Saturday, February 04, 2006

Response to Dan Hoy's flarf essay in Jacket

I don't have any personal stake in flarf or the accusations Dan Hoy levels at flarfists in this article, since I'm not among their ranks, despite having appropriated some of their processes (or more accurately, whatever impressions of their processes that have radiated out from the hermetic confines of the flarflist) in a peripheral way. But since my F7 project was explicitly addressed in Hoy's article, I will respond to portions of it. And can I mention, apropos of nothing, that F7 wants to change "flarfists" to "florists," and that this seems thrillingly appropriate, given the electronic gardens they tend?

It's worth noting that I like Dan personally, and admire him as an academic and a writer. It's also worth noting that the two poems of mine that will be included in Hoy's own Soft Targets journal both include elements generated by Google. I don't point this out as a contradiction meant to undermine his argument, but it is of interest – if I am unthinkingly complicit in the technocracy because of my processes, doesn't Hoy also share in this complicity by disseminating them? And, unless Hoy plans on publishing my poems with annotated criticisms of their mode of production, isn't his complicity as superficially unthinking as he would have mine to be? I fear that Hoy set out with a thesis already in mind, then found out-of-context examples to support it, instead of letting the research decide what it wanted to say. I have no problem with his ideas about Google’s corporate technocratic nature, but that he offers them as some sort of corrective – using his essay to skewer what he intuits to be the motivations of some poets working in this vein, instead of simply presenting his otherwise penetrating thoughts on Google without damning people for intentions that surely aren't his to know – is odd.

Hoy's assertion that poets using Google to make poems are somehow oblivious to Google's hierarchal nature goes largely unsupported. His reading seems extremely selective. He calls me out for not acknowledging the hierarchy embodied in Google and Microsoft Word's spellchecking function, when in fact I do, however glancingly, in the very same blogpost he quotes in his article:

"[T]he spellchecker used as a palette was compiled by a group of persons unknown to the author..."

This is by no means the explicit critique that Hoy calls for, but it does indicate at least a rudimentary awareness on my part of the not-actually-random nature of the F7 project. Tony Tost, who, to be fair, has had the benefit of close personal contact with me throughout the evolution of my project in forming his analysis, gleans this in his post (responding to the same article) on his Unquiet Grave blog:

"I mean, do you really think Brian Howe hasn't thought about the fact that the language suggestions brought up by the F7 key are a corporation's assertion of what normal or correct language use should be? Isn't it conceivable that that's a big part of the thrill and appeal of the F7 project, taking a technological tool that was intended for one normalizing purpose and hijacking it for a more disruptive, weird and incorrect purpose?"

This is entirely on the money, but again, while I know Dan, I've been in much closer personal contact with Tony over the year-and-a-half I've been working in this vein. So Tony actually has empirical knowledge of my thought processes, which Hoy does not. It's not clear what poets could do to "question the implications" of using Google and other generative technological mediations to Hoy's satisfaction, besides writing critical articles such as the one Hoy just published, which have no place in the work. Hoy's exegesis is welcome, but his ostensible assertion that the poet should have already done the critic’s work, and that the debatable fact that this hasn't happened somehow undermines the integrity of the poet's project, is less so. It seems to me that this sort of questioning is inherent in the work. If there's no explicit critique of Google or Microsoft in my project, one is implicit in the fairly monstrous voice that ripples through it, and I've spent much time pondering the ideological implications of what I'm saying vis-a-vis what MS Word's Spellchecker thinks I'm trying to say according to the cultural biases of its programmers, which power structures it favors and which groups it disenfranchises, how to exploit this slippage for powerful aesthetic affect and penetrating political comment, etc. What makes Hoy so sure that the basis of any Google-oriented project is not a critique of the tool it uses?

I wouldn't contest Hoy's claims that Google poems are biased, since they express the biases of the search engine's designers, and ideological, since they express the will of their "authors" in result-selection criteria, but I can't really countenance his claim that flarfists and people using Google to make poems are unaware of these implications. The questions he feels are going unaddressed seem to be, in my reading, exactly the questions such poems intend to raise. On a side note, I'm no longer using Google in my poetry, focusing instead solely on the F7 process – it was something I needed to experiment with for my own edification, but it's not an idiom I'm interested in pursuing further, when others have been doing it longer and more exactingly already. But I feel certain that my own experiments with Google and the Spellchecker actually foreground my own complicity, as a young white male, in the hegemony – as I blend poetic "I" statements with Googled results and Spellchecker generations, I become indistinguishable from the oft-horrible content of the poems. My acknowledged complicity seems to me to fairly resound through the poems, as does my burgeoning terror at the same.

