To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (7): David-Baptiste Chirot, a Range of Responses/Questions

I liked absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, colored prints, old-fashioned literature, Church Latin, erotic books badly spelled, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children’s books, old operas, silly refrains, naïve rhythms. . . .
Arthur Rimbaud, “Alchemy of the Word”

It might be very interesting to also have some --perhaps--who knows----at any rate some examinations investigations questionings of "outsider poems"—“outsider poetry" in an anthology of this kind----

Such as when does one begin to find the lists of “outsider Poetry” such as Rimbaud’s beginning to first appear—in Rabelais or Villon, or among the romans or Greeks--??—

Among the “idées reçues” of Flaubert’s dictionary of them compiled by Bouvard and Pecuchet—among the anonymous Faits divers of Félix Fénéon in 1906—all the disappeared and forgotten works which begin to beckon to one from out of the shadowy little known or visited areas where Outsiders are said to dwell—hidden inside fictions as among camouflaging and codes, so as to remain hidden until the “right person comes along and finds them . . .” a soon to arrive or quite distant M Champollion to translate them from Outsider languages—” ( these works while considered "classics" within themselves ask questions which may be of use in thinking on "outsider poetry--")

The usual journalistic questions come swarming to mind----what is Outsider Poetry--when did it first appear--by whom--anonymous or known--where--and then why--why this anthology, why now, and what for--and why or when or how is the editor interested in this--new territories to conquer?--to open up things not already opened or come to mind--and for whom one may ask other than as a corollary of textbooks already taught and used by poets also--as yet another tome creating a whole new field of teaching jobs and essay production and commentaries and so on--which accompanies the outsider's procession into the insiders' worlds-- . . .

Perhaps the simple asking of basic journalistic questions is a good way to start some thinking about the "outsiders" and who and why they are and where and when and which to put inside an insider collection of outsiders . . . / to generate some ideas and evermore questions--else one is just going along with a kind of blurry image in the mind of something called willy nilly an outsider by all manner of qualifications without asking oneself what the heck am i actually thinking about--in considering this or that poet

so there is a lot of work and fun and creation to be done with all these questions and their swarming descendants and proliferating extended families for sure--

Yes--as very many of these questions, investigations, perhapses and wonderings can and do swarm into the light like moths disturbed from their somnolence in the quiet darkness of libraries where the book worms create a new form of writing which is the literal consumption of the texts—creating strange labyrinthine passages which re-write whole sections of poetry and devastate fields of prose—and mimic in their way certain acts of reading which eat their way through texts leaving behind them an erased zone someday to be part of palimpsests of dust, grime, or jottings when the blank pages are reused by the recycling minded as the “blank spaces” to fill with a diary, or an outline of an essay on the manner in which locusts resemble readers devouring texts, and in a much more systematic and ruthless manner than mere book worms or moths resembling worn out scraps of old carpeting imbued with the dust of many fortunately departed days--

Yes, regarding an anthology of Outsider Poetry one might well ask--How much does this idea borrow from or diverge from the original conceptions of Outsider work that began early in the late 19th-early 20th century with artists trying to get "outside" their own culture via arts from other cultures (Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso etc) or via the discovery of a "Sunday Painter, a naif" like Rousseau who could also be included in "art,", or art from children (Kandinsky, abt 1905) and then art from the mentally ill (Prinzhorn, 1922) . . . or the Surrealist uses of the dream and exquisite corpses and automatic writings (precursors perhaps of the machine programmed writings of today used to “get outside of the lyric I”--) or the uses of drugs and alcohol to create “out of the same old same old mind experiences” so to speak—and then Dubuffet’s concepts and collection of Art Brut first announced in 1947—

There are a huge number of ways to examine what is "outsider poetry" depending on the cultural construction, as well as the academic, poetic, social constructions that one brings to the concept, the idea, the image of what "outsider poetry" is or is not, or could be etc—

There’s also an immense worldwide phenomenon across many media and arts of "the outsider artist and his/her works" in art magazines, lit mags, among musicians and record collectors, buyers of "primitive" or "self taught" artists' creations--all of these have contributed to the vast explosion of a now very widespread popular appreciation of and deliberate creation of "outsider works" as an "underground, legendary source" of some of the works considered to be "extraordinary, different, outside the usual run of things, brut"--from the past, the present--and maybe even in a sort of Futurism based on the sense that what exists in the Present is a "ruins in reverse" of the future--when the present is taken to be a "construction site" from which buildings emerge—

Yes, out of art brut and outsider works for a long time have the professional or amateur “artists” of the non-brut variety found inspiration, solace, the recognition of a “fellow spirit,” Just as they do with non-Outsiders except the Outsider comes with far less cultural baggage—at least for a while--

