[iDC] Report on ePoetry 2007, Paris.

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Fri May 25 16:38:33 EDT 2007

Hi Simon...

thanks (more mutual thanks) for candidly and compassionately addressing 
the essence of my comments and not getting snarky about the finer (or 
rawer, as the case may be) points.

Having said that, I'd like to address this:

> It's just a matter of taste really.

I don't agree that what constitutes good poetry is a matter of taste.
And therefore I don't agree that what defines good ePoetry is a matter
of taste either.

Taste is a literate invention. It may apply to literate poetry but I
don't think it applies to poetry in performance.

Taste is about cultural heterogeneity. But in my experience, when master
oral poets perform they proactively create a community that is
temporarily culturally homogeneous. If an audience member chooses to not
engage in  this kind of powerful communalizing poetic experience it is
not a matter of taste but typically one of insecurity.

One poet's work may resonate more strongly with one individual than with
another, true. But I have seen on numerous occasions individual poets
conquer all resistance in a room full of complete strangers and create
moments of inspiration that engage people intellectually and
emotionally, individually and collectively. (I've been lucky in this
respect - inasmuch as I've sought out and found poets capable of these
feats, but they are rare, and the vast majority of so-called poets
settle for far far less, which is one reason poetry has such a miserable
popular reputation). Taste does not come into play in these situations.
I've seen Kathy Acker serenade a very diverse crowd into a kind of 
trance with
her 'punk poetry'; I've seen a straight audience succumb wholly to john
giorno's blissful evocation of a blowjob given to him by Keith Haring in
the Spring Street Subway Station bathroom; and there are others. Did all
their audiences share uniform tastes in politics, personal hygiene and
poetry? Not at all. In many cases they were made up of people who
actively dislike poetry and only found themselves there by accident. But
in the presence of a real poet they all came around. Or they shut
themselves off. There aren't really any other options. Either you fall
under the spell and give yourself up, or you fight it off.
That's what I've seen when real poets and poems are present in the 

If poetry is severed from embodied experience - as it is in the 
literate realm -
then such choices become far less meaningful, less urgent, less
consequential. You simply put the book down. It doesn't bite. But
experience does. Which is why what constitutes good poetry is not a
question of poetic taste but of poetic techne.

So what I want to know is, what are the standards by which poetic merit 
will be judged in the realm of ePoetry? Will ePoetry generate poetic 
strategies that aspire to the transformative communalizing of 
performance poetry or to the
silent reveries of literate poetics? Will it bite?  Or will it engage 
people on
an entirely different poetic level altogether? If so, how, and where 
can I get some?


bluesology • printopolis • digitopia

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