02 December 2007

Defending the mushy

This evening I watched Lydia Lunch describe her corporate rock imitators occupying the New York scene:

"I think it’s very sad that in referencing something that happened 25 years ago, it’s not as if there’s a revival of the intellectual concepts, or the visions, or the diversity or the extremity of that music, but it’s an homogenization, a gentrification, and it’s a softening..it just feels soft, it feels.. (pause) ... mushy... there’s nothing important that they’re doing."

Someone bust her for using a gendered term! Get the establishment poetics thought police! Ms. Lunch hits home how utterly demeaning it is for male professors to describe ‘soft Surrealism’ as a gendered term.


Ryan W. said...

I think your Ms. Lunch link might be broke.

I started reading that silliman post. I thought I was almost done but I was 10% done.

Ryan W. said...

I can't quite figure out what you're saying in this post.

Ian Keenan said...

I came upon the Lunch interview which used ‘soft’ as quoted above, and it reminded me of how two people accused Silliman of coining a ‘gendered term’ by describing certain poets as ‘soft Surrealists,’ the implication that

“The "soft surrealism" label seems to reek of American macho culture.”
“While that may be lamentable, calling them "soft" is part of a reductive rhetoric that I don't agree with - most certainly gendered - going back to Modernism. That is why I wanted to call attention to that.”

Lunch’s statement makes it very clear that bringing gender into the criticism of the phrase ‘soft Surrealism’ only invokes stereotypes that weren’t invoked previously. Modernism was breaking away from the systematic exclusion of women from the male poetry culture practiced in academia in the US and Western Europe, but the panel discussions never seem to see it that way.

I wrote in my word file a few weeks back this about the window of time when I liked Simic in high school:

Before I had heard of Ginsberg, my brother got the Longman anthology at college, edited by Oberlin profs, which didn’t have Ginsberg, Olson, Duncan, Spicer, O’Hara, Niedecker, Baraka, (Stevens and not Pound/Zuk) etc etc but had Simic, Edson, etc. Because of Longman I borrowed the omitted O’Hara’s Collected from the library and said, ‘he’s a funny guy,’ and only after borrowing the book eight times did I realize he was one of the great poets of his time. In college there was no mention of O’Hara unless I brought him up. I sort of liked the soft Surrealists until I read the real ones, right before senior year of high school at which time my once-popular poetry started to make more waves, confusion, scandal, etc.

Ryan W. said...

seems like one of those chicken and egg problems. that's what I'm going to say for now on when I need to sum something up.

also, there's the soft bathtub. and the soft screw.