The Line as Fetish and Fascist Reliquary
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The Line as Fetish and Fascist Reliquary Gabriel Gudding The line is not a feature of poetry. The line is basically a disciplinary fiction, a fantasy of technique, an imaginary feature upon which to render pronouncements and leverage arbitrary distinctions for the purposes of acquiring or wielding social and disciplinary power. The history of the line, as something ostensibly worth making distinctions about, is the history of poetry both as a fetishized cultural commodity and, since the modernist moment, as part of a broader system of belief that has helped lead to the disenchantment of everyday cultural life in an advanced, industrial world. This history of the line, then, is, in its latest iteration, in great part a holdover from the history of the right-wing modernist fetish of form, which marked the removal of poetry fully from the office of humility. So the line is, in one sense, a gendered and fascist reliquary containing the careers of Pound, Eliot, Olson, William Logan, LangPo, and the dismal tantrums of the neoformalists—groups and personalities defined by the genre of conviction and pronouncement. In another sense, the line is a verbal machine, or a machinic talisman, that marks a fetish of music and voice and wax over content, context, flesh, ethical inspiration and political struggle—often, on the one hand, in the name of archetypal, transcendental, universal, colonial, ostensibly transcultural values, and, on the other, in the name of provisional resistance and socio-aesthetic struggle against late-capitalist hegemonies, authoritarianism , and consumerism. The line is a vomito-aesthetic concrescence of a larger, mystifying ideology known both as “official art” and its false rival “avant-garde art” whose purposes are both to entrench administrative culture and delimit the range of experiences we call “human” as a broader push continually to establish, disenchant, and rationalize advanced, industrial society. It’s a trumped up vomitnothing about which and around which belief and conviction and argument are purposefully Gudding | 113 constructed in spasms of pseudo-activity—the purpose of which is to mobilize collective narcissistic excitement in a genre characterized by ethical inaction. So, yeah. Our world is in peril. We don’t have time for the line, except against a backdrop of those cosmologies positing (a) an eternal realm, (b) an impending apocalypse followed by redemption for true believers, (c) a viable suburbia. Basically, we live in a time in which poetry has to resist itself and its own unsustainable habits in favor of facing reality. The line is one such conceptual habit; an iterative fraud. Renounce it quickly. This necessary renunciation will inevitably extend to poetry’s other most favored myths: that song destroys illusion; that dysraphic poetry also destroys illusion and, unlike song, also destroys capitalist hegemony; that messing with syntax is somehow in itself politically radical; that formalism is really exhaustively open to content; that close reading isn’t textual fetishism; that craft isn’t technical fetishism; that imagination is somehow by itself salutary; that poetry is precious speech uttered by special beings or by necessarily radical people. Inshort,thelineisanideologicaldevicemasqueradingasanaestheticelement. Which would in itself not be a bad thing, except for the fact that the current effect of what gets called “art” in our world, or what gets called “poetry” in our life, is in fact to limit the number and categories of experience in which, by which, and through which one can become what one is and work toward justice and develop a truly loving heart. If we are to stop the professional suppression of joy that we call literature, and if we are to cease manufacturing false needs through poetry, if in short we are to stop treating poetry as both a kind of country music and a hipster cagefight, we’ll need at some point to wake up and stop ritualizing literature, stop valorizing its sacred heresies, and stop attributing inherent value to technique (both belletristic technique and dysraphic technique—as they are two sides of the same coin). Breaking the habit of obeisance to the religion of literature would especially mean renouncing poetry’s fetishes, sublanguages, arguments, battles—especially its purportedly liberational ones—in favor of poetry’s fundamental ethical argument, pragmatic kosmophilia, and not confusing that renunciation as further invitation to bicker. Why climb pebbles? And let’s maybe instead spend that time and energy in sacralizing our relationships to one another, to our Selves, to other animals, to plants, to sunlight, to rivers, to lakes, to soil, to compost, to seas, to air. ...


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