Friday, December 07, 2007

When I read Jim Behrle's sometimes-amusing attacks on the poetry scene and the responses of others to those attacks, the thought I usually have is "thank goodness I don't live in New York."
It often seems like a place where even camaraderie is competitive. I find Behrle's aggression depressing, largely because it's an involvement-by-negation in scenes that I'd find depressing (mostly because they're scenes, because I'm horrible at mingling, schmoozing, etc.) and would want to stop thinking about as much as possible (while still trying to pay attention to the writing of many of the people in those scenes, which I'm curious about or find very exciting). Sometimes, though, Behrle says something that makes me sigh with relief:

Meanwhile, of course, poets ought to do whatever the fuck they wanna do. That people like Stan need to hide behind Tradition (Tzara! Tzara! He's my 2nd cousin!) and feel oppressed by forces that aren't oppressing them (Society will never accept my poems! They're too busy bombing Baghdad!) shows the limits of the people who allegedly know better not knowing any better. It seems to me you write the poems you write and don't write the poems you don't write.
(Behrle, 11/07)

It's really the first and last sentences that I care about (I know nothing about Stan Apps (the object of Behrle's attack), aside from having just scanned his blog, which looks like it might contain some interesting stuff). I think those sentences constitute some of the best pragmatic advice a writer can give hirself, along with statements like Jessica Smith's (not quoted literally) "make sure the work is good. If it is, someone will probably publish it. If they don't, publish it yourself and don't be embarrassed about that."

I do think that good writing only happens when the writer takes risks, or pushes the consequences of taking one of those risks--but what constitutes a "risk" is different for different writers, which is why there's a sense in which the "new" is as much a matter of something that happens in an individual work as one of novelty in comparison to what came before. I think you can tell when someone's pushing limits. This isn't to say that pushing limits guarantees good work. It all comes back to whether you think it's good. If you like it, do for it what you think it deserves. If you don't, change it, pitch it, or file it away in the folder marked "do not open 'til you've forgotten what's here."

This is mostly very unsophisticated advice to myself, an injunction to not waste time worrying about historical status (mine--haha--or others'), to worry about whether I've read enough Flarf or whether I comment on enough blogs or read enough Tate or Weiner or Badiou (I'm at least potentially interested in all of this), and instead to write what I'd like to read in the hopes that not-yet-conceived desires will arise from that.


  • At December 13, 2007 at 5:31 PM, Blogger Shahin said…

    Hi Andy. Nice blog!

  • At December 16, 2007 at 7:02 PM, Blogger Ian Keenan said…

    It must be sweeps week.

  • At January 5, 2008 at 11:33 PM, Blogger Zachary Pelham said…

    i know what you mean. there's something depressing about the scene and politicking of the art world in any medium. i often wonder how personalities that thrive in those environments are ever able to do any of their own work inspite of it all-- or maybe their work is what it is because of it all. i certainly couldnt do it

    like your blog, nice post

    - zach

  • At January 6, 2008 at 12:40 AM, Blogger Andy Gricevich said…


    Yeah, I can't imagine even spending the time online necessary to keep up with this stuff... thus the lack of frequency of posts here.

    I've seen some poems of Jim's that I quite liked, but they don't seem to be the ones that get published in book form (which are closer to his persona).




Post a Comment

<< Home