Monday, November 09, 2009

Poetry Community

Anyone know where to find Lisa Robertson’s provocation from a year or two back about poetry and community? I thought it was on Harriet, but looks like she’s been scrubbed from the site, at least as former blogger. She did once blog on Harriet, didn’t she? And once about not liking the concept of poetic community? If you’ve got the URL, I’d be grateful. I found this at Lemon Hound, from an interview with Vanessa Place, but remembered a larger discussion around Robertson’s comments:
LH: Do you think about community when you write? Or, is writing a kind of social praxis for you? Is it political?

VP: No. I hate community. Community breeds lynch mobs and Hallmark cards. Writing is ethical, which is the smallest unit of the political.


Don Share said...

Lisa was never a blogger for Harriet, & wasn't scrubbed from the site!

Nada Gordon: 2 ludic 4 U said...

Curious, I dug around, too: nothing (as you know). Kasey's related post seems to have been scrubbed as well. WTF? What's the point of the internet if it doesn't archive absolutely everything?

Ever ever curious, I wondered if maybe you are working on something on this topic?

What are your thoughts on friendship vs. community? Is it even a "vs." relationship?

rodney k said...

Hi Don,

Thanks for your note, and apologies for my error. Before I posted, I buttressed my memory with a post from Sina Queyras's Lemon Hound blog on August 10, 2008, which you can find here:

Sina writes:

"Was it already two years ago that Robertson made the Poetry Foundation her salon? It was. It was a meandering, connective and expansive entry which I offer you a snippet from."

Which she does.

Then she provides a link to the Poetry Foundation site, and a second link to "Robertson's entire journal" on your site. Both links lead to Harriet, the second one's broken. Here it is:

So if not a blog, didn't she once have a journal or something on the site that's not there anymore?

This isn't to pass off my error on Sina, just to say that my memory of Lisa having being on your site, plus Sina's confirming mention of her journal there, is what led me to wonder what happened.

rodney k said...

Hi Don,

Let me tinyurl those links.

Lemon Hound Post, Aug. 10, 2008

"You can read Robertson's entire journal here":

rodney k said...

Hi Nada,

Thanks for your interest, and thanks for looking!

The context is an email exchange I'm having with a friend about audience and community in Portland. I was wishing for a little more audience to go with the community here, so that we could fund or entice more poets to come read without depending on university funding. When audience is more or less co-extensive with community--however that's defined--you can get memorable gatherings sometimes but don't help pay anyone's plane ticket.

Plus community has its hassles and limitations (just like audience and friendship do), and I remember Lisa listing them sharply.

Like Dante's Hell, I sort of imagine these things--Audience, Community, Friendship--in interlocking rings, each with its own punishments and mercies. Like a lot of us, I'm skeptical of some of the gooey sentiments around "community" in contemporary U.S. poetry, which I think is supposed to console us for feeling irrelevant, maybe even keep us happy with not being more relevant. I know, I know: "Define relevant." Unacknowledged legislators, etc. Why can't we be the unacknowledged lobbyists of the race?

And yeah, the archive at your fingertips ain't always so perfect an archive.

rodney k said...

Quick amendment to the above:

After Don's comment, I poked around the site some more and realized that Harriet isn't quite the same thing as the Poetry Foundation website. So I should have said "Poetry Foundation" in the post and comments above, not "Harriet." Or is that splitting it kind of fine?

In any case, the Lemon Hound post mentions a journal that Lisa Robertson kept on the PF website. The post provides one link to the PF home page, another to Robertson's "entire journal" on the site. The first link works, and takes you to the current PF home page; the second one, the one promising the "entire journal," leads to a broken link on the PF website.

Before I posted, I also did a search for "Lisa Robertson," "Lisa Robertson community," and "Lisa Robertson journal" on the PF website's Poetry Tool (using the "Or Just Search" box). I couldn't find anything like the entry I remembered, or like the journal mentioned on Lemon Hound.

It seems like something by Lisa Robertson was once on the PF website that now isn't, or is difficult to find. At least that's a plausible inference, given the broken link, which has the words "dispatches" and "journals" in the URL, along with a date of 2006.06.26.

I could be wrong about Robertson having once written for the Poetry Foundation site, but I tried to be responsibly wrong!

Phanero Noemikon said...


The Portland Bead society might be a model for generating moneys, not sure. I would think there might be some interest in poetry enough to have a dues paying society that could translate into at least one
yearly shindig of some sort. The Bead society throws an annual sale
down at Montgomery park. The exhibitors pay a fee, and you pay a fee to get in. A poetry society could do something similiar with a book sale I suppose. Maybe too square? or old-fashioned. or time-consuming? probably all of the above.

Don Share said...

Thanks, everyone. I hang out on Harriet (but don't work on the website), so all I knew was that Lisa wasn't a blogger. But there's no conspiracy!

I asked the webfolks, and looks like old links were broken when the site was redesigned. I'll see if they can fix them.

Yrs. gratefully....


Don Share said...

Follow-up: Looks like during the site migration some content was archived in a way that makes it hard to re-purpose, but they're working on it. (Moveable Type to Word Press, for those who care.) Again, thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. I'm hoping this'll be back on the site soon.


Don Share said...

OK, got it back up:

AB said...

Rodney, interesting you should write about this just as I start Rebecca Solnit's new book "A Paradise Built in Hell" about elite panic vs. the temporary utopias of community that arise after disasters. Community isn't really a "liberal" choice, but is offered as one under capitalism (where even the social is "privatized" and we are stripped of our language for public imagination). Solnit argues that disasters take away this veil.

I'm interested in what you term the "gooey" sentiment. Most of what I see articulated again and again is what Solnit identifies is the kind of elite's ideology of understanding humans to be brutes and fools, self-serving, careerist, etc.

rodney k said...

Thanks, Don. Mystery solved!

rodney k said...

Hi Anne,

I haven’t read the Solnit. Is the idea that disasters (I’m guessing things like Katrina or 9/11) strip away the veil from community, and reveal it as a false “liberal” choice presented by capitalism? Or that it’s a temporary utopia that emerges when disaster makes the money wobble? Or both?

rodney k said...

Hi Lanny,

I like the bead idea! Especially if poets came up with all the bead puns they could think of for it ("ForBeading, "To Bead or not to Bead," etc.)

AB said...

Hi Rodney,

I recommend reading the entire book, but it is very much in favor of community and in opposition to the neo-liberal capitalist state which prospers when even the social is "privatized."

I think only the wealthy and the elites can survive without mutual aid. Perhaps this is where poets fall, but only very few of them. But a community kind of arrangement -- mutual aid, community organizing, anarchistic networks, etc. -- would of course take away any notion of "audience" and replace it with a set of social interrelationships and people who expect to participate, not just show up and watch. I think if I had to chose, it would always be for a fully participant world "without audience," but I can see how all of this is difficult for contemporary poetry and poets. I think, however, that if we want to be relevant, it is not in some longing for a past formation of fame, but as those who understand keenly what there is to offer in provisional, local set ups. Some of the best work like this is done by artist like Paul Chan (say in his post-katrina production of Godot), but there is no reason poets can't catch up to the other arts.