Monthly Archives: March 2013

Whining tragedy may be accepted as poetry, when the solution is simple, it’s because creativity is the only thing that makes sense.

>>>“A discipline for reengaging with a world we take too much for granted”>>>

Poets and Capitalism

By Micah Mattix

(The following was first published in The American Spectator)

What is it with poets and capitalism? The two, it seems, are like oil and water.

At the end of last year, Alice Oswaldand John Kinsella withdrew their respective books from consideration for the T.S. Eliot Prize because the £15,000 award was being underwritten by Aurum Fund Management. Oswald suggested that it is unethical for a literary prize to be sponsored by an investment firm that manages hedge funds. As an “anti-capitalist,” he stated, “Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics.”

This is not an isolated instance. From writing against“Reaganomics” to supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests, contemporary poets seem generally predisposed against capitalism. What’s going on here?

In The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in the American Century (Harvard, 2011), Christopher Nealon explains that many 20th century poets — particularly American — have spoken out against capitalism because of their fear that capitalism causes cultural homogeneity and political and economic turmoil. Nealon’s understanding of changes in the American economy in the second half of the 20th century is overly ideological, but he is right that the poetry of this period was (and continues to be) preoccupied with capitalism.

No doubt many poets believe that capitalism leads to both homogeneity and instability, and the best among them subtly critique the consumerism and excess that one finds in all affluent societies, America in particular. Wendell Berry’s agrarianism and Philip Levine’s “portraits” of the working class suggest that we have lost something of the relational aspect of work. This critique of capitalism — or the excesses of industrialization — is worth hearing, whether or not one agrees that capitalism itself is to blame. It is constructive, free of shrill, and generous.

But there are two further responses to capitalism in contemporary poetry that are less constructive and effective, both of which are rooted in the idea that capitalism has spoiled poetry’s audience by encouraging the objectification of all things, including people and works of art.

One of those responses has been for poets to create poems that rail against hierarchy and morality in an effort to free their audience from the shackles of the great capitalistic machine. The form of these poems is usually highly experimental, using repetition and fragmentation, along with taboo subject matter, to supposedly create a poem that both resists commodification and shocks the middle-class into seeing that property ownership, marital fidelity, proper grammar, and so forth are all constructs that restrict personal and, importantly for poets, aesthetic freedom.

Allen Ginsberg’s famous long poem, “Howl,” is a case in point. In the poem, Ginsberg laments the destruction of the “best minds of our generation” by “Moloch.” In his own annotation in the poem, Ginsberg defines Moloch as “the Cannaanite fire god, whose worship was marked by parents’ burning their children as proprietary sacrifice.” The use of absurd images and obscenity is intended to shock Ginsberg’s audience into seeing the oppression all around them. He explained to William F. Buckley in a 1968 interview when he was asked not to use any “dirty words” on the show why such a request presents a “moral problem”:

            “There’s a political function to the language of everyday use. The language we actually speak to each other off the air. There’s a communication that’s involved, and there a classical use of all sorts of what we call “off color” words in art, as well as images. So our problem here, or what I’ve been proposed with, is having in a sense to censor my thought patterns.”

For Ginsberg it is the poet’s duty to break such censorship.

If Ginsberg’s poetry, while often obscene, is rarely if ever vitriolic, later poets have unfortunately supplied more than enough. Much of Amiri Baraka’s later work is one long tirade against Jews, and June Jordan and Haunani-Kay Trask’s work is little more than a rant against whatever (and whomever) they think are the tools of a fictional, but nevertheless oppressive, God. These condescendingly mock or berate the middle-class rather than free them. And since few people willingly expose themselves to derision, it is no surprise that these volumes are met with general disinterest, which, for certain poets, is only further proof of the slavery or the simple-minded boorishness of the middle-class.

A second response has been for poets to no longer write for a general audience but for their fellow poets and kindred spirits alone. Paul Goodman was the first to suggest this in his 1951 article “Advance-Guard Writing.” The problem for the avant-garde writer, Goodman states, is that he has internalized societal conflict and re-presented it in his work, which is rejected by his audience and sanctioned. The communal aspect of art has been broken, and what Goodman proposes is that poets stop writing for a general audience and re-establish a “plausible” audience of peers.

The so-called “New York School” of poets — John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch — followed this advice, at least in part. While O’Hara in particular established a community of readers through his use of names and personal anecdotes that lack sufficient context in the poems for comprehension, later poets have turned to the jargon of critical theory as a shared vocabulary, which, combined with the great number of poetry books published today in order to fuel burgeoning MFA programs, has made contemporary poetry a coterie art.

So we have two responses to what poets perceive to be capitalism’s destruction of the poet’s relationship to his audience that add to, or in some instances completely accomplish, that destruction. It is an extraordinary example of wish fulfillment.

Is the secret hope of poets that capitalism will fall and a new order will rise in which they are valued? Czeslaw Milosz points out in The Captive Mind, which was first published 59 years ago, that this was the proposal offered to artists in Poland and other (now formerly) Eastern Bloc countries in return for their support of the Kremlin.

