GNOETRY: A sort of cousin to the now ubiquitously discussed flarf, but also its own thing. It has also been the sometime activity of a few friends here in Lafayette (one pictured left, in business casual). Some of outcomes published on the somewhat newish Gnoetry Daily have been tremendous–funny, restless, bumpy, perverse, etc.
At the heart of Gnoetry seems to be the effort to remove the ego by working purely with source texts and removal of the processes of the subconcious from the selection of text fragments. Not flarf, not erasure–a software generated auto-collage of sorts. What I appreciate about the Gnoetry Daily is that a lot of what’s up there is work in progress or is accompanied by notes on the process and source texts. It feels loose, like you’re sitting in on a kick-ass band practice.
Eric Scovel works purely with The Heart of Darkness in his online chap a light heart, its black thoughts. Many of its concerns are the same ones that were near and dear to my heart when I was writing Pigafetta–re-examining colonialism by subverting the intentions of a text, exposing the failures of the Western consciousness in encountering the Other. Stuff like that and some other things too.
While Eric works with one text in a light heart, other poems put several texts through the digital grinder. Here’s something from Chad’s “Katrina Bikini”
HIS ARM WAS MISSING, AND HE NEEDED HELP
His arm was missing, and he needed help
to mitigate and to accept, etc. For those
who stayed, dressed like dogs, who wore crosses
and spurs, found that the answer was lying prostrate
on the freeway every day: the embryo
body posture, the image of death, flag floating from a trash
can. He leaned over the dusty counterterrorism, and
the volleys fired through the womb, overcome
with militia and praying mantis. His wife
was even reflected in miniature. He asked
if she understood what was happening down
there. In the dark. That some Will Smith would be
the official relief effort. The scale
of mental health crisis. There is no way to follow him.
In a trance, working in that morgue where all the
lights had gone was Bush’s vision of our slaves. Life
spilling out of department of health, part of the cleanup
by Murphy Oil of a deer, turkeys, ducks, snipe,
two children, a few plastic bags, vomit and piss.
The most powerful developers have relentlessly
attempted to turn the blame, to send it
into these animals. We are looking
at the mercy of criminals. These are the extravagant
visions of them with almost no working radios,
vision blurred and distorted the identification.
Joe — as a non-poet, usually (i must admit) / [here a line break] your blog is over my head. But occasionally I come peeping. As a lover of computers (in the abstract, at least, as chess champions, at most), and also as a man searching for a way to rid himself of self, or perhaps sanity (i also much appreciated the introduction you gave me to daniel johnson — I saw the movie a few nights ago “the devil and daniel jonston” (“I was sinking deep in sin, far from mountain dew. I had problems out within, nothin’ that I could do. then the mountain dew came to me and I drank it all up, now I’m happy as can be oh mountain dew…”) ), I really liked your last post. Gnoetry seems fun! And I liked the Scovel poems very much. Neat! Just saying…
Bust see contrary cite at:
The roar of coffee in my heart. I’m
welling up with feeling for the American male,
dying now, with the fires of the space age.
Rockets to the moon! Folk songs about the future!
What’s left of art, but for it, too, to die
a sleepy death.
– Todd Weiner
Shit should be fun/improvisational/disposable sometimes. I’m trying to start up more collaborative projects to lose my sanity. Also, I think our next band name should be “Folk songs about the future.”
You know, you might enjoy grinding some stuff up with m-chain–the program these guys have been using. There’s a link to it off Gnoetry daily I think.
I better see you soon.
I second those sentiments. Lemme know when you’re around and we’ll roll joints & bang pots.
I’ll have to try out the Gnoetry program. Read about M chain, too, but looks too technical. John Updike, maybe. With sentences like those, you could wrap your madness around any subject in the world.
I dream of crosses.
Two dried chicken bones, crossed.
How much for salvation?
Why, free, my son. It’s all free.
We’re all fearless as dictators here.
Will do, Tom.
Just a comment on my use of Gnoetry: I think it would be inaccurate to say the function of Gnoetry “at the heart” is to “remove the ego” from the writing process. Jackson Mac Low, who for years worked with generative methods to achieve such a goal, gave up on this concept sometime in the 80’s or 90’s, realizing that it was an impossibility. Selection of the “best” outputs is the principle strategy of the Gnoetry user, and as such it is firmly founded in ego considerations. I think it does help the author/user to write outside of his/her own “voice,” personality or habitual idea of self, but it relies wholly upon the sense of the author/user as a being who enjoys, and who has the power to select what it most enjoys and reject what it does not. This is a more basic and less deceptive mode of the ego, but still ego nonetheless.
As a Buddhist, I’ve thought a lot about this subject, and I mostly agree with Mac Low’s opinion, which you can find in his (few) speech’s and essays (see the front matter in A Thing of Beauty). I think it is best to be honest about what we do as poets and not just try to keep deceiving ourselves (and others) by propping up our troublesome senses of self. The operation of the ego through generative processes (or machine prosthesis) can work outside of the self and more in the realm of pleasure, as Mac Low outlines in “Poetry and Pleasure.” Poetry, as a conceptual act of wit, intelligence and imagination, cannot be fully transcendent, though it may facilitate some beneficial transformations. That’s my current opinion.
Although perhaps, we’re using two different definitions of ego. Are you talking psychoanalysis or Eastern philosophy, because I’m mostly stuck on the latter.
BTW, I lost your e-mail address, and I have a question concerning applying for staff positions at Purdue. Could you drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Hey Eric! Great to hear from you. And to warrant some rigorous attention.
It’s funny–Chad also mentioned that he wished I had made some finer distinctions in my post, but, to be honest, as a non-practicer and more of a general observer–I didn’t feel like I should with any real authority. So I’m happy you could step in a make some clarifications in regard to where you’re coming from in your practice and Gnoetry in general. I’m particularly drawn to the idea that you’re goal is to work more in the realm of pleasure, and can understand how you can see representing Gnoetry as an escape from ego as too close to traditional ideas of transcendence. And I think I my appreciation of this pleasure principal is reflected in my likening of reading Gnoetry to listening to music or a good band do its thing. In fact, it looks like the post-this-post on the Subject Lute contextualizes this idea. From a non user perspective, encountering Gnoetry with this in mind has given me greater access to its intrinsic pleasure.
My broad generalizations on what it is in regard to ego were the product of comments like: “I’ve typically argued that Gnoetry, by separating the human end user from the usual psychosocial sources of poetic production, complicates if not eradicates the “individual” from the aesthetic act.” But as I review what has been written about Gnoetry and your previous comments it seems that as Gnoetry accrues definitions (those provided throughout the blog and the initial manifesto) brief thumbnails such as mine are insufficient. Hopefully what I’ve done is pointed people in the direction of your work as opposed to misrepresenting it. Either way, part of the excitement of watching you guys do this is to see you theorize it in the act of making it.
I’ll email you–