12 comments for this entry:
  1. Johannes

    It was a good review, but I especially like this comment:

    “Worthless words, slung together by C-list poets to simply shock and awe the reader into capitulation. Edited by D-list poets so unsure of their own writing to have to shill such poor material on their unsuspecting audience.”

    It’s amazing to me that someone can be so incredibly tortured by someone else’s poetry, so maddened. And this anthology more than any other contemporary book I can think of has freaked people out. I like in particular the “unsuspecting audience” – that is the poor innocent “fair women” who are so innocent of the dubious poetry that they are going to be raped/polluted by the fallen women of the gurlesque. And I also like the use of “c-list” – who thinks about poetry like that? Ha! Funny/sad.

  2. Carina Finn

    I think if people are going to assign designations like “c-list” to poets, there should be an overall higher standard of glamour. like, vogue covers, SNL hosting, free couture, etc.

  3. adam strauss

    Free couture for poets—-yesssssssss!

  4. Lucas de Lima

    That comment reminds me of the Rebecca Black phenomenon. It seems like the haters are saying similar things about her viral attack via YouTube on the unsuspecting audience:

    “It should be harder to be an artist,” Miley Cyrus told Australia’s Daily Telegraph, via the New York Daily News.

  5. Ryan Sanford Smith

    Shouldn’t it be? If everyone is one, no one isn’t, the term is meaningless, which I suppose is what some people rally behind.

    I wouldn’t consider anything that goes viral on YT to have to do with an ‘unsuspecting’ audience; YT’s raison detre is essentially for this exact genre of media. There are of course things on YT that make people ‘think’ (TED Talks share their lectures there, etc.) but the big view counts, the ‘viral strains’ are what? media that makes you laugh / wince / addictedly forward the link / share it on Facebook, ad nauseum.

  6. Lucas de Lima

    Well, then you explain to me the extraordinarily negative reaction to Rebecca Black’s genius.

  7. Ryan Sanford Smith

    People doing double-take’s at the genius of a tractor trailer slicing into a full mini-van? One of these words seems out of place, yeah?

    You seemed to have missed the point; I don’t see on what grounds the reaction has been anything other than absolutely ordinary, in the context of ‘viral’ YT phenomenons. Lady Gaga calls her a genius and I guess we all just agree & suddenly it’s worth notice? As predictable as the ‘reaction’ itself.

  8. Lucas de Lima

    I was actually being facetious. I was born that way.

  9. Johannes

    But the “unsuspecting” rhetoric is fascinating to me. Who are these unsuspecting children about to be tainted (or worse) by Chelsea Minnis and Ariana Reines? These unsuspecting children looked at the book cover and thought they were going to get happy memories of grampa? And then they get “shock and awed” by the writing, ie Invaded? Taken over? Looted in their museums? Lost their reason/sovereignty? I suppose great art does things like that.


  10. Ryan Sanford Smith

    Very good point Johannes; indeed great art does (though I though such terms weren’t welcome around here!).

    I’m fascinated by this rhetoric too, but not perhaps in the same way; I guess I’ve just never seen such an ‘effect’ truly at work–that is to say, I’ve never felt I encountered any ‘group’ that was unsuspecting, at least no interesting group. I’ve been excited or bored by art but I don’t think I can say I’ve ever felt ‘surprised’; everything, even great art in its way is predictable, the ‘genre’ of art is that, well, everything goes, once we broke open certain notions and questions (Duchamp, etc. etc. etc). I might take the argument that what we’re left with is the potential for ‘shock’ whether that’s considering a weak or strong effect to strive for, but that falls along the same lines to me, I’ve never felt shocked. I’m wary of the investment in thinking something is shocking or ‘shaking things up’–there’s no singular objective landscape for these effects to work themselves on. Who is shocked? What is unsettled? The answers are usually those people or groups that’d be unsettled by basically anything in the contemporary landscape, so it’s not much of a badge to polish, when such things can usually find more interesting things to hang their hat on.

    Those whose minds might be changed are indubitably closed really to that change, and those that would be receptive to it won’t need changing, they’ll really just be enjoying reinforcement of how they already feel. Nothing wrong with that, I’m just not sure there’s anything going on between the trenches really then the perfunctory occasional shelling so we all know we’re all still here.

