Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Postmodern Disassociative Socialist

...identification is, at its most radical, identification with the lost (or rejected) libidinal object? We BECOME (identify with) the OBJECT which we were deprived of, so that our subjective identity is a repository of the traces of our lost objects.
- Zizek, "Why is Wagner Worth Saving?"
This is a truly pluralistic moment in American poetry, one full of vitality as well as withdrawal. The palpable excitement in new poetry right now obviously answers a felt need, and provides its own brand of nourishment. The sheer inventiveness abounding is extraordinary. But this might not be the wrong occasion to pronounce the word “fashion.” Fashion is not in itself a negative force, but rather a perennial part of the vitality of culture. Fashion is the way that taste changes and then spreads, in a kind of swell or wave of admiration. The Waste Land was fashionable, and sideburns and Hemingway and war bonds and Sylvia Plath, and existentialism, and bell-bottoms. The danger in fashion is its lack of perspective, that it doesn’t always recognize the deep structure of whatever manners it is adopting. Almost by definition fashion also can gather thoughtless followers. Paul Hoover perceives the potential for this trouble in the preface to his anthology, Postmodern American Poetry: “The risk is that the avant-garde will become an institution with its own self protective rituals, powerless to trace or affect the curve of history.”

One can understand how dissociative poetry has become fashionable, celebrated, taught, and learned—it is a poetry equal to the speed and disruptions of culture. It responds to the postmodern situation with a joyful crookedness. And one can also see why poetics that assert sensible order (which, admittedly, can be predictable and reductive) have fallen a bit from fashion: after all, the pretense of order is, in some way, laughable. Art has to play, it has to break rules, to turn against its obligations, to be irresponsible, to recast convention. Some wildness is essential to its freedom. Yet every style has its shadowy limitation, its blind eye, its narcissistic cul-de-sac. There is a moment when a charming enactment of disorientation becomes an homage to dissociation. And there is a moment when the poetic pleasure of elusiveness commits itself, inadvertently, to triviality.
- Tony Hoagland, "Fear of Narrative and the Skittery Poem of Our Moment"

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