Carlo Parcelli

House Nigga/Field Nigga:

An Appraisal Of American Poetry At the
Dawn Of The Twenty First Century
With Special Emphasis On The Master/Slave Dialectic

Let all the bigots out there be forewarned that this essay has nothing to do with color or race or peoples' legitimate desire to wipe their ass with the Confederate flag; or wipe their ass with the American flag, for that matter, which is confederate, as in counterfeit, to its core. But if the racist, jingoistic, reactionary fucks of all stripes persist and read the article below, they will gain valuable insights into another `peculiar institution'---Contemporary American Poetry, the tiniest and least articulate of all the tiny, tinny worlds the American intellect, such as it is, now soils.

The institution of slavery and the phenomenon known as Contemporary American poetry share no common base. Though there is tremendous nostalgia among American elites and their illiterate stooges to impose a revived economic slavery as severe as 'The Peculiar Institution' upon sectors of the population in many cases including the stooges themselves, it now would be met, one would hope, with very serious resistance. But as Lenny Bruce said, he, Jonas Salk and J. Edgar Hoover "thrive upon the continuation of segregation, poverty and disease." And in that spirit we have American Foreign Policy, a subject for another time.

Poetry on the other hand has moved from the liberating sphere of a form that required and manifested authentic talent to one that reflects petty ambitions that have a somewhat attenuated relation to the serious interplay between what the author characterizes as the House Nigga and Field Nigga Paradigm that will be explored and exploited in this essay. The `Paradigm' draws its veracity in the same way that Intelligent Design makes claims on our culture, that is from a very dark, rank place indeed.

Using this `theorem', that is viewing the current poetic condition through the House Nigga/Field Nigga lens, we can address some of the issues that form the core debate in Contemporary Poetry today, a debate not known so much for its heat or light, as for its thrilling lack of viable, enduring poetic product. The only reason the debate exists is because of a thunderous lack of any body of poetry distinguishing itself among the myriad permutations of both the House Nigga and Field Nigga modes of authorship. Ultimately the question gets begged; why is one poet successful and influential while another with equal or, what can be argued marginally greater talent, languishes in the backwaters, unpublished and unsung. The current situation distinguishes itself because the House Nigga/Field Nigga dichotomy has arisen in the last fifty years with the lion's share of the gravy from the Massa's publishing and institutional table going to the poets associated with Universities and the teaching of poetry writing as a trade appended to the teaching of the liberal arts.

Therefore, the House Nigga/Field Nigga dichotomy isn't entirely about lifestyle choice, but close. Temperament plays a role because institutions like University Departments and publishing houses require an emormous amount of sucking up.

The battle, such as it is, has raged for some time between the House Nigga or, generally speaking, the academic poet and the Field Nigga who, again generally speaking, is a poet not attached to a university, grant factory or other institution and who, therefore, has no chance of ever winning one of the CIA's MacArthur genius awards for exceptional servitude. Like some working stiff seeking the presidency, neither can he or she become poet laureate of this fair nation, not to mention state or local municipality, if he or she is past the age of 35 without having morphed into some form of insitutional House Nigga poet. Yet, nevertheless, the Field Nigga poets dream the House Nigga dream.

The Field Nigga chafing at his "marginalization" whines and grouses. The House Nigga says the Field Nigga's delusional, been out in the world too long, and any way if he had any gifts he'd have become a House Nigga a long time ago. The blunt implication is those suited for the asslicking compromises of the academy are better suited for writing poetry that which will,in turn, compromise the general culture through contact with the minor, whimpering sub-culture of the House Nigga poet. The House Nigga poet also implies that the Field Nigga poet is simply untalented and unworthy, but, as it turns out, unworthy of the wrong things, things that essentially have nothing to do with poetry and much to do with servitude to a series of Massas. We have all witnessed during the past five decades the kind of fire in the belly the House Nigga poet captures in his work and the myriad of aesthetic antacids now on the market to counter the effects of the burning sensation generated by the academy affiliated bard.