Hoy is right that my F7 poems do stem from an imposed value system – I was imprecise in my blogpost. What I meant to say is that it they are free from my own imposed value system, at least to a greater extent than my unmediated poems. At the time, I was very rigidly observing my processes, not allowing any legroom for myself to make choices, creating the original nonsense texts entirely by keyed patterns and chance operations like dice rolls, randomly generated numbers & so forth, and even when arriving at the stage when MS Word presented me with a palette of word choices, I used chance operations or sequential rules to select those as well. While I was cognizant of MS Word's ideological bent and its affect on the poems, it wasn't something I was interested in explicitly addressing at this rudimentary, exploratory stage of the process, although this is no longer the case – now I allow my will into the poems freely and haphazardly, since I've found the tension is more interesting than the pure process. At any rate, I felt that these poems were engaged in a tacit critique of the media that produced them, even if it wasn't one that I fully understood myself yet.

I also disagree with Hoy's assertion that poets who use technologically mediated processes are excited about technological progress, when in fact the opposite seems true – the emotional register of such poems scans to me not as excitement, but dread, or at least a deep unease with the decentralization of the human, the individual, and the unique embodied in this technology. The gleefully obscene, almost giddy tone that pervades such poems scan as whistling past the graveyard, false and jarring contrasts to the poet's very real terror. Why Hoy chooses to read such impulses as "utopian," I have no idea, since they are plainly dystopian in their panoramic view of the vertiginous, canted, treacherous linguistic surface that mediates so much of our 21st century lives.

What Hoy's article ignores is flarf's and google-poetry’s (and yes, F7’s) sheer inevitability. Whatever their real or supposed ideological blind spots, they are the inevitable expression of our era, and if the poet's greatest calling is to inhabit his or her moment as fully as possible (contestable, but I believe it is, lest we all fall prey to the museum culture of "timeless" poetry), practitioners of flarf and other technologically mediated processes are answering this call most directly, engendering circumstances for critiques such as Hoy's, critiques that would be more valuable were they to examine the discernible phenomenon and not make blind assumptions about the phenomenon's practitioner's intentions. The collaging of (often corporately-generated) primary sources is shaping up to be the defining medium of our era – rap (at this stage, my thinking is that F7 has more in common with Mike Jones or DangerMouse than John Cage), mash-ups, DJ mixes, literary pastiche and hyperauthorship, rampant televisual meta-satire, etc etc etc. For poetry to try and stay "above the fray," as it were – doesn't this just make it more marginal than it already is? Perhaps that's what some poets want – to not see poetry become like TV – but I'm interested in poetry that engages with TV in its own arena, not to mimic it but to challenge it, to inhabit its moment. Hoy argues that there's an elitist bent to Googled poetry, but it's a lot closer to getting one's hands dirty than musing abstractly on the periphery of the culture.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

brian, why don't you ask dan is he thinks warhol is a painter?

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brian, why don't you ask dan if DJ Shadow is a musician? an artist?

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brian, why don't you ask dan if bush is really president? or is he just a collage of other peoples' thoughts?

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brian, but florists aren't gardeners.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous The Associated Press said...

Winners at Wednesday's 48th Annual Grammy Awards:

Album of the Year: "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," U2.

Record of the Year: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day.

New Artist: John Legend.

Male R&B Vocal Performance: "Ordinary People," John Legend.

Pop Vocal Album: "Breakaway," Kelly Clarkson.

Rap/Sung Collaboration: "Numb/Encore," Jay-Z featuring Linkin Park.

Song of the Year: "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," U2.

Female Pop Vocal Performance: "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson.

Country Album: "Lonely Runs Both Ways," Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Rap Album: "Late Registration," Kanye West.

Rock Album: "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," U2.

Rap Solo Performance: "Gold Digger," Kanye West.

