is a poem with a fixed subject position about a stereotypical Asian “chick” – it sounds that way, sometimes, read aloud by a single speaker at a literary event."

and i am wondering if that does anything for the audience members who attended this reading.

is the out-loud detracting from the work of the poem?
is the performance?
would yr reactions have been different had you encountered the work on the page first?

how was this "cunning" lost on so many of us at the event?

there seems to be something lost in the translation from page to performance [not performance on the page] here...

or is that not true?

there. i said something. maggie can stop beating me now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Michael Nicoloff - Anne Boyer: FLARF continued.

Hi Anne--

Thanks for this very interesting post. First, to tackle my use of “redneck”—in hindsight I wish that I hadn’t used that word, because it taps into the particular narrative that you’re talking about in such a way that it ends up overwhelming what I was actually intending to point to in that statement. I think this was a product of piling on descriptors in order to tease out what I was actually thinking but then forgetting the weight that “redneck” has acquired with regards to Flarf. But what I was really getting at is the part of that sentence after the dash: “a kind of stereotypically lower class racist redneck-type who’s had little access to education—that lack of education being the particularly highlighted point.” Because those moments when certain Flarfy poems appropriate statements that contain bad spelling/messed-up grammar or glaring racist/sexist/homophobic stupidity gleaned from the internets—and particularly when those statements contain both of these things—the spots where this happens frequently end up feeling like a class of folks (regardless of socioeconomic position) who are brainy and schooled (self-taught or otherwise) are just taking easy potshots at the uneducated for their being uneducated. In a different light, it’d have a very “Revenge of the Nerds” quality to it. But from here I think we can see where the jump to “redneck” is made: racist/sexist/homophobic + lack of education invariably = redneck. In light of what you say regarding a lack of textual evidence for the existence of a Flarf Redneck Assault Team (hmm, FRAT)—and you’ve most certainly read more of this work than I have, so I’m betting that you’re probably right—this equation becomes less evidence of something within the work and more of a look into the kind of associational models that are floating around. It’s like racism and bad grammar automatically lead to a lower-class quasi-Southern idiocy—a stereotype that I’m not proud of perpetuating in my last post and which other people writing about Flarf should also shut up about and do some textual analysis (and also quit it with the threats and man-rage)—when in fact racism and bad grammar exist in, um, quite a few other segments of American society, as you’ve said. But these associations, true or not, and fucked-up as they are, are facts of the American landscape, and unfortunately that means sometimes they’ll determine our writing in ways outside of our intent. Therefore, taking misspellings and racist bile out of one context and placing them in another has to be done, obviously, with a great deal of care. As poets (especially of the “avant-garde” set) we are, again rightly or wrongly, associated with a kind of privilege with regards to language, and so our appropriation of languages that aren’t always our own is frequently going to carry the stamp of something like “class” (though that’s not exactly the right word), and that’s simply something that each poem is going to deal with successfully or not. I think that KSM in “Deer Head Nation” frequently does this kind of appropriation in a way that activates it towards fascinating, nuanced, and on-point uses, but at other times (though I don’t think this is my central problem with “Their Guys...”), Flarfy work does seem to be smarty-pantses minstrelizing (not a word, but I’m going with it) a bunch of less-than-privileged folks because of their lack of education. It probably comes down to a case-by-case basis for when this appropriation is on-point or not—and there’d be a lot of subjective disagreement here.

I’m not sure if I’ve really addressed these questions quite to my satisfaction or yours, but this nonetheless seems to be a convenient spot to return to “Their Guys...” and the specific discussion we’re having around how to read this poem—and I have to say that I’m glad that Maggie raised these questions with regards to a specific poem, because so often these Flarf Wars (or discussion of anything, really) have fallen into a kind of vague generality that, in spite of often being necessary, makes me feel more than a bit wary of making any definite statements (despite the fact that that’s what I was just doing in the paragraph above). Anyway, that aside—I think that a certain amount of our disagreement over how we feel about Magee’s poem is going to come down to our individual subjective responses to the language therein. I’m thinking particularly here about your statement that you find the textual surface of “Their Guys...” to be really interesting. I think it’s been established that, while this certainly isn’t the least interesting poem I’ve ever read on the “surface” level, I do not share this same fascination. But it’s pretty difficult for one of us to say that the other is “wrong” in this regard—without some extraordinarily extreme digging into the genealogies of our own subjectivities, unconscious minds, blah blah, etc., to understand the juridical power shaping how our particular “I just (don’t) like it” factors operate, and I’m not sure if it’s really possible to do that, and if it is, it will probably provoke me to have a freak-out/extended personal crisis.

But this said, in aspects of your reading of “Their Guys...” there are things I both agree and disagree with. I also read Magee’s poem as in a sense taking the various at-times-contradictory perceptions of Asian people—the Asian “takeover”; mentions of height; the title and its plays on the perceptions of Asian men as gay (or at other times, feminized or asexual); the Dragon Lady, etc.—and collecting them into a sort of sprung quasi-narrative of illogic. In the context of this piling on of stereotyped perceptions, I don’t think that the ironic moves being made here are going to be lost on most readers. As you say, the critique is obvious. But maybe that’s exactly the problem: when I pose the question to myself of what the actual critique is, all I end up with in response is something like “dudes—racism is fucked-up.” Which takes me back to my initial response to this poem, which was not that I felt so much as though it was racist but that it made me feel bored and annoyed—the kind of extreme language and the extreme reactions it is trying to provoke didn’t give way to any sense of deeper or more nuanced critique, and since, as I said above, I don’t find the textual surface all that interesting, I was left with very little to keep me engaged. It feels like all provocation and no pay-off. So I guess I’d say, yeah, it is an anti-racist poem, but I’m going to have to disagree with it being all that complex.

There’s more that I’d like to say here about the issues that Joanne raises regarding Magee’s position as a white male poet and the way that that interacts with his poem, but I’m gonna hold off on that (must articulate better). I’m very interested, though, about what you’ve said about KSM and the convenient “forgetting” about him being Arab that I agree does occur in a lot of these discussions. I’d definitely be all for him weighing in here on that and everything else.


(Also--I am super interested in your rumored Feminist Flarf Suite and would be very thankful if you would backchannel it to me if it is in a state anywhere close to done and/or meeting with your satisfaction. Thanks!)

.... sidestepping....

maggie is on a plane home right now which makes me very happy! i'm sure she's looking forward to delving deeper into this conversation.

in the meantime i cut and pasted Anne Boyer's well-articulated response to Michael Nicoloff's response and Maggie's questioning in the post below. i am so pleased that this discussion is happening in the way that it is.

i, myself, have yet to articulate a response to these posts. i am still contemplating. and i am not as good at open questioning and investigation as my partner is... so i'm choosing to remain silent at this moment.

i have asked more folks to join our discussion.... and i hope they do.


i received in the mail lovely surprises from erica kaufman: two belladonna*[s] [rae armantrout and karen weiser] [YES!] and two erica jane kaufmans. i am really excited about this. and i think there needs to be more random free poetry mailings in the world. there has been a little bit of this with suzanne stein's TAXT press chapbooks... although the mailings couldn't exactly be considered random [though, i suppose, someone on the receiving end might think so]. actually, let me clarify... there has been [and will continue to be with her next chapbook which will be coming from David Buuck [and i can't wait to see it] a LOT of FREE poetry coming from suzanne's TAXT. just not exactly random. not exactly not random.

anyone who would like to send us, Minor Americans, free poetry in the snail mail email us and we will probably let you.
and anyone who would like for us to send you free poetry, especially beautiful free poetry like that from TAXT... email us and send us yr address.

i have a lot to read, now. and a day off to do it.


This is an interesting discussion, and I actually have two reactions here: the first, a response directly to Michael’s reading of “their guys,” and the second, a response to the popular narrative that MN repeats – that the Flarf “ends up mocking some really easy targets—most frequently, it seems, a kind of stereotypically lower class racist redneck-type who’s had little access to education.”

