- Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media by Jacob Edmond
In Make It the Same, Jacob Edmond weaves discussions on the meaning and interpretability of copying into an original study of the cultural and historical development of literary copying. [End Page 420] The study is motivated and made urgent by the centrality of copying in culture today, where copying has come to dominate not just the elevated world of experimental writing and art, but cultural expression, production, and circulation more generally. The central contribution of Edmond's book is the articulation of this cultural "iterative turn" by tracing its development in poetry through the last sixty years.
This iterative turn coincides with significant changes in the availability and usage of read-write media: technologies such as tape machines and personal computers that not only "read" the information embedded in a media object, but also make it possible to record new information over the original. As such, media have become increasingly mobile and affordable, they have collectively lowered the threshold for reproducing words, sounds, and images. Coupled with technologies such as mimeographs or digital devices, these read-write media have ushered in an era of remix culture and small run publishing.
The proliferation and impact of these media on cultural experimentation, Edmonds shows, is inseparable from the contexts of globalization that largely shape postwar history, such as postcolonialism, Cold War geopolitics, and the spread of late capitalism, under which consumption has famously become a form of production. This global scope is necessary, Edmond emphasizes, not just for the sake of continuing the critique of Eurocentric conceptions of modernity, but more specifically for demonstrating the multivalent and cotemporal development of copy culture. The device of copying has emerged as a cultural glue that holds different contexts together, where repetition is repurposed in different-but-similar ways for the sake of reflecting and even actively establishing different-but-connected subjectivities. To illustrate this point, the book's case studies invite a number of poignant comparisons, for example, in the deployment of repetition to explore bodily and linguistic difference foregrounded in the experience of migration and diaspora (addressed in chapters three and four). The material and social conditions that make the iterative shift a global phenomenon also contribute directly to its aesthetics of multiplicity, helping to engender a "conceptual shift from the inviolate work born in one language, nation, and medium, to the multimedia, multiversion, multiauthor text" (6).
According to Edmond, the patterning that constitutes poetry at every level of the text makes it the literary avatar of the iterative turn. In the period of high modernism, repetition and copying were already influential parts of the literary scene: Borges's copyist character, Menard, or, to my mind, Lu Xun's startling opening to his prose-poem, "Behind the wall of my backyard you can see two trees: one is a date tree. The other is also a date tree."1 Make It the Same acknowledges these predecessors—and gestures to their legacy with its title, playing on the anxiety over sameness underlying Ezra Pound's famous (and unoriginal) injunction to "make it new"—while drawing important contrasts with our current era. Whereas earlier modernists adopted copying as a form of innovation that could unsettle its audience by defamiliarizing its object of representation, thereby ultimately reflecting the authorial genius of its creator, post– 1950s copying by and large sidesteps any fetishization of originality and innovation. The poet now works "not [as] the originator but the remixer of words, text, and traditions" (60). As a result, repetition itself is foregrounded as the main point in many poems. An example of this change in emphasis may be found in the contemporary Chinese poet, Yi Sha's "remix" of one of the most famous and oft-reproduced classical Chinese poems, "Quiet Night Thoughts." The lines of the original Tang era poem, "Before my bed there is a bright moonlight/So that it seems like frost on the ground/Lifting my head I watch...