things i do not like

Because sometimes I dislike things other than Academia and sexism.
– Renaissance literature (sorry Ginny, and kudos for being able to do this stuff)
– Rent prices in Charlottesville (yes, I am planning to come back)
– Print poetry magazines, except when they do something different like (but not limited to) Foursquare, Both Both, and Ferrum Wheel. Otherwise, they’re boring. Jordan, I don’t know how you do it.
– Spam mail from people who run poetry events hundreds of miles from where I live.
– Poetry readings in general. I like the socializing part that comes after. But poetry readings are awful. Really, they’re awful.
– Dry spells. Especially when accompanied by crushes having, uh, wet spells. If I’m not getting laid you shouldn’t be either! It’s not fair.
– Social pressures to do certain things by a certain age, such as get married, have children, have a “career,” etc., especially when they influence my actions or the actions of people I love who might be happier just doing their own thing. Not that I am free of these constraints myself, but I would like to know that every decision I made was based on what I wanted and not on what was expected of me.
– My apparent inability to express my feelings in a timely manner.
– Frank Gehry’s ridiculous IAC building. I only just learned about this travesty.


About Jessica Smith
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21 Responses to things i do not like

  1. Logan Ryan Smith says:

    I like the Gehry building. But, then again, I am an idiot.

  2. LBehrendt says:

    Hi jessica–
    Do you dislike all of Gehry’s work or only this new building? How come?

  3. mark wallace says:

    I love poetry readings, myself. Much better than poetry on the page most of the time. But we’re all different, that’s for sure.

  4. Jessica Smith says:

    i like gehry’s work in general. ilike how he twists steel into organic shapes. i like the dancing building and the guggenheim bilbao. my distaste for this building is purely aesthetic. i think it looks *too much* like an iceberg. i don’t want my buildings to have to look “like” something else. the bilbao is supposed to look like a ship, and the fred-and-ginger building supposedly looks like people dancing, but i think they’re beautiful objects considered separately from the things they supposedly resemble. the iceberg has a kitsch, representational quality that these other two works don’t have (to my eye).

    i also think it’s just plain ugly.

    mark, i agree that poetry on the page is also boring most of the time. my general beef with poetry readings is that they go on too long. 10-15 minutes, then beer! but it seems that most poets don’t consider the performative aspect of their work very carefully. i used to, and i didn’t read. now i read shitty like most other people, and it doesn’t seem to matter, people seem fine with that.

    i hate the “i am now reading a poem” poetry invocation voice. i stop listening. i hate the apologies and explanations given before reading each individual poem (don’t be apologetic about your work!).

    Reb’s readings are fun. Short reading period followed by a strip auction. Now that’s entertainment. And finally when I go to a poetry reading I don’t go to hear the voice of The Muse funneled through the Voice of The Author for my Enlightenment (even if they don’t consciously think this is what they’re about, most poetry readings are set up this way, with the Author at a remove and often physically elevated above the passive audience). I go to be amused and to socialize. So I want something interesting to happen.

  5. Jessica Smith says:

    Also, I like poetry readings better now that I live in Charlottesville and go to them more rarely. I think I got burnt-out in Buffalo with the 1-4 poetry readings a week. That is just too much poetry (yes, there is such a thing).

  6. Steven Fama says:

    If I may be a bit confrontational, allow me to say that I ain’t one of those people you say seem fine with you reading shitty.

    Listening a month or two ago to the recording of your reading in Toronto, I really liked that your words were spoken in something far different than the faux authoritarian poem-reading voice that you rightly abjure here.

    But it seemed to me that you were very timid with most of your words, so much so that the poems disappointedly didn’t come across so well, mostly. I couldn’t figure out if you didn’t care or were just nervous.

    Or maybe your particular poems, specifically designed as they are for the page, are really hard to read aloud. I don’t know how you’d figure out how to read them out loud, unless you sat down ahead of time and specifically plotted a route or approach for each poem, and annotated the copy you were going to read from, so you wouldn’t forget.

    But even with these reservations, I learned something about certain of the poems — or became better connected with them — listening to them read out loud, by the author.

    It is a rare, for me, where a recitation heard doesn’t enhance the experience of reading the poem on the page.