On the issue of “Their Guys,” I, of course have the privilege of reading the poem (rather than simply hearing it) and further, being able to read it right up next to the Yeats poem about glittering little “Chinamen” and “Hysterical Women” it critiques. I think Mike’s poem is relentlessly and complexly anti-racist, and further, I think it has a fascinating textual surface & a jittery subject position: ie, it is not “bad” in the sense of funny-naïve or uncrafted (not, say, like the Polar Bear Poem that follows it on the Mainstream site w/ the barfing poop.)

However, I know enough about Flarf out-loud to know it can create the effect of monody. This is one way I find Flarf to be cunning. It is understandable, then, that MZ would hear this poem and think it is a poem with a fixed subject position about a stereotypical Asian “chick” – it sounds that way, sometimes, read aloud by a single speaker at a literary event.

Of course, with time to read the poem I think the work becomes entirely something else. Pardon my super-long metaphor, but I read it as on a map drawn by Yeats (of a city, Orientalism) (and outside of this map, a country of the “Great” Western Poetry). Somehow all over the map are the lines and drawings of noisy racist perceptions about Asian folks – that there is a “predominately female culture,” that Asian people are hipper or smarter than white folks, that “they” will take over everything, that “they” exist merely as pornographic objects or cultural threats.

Then it is as if – upon this document, drawn first by Western literature, second by popular Western perception – Mike poured some crazy flarf-solvent, and everything got blurry and terribly wack, so Yeats pops up again and again, and dumb racism, and poetic language, and not so poetic language, and it is all distorted: the haziness what makes the critique obvious. And nothing is in THE PROPER ORDER nor is there a PROPER assigning of “unacceptable” notions to THEM, some evil ignorant other, nothing absolving liberal white folks of these notions, or even absolving the poet, who stands up and reads this work knowing full well the perception of monody that occurs when Flarf is read aloud.

It is hard to imagine, for example, that when reading the last bit, one can read this as anything other than an anti-racist poem:

“The others turned to see one of their men had fallen. Indeed, despite his glittering
blues, greens, and silvers (“As we retreated two white guys on bikes appeared...”) they had him tied up in their old Frontier”

So yeah, tied to their old Frontier, I think it brilliant, and tragic, and well-crafted, and right on taking Yeats to task, and also INAPPROPRIATE in the best way, which is the way it is considered entirely INAPPROPRIATE for white people to do anything other than pretend that racism is a concern for people of color. Say, look at a literary journal & you will find very few works by white poets about race: Flarf, at the very least, does not pretend to live in a culture of normative whiteness.

And (2) of course, the “redneck” story – which I’ll admit drives me batty, because I can’t find the textual evidence for it. So Michael, if you read this, please tell me what poems you had in mind: it could well be they exist, I just don’t know them, so I spent a great deal of time googling Flarf and redneck to see if I could figure out why this perception exists.

My first theory is that it has something to do with Deer Head Nation, which as you probably know, basically involves a half-Yemeni guy with an Arab name googling up a meditation on a “symbol” of white American culture in the wake of 9/11. If folks associate Deer Heads with rednecks, they might think that the book is full of “redneck” speak, but mostly I find in it teenage chat-room speak and the fragmentary language of porn and news and internet commerce.

But when I google up “Flarf” and “Rednecks,” I do find this complaint from Lucipo:

“The sentiment Kent seems to read from Flarf is "those dumb rednecks" rather than "we dumb rednecks." I agree that I get the same feeling Kent does.”

If the redneck narrative around Flarf really does refer specifically to KSM’s work, how can these people who complain that it doesn’t sound like “we dumb rednecks” ignore the fact that an Arab guy culturally isn’t ALLOWED to be a redneck? Check out (if you have the stomach)>You Might Be A Redneck Muslim . I was talking to KSM about this & he generously thinks people just forget that he is Arab, that explains it, but I don’t think white people complaining about the oppression of white people in poetry easily “forget” that an Arab man is the one writing the work, esp, when, at least in some popular opinion, (though not necessarily in textual reality) he is “stealing” the words of white people and doing funny fucked-up shit with them. It goes on, right, with the critical meditations upon KSM’s “dick wagging,” which seem to be a projection of fantasies of Arab male hypermasculinity into the critical material surrounding Flarf. There are the weird threats of violence that seem to show up in the anti-Flarf rhetoric, too, guys talking about aiming guns and ass-kicking, and that seems to indicate the rage about Flarf might have a kind of racial undertone (not to mention the all out racist stuff about "anyone named Mohammad" etc.)