After years of enduring my frustration, a Washington poet with half a dozen book length publications under his belt and a university writing position asked me to have coffee. After I registered my usual complaints, he looked me straight in the eyes through his cigarette haze and said, "You just don't get it, do you. Its not about the poetry. If it was about the poetry, who'd bother. I sure as hell wouldn't. Anyone really committed to poetry is a nuisance."

The Soul of a Poet? Or the Hoax in the Machine?
The Market Analyst For the Computer Industry As Poet.

The Field Nigga is marginalized because he hasn't edited any anthologies, chaired any committees, attended any symposia, written any published papers, won any prizes, done any translating, gotten a PhD, shared an office with Stanley Kunitz--anything but the actual writing of poetry. Real world experience and its risks don't mean shit except as they reflect an academic exploitation of those experiences. The House Nigga's institution is the filter for legitimation. The House Nigga is the baby sitter poet and as such reads the same bed time stories that he was pacified with and so on with the next generation of babysitting House Nigga poets through campus writing programs. That generations of college kids will be the slave holding responsibility of docile House Niggas is self-evident. The poetic spay is the creation of university creative writing departments. So pervasive is the House Nigga ethos, or more accurately enslavement, that even poets with the apparent resumes of Field Niggas like Ron Silliman, Doug Messerli and Pierre Joris edit, anthologize, chair, translate, attend, write and publish with the dull thud of House Niggas.

In vain, the Field Nigga poet reminds the House Nigga poet, that it was the Field Niggas that developed the `call and response' that is the very core of poetry itself. The `shout outs' that buoyed the soul and conspired against Massa. Field Niggas drank too much, dropped acid with Tim Leary's accountant as soon as the CIA supplied it, got Jack Danieled and dusted with Hunter Thompson, road in stolen cars, fucked each others mommas, fucked each other, rented cars and left them in the desert, went to an Earth, Wind and Fire concert with Huey Newton's half-sister, played bass for the guy who used to play drums for the band that used to be the warmup act for Steppenwolf, got evicted six times, punched a cop at Altamont and knocked her down, borrowed money from Melvin Belli and never paid it back, drove Abbie Hoffman to the airport after a peace rally, drank with the Salt Lake City chapter of the Hell's Angels, stayed at Charlie Manson's chicken farm for a week trying to get into Squeaky Fromm's pants and spat on Richard Nixon's limousine while scoring coke in Panama.

Field Nigga poets frequently equate their pointless, shitty, pantyhose, tie and polyester shirt jobs with the biblical tribulations of the dispossessed, exiled and/or enslaved, and claim a more intense degree of suffering than the House Nigga poet. If they are tattoed and tending bar or table dancing, they also remind one that it was Field Nigga poets like Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Anne Waldman, Ed Dorn, Patti Smith, Gregory Corso, Amira Baraka et al, before they became, to one degree or another, House Niggas, that brought the torches out of the field to burn down Massa's shit. What academic poet could claim to be the heir to Villon, Blake, Pound or Rimbaud without his audience spilling onto the floor in spasms of laughter? This author was on the receiving end of the drunken match flame of Andre Codrescu in a Baltimore bar late one night in the seventies. But look at him now. Not only has he adopted the House Nigga setting, but he does inoffensive vaudeville pablum in blackface for N(amby) (P)amby (R)adio.

Generally, the academic poets' 'suffering' revolves around the need, both egoist and careerist, to appear in publications and win grants and awards. In this way, House Niggas claim they suffer too, and since they serve and through this servitude experience a kind of suffering by keeping the Massa's house, they are also most deserving of his largesse. They have become mos' like Massa. Both the House Niggas and the relatively few Field Niggas who have achieved some status allow their appointments, luncheon dates and resumes speak for what important House Niggas they have become. After they've emptied out Massa's piss pot, they stand on the back porch of Massa's House and think how good it is not to be slaving in the fields like them brutish Field Niggas. Those House Nigga poets who have not received the choice crumbs from the official academic rewards system faun over Massa's favorite House Niggas while the Field Niggas grouse about how difficult it has become for a Field Nigga, who can't even hold a job at the Pick N' Pay, much less conform to a university's literature department rules and regulations, to get a collection of poems accepted by Knopf or Macmillan.