Rap Performance by a Duo or Group: "Don't Phunk With My Heart," Black Eyed Peas.

Rap Song: "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," D. Harris and Kanye West.

Solo Rock Vocal Performance: "Devils & Dust," Bruce Springsteen.

Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," U2.

Hard Rock Performance: "B.Y.O.B.," System of a Down.

Metal Performance: "Before I Forget," Slipknot.

Rock Instrumental Performance: "69 Freedom Special," Les Paul and Friends.

Rock Song: "City of Blinding Lights," U2, (U2).

Alternative Music Album: "Get Behind Me Satan," the White Stripes.

Female R&B Vocal Performance: "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey.

R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals: "So Amazing," Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder.

Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: "A House Is Not a Home," Aretha Franklin.

Urban/Alternative Performance: "Welcome to Jamrock," Damian Marley.

R&B Song: "We Belong Together," J. Austin, M. Carey, J. Dupri & M. Seal, (D. Bristol, K. Edmonds, S. Johnson, P. Moten, S. Sully & B. Womack (Mariah Carey).

R&B Album: "Get Lifted," John Legend.

Contemporary R&B Album: "The Emancipation of Mimi," Mariah Carey.

Male Pop Vocal Performance: "From the Bottom of My Heart," Stevie Wonder.

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: "This Love," Maroon 5.

Pop Collaboration With Vocals: "Feel Good Inc.," Gorillaz Featuring De La Soul.

Pop Instrumental Performance: "Caravan," Les Paul.

Pop Instrumental Album: "At This Time," Burt Bacharach.

Traditional Pop Vocal Album: "The Art of Romance," Tony Bennett.

Female Country Vocal Performance: "The Connection," Emmylou Harris.

Male Country Vocal Performance: "You'll Think of Me," Keith Urban.

Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: "Restless," Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Country Collaboration With Vocals: "Like We Never Loved at All," Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

Country Instrumental Performance: "Unionhouse Branch," Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Country Song: "Bless the Broken Road," Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon, (Rascal Flatts).

Latin Pop Album: "Escucha," Laura Pausini.

Latin Rock/Alternative Album: "Fijación Oral Volumen 1," Shakira.

Traditional Tropical Latin Album: "Bebo De Cuba," Bebo Valdes.

Salsa/Merengue Album: "Son Del Alma," Willy Chirino.

Mexican/Mexican-American Album: "Mexico En La Piel," Luis Miguel.

Tejano Album: "Chicanisimo," Little Joe Y La Familia.

Engineered Album, Classical: "Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets," Da-Hong Seetoo, engineer (Emerson String Quartet).

Producer of the Year, Classical: Tim Handley.

Classical Album: "Bolcom: Songs of Innocence and of Experience," Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Christine Brewer and Joan Morris, University of Michigan School of Music Symphony Orchestra).

Orchestral Performance: "Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13," Mariss Jansons, conductor (Sergei Aleksashkin, Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks).

Opera Recording: "Verdi: Falstaff," Sir Colin Davis, conductor (London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra).

Choral Performance: "Bolcom: Songs of Innocence and of Experience," Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Christine Brewer, Measha Brueggergosman, Ilana Davidson, Nmon Ford, Linda Hohenfeld, Joan Morris, Carmen Pelton, Marietta Simpson and Thomas Young, Michigan State University Children's Choir, University of Michigan Chamber Choir, University of Michigan Orpheus Singers, University of Michigan University Choir and University Musical Society Choral Union, University of Michigan School of Music Symphony Orchestra).

Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with Orchestra): "Beethoven: Piano Cons. Nos. 2 & 3," Claudio Abbado, conductor; Martha Argerich (Mahler Chamber Orchestra).

Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra): "Scriabin, Medtner, Stravinsky," Evgeny Kissin.

Chamber Music Performance: "Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets," Emerson String Quartet.

Small Ensemble Performance: "Boulez: Le Marteau Sans Maitre, Derive 1 & 2," Pierre Boulez, conductor, Hilary Summers, Ensemble Intercontemporain.

Classical Vocal Performance: "Bach: Cantatas," Thomas Quasthoff (Rainer Kussmaul, Members of the RIAS Chamber Choir, Berlin Baroque Soloists).