“The intellectual’s eyes twinkle,” Milosz writes, “with delight at the persecution of the bourgeoisie, and of the bourgeois mentality. It is a rich reward for the degradation he felt when he had to be part of the middle class, and when there seemed to be no way out of the cycle of birth and death…Yet he is warm-hearted and good; he is a friend of mankind. Not mankind as it is, but as it should be.”

While the poet later suffers because he realizes that this new order imposes painful aesthetic constraints, “the recompense for all pain is the certainty that one belongs to the new and conquering world, even though it is not nearly so comfortable and joyous a world as its propaganda would have one think.”

Some American poets may nourish exactly this hope, but I doubt most harbor such catastrophic dreams of the end of the current economic order. The fact is capitalism coupled with democracy, despite all the problems and potential pitfalls, offers the poet a greater opportunity to practice his craft to connect with his audience than most political systems of the past, and most poets recognize this. But in order for this connection to happen, poets must write for their audience rather than merelyagainst them, connecting in love, not self-serving egotism.

John Burnside, this year’s winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, which was announced last month, reminds us of the importance of a poetry that engages the world (and its readers):

“[P]oetry is important because it makes us think, it opens us up to wonder and the sometimes astonishing possibilities of language. It is, in its subtle yet powerful way, a discipline for reengaging with a world we take too much for granted.”

 poetry that engages the world

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A magazine with a view: a quick impression of the interior, including Editor’s Letter, La Chine en rose (XiN’s Art & Culture section), 2 pages from our extensive Travelogue from Kunming (city of the eternal Spring) and Yunnan (South of the Clouds) , XiN’s China Dossier, China Top 10. China on your tongue and more

With special thanks to my dear colleague and friend, Pim Wiersinga

& photographer Yereth Jansen (荷兰的野孩子)

*

Julie O’Yang |  Editor-in-Chief
          
XiN Media

Badhuisweg 74
2587 CL The Hague
The Netherlands
XiN: You know China from here!
www.xinmagazine.nl

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The Hague, 25 March 2013: XiN Media’s launch party took place last Monday in the prestigious Amstel Hotel along Amstel River in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Dutch national media were present, including television, radio, newspaper and online channels. Cover model Jennifer de Jong unveiled the cover shoot, launching XiN magazine’s very first edition!

For an impression  of mag interior, click below:

https://julieoyang.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/a-magazine-with-a-view-a-quick-impression-of-the-interior-including-editors-letter-la-chine-en-rose-xins-art-culture-section-2-pages-from-our-extensive-travelogue-from-kunming-city-of/

Julie O’Yang |  Editor-in-Chief
XiN Media, Badhuisweg 74, 2587 CL The Hague, The Netherlands
XiN: You know China from here! www.xinmagazine.nl

Also visit Julie O’Yang, novelist and visual artist at www.julieoyang.com

Check out new titles on Amazon.com!   

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Julie O’Yang and Jeremy Fernando converse about writing, reading, art—not just as separate crafts, but as gestures that open registers in each other. A writer is always already her first reader; a painter has to bring both reading and writing together in her imagination whilst—and at their highest level both are forms of art. But, even as they come together, they remain irreducibly different—only perhaps in ways that remain veiled from us. As an acknowledgment that they may never be able to unveil anything about writing, art, or reading—that their conversation is a gamble that may open nothing other than the fact that O’Yang and Fernando are speaking—their dialogue bears echoes of Tumbling Dice.

Pillows, a room, her private kingdom.

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Sing a love song to the 1st day of Spring!

Hebban olla vogala, sometimes spelt hebban olla uogala, are the first three words of an 11th century text fragment written in Old Dutch.

The complete sentence, Hebban olla uogala nestas hagunnan hinase hi(c) (a)nda thu uuat unbidan uue nu, is translated from Latin, Habent omnes uolucres nidos inceptos nisi ego et tu. Quid expectamus nunc. It means:

Hebben alle vogels nesten begonnen, behalve ik en jij. Waarop wachten we nu?

Have all birds begun nests, except me and you – what are we waiting for?

A manuscript that was probably made in the abbey of Rochester, Kent, containing the three words. The flyleaf was discovered in1932 and is kept in Oxford.

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XiN: the first ever high class bilingual (Dutch/Chinese) lifestyle magazine. We will be giving press presentation on Monday 25 March 2013 in the prestigious Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Read details in our press release.

Persbericht

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Contact:

Julie O’Yang | Editor-in-Chief

XiN Media, Badhuisweg 74, 2587 CL The Hague, The Netherlands

XiN:   You know China from here! www.xinmagazine.nl

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Current project: Editor-in-Chief XiN Media

XiN: You know China from here!

中国就是《新》

                De allereerste lifestyle glossy die twee talen spreekt, Nederlands en Chinees!

                De allereerste border-breaking luxe glossy, waar Oost en West elkaar ontmoeten!

              ■ De allereerste XiN, we geloven in vernieuwing én lef!

China is klaar om in de spotlight te staan. Hoe? Niet door negatieve berichten die het voorpaginanieuws halen. We zijn origineler!

