Quote for the Day

Throughout history, a lot of collective names -- the Beats, the Fauvists, Language Poetry -- have been coined by people who were interested in dismissing precisely the thing named. ...[B]eing "typed" allows some people to think they've read you when they haven't.

--Ron Silliman


  1. Comments from a previous commenting system:

    Trent @ 7:03PM | 2005-03-10| permalink

    But when has someone "read" language poetry? When they agree with Silliman?

    I'm not sure I agree that labeling is used to dismiss: mis-typing is, too narrowly defining is. A label is just that. A label. We use them to guide us. We use them as words like like the word "words" so that we can communicate, saying, "Hand me that jar of Language Poetry, would you?" The stuff inside is what it is.

    Matt Cheney @ 9:19PM | 2005-03-10| permalink

    In some ways the entire issue of labelling is a paradox -- how can anything be identified if there isn't a name for it, but on the other hand how does naming something limit it, and what kind of control does it give to the namer?

    Someone being named by someone else is always, too, going to have a different view of things than if they decided to name themselves. What I find interesting in Silliman's words is the particular movements he cites, and while perhaps he's defensive because he's been lumped in with the Language poets a lot, nonetheless, too often I think we say "Ah, I've got a name for it!" and then stop thinking. Saying something is "Language poetry" is about as simultaneously useful and not useful as saying something is "science fiction", because in most contexts the best response is: "Well, what do you mean by that?" Unfortunately, though, I think most of us have a tendency to take labels at face value and accept the assumptions saddled within the label, and this can make it tempting to issue simple dismissals of things that are only vaguely alike, and the terms Silliman offers as examples certainly have been wielded to do so.

    James A. Owen @ 9:01PM | 2005-03-16| permalink

    The Impressionists. The term was supposed to be a slur, to distiunguish them from the real salon artists.

    They responded by having their own salon, and no one today remembers the term as dismissive.


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