Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Steven Zultanski

I’m not 100% sure what you mean by “post-crisis poetics,” but that’s probably because you don’t intend it to have a single reference; I imagine it’s meant to be a suggestively open term designating a general condition (crisis) and a particular stance (anti-capitalist).

Personally, I understand the crisis in question as a series of multiple, overlapping, and illusorily permanent crises: the economic crisis (at a macro level the ongoing crisis of the global factory system and mass exploitation, and at a micro level the shocks of financial crises and the profits made off their management), the crisis of patriarchy, the crisis of white supremacy, the crisis of ecological damage and the extinction of species.

That’s to say that I understand your term, “post-crisis poetics,” to suggest a condition under which poetry is written—the condition of overlapping crises—rather than an aesthetics or methodology of rendering crisis.

Most of the poetry I read seems to address, represent, or politicize some aspects of this condition. Contemporary poetry is certainly not oblivious to or disinterested in crisis.

I don’t think there’s one way to approach this topic, or a special way, either as a poet or a critic. That doesn’t mean that aesthetics are meaningless, and that questions of form and style are subsumed by the sheer enormity of the crises. It just means that there’s a lot of different ways to figure various crisis-points, resistances, and tangents. Crises are deep and varied, and their effects are inscribed in a wide array of literature.

Maybe this argument for plurality seems fluffy.

That’s ok.

It is fluffy.

I like fluffy.

And I worry that a fascination with “crisis,” as such, as an idea, is a means of slipping back into a universalizing discourse at a moment when universalizing discourses are suspect. In other words: no one today would theorize a universal subject or a universal structure; instead, certain theorists hold up crisis as a universal condition, as a way of reestablishing a sense of critical omniscience.

That’s bad.

Of course crises are real, and urgent.

But they aren’t universalizable.

And there’s no poetics (or set of related poetics) with a privileged relationship to crisis or to politics.

And so a certain fluffiness seems appropriate.

The problem is that I’m not being fluffy enough.

Next time I’ll be fluffier, I promise.

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