Wednesday, June 13, 2012

to get us started

I ganked this from Debra Gwartney, who got it from somewhere else. Now I'm putting it here. Thanks Debra and other guy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A few more thoughts in response to AD Jameson's latest inquiry into sincerity.

I am again having trouble posting comments on HTML Giant, so I'm posting them here where nobody will read them.


Some Bits

1) I'll buy the Steve Roggenbuck connection, but I don't think Massey would buy it. You'll have to ask him.

2) If you examine the texts produced by Massey/Mister/Robinson as well as the Second Wave NS practitioners (Hart, Pritts, Lasky, et al), one thing becomes apparent. Massey's work seems the square peg here. That is, the tradition he is working in is decidedly different from where Andy and I situated ourselves. And even though I've made an effort to distance myself from the 2nd Wave, I'll admit that Andy and my work has more in common with these than Massey's even. Curiously, when talk of NS comes up, Massey is usually quoted--both his manifesto and his poetry. Joe is a good friend, and I say this not to cast aspersions but to point out the rather strange impression this gives of the poetry and the general thinking of the NS '05 as a whole.

3) Joe and I (and I'm guessing Andy) were weaned on Donald Allen's "New American Poetry" of 1960, and Paul Hoover's 1990 Norton Anthology of Post-Modern American Poetry. Far from rejecting Language or other "experimental" modes, I'd say we absorbed them, used them, learned from them. The objections we had toward the poetry zeitgeist of the mid-2000s was not simply the emphasis on artifice or experiment or text-as-text. It was against something harder to pin down--what we felt was a lack of feeling, of soul, behind the text.

4) I find the aleatory stylings of John Cage much more soulful than (insert name of mid-career 30-40something poet here). It's not the tools or the materials. It's the animating force behind them.

5) It's hard to quantify, to pin down "feeling" in a text. This poses a problem for the academic, who, trapped in a post-new criticism hangover that will not go away, focuses on the text itself to the exclusion of the context in which it exists or existed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Office

I'm sitting in the Junk Room, so called because it's full of junk. While Skyping with my daughter today, I carried the laptop upstairs and announced we were entering the junk room. This seemed to interest her enough to ask me to rotate 360 degrees and adjust the angle of the screen so she could see the piles of junk. Three feet to the left of me are several cardboard boxes filled with old LPs. Behind the boxes is a broken La-Z-Boy recliner piled high with dusty blankets, pillows, half-crocheted things. Against the wall in front of me is a makeshift bookhelf--cinderblock and unidentifiable wood-slab construction--housing a few dozen mass-market paperbacks, mostly genre stuff: sci-fi and fantasy that I must have read sometime two and a half decades ago when this was my bedroom. Did I mention I'm living in my folks' house? I'm rapidly approaching 40 and have come full-circle. I kept my room tidier than this, though.

On the top shelf, above the books, there's a haphazard collection of pint glasses, wicker baskets, and wreaths woven from twigs and such. I also spy a small can of butane and a cardboard box containing collector drinking glasses signed by Clyde Drexler and other early 90s era Trailblazers. I don't know or remember where these came from. I don't remember being an NBA fan back then. I don't remember a lot of things.

I've dedicated this room as a temporary office chiefly because it has limited distractions. Basically this means no television. No cookies. No window to peer out. Here is where I will get "work" done, whatever that may be. Tonight it's writing on a topic I know nothing about for a few bucks that I'll toss in the fund to get back east.

In two weeks it will be a year since I last saw my daughter. Things are different now. She reads books and espouses opinions and happily discourses on her dog's diet, the habits of crocodiles and other reptiles, and the general unsuitability of raw tomatoes for human consumption. She likes to show me her henna tattoo. I'm still "daddy" to her but I'm not sure how much longer that will last. I've come to notice that recently, in the past few weeks, her mother has been referring to me not as "daddy" but as "Tony." Tonight E. asked me if I would read her another story and then she turned and said, "Mama, can Daddy read me another story?" Her mother responded, "That's between you and Tony."

"Tony? Can you read me another story?"

If I'm going to be slowly erased, this room full of junk, abandoned memories, manufactured memories, and just plain weird anti-nostalgia, is as good a place as any, I suppose.

"I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?"

Monday, June 4, 2012

More of that Old Sincerity: The Origin Myth

From the archives of Geneva Convention, August 2005.

* * *

Some More Notes on the NS

We're here, some of us are queer, and we aren't going anywhere.