But maybe I’m over-reacting. Probably, maybe. I’ll probably later be really ashamed of that first theory. The second theory of the “redneck myth” around Flarf is the idea that people associate racist language with poor people. Or they associate stupid internet speak with poor people. Of course, I think stupid internet speak is the province of people who have the luxury of spending all day or night fucking around on the internet – not the working class – and that racist and sexist language is in no way the sole possession of poor white folks, but some of the Flarf critiques I've read (Daniels, Johnson) seem heavily invested in the idea of equating stupid with poor. Also, there is the weird critical trick going on where these people (Daniels, Johnson) pretend that Flarf is only written by affluent white men, thus continually writing the rest of us out of it’s narrative, and charging critiques of the Flarf with a feeling of “unfairness” & makes it more cunning.

But Michael – I am not saying YOU are doing this – only that you have triggered my speculation on all this by repeating the narrative of the redneck-Flarf that has always confused me. I do think Flarf is one of the few poetries actively engaging with issues of race and with various constructs of whiteness, so it is bound to make us, esp. white folks, feel shaky and weird. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry or throw up. I find writing Flarf causes me to feel pathologically vulnerable: as if all the cultural scabs are being peeled up, as if the WESTERN CANON I sometimes love or hate is flaking off and looks just awful, and to make it worse the Flarf doesn’t come accompanied with any kind of theoretical windbreaker to protect us from the shit storm of language and culture. Just all that.

Oh this is very long. I hope it added something other than word count to the conversation.



Oh, I messed up the links --

racist muslim redneck jokes that will make you probably throw up:

Yeats poem that at least might make you queasy:

Friday, May 19, 2006

Michael Nicoloff's Response to Flarf and Magee:

Okay, re: Flarf questions. I don't want to rehash stuff that's already been said and debated in places like Chris Daniels' blog, but from where I stand I run into similar problems when it comes to how to make sense of Flarfy work like the poem you're talking about. First, I'll be frank, here: I'm not crazy about this poem (though that shouldn't be read as my take on MM's work in general in My Angie Dickinson and elsewhere, because I think he’s produced a lot of excellent stuff), so I’m not really in an ambivalent situation of feeling interested in some parts of it and put off by others. To me, the particular way in which “Their Guys...” uses “bad” writing makes the poem not very interesting on the level of its linguistic surface, and the very disjunctive nature of the writing means that the fucked-up Orientalist element isn’t going to proceed very easily to some “deeper” idea in the way that the prototypical prose-fiction satire might. So what are we left with, exactly? In the context in which Flarf, as I understand it, was initially used—sending purposefully “wrong” poems into those scam poetry anthology contests to see if they’d win, which they did—then I can make sense of it more, because it becomes something akin to a conceptual art project in which the content of a particular poem becomes less important than its general “wrongness.” And moving from that initial context I can understand the ways in which people on the Flarflist found it interesting to explore/write with/discuss this kind of language in the semi-private space that listserv was/is. In both of these arenas, I can get on board with “Their Guys...” a lot more, but once it gets divorced from those spaces and goes beyond the in-group and into the broader (poetry) world and has to stand solo as a poem, it starts to just feel like a rather thin piece of writing that’s trying to get by on irony and so-bad-it’s-good cleverness and, yeah, approaches a kind of minstrelsy, albeit one in which the object of that minstrelsy is unclear.

