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Nobody’s Business

Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics

by Brian M. Reed

Publication Year: 2013

Since the turn of the new millennium English-language verse has entered a new historical phase, but explanations vary as to what has actually happened and why. What might constitute a viable avant-garde poetics in the aftermath of such momentous developments as 9/11, globalization, and the financial crisis? Much of this discussion has taken place in ephemeral venues such as blogs, e-zines, public lectures, and conferences. Nobody's Business is the first book to treat the emergence of Flarf and Conceptual Poetry in a serious way. In his engaging account, Brian M. Reed argues that these movements must be understood in relation to the proliferation of digital communications technologies and their integration into the corporate workplace.

Writers such as Andrea Brady, Craig Dworkin, Kenneth Goldsmith, Danny Snelson, and Rachel Zolf specifically target for criticism the institutions, skill sets, and values that make possible the smooth functioning of a postindustrial, globalized economy. Authorship comes in for particular scrutiny: how does writing a poem differ in any meaningful way from other forms of "content providing"? While often adept at using new technologies, these writers nonetheless choose to explore anachronism, ineptitude, and error as aesthetic and political strategies. The results can appear derivative, tedious, or vulgar; they can also be stirring, compelling, and even sublime. As Reed sees it, this new generation of writers is carrying on the Duchampian practice of generating antiart that both challenges prevalent definitions or art and calls into question the legitimacy of the institutions that define it.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Nobody's Business

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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: What Now?

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pp. ix-xx

Around the turn of the millennium, I began to run into poems that infuriated me. I had just finished graduate school. For six years I had lived and breathed modern poetry. My dissertation had required me to write knowledgeably about several hundred years of canonical verse, ...

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1. In Praise of Obsolescence

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pp. 1-26

In Lyric Powers (2008) Robert von Hallberg asserts without apology or qualification that poetry remains a vital art form in the twenty-first century: “Poetry is quoted in public, even from memory, and read aloud among friends, as often by working people as by intellectuals. And of course it is taught everywhere in schools.” 1 ...

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2. New Consensus Poetics and the Avant-Garde

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pp. 27-48

In a May 2007 review of three volumes published by Atelos Press, Eric Keenaghan suggests that the American poetic avant-garde is kaput. The issue is not quality. The books in question—Laura Moriarty’s Ultravioleta (2006), Jocelyn Saidenberg’s Negativity (2006), and Juliana Spahr’s The Transformation (2007)—are all well worth reading ...

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3. Mechanical Form and Avant-Garde Aesthetics

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pp. 49-87

In the last chapter I sought to clarify how some twenty-first-century avant-garde writers position themselves in relation both to the immediately preceding generation of experimentalists and to an influential contemporary variety of verse, “hybrid” or “new consensus” poetry. ...

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4. Flarf, Folly, and George W. Bush

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pp. 88-120

In The Transformation (2007), Juliana Spahr recounts the pervasive unease in New York City’s poetry circles following the events of September 11, 2001. What manner or mode of writing could respond meaningfully to such destruction, or to the United States’ consequent plunge into bellicosity and jingoism? ...

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5. Andrea Brady’s Peculiar Dissidence

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pp. 121-160

The July–August 2009 issue of the Chicago-based journal Poetry featured two avant-garde movements, Flarf and Conceptualism. Almost a century after Harriet Monroe had used the same little magazine to launch Imagism, it was again trying to announce the arrival of an adventurous new poetry for a new century. ...

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6. Danny Snelson’s Disco Operating System

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pp. 161-194

The previous chapter examined in a sustained manner two particular features of much twenty-first-century avant-garde poetry: first, its movement away from a logic of montage to one of flow, and second, the ongoing value of print as a means of critiquing network culture as it has taken shape with corporate funding and guidance in the new millennium. ...

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pp. 195-196

An early version of chapter 2 appeared as “Grammar Trouble” in boundary 2 36, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 133–58. Copyright 2009, Duke University Press. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the present publisher, Duke University Press. ...


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pp. 197-214


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pp. 215-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780801469589
E-ISBN-10: 0801469589
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801451577
Print-ISBN-10: 0801451574

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1