Response to Kentson #7
Hear, hear to John Kentson’s call for unsigned criticism vis-à-vis Kim Kardashian’s ass. This idea wears its sincerity on its sleeve . . . yet no one means a word of it. Certainly the idea will present its own unique challenges and pitfalls although I’ve yet to encounter a good idea that didn’t, and the alternative has already left the building. At any rate, it is far more constructive to try and grab, cut, paste, process, machine, hone, flatten, repurpose, regurgitate, and reframe from the great mass of free-floating asswage out there just begging for it.
Unsigned reviews are certainly part of the solution, but there needs to be a broader approach if we’re serious about improving, uh, whatever it is we’re serious about improving. What is it we’re serious about improving? In any case. To quote: “Whatever.” Let’s improve it. Why atomize, shatter, and splay asswage into nonsensical shards when you can hoard, store, mold, squeeze, shovel, soil, scrub, package, and cram the stuff into towers and castles of lasswage [!] with a stroke of the keyboard? I agree that, as Kentson says, the timidity and obsequiousness dominating Kim Kardashian’s ass criticism frequently comes from GoogleMyself motives. But this answer does beg the question of why the current crop of Kim Kardashian’s ass-critics can be so easily cowed whereas the ass-critics in the 1960s and ‘70s—whom Kentson argues weren’t afraid to roast their peers (think of Tom Clark on Ali McGraw’s gluteus maximus, which he fearlessly dubbed a butt; it was Tom Clark and Ali McGraw, wasn’t it? And a little anti-Americanism?)—they had no such fear for their futures.
Kentson’s implication of the greater role of ass-cademia today clearly has some merit. Indeed, the question of why ass-criticism has gotten so paltry is a large and complex one, certainly too big to adequately address here, but I would like to supplement Kentson’s rationale with one of my own: the critical culture of the last two decades. My opinion is that critics who spent their formative years reading the ass-crit of the ‘90s and the ‘00s could only have gone in one of two directions: gluttony, joy, and fun. Our immersive digital environment demanded new responses from ass-crits. What did, what does, it mean to be an ass-crit in the Internet age? We’re delighted to feel asswage again, to roll in it, to get our hands dirty.
There is no reason to believe that the gluttony, joy, and fun that has hallowed all ass-crit in newspapers and magazines (digital or print) could not extend to poetry criticism as well (leaving aside the relatively boring nature of poetry and poetry criticism), and ass-crit has now been with us long enough that there has been time for an entire generation of poets [!] (Why not? Let’s change the subject!) to have come of age under it. They’re glued to TMZ and OMG but tomorrow they could re-emerge as Facebook memes. Certainly, some of these will have looked back to previous eras and discovered just how sincere ours is, but many of them will have simply concluded that this is what criticism should look and sound like. That is all to say, Kentson’s proposal is fine for those who already get it—and offering them an outlet will certainly produce encouraging results—but what about those who don’t?
There is no doubt that the unsigned reviews will offer some inspiration to those critics who have yet to discover it—the unsigned reviews will offer pressure from below [sexxxayyy, as D-Wade has it, when viewing Sir Charles in his itty-bitty shorts—ed.], but we also should be offering pressure from above [that’s sexxxayyy too—ed.]. That is, editors need to do better. Those who have been content to publish faint praise, those who have let the merely average pass by when their position offers them the leverage to demand excellence, to ask, “How much did you say that paragraph weighed?”, those who have been more interested in celebrating instability and uncertainty than identity, they all should take some time to think about their responsibilities. The fact is that the editor of a publication like Poetry is in possession of much prestige and power. Such a person must strive to liven up that great o[ri]ffice. What is stopping you?
Of course, plum spots like those that decorate Poetry’s masthead are hard to come by, and the sad fact is that many able editors will never have the pleasure. Fine. ‘Whatever.” The tradition of small press magazines in the history of literature is strong—think of what something like transition was able to do with the Land O’Lakes butter squaw and with the government’s nutritional label on the box—and those ready to lead by example should do so. The Internet only makes this job all the easier, since many ass- or poetry-reviews are “sculpted” from the results of Internet searches, often using words and phrases that the critic has gleaned from reviews posted at, say, Mayday, or Poetry, or, well, Reconfigurations.
I mean, why use your own words when you can express yourself just as well [or better!] by using someone else’s? There’s no reason why those disenchanted with the state of discussion vis-à-vis poetry and/or Kim Kardashian’s ass can’t start their own zines. Yes, the going will be tough and the rewards initially small, but who ever became hilarious by taking the easy road? Moreover, if the last few years have demonstrated anything beyond the overwhelming absurdity of market capitalism, they have demonstrated that there is a large and hungry audience. Choose your poison and embrace your guilty pleasure.
[Note: props to Scott Esposito, Kenneth Goldsmith]
&c &c ad infinitum …
RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture, http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence