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Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Kazim Ali’s recent American Poetry Review columns have been stunning. His most recent is a bad-assed belletristic constellation of texts (where he makes a common cadre in media studies—Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, Slavoj Zizek, and The Matrix—meet up with Melville & Dickinson), and it transcends the boundary of a “column” to become an essay.

Ali thus reminds me that 1) poetry magazines are indeed the ideal venue for aesthetically gorgeous and intellectually rigorous essays; and 2) the term “belles lettres” has unfortunately come to be used as a derisive moniker for essays that rely on “long, spooling, New Yorker style stuff” (as the fictional Charlie Kaufman says of Susan Orlean’s work in the film Adaptation). The art of the relevant tangent makes some readers—and teachers of college composition—roll their eyes.

But what if the effect of the artful essay could be similar to the most stunning poems? Or, to twist this line of thought to include the work of Kathleen Graber (check out http://pbq.drexel.edu/issue78/content/prose/1.html ), Ciaran Berry (http://www.siuc.edu/~siupress/berrythesphereofbirds.html ), and Gregory Pardlo  (http://www.aprweb.org/bookprize/pardlo.shtml): what if some of the best poems could be described as essayistic?

All of which brings me back to Kazim Ali’s recent APR column, “Write on My Wall.”

When he uses a riot of texts to ponder the body and its boundary(less)(ness) he makes me wonder about the “boundaries” of literary magazines. Does PBQ reinforce or blur its boundaries when, say, I link to APR?

http://www.aprweb.org/

To Henry Israeli at Saturnalia Books?

http://www.saturnaliabooks.com/

Or the Crab Orchard Review?

http://craborchard.siuc.edu/

(All of whom have published my essayistic trifecta above—Pardlo, Graber, Berry).

Online, are PBQ’s boundaries rigid or porous? On one hand we engage in a mutually constitutive game: we reinforce the cred of the sites and sources we link to, and by linking to them we reinforce our own. But we also soften our own edges. Building links into this blog I feel like Whitman’s noiseless patient spider; sending out filaments I conjure a web of ideal works, call our aesthetic into view.  But spider webs are virtually invisible things; you’ve got to cock your head to see them.

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So, anyway—all of my old comics have come back from the ‘90s to haunt me, and some of them are pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to re-reading Martian Manhunter: American Secrets—thought I’m not sure what I was quite thinking when I bought the Marvel 2099 series (Marvel Superheroes in the year 2099) sequence, except that that the foil covers aren’t quite as cool as they were. But comics are a lot like blogs—these endless new iterations in what is a fundamentally disposable medium, and the networks are endless. I stopped reading comics because it gets too expensive—the narratives are always crossing over into other and you end up being unable to keep anything straight. Also, like blogs, the same discoveries kept being made. Every 10 years, DC seems to reset its universe to great fanfare, only for it to creep back into the same problems (an excess of parallel dimensions, an excess of melodramatic loose ends, an excess of reinvented heroes). Blogs have that same, oh, yes, you just noticed what Baudrillard was saying 10 years ago, and now you’re presenting it as your own idea, which it is, but still, I don’t have time for you. It’s like listening to high school students discuss theology, or really deep problems, like how whether we can know that what we call “blue” is seen the same by everyone (answer: we can’t know) or whether or not we can think without language (answer: not really). Re-reading my comics is a bit like rehashing Hemingway short stories, or going through a photo album. Everyone has the same pictures—there are a limited number of poses a human being can strike without being in an Annie Liebowitz shoot—but these are mine. There’s a limited number of melodramatic situations any given hero can encounter, but these are in my personal archive, so they’re fun to revisit.

In the meantime, can anyone tell me why Rateyourprofessor won’t take down a page from a university where I haven’t taught in 4 years? I keep asking, but they sort of ignore me or tell me they’ll look into it and then never look into it. It’s not really helping anyone decide whether or not to take my class—which is their excuse for creating their nasty little universe of vitriol, venom and effusion. And yes, the top three reviews are 5’s all across the board, but it’s just annoying. When people google me, I don’t want the fourth hit to be teaching evaluations. It’s like finding my tax returns or my dental records.  I love teaching, but it’s very much tailored to the individual or the class– as far as my public persona is concerned, I’d like to stick with my poems and essays.

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