That paragraph reads really harsh to me, which isn’t what I was going for (sorry), but I’ll keep going I guess. Okay—when Flarf work gets really interesting to me is when it enters into that “post-Flarf” space that KSM mentioned a while ago, when it takes the techniques and general modus operandi of Flarf and moves them to the proverbial next level, which to me includes a next level of thinking about authorial responsibility. Don’t get me wrong: I like fucked-up, I like disjunctive, Bruce Andrews is a huge touchstone for me, but to me there are kinds of fucked-up that I personally don’t particularly want to go near, both because they’re, you know, fucked-up and because they’re not fucked-up in an interesting way, a way that simultaneously disturbs and engages and provokes new thought and not just sheer horror at the state of the world. What Andrews, to me and I think to Maggie too, is doing is hopping so quickly from one subject position to the next that it becomes an kind of unending barrage of often contradictory language, language that is much less straight-appropriation and more activated, and therefore, between that and the quick hops, doesn’t fall into a kind of ironic aping of an often disenfranchised subject in the way that Flarf frequently is said to. And also—and this goes back to that essay of Dodie Bellamy’s in Fascicle that I’m obsessed with—Bruce often shoots straight past irony into full-on sarcastic assaults, and his attacks almost always seem to be on the powerful or at least the ominous “they” (I’m not saying he doesn’t cross the line, sometimes, though—gender stuff is what I’m thinking here, specifically). So I don’t want to try to de-fang Flarf of its inappropriateness here, but I do need to take issue with the potentially careless appropriation such work might perform. There’s a kind of Flarf that seems to be about engaging with the subject and all the interesting/disturbing/contradictory language our I’s produce, but too often the appropriation of idiosyncratic language and the subjects they drag along with them ends up making for a kind of quasi-persona poem that, when coupled with the patented Flarf irony and snark, ends up mocking some really easy targets—most frequently, it seems, a kind of stereotypically lower class racist redneck-type who’s had little access to education—that lack of education being the particularly highlighted point. Or simply being transgressive for transgression’s sake by appropriating some of the racist bile floating around on the interwebs for ends that are unclear. (I want to be clear—I’m talking about a kind of Flarf that I’ve read, certainly not all of it.) So to me the question ends up being not so much whether or not one appropriates language, but what kinds to appropriate and when/where to use it so as to make the irony really sting those who deserve it. I think that “Chicks Dig War” is a really well-executed example of this, and a lot of that has to do with what flows out of that title itself—for most folks there’s no getting around the fact that that shit is deeply ironic (though I think Drew has run into some people who missed that) and on the attack against a particular brand of powerful macho that’s running the country at the moment.

Anyway, there are gaps here for sure. Please tell me where they might be.

The Flarf Continues!

I am so glad that this trip is where I finally had the time and inclination to begin posting again, especially in light of the Orientalist discussion. Why? Several years ago I went to India with Prageeta for her cousin's wedding. There my mother and I acquired the appropriate Indian garb for the affair. I could wear the Indian dress and not feel like a New-Ager. It was like being a "culturally sensitive" CNN reporter. But since I am such a lesbo, I really hate weddings because either I wear pants and look like an airline stewardess or I wear a dress and feel like a drag queen who can't walk in her shoes. So I decided for Prageeta's wedding, which is a traditional Indian wedding, that I'll wear my Indian garb. It's a dress that feels like my pajamas and removes all the awkwardness of formal feminine attire for me. Yet I risk being questioned the same way I've been questioning this one Magee Flarf poem. I'll take pictures, to be sure. I hope I look more like Marianne Faithful in 1967 than a California Yoga instructor. But I guess the beholders will be the jury and put out the verdict on my Orientalism.

Mike was kind enough to post the following in the comments area. Obvious from his response the poem is much more complicated than I made out in one public hearing. My two-cents will have to wait a few days, as my parents and I are about to get on the road to Boston for the wedding. But here are Mike's comments, which give us all more ways to think about the work. Thanks Mike for not taking this discussion as a judgment or attack.