The New Sincerity had its genesis in December of 2004. It began when I met Andrew Mister in San Francisco's Tenderloin district and proceeded to drink him under the table. He lost concentration during our last couple of rounds as he was trying to chat up a girl at the bar. I maintained focus on drinking my beer and whiskey. A photo-documentary of this event lives in the archives. After drinking, I had Thai food at a nearby all-night eatery. I left Andrew at the bar.

We talked a lot of shit about poetry we didn't like between drinks. We also sang David Bowie's "Life on Mars," though we couldn't remember all the lyrics. We watched a drag show. We almost broke a table. We also talked about what we wanted in contemporary poetry. Frank O'Hara said that only a few poets were more interesting than the movies. We believe that only a few poets are more interesting than David Bowie. At least right now. We're hoping to pull a few more New Sincerists out of the closet, those who are afraid of losing post-avant cred, or appearing too sentimental. Sentimental means "relating to sentiment." Sentiment means "feeling." We feel, dig?

Before our drinking battle, we exchanged manuscripts. The next morning, hung over and sipping Emergen-C, we read the poems and discovered that each of us was the other's favorite new poet. We seemed to see eye to eye on matters poetical. We wrote the sorts of poems that we wanted to read. We continued our correspondence and friendship. We began to notice other poets who seemed to want the same things from contemporary poetry--Joseph Massey, Charlie Jensen, Reb Livingston, Gina Myers, Laurel Snyder. Jeff Bahr, though not a New Sincerist, photoshopped a NS teeshirt on himself. Josh Hanson criticized us. Lots of other people just don't care. So it goes.

The New Sincerity went public in the late spring and early summer of 2005. I began writing little blips about it on my blog. In early July of 2005, Joe Massey wrote a controversial manifesto. Since then, not a day in the blogosphere goes by without a mention of the NS. I like this. It means people are paying attention. Not everyone agrees with us and that is okay. There are a number of skeptics. That too is okay.

We are not going anywhere. But we promise not to take over your town.

Response to Adam Jameson and commenters.

Over at HTML Giant, A D Jameson continues his discussion of the old New Sincerity.  Or, more properly, his discussion of 2nd Wave "New Sincerity" as exemplified by Tao Lin, Matt Hart, etc.

I tried to post a comment to the thread, but my internet is hamster wheel-powered so sometimes things don't work.  So I'll try posting it here.  To read the original piece, go to HTML Giant.

Andy, Joe, and I didn't invent the term. Its origins are in music, architecture, and some other shit I don't remember.  And it wasn't leading anything--I think when Andy first suggested the term (to me, over beers, and not in any prescriptive way) he was talking about Joshua Beckman's book, the one with the poem "Block Island."  

Here's what happened.  In the summer of 2005, I was complaining on my blog about the poetic Latino Mafia that wanted me to write more poems about tortillas. I was also involved in a cross-blog conversation with Jonathan Mayhew concerning "period styles" of contemporary poetry. In a dashed-off post one afternoon I briefly talked about a few period styles, and joked that I should start or become part of The Tortilla School.   Then, as an afterthought I mentioned that Andy used the term "New Sincerity" to describe the sort of poetry we thought we were writing or that we admired in others.  

(He and I had just begun work on a series of poems that would be published as a chapbook by Boku Books in late 2005, called finally, "Here's To You" but at that point had the working title "Don't Get Me Started."  It no longer exists, as far as I know--I guess poems there could be seen as early examples of this particular strain of "New Sincerity."  We were clearly guided by Ted Berrigan, as the poems state.  And I have the pills and Pepsi to prove it.)

Part of what I was interested in at the time was using the "innovations" of the past generation(s) to write poetry that was more than irony or distrust of language.  There was of course, more to it, but that was where I had staked my little plot of ground.

A few posts followed my initial posts (mostly as responses to comment box comments).  Then in early July, Joe emailed me his Manifesto (which I believe he also posted on his Livejournal at the time).  We had a good laugh and thought that was it.   

I continued to blog about the newly minted "New Sincerity" throughout the summer, and Joe did the same from time to time in his live journal.  Andy didn't have a blog at the time. But he was still writing poems then--we all were. 

Here's an important point.  The main reason the NS became anything at all is that in 2005, poets read blogs.  Blogging was the main source of online poetry community.  Facebook, I think, really killed all that.  Without the blogging culture of the time, this wouldn't be an issue.

Finally, as I ramble, I'd like to refer back to the last sentence of the paragraph before the paragraph before this one.  The manifestos, the blog posts, all of that were, as you've noted, pretty ephemeral.  I'd like to think that if folks want to talk about the "NS" they'd look to the poems at the center of all the talk.  So far, that's not been done much--or, in my opinion, at least not enough.

Tony Robinson


Update @ 7:00 pm PDT:    Aaron Belz tweets: