Alan Sondheim on Sun, 1 May 2005 05:40:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> governance on Poetics

(I'm on the Poetics email list. The list has increasingly censored any 
creative work on it, moving instead towards a bureaucratic approach of 
announcements, etc. This has been done, now, with censorship - in a 
situation which was originally open. I sent the following yesterday to the 
list; it made it back briefly, then seemed to disappear from the archives. 
People on digest told me they never received it. I sent it again, and 
again nothing. The situation is particularly ugly since Poetics started as 
a 'creative' list and wields a great deal of cultural power, however much 
that's possible within a 'poetry' format. Anyway, I'm forwarding the 
below, in the hopes that, if in fact this was deliberate censorship, some 
of the list participants (and some of those named for that matter) might 
have a chance to read it. - Alan)

I'm writing this email and sending it out to a number of lists because I 
think the issue of list governance is important; I now run three lists in 
collaboration for example.

The Poetics list has increasingly not only eroded community, but also 
created a canonic and rigid framework for what is and is not poetics - a 
framework that excludes not only my own experimental work, for example, 
but also Ishaq's politicized and rhetorical experimental/manifesto 

This is done without any voting on the part of the list members, without 
any discussion - it's the identical fiat used by Bush and company, presen- 
ting the appearance of good governance, damning constituencies behind the 

And as with Bush and company, I don't see really any debate here - what 
the moderators did, they did from on high, without explanation, or with 
poor explanation. Unlike "my" lists which are responsive to community, the 
Poetics list is responsive primarily to the moderators.

This is ugly.

There _are_ lists that are open for discussion and presentation - again I 
mention wryting, also Imitationpoetics (whose title now appears the other 
way around) - for anyone truly experimenting with poetics and new media, 
there is the webartery list as well. What's depressing is that the Poetics 
list was once a community, once edgy, and now that's permanently gone.

It's been ordered so by the bureaucrats - for what could be more bureau- 
cratic than to increasingly turn a community towards announcements, and 
discussions, but beware of the _originary material_ of such discussions?

Meanwhile the list veers more and more towards memorials for Creeley, 
Ginsberg, god knows who else, as if a list on contemporary aesthetics 
should bemoan what, Judd's death? Warhol?

Times move on but this list ossifies - and this is a real and political 
danger, I believe; it reinforces notions of what is and is not acceptable, 
it promulgates the canonic - and this is nowhere so clear as in the 
censoring of Ishaq - for shame! - it reifies the academy (just look at the 
'officiating' titles of some of the blog entries around here). I can't 
imagine Whitman, Rimbaud, Lautreamont, participating here; unfortunately I 
_can_ imagine the right-winged Eliot having a ball.

Along the same lines there are almost _no_ discussions of _contemporary_ 
poetics - for example computer aesthetics, the sorts of things Florian 
Cramer, Funkhauser, Sandy Baldwin, mez, Talan Memmott, Nick Montfort, Jim 
Rosenberg, etc. write about. Where is codework? Where is jodi? Where is a 
discuss of hackerz or warez? Where is Eugene Thacker, Kenji Siratori? 
Solipsis? Noemata? Meskens? l_oy? Where are presentations of this 
material? The world of poetry/poetics is changing - and the only sign I 
see here and in general is the continual claims of language poetry to have 
been there at the foundations of new media poetics.

Which just isn't true - if you look at the early work reflected say in the 
Software Catalog or my 1971 pieces or even some of early Acconci. But just 
as with Bush and associates, not only does this list mourn and mourn, but 
it also creates false histories, measured statements, etc.

This list, with its increased closures, in fact is increasingly doing 
culture a disservice - as if poetry/poetics/whatthefuck were something one 
can conveniently legislate, a world of gentleman and gentlewoman writers. 
And none of this would matter, except that this list already has, not only 
a large subscriber list, but the ability to weild a great deal of power, 
in terms of publications, grants, academic and other positions. It 
protects itself, just as the writers protect themselves, tuning me and 
others out, censoring any creative work qua creative work, because after 
all poetics turns on itself and elsewhere publication, and this is a list 
for the pure.

Where is Kent Johnson? From the Poetics viewpoint, perhaps all of us 
should throw ourselves out the collective window, as Zero Mostel did last 
night in a rerun of The Front on TCM. Because things sure aren't going to 
change around here, and language poetry, basking in academic spotlights, 
will petrify literary culture until it becomes another Pound/Eliot/ 
monument memorial in someone else's Inbox.

I recognize that I am probably way off-target here, but there are very few 
places like Poetics used to be, and its free-wheeling nature was a god- 
send. If one wants to post readings/publications/etc. there are a _lot_ of 
other ways to handle it - for example nettime announcements, which 
parallels and accompanies nettime, or the Franklin Furnace goings on list. 
But that won't do here - instead everyone has to be controlled, and as the 
letter to me showed - since it was sent back-channel - controlled from 
behind the scenes. The same goes for Ishaq (who I respect but obviously 
don't like - he's been far too nasty to me personally) - who, as much as 
any of us, has been contributing to what constitutes writing/wryting at 
the beginning of the 21st century. And his is a voice that _needs_ to be 
heard, dealing with _contemporary_ issues, rather than whether Ginsberg is 
misogynist or not for gods sake. Or at least to be heard _as much as the 

I'm sending this out everywhere, since I'm not sure the moderators will 
let it through. Or else they will, in a show of kindly and superior 
liberality. But at least it will be elsewhere on the Net.

And I do apologize if I've misread anything, btw. This is not a flame but 
a complaynte in a country at war both inside and out.

- Alan

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