From Mike Magee:

Hi Maggie, it was great to see you at David's. I think the questions you raise about my poem are good ones. Perhaps they are better answered by the book MAINSTREAM as a whole. It's now available for purchase at

and soon at SPD as well. The poem. "Their Guys,Their Asian Glittering Guys, Are Gay," is now up on the Mainstream Poetry website:

It may be helpful to your readers to know that the title is a pun on the famous line from Yeats' "Lapis Lazuli" and directly engages with the Orientalism at work in that poem; and that in addition to the "Asian chick" as you say, there are many "characters" (if we can even call them that) in the poem.

Thanks, if this generates any conversation at all I'll be thrilled.

Mike Magee

12:21 PM

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Flarf Question

Greetings from Minersville PA, home of Grandpa and Grandma Zurawski. Today's breakfast: Apple Pancakes made with "high gluten flour." Really! Take that, all you Celiac Poets!

So a few weeks ago Mike Magee read out here at David Buuck's house and ever since then there has been casual conversation about the reading, mostly about one piece in particular. I wish I had a better memory or a copy of the book out here in Minersville with me, but it was a piece whose main character was something like "Teenage Asian Girl" or "Asian Chick" or some such slick epithet. I keep thinking about this piece, not because I'm an uptight white liberal, though maybe I am, but, well, I keep thinking about the point of using this character. I keep wondering about the piece's intentions. Was it 1) "Oh I'll use this Asian Chick as the main character in my poem so that all the white people in the room will get uptight and freak out about race and think I'm offensive and blog about it", or 2) "Asian Chicks are hot, but silly, so I'll write this poem about a silly, hip Asian chick." I guess I anticipated a third option, but I can't think of one right now. And in my opinion, I think it's number one, not number two. Which I guess would kind of be a Bruce Andrew's way of doing things, except Bruce doesn't rest on one note as long, and would move on through twelve other possible social offensives in a single piece, which has a completely different effect. Just a general feeling of all social taboos being messed with. But with this particular poem tracking the character of this silly Asian chick, my feeling is that the audience reaction is rather obvious, and so why do it? There's a whole room of more or less smart people, so why is it productive to ruffle feathers in this particular way, I mean why not flarf us in more unexpected ways, make us uncomfortable in ways that are more socially productive, in ways conducive to new thoughts about the political world around us? The piece felt as if it were written for a campus audience at the height of identity politics. And it has me considering a bunch of questions I thought were already answeres. Is authorial responsibility something I'm supposed to think is washed away by the method of composition? But flarfs are hardly accidents. They are highly aestheticized objects. So it can't be that Magee is trying to get me to believe that a flarfist is controlled by the search engine and not the search engine controlled by the flarfist? I am really puzzled by all of this and keep returning to the predicament in my bedtime thoughts, and yet am annoyed that I am returning to these thoughts at bedtime. Is that maybe the point? If you know, or think you know, please respond. If anyone posts a comment, I would love to paste it on the blog proper. I would like very much for this to be a real discussion. Thanks, Maggie

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

just in case...

those involved with my email question of the year would like to hear more from Dvorak... and missed this comment {which i must confess i just read today bc of an email/blogger mixup...}

kdvorak said...
i'm right here, pringle.

thanks for post'g the Q; i've got it on my blog now, too. of course, no one's really gone there yet, but...

i've asked a bunch o' people this Q & it appears we're @ a consensus--except for 1, & that wd be my advisor. apparently, A. doesn't believe in accidents.

obviously, i believe that it is possible to "unintentionally obfuscate" something. and, dang it, i think it's possible for the very reasons everyone's said here so far.

apparently, though, there are people who believe that the world is
flat, that
happenstance is non-existent,
and that words
are limited to forming a finite number of phrase-fancies.


in other news... maggie left for NJ, NY and MA today [and Prageeta's wedding]... so it is doubtful she will post on Flarf until she gets back.

i just got my trusty journal of the academy of american poets in the mail today and read Matthea Harvey's essay and "Future of Terror" "Terror of the Future" poems today. i must confess that i usually don't take the time to read this journal. this is only because i've been in school forever and have developed some bad habits. like not reading journals bc i'm so busy reading books and blogs. but this essay reminded me of playfulness and the dictionary... and also politicalness and the dictionary. which is a good thing to be reminded of these days. all days.