Classical Contemporary Composition: "Bolcom: Songs of Innocence and of Experience," William Bolcom (Leonard Slatkin).

Classical Crossover Album: "4 plus Four," Turtle Island String Quartet and Ying Quartet.

Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "Ray," Ray Charles.

Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "Ray," Craig Armstrong, composer.

Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "Believe," Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, songwriters, from "The Polar Express."

Instrumental Composition: "Into the Light," Billy Childs, composer.

Instrumental Arrangement: "The Incredits," Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Various Artists).

Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?" Billy Childs, Gil Goldstein and Heitor Pereira, arrangers (Chris Botti and Sting).

Traditional Blues Album: "80," B.B. King and Friends.

Traditional Folk Album: "Fiddler's Green," Tim O'Brien.

Contemporary Folk Album: "Fair & Square," John Prine.

Native American Music Album: "Sacred Ground -- A Tribute to Mother Earth," Various Artists.

Hawaiian Music Album: "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar -- Vol. 1," Various Artists.

Reggae Album: "Welcome to Jamrock," Damian Marley.

Traditional World Music Album: "In the Heart of the Moon," Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate.

Contemporary World Music Album: "Eletracustico," Gilberto Gil.

Polka Album: "Shake, Rattle and Polka!" Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra.

Musical Album for Children: "Songs From the Neighborhood -- The Music of Mister Rogers," Various Artists.

Spoken Word Album for Children: "Marlo Thomas & Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long," Various Artists.

Spoken Word Album: "Dreams From My Father," Sen. Barack Obama.

Comedy Album: "Never Scared," Chris Rock.

Musical Show Album: "Monty Python's Spamalot."

Gospel Performance: "Pray," CeCe Winans.

Rock Gospel Song: "Be Blessed," Yolanda Adams, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and James Q. Wright, (Yolanda Adams).

Rock Gospel Album: "Until My Heart Caves In," Audio Adrenaline.

Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album: "Lifesong," Casting Crowns.

Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Album: "Rock of Ages ... Hymns & Faith," Amy Grant.

Contemporary Soul Gospel Album: "Purified," CeCe Winans.

Gospel Choir or Gospel Chorus: "One Voice," Gladys Knight, choir director.

New Age Album: "Silver Solstice," Paul Winter Consort.

Jazz Vocal Album: "Good Night, and Good Luck," Dianne Reeves.

Jazz Instrumental Solo: "Why Was I Born?" Sonny Rollins.

Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group: "Beyond the Sound Barrier," Wayne Shorter Quartet.

Contemporary Jazz Album: "The Way Up," Pat Metheny Group.

Large Jazz Ensemble Album: "Overtime," Dave Holland Big Band.

Latin Jazz Album: "Listen Here!" Eddie Palmieri.

Traditional Soul Gospel Album: "Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs," Donnie McClurkin.

Dance Recording: "Galvanize," The Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip.

Electronic/Dance Album: "Push the Button," The Chemical Brothers.

Bluegrass Album: "The Company We Keep," The Del McCoury Band.

Contemporary Blues Album: "Cost of Living," Delbert McClinton.

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Steve Lillywhite.

Short Form Music Video: "Control," Missy Elliott Featuring Ciara and Fat Man Scoop.

Best Long Form Music Video: "No Direction Home" (Bob Dylan).

Recording Package: "The Forgotten Arm," Aimee Mann and Gail Marowitz, art directors (Aimee Mann).

Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: "The Legend," Ian Cuttler, art director (Johnny Cash).

Album Notes: "The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax," John Szwed, album notes writer (Jelly Roll Morton).

Historical Album: "The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax," Jeffrey Greenberg and Anna Lomax Wood, compilation producers (Jelly Roll Morton).

Engineered Album, Non-Classical: "Back Home," Alan Douglas and Mick Guzauski, engineers (Eric Clapton).

Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Superfly (Louie Vega EOL Mix)," Louie Vega, remixer (Curtis Mayfield).

Surround Sound Album: "Brothers in Arms -- 20th Anniversary Edition," Chuck Ainlay, Bob Ludwig, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits).

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Royalty Free Beats For One Dollar said...

Royalty Free Beats For One Dollar


2:10 PM  
Anonymous said...
Egyptian-Arab forum cherish News Egypt,

11:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home