Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Ironic Midden

Recently, I was able to get my hands on the Charles Olson documentary Polis is This, and then to listen to a fairly recent PoemTalk, where they took on Olson's Maximus poems. The documentary made much of the largeness of Olson himself, and we were implicitly asked to imagine how it may have impacted his poetry. In the documentary's archival footage, we can see how he enjoys this largeness, especially when he gestures towards the "thisness" of not only the space of Gloucester, but also his presence in it.

While in PoemTalk Rachel Blau DuPlessis brings the group's attention to this gesturing that seems to self-reference, Charles Bernstein nuances DuPlessis' (and the documentary's) interpretation with a more anti-essentialist (or anti-lyrical) reading: "[Olson] is suggesting that the I in that is the resistance to the present, the possibility of what the future could be, and also the recognition of the past. . . . He's explicitly rejecting the idea that it's about him in just some biographical sense." Later, Bob Perelman will comment upon the "ironic midden" to which the deixis of this section of Maximus ("Plus this--plus this:") contributes, undoubtedly related to Williams' "of this, make it of this, this/ this, this, this, this ."
I will be talking about this "ironic midden" and the possibility of tracing it throughout history, from Shakespeare to Ron Silliman, this week at the Motto Temporary Storefront in Brooklyn. I will be introducing my new multimedia essay on literary minutiae for Triple Canopy--"The Quiddities," in addition to other related events.

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