i like that dvorak says: PHRASE-FANCIES.


you know... i have an aversion to 1. random fonts and 2. extreme cleverness in poetry. i end up frustrating myself quite a bit with this.


i turn in my thesis tomorrow and then i begin reading again: the bible, the collected works of ted berrigan, and hopefully deviant propulsion, and erica kaufman's chapbook...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

:table series: issue 6: ending

hello people.

i have been patiently waiting for maggie to post about Flarf. she has been telling me all week she's going to post about Flarf. she has lots of questions. and i'm eager to read this post-to-come from her [because i haven't heard ALL her questions yet, i'm sure.] but she's not been posting. sadly. not yet, anyway. and so, i feel the need to close out the table series and disappoint so many of our readers.... especially the three that have actually been reading the series, as the conclusion is not a conclusion.

i like to dangle.
and stew.

and so... i do.

anyway... i'm sure soon maggie will give us her Flarf post. until then.... [which could be as far as 10 days away as she leaves soon for Prageeta's wedding]... here is Orestes via de Man:


The Spirit-Rapper introduces mesmerism as connected via scientific study:

I had heard of Mesmer indeed, of his extraordinary pretensions, and the wonderful phenomena which he professed to produce by his rod and tub; but I had supposed that the matter had been put at rest for all sensible persons by the famous report of the French Academy in 1784, signed, among others, by Bailly the astronomer, and our own Franklin. I supposed that every scientific man acquiesced in the conclusion of this report, that the extraordinary phenomena exhibited by magnetism were to be ascribed by the imagination, and that from the date of the report magnetism had cased to occupy the attention of the scientific. (5)

Our narrator is then surprised to learn that Dr. P------, a doctor that he holds great esteem for, is a practitioner of animal magnetism, and that the “famous report” was actually regarded by most Spiritists as ‘humbug.’ This event lends a credibility to mesmerism as a science for our narrator, who so thoroughly believes in physical science that he is seduced by the possibility of mesmerism as a physical science. His pursuit of knowledge and desire for more leads him to a common Faustian trope: he makes a pact with the devil (the devil standing in for: man and god.)

Despite the fact that the spirit-rapper’s dear friend, a young lawyer named Jack Wheatley, has been almost killed by his own practice of mesmerism and nursed back to life by the spirit-rapper himself, our narrator is yet drawn to the scientific study of mesmerism. Brownson’s depiction of this satanic pact is overtly biblical in its rendering . Brownson’s Priscilla is clearly a powerful Eve: a world-reformer with a strong philosophy of her own: God is Satan, Satan is God. It is this adopted substitution that the narrator wishes to confess.

Do I have a ribbon yet? Is my ribbon, my evidence, really Priscilla? Can there be made an equation that looks like this: Science substitutes God substitutes Power substitutes Desire substitutes Priscilla? Is the narrator’s desire for knowledge really a desire for Priscilla? He finds no way of involving himself in her life except by way of this encounter with the mesmerist, Dr P----. If this is so, then is it possible that his confession, or rather, details of his confession, are unrecorded because they are more directly pointed towards this desire?

So far in my narrative I have endeavored to understand what is meant by autobiography and not-biography in relation to the Brownson text. I feel that what is between these two terms is a way to understanding the text on a deeper level. There is a fiction here as well as a reality. The actual story is one of philosophical dialogue. Most chapters contain several characters debating over the actual. Whether it be the actual state of the world or the actual religion or the actual Satan, there is much debate. These philosophical discussions are often over real events/persons in history: Pope Pius IX, the French Revolution, events in London. Real names of real participants in the real world of 1800’s America and Europe. The connection between these real events and the narrator is what is the most unreal. As he states at the beginning of his narrative, his name has not been associated with these famous events or people publicly, but he takes responsibility for these events. Is it confession? Is it all really an excuse to be united with the married Priscilla?
Priscilla, upon realizing that the narrator is intent on world reform, through philanthropy [and thus substituting God for Man and Man for Satan, thus Satan for God] says this regarding marriage:

The great and glorious work of regenerating man and society, cannot be carried on either by man alone or by woman alone. The two must be united and co-operate, or there can be no spiritual, as there can be no natural offspring…. Married and made one in the spirit they must be, but not married and made one in the flesh. (48)

One final comment regarding confession and the Brownson text before I move on to autobiography and am forced into a discussion of the discussion to come.