  7. Jessica Smith says:

    steve, i have tried a handful of methods of reading my poems, and thought of dozens more ways, but finally i don’t like the poetry reading as such, so i don’t much care about presenting my work well in that forum. i read poetry at readings because poetry readings are a required part of poetry politics and commerce today, and that is all.

    for me, for my poetry, the primary thing is the work on the page, and the primary relation the one between the *reader* and the page, not the one between the author and the audience.

    moreover, in tracing a path in my poems, i think the path always ‘could have been otherwise.” the idea of “could have been otherwise” is still a dangerous one to art, which is still supposed to be about mastery and intentionality. the poetry reading setup is about singularity and authority, and i don’t have the energy, resources, or skill to work to alter that. there are poets who are good at altering the traditional poetry reading platform, such as mike basinski, but they are few and far between. and there are poets who excel at the traditional poetry reading format even while knowing all its warped political ramifications, so I’m not saying everyone is an idiot or a sellout.

    i suppose now i am going to get blasted for being cynical about poetry commerce and politics which some other younger poets prefer to deny, and probably also for my opinion about the reader-page being a more important relationship than the author-audience.

    moreover, my relationship to my poetry is not really performable. i don’t compose lines of poetry in the way that classic poets hear the music of verse and pen it; my poems build over time, as palimpsests of phrases. although i think that each poem definitely has a sound-world, it’s not one that a single reader, a shy unpracticed reader who doesn’t like performing in front of an audience, can replicate. the “music” of my verse is more like the soundworld of Cage’s Europeras; singularity and clarity are not part of the game. And I have neither the time nor the resources to orchestrate my poems. Which I why I really like it when people like Terry Cuddy make my poems into a film, or Chelsea Warren makes my poems into dances, or (currently) Nick DeMaison writes my poetry into an opera. These rereadings, reworkings of my poems by other people, in other media, are much more in keeping with the spirit of my poetry than the typical poetry reading.

    on my webpage under the “poetics” section i have multiple manifestos and short essays on the politics of the Poetry Reading and why I prefer not to do it.

  8. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    Poetry readings should be times of prayerful communion and fasting.

  9. Jessica Smith says:

    aren’t they, kind of? we don’t eat during poetry readings, usually; they’re communal; and often they’re set up in the authorial, unidirectional, church-like “man speaking to men” pose.

    Author –> (Audience)

    Preacher –> (Congregation)

    however i think it is fun when the performance comments on or exaggerates its religous aspects; one of the best poetic performances i’ve attended in recent years was a ceremony/rite involving a birth ritual, a death ritual, and a faux eucharist (“Carry On, Carrion”).

  10. Steven Fama says:

    I accept / appreciate that your work isn’t made to read aloud, and that it isn’t something that you enjoy or find important. Still, I got something out of hearing them read aloud, so maybe don’t dump the idea entirely forever.

    I think I knew you had a web page, but never figured out until now that there is “stuff” behind those black and white images. Silly me.

  11. Jessica Smith says:

    well… ok.
    web: yes, i can’t get the javascript mouseover thing to work. i need someone to check my code.

  12. mark wallace says:

    Ah well, people are different. I have to admit to being not very interested in the strip auction after readings, although I’m happy if other people like it. I go to readings to listen to the poetry (and feel like I can listen in many ways other than as a congregation to a preacher) and of course for the conversation and partying afterwards. There are better and worse readings, obviously, but that’s no different than any kind of public performance, and while I agree that one shouldn’t read too long, I’m personally happy to have 40-50 minutes from a single reader or 30-35 each if there are two. And I have to admit also to not always wanting to be entertained; all these people and media systems claiming that I need to be entertained and then claiming to do it with things that don’t really entertain me: it’s kind of horrifying. One of the things I like about poetry readings is that they don’t have to be purely about entertainment in that more conventional sense.

  13. ginny says:

    you know, jessica, I think possibly your dislike of poetry readings and your dislike of renaissance writing are related. the textual experience you prefer, and the type of textual creation you yourself engage in strike me as almost entirely alien to renaissance modes of experiencing writing and words. for one thing, a number of historians and literary scholars have argued pretty convincingly that the primary experience of a renaissance audience member was precisely to _aud_it, to hear — more than to see or read visually. Even reading siliently seems to have been less the norm.

    Emblem poems, like Herbert’s _The Altar_ are unusual in that they must be looked at as much as heard — and I think it’s no accident that the most famous emblem poems from the 15th through 17th centuries that I can think of are devotional. Seeing, or experienceing visually and, to an extent, personally or with the I/eye (to the extent that it exists) is _ritual_. I’m thinking of seeing the Host lifted at the Catholic Eucharist in the 14th and 15th centuries, or the ritual spectacle of a royal procession or effigy. That’s one of the reasons for religious discomfort with the secualar theater. to look is to potentially experience ritual or magical transformation — thus profane looking is a moral problem.

    All of which makes me think that your poetry — and your preferred mode of experiencing text — may share little with Renaissance modes of reading, and thus perhaps make reading texts written by people who preferred to experience text in a way almost opposite to you incomplete or unpleasant. For me not only do I prefer to think in terms of audience/communicant, but I prefer to experience everything I read that way. I’m always in imaginary communication with an (aurally experienced) audience of AllReaders and AllWriters when I read, or at least I try/prefer to be.