What then would make "outsider poetry" different from the other "outsider works and artists?" What then might be the meta literature of outsider works like that of Roberto Bolaño's book Nazi Literature of the Americas, whose last section led to the novella Distant Star in which exist such "outsiders" as the Barbaric Writers, fan zines offootball teams that aspire to a kind of super aggressive poetry, bizarre motorcycle white power club mags on badly printed low quality papers----and so on-or those produced as de luxe “vanity editions” to the select few--

Then there are the various approaches to what a French writer has called "The Literature of the No," which I have worked in for a while now and been ecstatic to begin finding it in the work of other writers such as Enrique Vila-Matas and M. Bérubé--as well as a long tradition going back especially to some examples in the travel Literature of the 17th century---this is the "Bartleby and Company" branch of the unwritten and--all the same perhaps readable texts--the areas of the unreadable which will someday emerge as readable or the unwritten which is ultimately written by a completely different person as though "taking dictation" from an unknown source--a voice, a trace among spider webs "blowing in the wind"--

Then there could be the question of the history of the recognitions of an outsider poetry at different epochs--say beginning at one period and ever since the uses and interests of such an Outsider text as the confessional writings of the condemned serial killer Gillesde Rais, or that of "peasant writers" in several European countries "coming to light" during the Age of Enlightenment--

Speaking in tongues--might have found through its immensely long history various ways other than Zaum which attempted to create/included in itself something akin to this in writing?--

Then there is the language and writings of it given to puppets, Guignol, the works written with much use of slang like Celine and Genet--and ones who are more extreme by far--so many many others now in the usa alone--in which there’s the return to the kind of jargon used by Villon which not long after begins to decay in its being able to beunderstood and turns then into a form of writing "outside" the very words around it—

one could include as Outsider Poetry could one not the immense amount of writing which is right on the paintings and objects of art brut—which is quite like the book of Kells as redone say by the pre-perspective “primitive” painters of Italy, whose works are like forerunners to comic strips—with the writing of what the personages are saying underneath the image, esp of Holy persons, the Holy Family and Saints and so forth—

(I am for the most part limiting this to Western examples—as that is what i am more familiar with--)

Outsider writing/poetry could be that done in Mail Art by the writings and stampings collaged images and quotations from magazinzes and newspapers –

The question of what is Outsider Poetry—and according to whom, and why—and at what time in art historical and in literary historical and in historical time—all of these play a part do they not in considering what may or may not be “Outsider poetry—”

In Visual Poetry, my works are accepted as “visual poetry” though at a kind of extreme (“the dirtiest of the dirty” according to Geof Huth and, with Bob Cobbing, part of the “extreme school of Quick’nDirty” by jw curry)—

But when one asks about where one might display them, as soon as they are moved from one realm (poetry, visual poetry) to another—the visual strictly, they become immediately called “art brut” or “punk art brut’ etc

In writing how then does one qualify an outsider poet—by many criteria of a person’s life and influences and the effects methods and interests and style of the writing, a person like Bill Burroughs and myself are lumped as a form of “outsider” writer off in the darker areas close to the “Poètes Maudits”—

Yet one might also say—yes but –despite the other qualifications these birds pass without question, what about other factors involved--??—the same with jean genet or a writer like Mohamed Choukri who was illiterate until age twenty and went straight from illiteracy to writing in classical Arabic, as genet wrote in Classical Racinien French—

Yet they are considered also Outsiders due to the backgrounds, life story—

So it is all a much more complex and swarming area—to really extend the questions of I wd think—or hope—because otherwise why do an anthology of outsider poetry now, at this moment other than perhaps, since writing is always fifty or more years behind painting—

To only now “catch the wave” of a guaranteed mass appeal--and throw together an anthology of something vaguely called an “Outsider poetry” –

Isn’t it important to present some ideas of what Outsider is in poetry, what might be different from it than in other arts—or—to make use of these for forms of thinking on works that aren’t outsider ones—either what I call “Fauxk Art” type writing or the neo-Brute , or the Nostalgic poetics of the neo-Naugahyde poetry of the ranch houses of yesterday and their contribution to a “fauxk rusticity” or a “kind of ruin of the images of the old west” down to the fake Fauxk --yes, one can indeed fake the fauxk!!!--wagon wheel in the corner to be immortalized in a harsh yet ‘swinging’ meter based indeed on Western Swing music—

That is, one can INVENT all manner of outsider Writers just as Borges did to a good and powerful extent and Bolaño, Bérubé, Vila-Matas and myself invent them whole sale—out of whole cloth—because even the fictional or perhaps even more so the fictional becomes a kind of “avant-garde” leading the way into these “unknown realms existing all around one and hitherto unnoticed”—

Because the elasticity of the fictional as it operates among the actual—opens gates there one had never noticed at all—like the place in a wall in a H G Wells story which suddenly for passersby produces a door opening to a completely Other World--

Or has perhaps gleaned from the art music and various other outsider lit examples of the past—

That is part of the challenge of this kind of project—for sure—

[David-Baptiste Chirot's own blog can be found at, & more of his work is scheduled for future postings on Poems & Poetics.]

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