The only place that the word confession is explicitly used is in the conclusion: “I am trying, a far as in my power, to undo the wrong I have done, and have dictated with that view these my confessions, which will see the light as soon as may be after I am no more”(233). In what ways has he tried to “undo the wrong” ? There is only this confession, that is dictated, and so taken to be verbal, a transcription. There is no effort made to identify the transcriber of words. (An echo of the mesmerized table?)

Also, there is suspicion in a statement that soon follows: “Priscilla is not unfrequently my nurse” (233).

Has our narrator’s desire for Priscilla made a requirement for this confession? And if so, is the confession not a true confession, but a tactic? A means to a particular end? A political strategem?

Again I must return to Brownson’s preface in search of answers:

“The book, though affecting some degree of levity, is serious in its aims, and truthful in its statements. What is given as fact, is fact, or at least is so regarded by the author” (1). The book has ‘aims’ and is ‘truthful’, this much is so, though it is curious that the preface places this truth inside the author at the same time it removes the author: “This is not a biography.”

I find that I am at a place in my narrative that I cannot withdraw myself from easily. To go further into what it is to write an autobiography that is not biography would be ideal at this point, as I feel the confession has been investigated heavily, even if incompletely, and would ultimately lead to definitive statements regarding the two subjects and the text/narrative. I find that I am closing with more questions than answers.

Monday, May 08, 2006

. Freundschaften .

wow, check out reader number 3 that we loved already but now love in a different way. we read this after our springsteen concert ticket fiasco of a ticketmaster onsale... [we got seats but NOT the seats that my fellow minor american and in all other ways partner wanted.] needless to say we were much cheered and also extremely redfaced upon reading it. [grateful].

thank you!


i've started reading "on being blue" by william gass and have fallen into an unexpected love with the momentum of the piece as well as the font/paper of the piece.

we are still waiting for OUR copy of DEVIANT PROPULSION.

we are still living amongst many boxes.


i am still trying to finish my MFA thesis. due may 19th. it is called vivarium: some brief notes on the technical. i think it might become some brief notes on the technical when it is a book and not a thesis.


we will be mailing copies of my chapbook temper and felicity are lovers and suzanne stein's chapbook tout va bien [everything's fine] this week. they are free. if anyone out there would like to be added to this mailing this [we have about 10 copies left!]... please email me at :

suzanne has done a beautiful job making these chapbooks, mine being the first out on her new TAXT press. she's an amazing curator and writer... not to mention human being... and she is putting out a series of chapbooks, all at her OWN expense, and for the LOVE of the work.


i think that's all from me. for now. i have one more installment of the table series and then we'll be on to another adventure.

please tell us what you think about the immigration bill! come on WRITERS! thanks to Elise Ficarra for responding... you can check out her blog at: BLIND CINEMA.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

. Rathause .

we minor americans took a break from unpacking our library yesterday to march in the sun with several thousand other minor americans. we were running late, yes, and we marched a short ways. it was nice to see so much of the mission closed down and to see so many people exercising their civic duties [or not.] we met E [who was not at all late] and then we were joined by Mr. I am yer *hotpants* grammar nicoloff later on. it was really lovely and we missed you all. we were wondering where you were... and what you think... about the immigration bill and the march. if you were spending money or not. if you found other ways to express yrselves. what you think of this bill. if you are thinking of it. we are both thinking of it... one of us being the daughter of immigrants and the other actually being from people who were here before the United States was formed. [although taking shape.]

fill us in, please.

for example... we aren't so impressed with the whole FELON[y] thing. nor are we thrilled with the PRISON thing.

how about the rest of you?