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Poem for Kenneth Goldsmith #2


Dialectics are dangerous. They encourage us to think that a given situation is all one way or all another when in fact circumstances are shifting moment-to-moment. For instance, some allege that Anglo cis-males consider themselves especially permitted to explore the many possible continuations of the avant-garde tradition to the exclusion of everyone else; others, sometimes the same others, imply in online debate that Anglo cis-males definitionally can lay no claim to the avant-garde tradition (even fractionally) because that tradition is an outsider tradition and Anglo cis-males are definitionally not outsiders.


The problem is that the so-called iconoclastic (politically committed and rhetorically oriented) tradition within avant-garde literature is not the only tradition within that sphere; in other words, outsiderism is a feature of avant-garde writing but does not circumscribe it fully. Another strain of the avant-garde tradition focuses on the data-processing techniques all of us must employ–however differentially–to survive.


Gertrude Stein, a Jew, gave us many famous examples of this tendency in avant-garde literature. And today, one person who has picked up that mantle is another Jew, Kenneth Goldsmith. And I, also a Jew, am interested in investigating this iteration–this lineage–of avant-garde literature as well.</insincere> Goldsmith has described himself as a “dandy” but in this we diverge–I am constantly aware of my body in a way entirely opposite from that which we associate with dandyism.</sincere><insincere>


and Charles Bernstein is a Jew.
I bet Bob Perelman is a Jew.
What do you think: Lyn Hejinian. Jew or not Jew?</list>

I saw a Google search result recently and the only excerpt you could read from the hit was this one: “…the charged particle, what triggered the figuration of an enemy, was the Jew…”



What all this means is that, though I am in fact very much an outsider in Anglo culture, as is Goldsmith by virtue of his Jewish name and body and cultural traditions, when I sit down to write I am not always exploring outsiderism and reject utterly the insistence that I do so. Maybe this is not clear:<sincere></sincere><sincere>I utterly reject you deciding for me what I am to be or can be unto myself as either an author or being; and as utterly I reject your violence and your presumption.</sincere>


It is no more appropriate to command me to write (or withhold from writing) on and through (or entirely imprisoned in) a given identity in a self-conscious and explicit and iconoclastic and conspicuously political way than it would be to command an avant-gardist committed to exploring outsiderism to focus instead on the history of data-processing among homo sapiens.


The result is that when </insincere><insincere>Kenneth Goldsmith</insincere><insincere> writes a poem that is very much in the tradition of Stein and Reznikoff (not at all coincidentally another </insincere><insincere>Jew</insincere><insincere>) because that tradition is the one that interests him most–perhaps because, not despite, his Jewishness, as processing environmental data quickly and efficiently is what has allowed my people to survive for thousands of years with only the majority (but not all) of our population being crucified on Spanish hilltops and burned on Russian farmland and gassed and burned in German ovens–to critique him from a vantage-point that in no way considers how and why a Jew (a particular one or any one) comes to literature is, excuse me, a </insincere><insincere>giant blackened turd of unexamined privilege</insincere><insincere>.  –italicize this please

</insincere><insincere>I’m not saying “fuck you” here, I’m just saying.</insincere><insincere>

There is a type of </insincere><insincere>privilege</insincere><insincere> that comes from knowing where you stand and who your </insincere>enemies<insincere> are in a given environment, and therefore knowing precisely who is on the other side of your (maybe neo-Marxist) </insincere><insincere>dialectic</insincere><insincere>. And there is a type of </insincere>cultural depravity that follows from never knowing where one stands within one’s environment and having to check and re-check that at all hours of the day because it’s in your <c’mon>Jew blood</c’mon><insincere>. <narrative>When I was <Seth>eight</Seth> and living in “progressive” Massachusetts I could be playing with my Anglo friends on the swing-set one moment and find all of them shoving their hands in my face–with dozens of swastikas written on their palms in permanent marker–the next. And at the same time I could <insincere>laugh</insincere> (because this was the mid-1980s and I was a child and <insincere>stupid and cruel</insincere>) when a joke was told on the schoolyard at the expense of homosexuals, only to be genuinely torched spiritually when the next ten jokes told–as was often the case–were Polish jokes.<insincere></insincere> (I am a Polack, though the sort of Polack other Polacks suddenly decided were not really Polacks sometime around 1939, and therefore handed over gleefully to the <insincere>genocidal shock troops of the Nazis</insincere>. Admittedly that was a very long time ago; my Jewish dad was still just a kid!</insincere>).

<sincere>Sometimes I wish I knew who hated me</sincere> so I could know who (and how) to <insincere>hate</insincere> back–where to put this <sincere>indefinable anger</sincere> I feel at being ever (for instance) called an <sincere>Anglo</insincere>–but instead <sin>I write poems in which I process data</sin>. Sometimes I’m processing data</narrative> that involves, attempts to circumscribe, or is put out by a person of color, or a woman, or a member of the LGBTQI community, or any one of <seer>a number of identity designations that I do not consciously subscribe to myself but try my best to imagine as perpetually transformative just like most of mine (visible and invisible) are</seer>. <sincere>And sometimes I’m processing data</sincere><insincere> that involves, attempts to circumscribe, or is put out by</insincere> a heavyset person, a balding person, a flat-footed person, an excessively hairy person, a short person, a GERD sufferer, a near-sighted person, a Jewish person, a married person, a childless person, a chronically vitamin D deficient person, a person who has suffered from depression, a victim of domestic violence, or any one of a number of other designations whose daily influence on me (angle and force and bite) I get to decide for my own damn self–<sincere>not anyone else<narrative></anger>.</narrative>

I think when Kenneth Goldsmith is told that he doesn’t actually have the moral authority to idiosyncratically process any data in his purview in an attempt to better understand his world and protect his own self-identity–his Jew identity or any other he is entitled to and which is not your privilege to detect or declare–he feels a murderous rage toward his community but swallows his tongue in public. I think he pounds the walls of his bedroom and screams into his pillow and smashes his head deliberately against the windshield of his small vehicle and then pretends in public like the <c’mon>”good” Jew</c’mon> he is that in fact he feels smugly sure of his place in your Christian and pretty often Anglo company.

But he hates you. He hates every single one of you. Did you know that?


there are no jewish good ol’ boys

white supremacists killed ‘em all

my world boss

and i say so


Posted 03/18/15
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