The Evidence of Things Not Seen
STUDENT: I wonder, is the professor embarrassed by that essay of his from 1987—“Contemporary Poetry, Alternate Routes”?1
PROFESSOR: Should I be?
STUDENT: Well, it seems pretty dated, no? And dare I suggest that it also seems wrong.
STUDENT: It sets up a distinction between experimental writing and, well, everything else. That’s bad (let’s say, loose) enough. It also buys into Barrett Watten’s idea about how to “test for a ‘politics of poetry.’ “Worst of all, it decides that L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing, that exemplary experimentalism, has passed the test. ANGEL: It did pass the test.
ANGEL: No, surreally. According to Watten, “The test of a ‘politics of poetry’ is in the entry of poetry into the world in a political way.” Poetic action is successfully political when it executes “a self-conscious method.” For Watten, surrealism exemplifies such a method.
STUDENT: You’re joking.
ANGEL: Just trying to be literal. Surrealism succeeded, Watten succeeded, the project of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Writing has clearly succeeded. The professor himself succeeded.
PROFESSOR: I did?