On Thu, 29 Jan 1998 [log in to unmask] wrote:
> The violence with which some of his poems attack ethical equililbrium
> cannot be ignored, and neither do his poems request a cynical
> desensitization. This violence is coupled with extraordinary lyric power
> and a commitment to investigation of politic which makes much of what
> I've read, even amongst us, seem like so much decorative styling of
> derivative tripe bandied back towards its founders.
> For example, out of medium, and my bone to perpetually prick: compare
> the sanctimony of feminist, or at least gender-friendly, claims on this list (I
> don't mean anything towards real life personalities, almost all of which I
> don't know) to the actual participation by women.
> What's more, Keston's poetry is characterized by a philosophical
> inventiveness which may scare off the more mentally timid, or those who
> resist the convergence of difficult style with difficult ideas.
> That isn't, certainly, the last word, and given the amount of Keston's
> work posted and ignored on this station, I hope it won't be here.
Well I do take umbrage. As far as the onanistic lyric is concerned, I am
sure it may be profitable to read Keston's poems as after Mallarme's
"L'Apres Midi D'Un Faun", all in good time.
It is more a question of spatial appropriateness and the appropriation of
its dimensions. The space which has been created here is, I imagine, of a
market square, with untannoyable announcements, where ephebes may do
skirmish, where big-city philosophers like Diogenes contemplate the
dogshit under the bye-you-leaves, yes, autumn, and jolly apples, and
people stabbing their fingers in the over-ripe fruits of intellectual
labour ('its rotten!' 'but you made it so!'), or dissing a nimble fish as
'sub-par', and overhearing things (so back home: 'cris what did happen at
the Poetry Society?'), and the legislators, and lots of £ signs, a
noticeable lot of them. It is a *commercial* space, the discourse which
goes on in the ongoing text.
And I like the textual marginalia, the e-mail headings, from "Hughes goes
America", "Hughes & Autumn", to "Autumnal Hues", to "Huge Autumns" and
next undoubtedly it will be "Huge Falls", and that kind of bandied gloss
of logic is very appealing, and loyal, in itself too.
Unlike Andrea's enlightened intellect, I have a medieval mentality.
This is not to do it down, or hers by irony, but to articulate what the
difficulty is with poems in this space, from a 'visual' perspective.
What such poems present, are complex spaces within a space. Imagine a Van
Eyck portraying a religious scene (as ours is commercial), and there, at
the back, is a window frame, and when you look closely, you see a
marvelously detailed representation of a City ... So I imagine, in the
reverse, poems (which signify their difference through form) in this
space, and ideally, you should just be able to do an alice, and leap,
mentally, into the 'contemplative' space of the poem. Andrea seems to
think the leap is easy, because the dimensions of KS poems appear so large
to her. But it is not 'mental timidity' which prevents me, but rather that
these poems can't drawn me in.
Perhaps the ease with which poems are dessiminated in this space, without
the trying material processes, even of selecting a letter-type, leave me
cold. I must *pay* attention, and remain as static as they are,
fixated, and if I don't Andrea will command me on their behalf. Hey, I was
And then the other meaning of 'commerce' springs to mind, and leave
one wondering whether it is a question of seduction.
In its most literal form: Hughes releases another picture of a
bathing-suited blonde Sylvia to be published along his poems in the Times.
That does not draw me in, oh well perhaps a little, because it is so
glamorous. But the contextual transparency of it makes one initially
cynical toward the poems. And the split between visual libidinal
pleasure/labour of reading, is something last and better seen in
illuminated manuscripts (hey, cool java-enablement! the monks said to each
other as they applied another bit of mordant to Epistles 4), and bodes
badly for a future of textual pleasures.
A professor of literature who taught me some years ago refused to work
with Apple computers because he did not like the icon system (medieval),
preferring MS-DOS language code (enlightened). Still nothing draws me into
contemplating Keston's poems in the electronic-text medium, not even the
anti-seduction of abstract complexity. In fact the pornographic
illustrations on the covers of his (self-produced) pamphlets may point to
another kind of crisis, not of cynical reason, but almost as if those
pictures are meant to take the heat of violation off the poems.
And this is imageless space. It is interesting that Ira's experiment
with concrete poetry did draw people in, also because something went
technically wrong, and the poem looked wild, unfixated, and in-your-face
to java-enablers ...
...and vulnerable too. And they pounced at it, this so seductive moment.
"I perpetuated nymphs". It moved. And poems like Keston's, which present
themselves as pure inticrate stills, tantalisingly veiled by the speed
with which the eye resists them, remain on the shelf, as it were, of
Andrea, please return, and Enlighten me. Is Keston an Apple ..
... if not, do contemplate "mon sein, vierge de preuve, atteste une
morsure Mysterieuse, due a quelque auguste dent..."
and then could you run your take on gender, commodification and poetry, by
Yours in need of an operating system,