  11. Johannes

    Why on earth wouldn’t we be interested in great art?

    My only problem is that a lot of what is portrayed as “great art” is dullsville. Great Art is all I’m interested in.

    These terms surprise, shock, excitement are not not permanent, definite. A lot of the people who were “shocked” at the historical avant-garde were familiar with that reaction, maybe even enjoyed that reaction, just as rightwingers these days love to be offended, take great pleasure in being offended, can’t wait to be offended and outraged by the next outrageous thing (the war against christmas, Wojnarowicz). Why else bring tomatoes to the Futurist performances (because they were going to eat them?).

    These days when some art or poetry is held up, people go to great lengths to say they are NOT shocked, that it’s NOT “new” etc because they don’t want to be those conservatives that opposed the historical avant-garde.

    As far as shaking things up, however, it does happen. The proof is in the pudding. Clearly a lot of people have been shaken up – both negatively and postively – by various gurlesque writers like Chelsea Minnis. But what shake up means, well, the devil’s in the details.

    When it come the gurlesque anthology, many people seem shocked at the brazeness that somebody would anthologize these kinds of writing, and this is where the “unsuspecting” reader comes in. These people are scared that people who don’t have the proper education (such as me, who’s totally unsuspecting despite my PhD etc) will consider this art important, great, exciting or whatever enough to warrant an Anthology, that symbol of Greatness and Timlessness, and will thus be “duped” by their fun into thinking that such poetry “counts.” In another time, we might have said that this moralistic concern was a form of “shock.” Now it’s moral concern.

    There is a long history of people condemning art like the gurlesque – art that is gothic or “superficial” (interested in fashion for example), or “excessively ornamental,” etc. This moral condemnation has a long long history as well.

    It’s a very reductive cliche to say that “anything goes” after Duchamp (and I’ve heard that cliche repeated ad infinite by people who are in fact very defensive and threatened by things they can’t control etc). To begin with, Duchamp wasn’t really widely considered a great artist until around the 1960s (give or take a few years, only the Philly museum accepted his offer of housing his art) but now his ideas and art (or a certain idea of his art) has been used to define good taste, something not entirely different from the Taste he himself was repelled by back in the day.

    But at the same time, there are people who are still opposed to Duchamp. And sometimes they say, anything goes after Duchamp, nothing’s shocking, but we still don’t like it. Or they might say, I like Duchamp but I still want my students not to do that stuff. Or I might like Duchamp, but I don’t like someone working in his spirit today. Things get much more complicated when you consider how culture functions (who teaches, who buys, who publishes, who hires etc).

    There are always opinions, rhetoric and coercions going on in art. Art is dynamic and Fun b/c of that. People are constantly influenced by all kinds of rhetoric and anthologies etc. Ie the critic is right – the gurleseque anthology has already had a notable effect, making visible and drawing attention to poets this critic thinks are “c-level.” He should be scared. The book has sold incredibly well. It’s part of a changing poetry. If people were not influenced, poetry would remain the same forever. Thank god, that’s not the case, even though many people would like that.

    The idea that we have an original taste that will never change is equally reductive. It’s based on an old all-american ideal or original genius and of sovereignty/autonomy of the individual. But it’s simply not true. It’s a fantasy.


  12. James Pate

    Ryan, you raise some really interesting points, but I think you and Johannes might be looking at it from two different sides. Your view seems to be the macro-view: this type of intentionally visceral art and writing has been around for at least a century, and might not seem new. Or surprising. (From a marco-view, few things are ever new, the contours become that general.) But I think Johannes–not to put words in his mouth–is talking about actual effects, how these poems have physical effects upon certain readers.

    For example, I know, conceptually, what someone like Paul Thek might be up to when he makes his meat sculptures, but my actual physical reaction is a kind of “surprise.” And to me, that type of surprise is more interesting and arresting than conceptual surprise.

    Even Warhol is less interesting to me as a “conceptual” artist then as an artist whose Pop representations achieve a Ballard-ian dance of death between glamour and fatalism, glitz and eerie silence, Monroe encased in a gold square like a Madonna worthy of veneration.

    My own taste is always for the specific. Deleuze used to write about the importance of doing off with the general in our thinking. For him, the general (and the figure of The General) stem for a similar place, a need to normalize, to protect against effects and sensations that go against the general/categorical.