Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Last night I was among the thirty who attended a reading by Sina Queryas at Emily Carr University. I was hoping to say hi, but left before the end.

I sent her this instead:


I would have stayed if not for the panel erected after your reading. What was that all about? And what of the Acconcian gesture, the guy to your immediate right? What a ghostly presence. Acconcian as in Vito.

I had some questions, one of which concerned a poem you dedicated to Christian Bok that, once heard, reminded me of what Dorothy Livesay talked about when she wrote (favorably) of the "documentary poem" tradition. That you dedicated a poem like that to someone whose weaknesses include an aesthetic (as opposed to political) intolerance of anything un-meta-cated had me curious. Provocations like that are best served when the person is in the room. Also, what was Marjorie Perloff protesting when you said she took issue with the poem?

There were other questions amidst the proper-nounage tally. Looking at my notebook, I wrote:

Virginia Woolf (1)
Margaret Atwood (1)
Michael Ondaatje (1)
Christopher Dewdney (1)
Christian Bok (4)
Marjorie Perloff (1)
Kenneth Goldsmith (1)
Dorothy Wordsworth (1)

Here's a nice line:

"There are hooks in the air that catch and carry us."

Could you break it for me so that I might post it on my blog?

I caught the metaphoric intake of the expressway. Wish in your book you restrained from explaining it.

I have a copy of Expressway on order. I am looking forward to reading it in relation to Oana Avasilichioaei's feria: a poempark (2008) and, after all these years, my own book, Kingsway (1995).

Two weeks ago Jamie Hider and I gave a presentation at Artspeak entitled Talking Conceptual Writing, in which we attempted a critical survey of the current conversation as well as a periodization of conceptual art practices of the late-1960s/early-1970s. My thesis is that a move towards an "expanded" contemporary writing must see itself in conversation with the conceptual art moment, as opposed to shopping at its stores.

When I talk about what I do, I talk about the writings of Douglas Huebler and Dan Graham as literary influences -- that what I do, and have done, is closer to the interdisciplinarity of what locals Malcolm Lowry (his 1954 "Through the Panama" is our city's first instance of collagist fiction), Al Neil (our first bricoleur), bill bissett, Roy Kiyooka, Maxine Gadd, Judith Copithorne and Gerry Gilbert were doing, something I made a show of at SFU Gallery in January (Expanded Literary Practices).

A key omission in Craig Dworkin's "Introduction" (on his ubuweb site) is Dan Graham, who famously defined "conceptual art" as "Vietnam" in an effort to critique the apolitical nature of Minimalism and its adherence to Friedian notions of purity. Graham reminds us that in our pursuit of "team jackets" (Jeff Derksen) we cannot forget that conceptual art is less a genre than a critique.

So that is my argument against Conceptual Writing -- where is the critique? Furthermore, if Conceptual Writing wants to further itself, become a jacketted movement, it must drop the Writing part and work within the larger critical (post-medium) history. For it is the persistence of the Writing part that has Conceptual Writing wanting it both ways -- on the one hand, to “make it new”, while on the other, retreating to mom and dad's (aka The Literary) when the going gets tough (aka The Critique). Finally, any movement that has as its creation myth Christian Bok and Darren Wershler-Henry driving to Buffalo to talk to Kenny Goldsmith is suspect in my books.

I wish we could have spoken about this at your talk, and not had to endure that panel.


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