Against Conceptual Poetry

Against Conceptual Poetry

Regular price $18.00 $0.00 Unit price per

Author: Ron Silliman

Publisher: Counterpath Press (2014)

Ron Silliman’s Against Conceptual Poetry transcribes, into the reified form of expressive linebreaks, an oral interview that the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, conducted with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2011. Schmidt and company wanted to interview Assange for The New Digital Age, which Assange went on to review in the New York Times, calling it “an expertly banalized version” of “the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth” and a “blueprint for technocratic imperialism.”

What Assange says about The New Digital Age—“this isn’t a book designed to be read”—Kenneth Goldsmith has said about some conceptual poetry. Assange adds, “It [Schmidt’s book] is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.” To compare alliances today (those between conceptual poets, those between global technocrats) is to miss the point that there’s currently a split between the formal and the social both in poetry (as aspects of poetry) and between poetry’s formalism and the other social discourses. It takes a poet formed in 1960s revolt to want to reflexively mend that split.

Against Conceptual Poetry is one big wikileak into poetryworld. A must read, the “must” here is an ethical must. Silliman’s selected source text addresses the Internet not for its playground but for its politics. Assange is concerned with how the human historical record can be made to disappear on the Internet. By an act of disclosure (the Assange interview is disclosed as a poem), Silliman recalls one of the originating radical gestures of expressive politics transforming 20C poetry: D.H. Lawrence’s analogy of the painted church ceiling ripped asunder to disclose the chaos of the cosmos in infinite space – except here it’s not natural but social machinations revealed. Goldsmith, too, has noted that if as poet or artist you’re not present on the Internet then “you don’t exist.” But can poetry only mimic the present situation where the formal and social aspects of the poem are split, or can poetry change or at least reflexively address this situation?

–Louis Cabri