Sunday, April 6, 2008

Linh Dinh on/vs. Kenneth Goldsmith

Though I'm conscious enough to realize the presence of vastly different points of view being exerted throughout poetic communities, I'm still somewhat awestruck when I witness a collision of two poets' fundamental perspectives. Such collisions are invaluable insights into the poets' writings, in that they begin to reveal their acts of process, as well as their acts of understanding the other's process. For me, the recurrence and continuance of such a collision is a cornerstone of any poetic community. 

Linh Dinh and Kenneth Goldsmith are both poets I read and respect. Though I've been in discussion concerning each of their works, I've never compared them, despite having discussed topics relevant to said comparison. 

Recently, Linh Dinh wrote on his blog (excerpt):
The hot/cold dichotomy has always been a staple of the art world and attributable not just to the fashion, style of the moment but to the temperament of each individual, whose uniqueness even a Kenneth Goldsmith has to concede, although he simply calls it "taste." What makes one uncreative writer better than another is his superior taste, and so we’re back to the sad self, after all, since even ready-made clothes (and hats) make the individual...

...Minus our clothes, we become even more distinctive, since no two bodies can share the same destiny. Each of us eat, make love, smoke, throw up and die alone, no matter how many similars we’re surrounded by. Sex and sickness don't lie. And yet we’re not condemned to writing just about ourselves since we have restless eyes, ears and minds that can contain boatloads. I’m not here to express me, me alone but as many selves as possible, including you if I’m lucky. Even if I simply select, copy, paste and become uncreative tomorrow, my choices of what to notice will still define me. 

Please read the entire post for a more complete context.

His post begins with a quote from Goldsmith (on Harriet Blog) discussing our new ability to fragment and shift the self in light of technology, followed by a quote from Reginald Shepherd (on Harriet Blog) discussing his ongoing fight with Colon Cancer, HIV, Bell's palsy, and Shingles. 

Dinh's argument is a refusal to reconcile the two: 
Could someone with even a single serious illness believe that he can be "everyone and no one at all"? That's he's "infinitely adaptable and changeable minute-to-minute"? I don't think so. Hell, even a simple headache brings me back to my senses, reminds me of the limitations of my body and mind.  

After reading the Goldsmith quote again, I do find a lack of empathy, almost as if he is suggesting that there is no "one" to empathize with. He seems to be attempting a great reversal: identifying the self-degrading monstrosity of post-modern modes of communication, and then declaring it/them a highway for the rapid transit of our newly fragmented forms. I can't help my excitement at the temptation to shrug off the full girth of my meaning-laden SELF, and rocket off in every direction aimlessly. But this multitude of rockets, a DNA of RSS Feeds, might also be so many escape pods, abandoning ship without destination(s). In fairness, these analogies are oversimplified, as I've claimed them as my whole self. And to clarify, I am not speaking specifically of what Goldsmith does, but what might be done in light of our fragmentation (or is it in light of recognizing our fragmentation?). 

Is the preservation of SELF more empathetic than the acceptance of the fragmented SELF?
I really don't know. 

I've had a horrible stomach flu for the last few days. I mustered up all of my fragments and we convened on the couch, watching one ineffectual film after the next. It was all I cared to do. 

It is difficult to consider fragmentation (the sort revealed through email blasts and watching movies on my iPod on the subway) a kind of practice. It is more often a symptom or consequence of individual choices, some of which seem unavoidable, short of complete isolation. Could it be that all art practices are born of symptoms? 

If person X works to explore the possibilities of fragmentation, while personal Y works to preserve the SELF, can they communicate with each other? Can they empathize with each other? As a potential recipient of both of their communications, can I hope that an XY compound is stable? 

But of course, X & Y are only variables. 

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