"There can be no immigrants in utopia": John Yau on Haute Surveillance

by on Jun.06, 2013

Adam’s comments about pornography below reminds me that I don’t think I ever posted a link to this wonderful review of my book Haute Surveillance by brilliant poet John Yau.


What the poets associated with “Flarf” recognize — and the literary mainstream still ignores to a large degree — is that the Internet has flattened daily life into a constantly swirling, cacophonous mosaic. Instead of extending that jarring, two-dimensional world into poems, Göransson has absorbed Frank O’Hara’s “intimate yell” and made it all his own. Haute Surveillance is a world of wounded voices.

“I have a nightmare about a girl covered with blood and when I wake up sweating my wife tells me a fairytale.”

For all the disparate information that Göransson brings swiftly and confidently into play, Haute Surveillance is not a collage. None of it feels arbitrary, which is nothing short of miraculous. At the very least, the author’s ambition was to write a new “Song of Myself” addressing these confusing, contradictory times in which we are at war, as well as to construct memorable situations without resorting to a plot or other familiar literary devices. He succeeded at both. His reasoning is simple and direct:

“Sometimes I want a room of my own, but mostly I just want a room without all these corpse-patterned wallpaper.”

Göransson’s fast-paced, present-tense writing critiques itself while moving forward, collapsing together all of discourses and vocabularies associated with the nightly news, feminism, sexual identity, Hollywood movies, science fiction, performance art, pornography, and poetry invested in the stable lyric “I.” Bots from academia mix with bits of the street.

Haute Surveillance is written in blocks of prose, lists, and lines. The collapsing together of different discourses doesn’t stop at the literal. Goransson turns it into a book that is unclassifiable — part epic poem, part science fiction, part pornographic film, and all literature. He writes sentences that the reader has to stop and think about. This is what I found so powerful about Haute Surveillance.

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Michael Leong

    “Part epic poem, part science fiction, part pornographic film, and all literature”–I like how Yau non-problematically (and almost blithely) configures “the literary.”