House Nigga Poets cop all the trappings of their fellow academics albeit in a kind of unintentional parody. They do translations from languages they do not know often in conjunction with native speakers blurring the line with the phrase "in collaboration with" or, far more often than is remotely intellectually honest, claim a translator's credit. These worthless collections are legion, and if the House Nigga poets are establishment enough, the translations receive prizes, grants and publication by the big trade houses like Harper Collins and Knopf, further proof of their valuelessness. Czeslaw Milosz's collaborations with Robert Hass are a prime example. Milosz is a rotten enough poet in any language without Hass further mucking it up. The Lithuanian poet is as self-absorbed and immaterial as a pinwheel's illusion folding in on itself. Its this kind of dull rottenness repeated over and over again that gives rise to cries of conspiracy from the Field Nigga Poets. Toss in an anorexic, bitter trade house editor from Vassar or Wellesley and its a lock we're looking at 7500 copies of pure instant remainder, tax write-off irrelevance.

Ed Dorn was pilloried in Exquisite Corpse for coming on to a young woman at a party in Boulder whereas Milosz, who ogled and groped his way through hundreds of cocktail parties, is revered in the liberal bastions of literary dullness. When did Milosz or Hass ever rise to the poetic level of North Atlantic Turbine much less the genius of Gunslinger? If you didn't answer "never", you just made a fucking fool of yourself.

Robert Pinsky's 'translation' of Dante brings new meaning to "Abandon all hope, you who enter here." I understand from my sources that the compendium of translations of a Canto each from the Inferno (Ecco Press, 1993) by House Nigga Poets Seamus Heaney, Galway Kinnell, Charles Wright, Carolyn Forche, and W.S. Merwin etc. has had the extremely positive effect of discouraging P. Diddy and 50 Cent from staging a hip-hop opera based on Dante's epic poem with Flavo Flav as the Italian poet, Bridgitte Neilson as Beatrice and Chris Rock as Virgil. Diddy commented, "Fuck. Whitey can even make Hell dull. Know what I'm sayin'." How can you pretend to translate one of the greatest poems in the western canon written and sustained in one of the most difficult of poetic forms when you don't know enough Italian to get the waiter to hold the mozzarela?

Then there are the endless anthologies. Refugee anthologies. Anthologies of persecuted minorities, persecuted majorities, persecuted heterodoxies, persecuted persecutors, empty East European poser movements foisted by empty western phonies which are so irrelevant to the suffering and the circumstances of their suffering that one might claim that the collections, in their own little way, contribute to the world's further impoverishment and violence. The editors' Intros always sound like Tom Edison Jr.'s lost speech from Dogville. And they're based on an anthropological quid pro quo. The poets anthologized, no matter how alien their culture, must conform to the vision, one might say delusion, that the western House Nigga Poet has, not of the foreign poet, but of himself. As if that wasn't enough of an insult to the downtrodden, the whole project is just another career move by the House Nigga Poet. Its this kind of bland exploitation that infuriates the Field Nigga. But then again handing some flunky in the Australian government a sheaf of 'protest' poetry written by a group of white middle class House Nigga actuarials is not an action the Field Nigga generally can bring himself to contemplate. Especially when the flunky and his boss helped the U.S. overthrow Australia's legitimate government so the U.S. could keep its fucking spy base at Nurrungar. No. The Field Nigga likes to think he's above such petty and futile ambition. But when the sun's high, with its sting on his neck, the fucker thinks about it.

The domestic anthologies, with there roots in House Nigga Writing Program verse, are the same founts of horseshit. After all of this obligatory conformity, somebody has to be a bloody damned good poet to stand out, because there is no room left in that quarter for anything other than the most predictable and bland product imaginable. Or only the super-bland survive.