XiN introduceert kwaliteit en luxe van wereldklasse; nieuwe talenten die “the best of two worlds” dichterbij uw thuis halen. We vervullen een nieuwe rol in trends, economie en duurzaam leven en we zijn leidend en vooruit blikkend in onze kennis en informatie die we met u delen. XiN brengt China met overtuiging en verrassing!

Kortom, “Made in China. Gemaakt voor elke bijzondere dag.”

 

Julie O’Yang | Editor-in-Chief

XiN Media
Badhuisweg 74
2587 CL The Hague
The Netherlands
XiN: You know China from here!
www.xinmagazine.nl

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It just takes writers like O’Yang to flip the light switch on. A review.

It just takes writers like O’Yang to flip the light switch on. A review..

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We do not die of death — we die of vertigo

I found this one in my inbox on Monday morning:

DOORKNOBS & BODYPAINT 69 now online.

The Valentine’s issue has work by these writers: (some names), Julie O’Yang, (followed by other names)

It turns out my story was chosen to be the lead story for DK & BP’s PLANET BETTY section. Walk through these guidelines for a minute before you proceed:

1. Maximum length: 250/450 words. 2. What of romance? Scrawling “Lonely citizen @ Agro-Center #7 seeks same for possible LTR” was hardly more than graffiti. Hectic work schedules and long hours made meeting people difficult. Disinterested third party introductions worked back on Old Earth but on Betty everybody knew enough of everybody else’s business to make things awkward. Only solution was to make third parties. Repurposed old-chalky-UN-Blue –first-generation-Agro-droids fit the bill. These egg shaped hover units got nick-named “The Blue Aunties.” The units all got fresh paint and name tags. First was May, April, and June, then Rose, Daisy, and Lily, followed by Ruby, Jade, and Amber. Your assignment, Citizen, is to write in approximately 250/450 words or less how a Blue Auntie helped or hindered romance for you. 3. The sub-theme is: Lonely . 4. Within the story, you must use this text: as her name implied . (refer to a specific Blue Auntie.)

Moon & Black Machine

For my Valentine

Julie O’Yang

From this distance, Planet Betty looked like a pink, elliptical moon.

With a slow, lilting baritone murmur reminiscent of an invisible smile, B.M. thought. It’s a mystery where he came from – just like the word “love”, a sound exercised on these ivory keys, a half swallowed religion. There’s nobody else in the goddamn place, nobody who can see him name him so to believe in his own reality, he must “take a leap of faith”. Black Machine is what he called himself –

                                                                    

                                        “Can one move a rising star as if it were a house, æg?” Lonely Citizen whispered to her oval heirloom. The pendant was a map of a florescent Oceæn. All water has a perfect memory. On Planet Betty, girls were born with the token of remembrance. However, people believed that memories caused Lanchomania Disease and were dangerous. HappYcurræncy was the economics on the Planet, where every secret whether good or bad, every breath you take was eagerly shared to advance Multigalactic wellbeing. Private lives were similar, yet what’s kept inside the birthmarks was restricted information. Families had a taboo, the oval Aunties dominated people’s lives. Every æg was authorized to vote on her owner to become the Idoliyn or abuse her, relying on made attempts to steal the precious h’ært of the crooked tyrants.

“Auntie Rose?” L. C. insisted, toying her egg-shaped treasure hanging from her collarbone like a large drop of…tear? It’s a foreign word. Liquid, leather  gloves shrunk by being wet, petrichor. Unfashionable tastes from a heartbroken land.

“Earth is NOT a star – and I’m not Rose, I’m not that ancient,” the oval voice snapped.

“But I’ve never seen rose in my life!” L. C. replied. She knew the name of her heirloom. At birth every æg received a name tag from the Ministry of  Galactic Health, which nonetheless served as warning, including, for example, ægsplosion, ægsit, ægception, ægsecution, and the severest of all, ægmorforever –

But now, L.C. and her treasure shared a fragile moment of affection on Aggrot-Center#7 . The gene-generated radio tower looked cold, overlooking galaxies from its crown, tall enough to launch spacecraft.

“Every world has a soft spot, ours is #7,” Auntie ægsplosion retold the Oracle. “His name is Auro’Ra – the one who knows sadness. You can recognise him by the roses on his eyelids. We tend to connect bad habits with romance and sæx. 1.059463094359295264561825.”  Showing the frequency of the Constant, Auntie erupted, exactly as her name implied.

L. C. repeated the maths, sending an invisible smile on lightyear waves of an icy darkness. Equal temperament, song of mortality –

Across the Han Way, some time, some place, B. M. rejoined her, his ten fingers lumbering on ivory keys. Llunachrymosa.

!!!HAPPY BELATED V-DAY!!!

And oh, here is the link to DOORKNOBS & BODYPAINT if you want to take a look:  http://www.iceflow.com/doorknobs/DB.html

Brassaï , Paris. Centre Pompidou

Brassaï , Paris. Centre Pompidou

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Happy International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013. (Image: The last empress of China, Wan Rong, riding on a bicycle in the Forbidden City, c. 1910, Beijing)

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