[iDC] Report on ePoetry 2007, Paris.

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Sat May 26 12:51:42 EDT 2007

On 26/5/07 04:38, "john sobol" <john at johnsobol.com> wrote:

> 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.
This suggests the artist/poet is always right, no matter what.

Nobody is always right and if they think they are then that is an extreme
expression of arrogance. According to this logic Hitler and Stalin are the
greatest performance poets we have known.

Mmmm. Perhaps you are right then...but what about those who were not
"homogenised" by such dictators? Were they just insecure and thus wrong?

You mention Kathy Acker. I have seen her perform. I have also worked on one
of her collaborations with the Mekons. Whilst I admired her and recognised
her capabilities as both a performer and writer I never liked her work. I
also found her difficult as a person whilst at the same time respecting her.
I have no problem with that. I was happy to work with her simply because as
one professional to another that seemed OK.

What do I mean by "I don't like her work"? This is the key question in
addressing the concept of taste (which I agree is an infuriatingly vague
term and perhaps I should not have used such short hand). What I mean is
that when I read/see something and I am left feeling cold or indifferent, or
thinking that something is naïve or not thought through or simply aggressive
for its own sake and thus offensive, then that is not what I like. There are
lot's of reasons not to like something, and that is what I meant by taste. I
did not mean to imply some sort of objective measure of good or bad. I don't
think such measures are of much use.

I find the idea that artists have a right to inflict their practice and
thoughts on the world offensive. They have the right, like anybody, to
express themselves. They have no right to force that on to anyone.
Inversely, nobody has a right to silence an artist, they just have the right
not to listen.



> 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
> flesh.
> 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?
> Regards,
> John
> --
> www.johnsobol.com
> bluesology € printopolis € digitopia

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor in Art, Edinburgh College of Art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

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