Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Issue 1

Like much of the poetry community, I've discovered that I'm a "contributor" to Issue 1. For anyone who has missed out on all of the brouhaha about this anthology, it's a nearly 4,000 page computer generated work in verse. Each poem in the anthology is roughly one page, and the "editors" of the work have signed each poem with a poet's name. The poets were not told ahead of time that their names would be attached to work they did not write, and there appears to be no relation between the poems in the anthology and the actual works of the poets listed. Issue 1 is, quite simply, a prank.

And it's a prank that has gotten a number of people really angry. The For Godot blog, which produced this anthology, is filled with comments from poets screaming that they didn't write their poems and worrying that their reputations will be compromised. On his blog, Ron Silliman hinted at legal action and posted the home address of one of the contributor's parents.

Personally, I don't think this prank is as layered or intriguing as Kent Johnson's Araki Yasusada, but I'm also not afraid of losing my identity over a joke. If you take a moment to examine Issue 1, you discover that every "contributor" writes with the same voice, and in order for a reader to take this anthology seriously, she would have to believe that Shakespeare wrote a poem titled "Making ceremonies with volubility" or that Thoreau wrote, "Like sauntered blacksmiths/ Like sauntered bobolinks."

I'm amused by the anthology and my inclusion in the anthology, but I don't see it as a powerful critique of authorship, which seems to be a claim being kicked around the internets. It's a prank--enjoyable for a moment but not strong enough to burn down poetic communities or to revise how we go about writing our poems.

And if you are wondering, here's "my" poems in the anthology:

The cool brains

Coming fright
A drunken grave

A brain
Ravellings turned outside regard
Cool dews and
purple sights

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