Type
Article

How about radical success?

Interesting piece by US academic and poet Joshua Corey (spotted via Currajah) on poetry, institutional support, gatekeepers, and the relationship between what we make and how we make it. It has given me a lot to think about in terms of the ongoing strategies of radical writer-reader relationships.

If you can synergize with institutions, do so, but don’t sit around waiting for them to recognize or rescue you: they can offer you everything but initiative. This is the best path I’ve found for resisting the otherwise inevitable alienation from one’s own creative labor that comes from permitting oneself and one’s work to be processed by workshops and editors and tenure committees.

The possibilities of initiative are exciting at the moment in terms of self-promotion and potentially having so much more control over our means of production, at least in the brief window before Amazoogle takes over our very brains.

I’m curious what folks here think about the possibilities of ‘DIY’ (or is that entrepreneurialism?), and whether your work can or should be liberated from institutional gatekeepers? It seems to me that the academics don’t have as much of a stronghold here in Oz, but I don’t spend any time with academics or established poets. (Corey’s post is itself quite academic in tone and I had to read it a few times to get the threads.)

How do we avoid conformity and marginalisation? Perhaps I have misunderstood the concept of ‘strategies of failure,’ but I would like to think we have more strategies of resistance up our sleeve than bad writing.

It is an old problem of the Left in capitalist societies to embrace failure as a form of resistance. Can we have radical success instead? What do you reckon?

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jennifer Mills is the fiction editor at Overland. Her latest novel, Dyschronia, is out through Picador.

More by

Comments

  1. Well, that is interesting. I particularly liked this paragraph:

    Instead, “the new math” that Alpaugh laments takes its proper place as a symptom of the larger crisis/”rejection” of reading, which is in turn contextualized as a symptom of technological change/acceleration (“the easy consumption/generation of text”), which in turn may be conceptualize as a symptom of the current state of capitalism, which finally leads us to something resembling reality. That is, poetry’s problem is everyone’s problem: there are more and more people on the planet every day whose participation in labor or collectivities of any stripe are becoming less and less meaningful, as we trade our labor and agency for the false freedom of consumer choice and the increasingly tattered illusion of “security.” Or as Richard Greenfield puts it in his poem “Harm”: “one is so small in the age of terror as to be vast…”

    That was kinda what I tried to argue in an earlier thread about literary magazines: that the state of literary culture and the rise of digital reading are symptomatic of a broader social development, and so any real response needs to be political.

    Given that, I’m not sure what to make of this paragraph:

    To succeed as a writer—and I define “success” quite simply as being able to continue in one’s work—you not only have to “create the taste by which [one] is to be relished” (Wm. Wordsworth) but you have to create relationships and infrastructure and paths of distribution. Start a press, start a blog, form a reading group, start a reading series. If you can synergize with institutions, do so, but don’t sit around waiting for them to recognize or rescue you: they can offer you everything but initiative. This is the best path I’ve found for resisting the otherwise inevitable alienation from one’s own creative labor that comes from permitting oneself and one’s work to be processed by workshops and editors and tenure committees.

    Like, all that may be necessary, but given the extent of the problem he’s diagnosing, it’s not really sufficient, is it!

    After all, the best possible outcome from starting up your own press is that you would end becoming one of the poetry editors you’d previously railed at. Which might be nice for you, but doesn’t really do anything about the state of literature, per se.

  2. haha yes, in that way it replicates proletarian revolution!

    i always end up answering this question by saying ‘make zines and blog’ but i don’t think that’s sufficient either. i guess i’m trying to think more about potential collective action – if there are ways to make our online constellations of affinity into useful communities (obviously this is a question that can only be answered by poets). or are they already? every discussion seems to end with who’s getting paid these days. so who’s getting what they need?

  3. I’ve got to read the whole article, but just to jump in for a quick-answer to Jennifer’s question ‘what do we think about DIY?’ I had this thought:

    DIY in the writing world seems to have a bunch of negative associations (vanity publishing etc)

    DIY in the music world usually means you are ‘sticking it to the man’ etc and there’s a lot of credibility

    Having said that, I don’t think a DIY ethos should have the negative tags for writing (when it does) and I like Jennifer’s idea of exploring collective action too

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>