30 August 2011

One Last Note on Pornotopias

In a follow-up email to the "Pornotopias" conversation, Rob Halpern added the following crucial notes in response to our questions regarding lyric function and the figure of the soldier. I thought to post them here as a compliment to Rob's notes (and as a way to neatly tie-up the "Pornotopias" thread!).

Here's Rob:

...I came away from the discussion grateful for several new insights related to Music for Porn, insights that will certainly feedback into the work. These came by way of yr questions regarding the importance of lyric and the function of the soldier. I’ll share these with you briefly here, if you're interested in reading on, as I’m trying now to bring these insights to articulation for myself.

As for lyric: I think the lyric impulse in my poems is a critical impulse to embody some sense of relation to things which have otherwise become entirely abstract. “To know” a thing in the sense of Oppen’s imperative--and in the case of my poems, this "thing" would be the body of a soldier--might mean nothing more than to restore that thing to some semblance of relation when relation has been otherwise suppressed or withdrawn. What might that relation feel like? And how might these feelings lend real shape to a obscured and mystified world. I think this kind of "knowing" is paradoxical. Sometimes it can only register real blocks or obstacles to relating, and requires amplified forms to push to the limit of that. At best, such impossible "knowing" can potentiate new forms of feeling, knowing, and relating, but it requires lyric’s commitment to arousing and mobilizing forms of subjectivity against the mirroring of dead things (abstract, alienated) whose mere reflections (as occur, say, in certain conceptualist writings) fail to relate. Acker's lesson is that subjectivity can’t be confused with “self-expression."

As for the soldier: I realize again how my "soldier" is working overtime at the level of allegory. His body only enters the poems because his representation--the way it circulates in both the social imaginary and the symbolic order--has been more or less severed from the real bodies of military men. My “soldier” really isn’t anything more than an exaggerated “type” in my poems, much in the way that gay porn film narratives of the 70s (before narrative was all but abandoned in porn films) are organized around familiar/generic/allegorical types, something that finds exaggerated pop cultural expression with The Village People: you know, the Indian Chief, the Construction Worker, the Cowboy, the Cop … well, the Soldier. It’s a figure that occupies a place in the cultural imaginary, but whose relation to us has been entirely mystified. The figure arouses desire while registering how our living relation to the thing it represents is blocked. Hence my poems’ obsession and frustration.

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