The second issue of the beautiful, triumphant, and to-be-celebrated journal Bloom arrived at my door today. Sadly, their website hasn’t been updated yet. But if you see one, I recommend snatching it while you can.
I just saw the commercial for Britney Spears’s new fragrance, called “Curious.”
It made me a little curious, in fact, but mostly it got me thinking about how contemporary American culture is moving more toward branding its artists—as in turning the artists’ names into actual brand names. Branding as a concept is pretty timeless, but probably best epitomized in metaphor by its most graphic and inhumane use: the marking of cattle. Branding cattle signified that it belonged to you, that its quality was completely dependent on your good works. Artists, these days aren’t much different.
J.Lo & P. Diddy are selling clothes. Jessica Simpson has created a line of edible cosmetics. And this is, naturally, significant of that other corporate impulse: diversification.
Film studios have been doing this nearly since the advent of the film industry itself. Back when, audiences would almost exclusively decide on what film to view by who starred in it. Later, in the auteur system, directors and producers started to seemingly brand their own looks. Now we have adjectives like “Hitchcockian” and “Tarantinoesque.”
Do poets & writers brand? Two words: Danielle Steel.
The entire romance novel industry is a brand. Harlequin brand novels, etc. My mother was an ardent, ravenous reader of romance novels when I was growing up, but only certain authors, whose books she bought and collected as they were released. And her Christmas and birthday lists were usually populated with the titles of the books she’d missed or overlooked.
And I’d say that some poets are becoming brands—but whether or not this is their own choice or if its the choice of a money machine, I can’t say.
And to relate this back to Victoria Chang‘s post about the change of artists’ work over time, I’d say that anything that becomes branded is no longer evolving. Brands require stability, “product assurance of quality.” Change jeopardizes assured quality. Experimentation jeopardizes assured quality. Brands—to survive—must tread water. The question then becomes: are branded artists still artists, or are they charicatures of the artists they were?
I really wanted to call my thesis Vocabulary Lessons, but with what I’ve done to it now, it’s living down the street under a new name: Therapist with a Dream Inside. It just seemed to fit. People have also stopped mistaking it for a grade school textbook, much to its relief.
Draft 1 whallops out at 100 pages.
But it’s not how long it is that matters, right?
Just how deep it goes.
I was all wrong.
I love my poems.
I feel giddy with glee now. You may remember just a short while ago how I disparagingly remarked how I hated my poems. And I did.
Until I read them in manuscript sequence, which I finished doing tonight.
Gleam! Star-wipe! Curtain swoosh! They open like a series of nested doors into each other.
I’m so excited about this project now.
It needs tweaking, you know, but overall, I’m very, very pleased. I feel even like a poet in some ways.
It seems like I can’t go more than 24 hours without a reference to Language poetry cropping up somewhere in my life: online, in the readings I’m doing for school, conversations with friends and colleagues. Nearly every name-poet I’ve ever encountered and talked to has credited that movement with revolutionizing poetry in general, if not their poetry in particular.
And I’d be foolish if I didn’t say I have something of a fascination with them: in undergrad, I was very influenced by and obsessed with Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics. I devoured that book, used it as the main resource for my thesis (Cinema As a Language System). Those notions of signifer/signified haunt me.
A teacher once told me, Language is an inadequate signifier. It’s true. And when I stop and think about how our entire world is based on one big system of symbols, it’s a little overwhelming. We think in that system, are bound by it.
I do have a soft spot for the poets who were drawing attention to revealing language’s secret mechanisms. To violating those mechanisms. Inspiring me to work toward creating a primal language—a language of the self—a language not rooted in the words used to oppress me.
I confronted it.
I paginated my thesis manuscript. I broke down the way I was thinking about it. I have poems that I sensed and created as sequences—the longest being 14 poems long—and that ghettoizing of work was preventing me from moving forward. I scattered the sequences over three sections.
It’s 79 poems long. Probably about 90 pages, roughly, but I’m expecting some of these guests to leave the party early.
Oh, and I hate all my poems.
Every time I pick up my stack of thesis poems to order them and provide a general sense of structure, I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of dread.
And then I put them down, and leave the room, and assure myself I’ll do it later.