    I wonder if that relates some to the Gehry building too. I see what you’re saying with its triteness — it reminds me overpoweringly of the ice level in Mario 3 (am I thinking of Mario 3? I think that’s what I’m thinking of). On the other hand, I like kitsch because of its pure loudness — and this building seems to be nothing if not loudly icy.

    word verification is laupin, like in harry potter!

  14. Jessica Smith says:

    Wow Ginny, that was quite an analysis.

    I feel an affinity with Medieval text production… I wonder why? Can you psychoanalyze why I would like Medieval lit better than Renaissance?

    (I still have to write both Holsinger’s and Kinney’s papers. Eek!)

  15. Ryan W. says:

    “required part of poetry politics and commerce today”

    That’s bleak. Why would you participate in anything that makes you feel that way?

    I’m with Mark. I’ll be going to the burlesque readings despite the auctions, not because of them. No offense to the auctioneers.

    I’ve been to some fantastic readings lately… but some readings are not fantastic, and when that’s the case, what concerns me most about it, sometimes, is that I get the feeling that some people think it’s cooler to be a bad reader than a good one. Like, I can’t be bothered with being a cool reader. Or, gosh I’ve given so many readings lately that really it’s ok to suck sometimes. Can musicians get away with that attitude? I once heard someone (who I otherwise greatly respect) brag (or faux brag) that he gave a bad reading and people liked it anyways. As if that was a milestone.

    People who feel that readings are required commerce shouldn’t give readings. Or they should force people to make bracelets, or dress up in spacesuits, or whatever, find something they enjoy doing in front of or in a group of people, and do that, whatever it is. And if people stop inviting you to do that, then find another art or in any case, do the chosen art in a way that doesn’t burden you… anything else is dishonest.

    I’ve thought a lot about readings (yes) and have decided I actually like going out to drink better after a reading than if there is no reading beforehand. That’s something.

    Granted, some readings are AWFUL, and my feelings about readings are skewed to the positive by the fact that we have great curators in DC/Baltimore and the frequency of readings (about once a week) is perfect for me.

  16. François says:

    I feel poetry readings are kinda hit or miss. Lauren and I left the first one I attended in the Bay Area because I was kinda exhausted and because Johnny wanted to go to this birthday party. Second one, we left because the reader was really monotone. On the other hand, we stayed for Poet’s Theatre, which was totally rad, but skipped the socialization part because my flight was early.

  17. Jessica Smith says:

    It’s true, the DC poetry scene is rather enjoyable. Perhaps this is because a wide range of aesthetic practices are accepted?

    When you have heard your nth post-Language poet deadpan clichés with clever endings, it gets old.

    I did, however, enjoy making bracelets. I often enjoy the fast readings, with tons of readers, very much. I like that energy.

  18. Ryan W. says:

    also, the “could have been otherwise” ought to be (but I guess sometimes is not) implicit in any work of art. it’s always just a snapshot, but it’s the best or most vital, energized snapshot you can manage. and there is always intentionality regardless of how mindful one is of the paths not taken.

    the “poetry reading setup is about singularity and authority” — I’d say you’re reading a lot into the setup. what singularity? a couple people read, then next week a couple other people read. I guess we could all read at the same time, simultaneously, but then we wouldn’t hear much. one thing I LOVE about readings is it’s one of the only formats when I actually get to hear one person’s voice, more or less uninterrupted, for an extended period of time. (I’m out of school… always hated lectures w/o class participation… but 15 minutes of poetry is different than 1-2 hours of lecture). if authority is a bunch of people putting aside 15 mintues to listen to one person, then I guess I like authority. doesn’t seem like an onerous authority to me.
    I’m not shouting.

  19. François says:

    Actually, it wasn’t the nth Post-Language poet reading, but Lyn Hejinian (with Bill Berkson).

  20. Jessica Smith says:

    oh, i wasn’t referring to the reading you went to, but just to readings in general. bill and lyn i’d be perfectly happy listening to.

  21. ginny says:

    yikes! was I psychoanalyzing? I try and try not to be postfreudian, but sometimes it catches me anyway. which disgusts me. which is a reaction formation. just like freud said.

    anyway: medieval poetry. like chaucer? or devotional medieval texts? they’re meant to be used with the body, aren’t they? I mean, writing is a substitute, it seems to me, for action in a lot of medieval poetry. no, I take it back, it isn’t a substitute for action, it IS an action. and it isn’t writing, it’s being-a-poem. writing as spearate from reading comes in with the renaissance and gets solidified in the 18th and gets nastily rigid in the 19th. I think. so maybe you like medieval work because of the way it doesn’t fit within current modes of reading/writing/genre anything. it’s alien enough that it can come back around to be familiar? this analysis is not as in-depth.

    you know — I realized I feel anxious about describing medieval poetry. I guess that’s just because I don’t know enough about it.

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