"...I have already seen painters and poets dwindle away into professors and magazine editors, or run away from their arts, precisely because they were theirs."---Robert Duncan

House Nigga Poets rarely write scholarly books about anything. This lack of scholarly discipline drives the publish or perish academics in the Humanities Departments crazy when they see the House Nigga Poet scraping offal in the Massa's kitchen. It drives them so crazy, they delude themselves into thinking they want a piece of the action. Kaufmann, of George Mason University, is the exception, sort of, being equally at home with the Romantic Poets and the Frankfurt School, and as chair to the Philosophy Department and a good poet in turn. But because his academic life is so relentlessly regimented, politically trivial and utterly dry and boring, he like so many others is an academic who is envious of the House Nigga's amateur scholar status while still maintaining the Massa's tatt of approval, a relatively new twist by literary standards. The poets who come from the field to become House Nigga Poets rarely have the knowledge or skill to do academic work. Carolyn Forche, who is a colleague of Kaufmann's readily comes to mind. Mediocre poets with the status of tenured professors with none of the credentials. No wonder Field Nigga Poets whine like waifs at a restaurant window watching a bunch of corrupt cops gorge themselves. And academics long to put arduous research behind and be recognized as House Nigga Poets.

Or consider the case of Katha Pollitt. Pollitt has written some marvelous pieces for the Nation Magazine (or at least had since I no longer read that publication.) But when it it comes to her poetry, its wall-to-wall bland solipsism. Even the topical work is disappointingly self-absorbed. And the Nation? At least, before its litany of high profile sellouts like Chris Hitchens, the Nation used to be a bastion of the limp, liberal left. But even then its poetry was about as bland and forgettable as the crap you found in the New Yorker and Harpers. I have to confess I haven't read the poetry in either of the latter publications in quite a few years. Modern dentistry is out of my price range.

I chuckled when I heard that Gabe Gudding had been a Nation's younger poet. I can't imagine a poet with less backbone. Gudding even went crawling back to the Buffalo Poetics list when that group of paranoid sycophants threw him off years ago. If he didn't have the cajones to stand up to that gaggle of twits, what would he do if the FBI came around asking about a fellow poet? If his actions heretofore are any indication, he'd rat them out. Such is the current level of committment and integrity emanating from the Nation. Oh. And did I mention that the poetry at the Nation is worthless pap?

Essays and even books by Field Nigga Poets who became House Nigga Poets are customarily slack, poorly researched travesties. From Charles Bernstein's slight and boring commonplaces about anything, which were only conceived as a podium to promote himself, to so-called musings of 'major poets' on poetry like Robert Pinsky's 'The Situation of Poetry and Poetry and the World', the sense is that poetry doesn't matter. That the poet legitimizes himself not so much by his poetry, but by wearing a number of hats---translator, essayist, anthologist---all piled up on his head at the same time so when he's at a cocktail party he'll look as tall as the nuclear physicist or Straussian political analyst who has taken to making condescending remarks as soon as he hears that the man in the nesting of hats is that most worthless of things, a poet. House Nigga Poets like Pinsky and Bernstein and a thousand others, with their cutback sincerity and lack of talent for the art, have made poetry such an easy mark. And for what?

Pinsky seems to have shot his whole scholarly wad off the Massa's back porch in his early 'Landor's Poetry.' This is also typical---one book that sums up a few years in the library doing graduate work. Then its off to free verse from, ironically, the windowless walls of Massa's poetry program cinderblock rootcellar. Good fuckin' luck.

The Martinet As Poet

This provokes the Field Nigga poets to claim massa ain't got no rhythm as in the cases of Dana Gioia and Charles Bernstein who began as faux Field Niggas and have now matriculated to roles as Massas most well-behaved House Nigga snitches. Initially, these Field Niggas claim that because of the House Nigga's close carnal proximity to Massa, they have lost those special gifts for song and dance honed by the suffering of their Field Nigga poet ancestors. Witness the recent travesty in celebration of that carny barker of American Poetry, Walt Whitman, down at the Laura Bush confab of the Performing Donkeys in the Arts hosted by Massa's own Dana Gioia. Certainly, now with 4th and 5th generation House Nigga poets, dressed for the academy's Sunday Schoolin', Stanley Kunitz edited anthologies clutched like bibles to their breasts, bursting from Massa's House Nigga poetry workshops into the clean expanse of Massa's cropped, institutional lawns, a case for burning down the whole enterprise and starting over can easily be made, even as the House Nigga poets' bland mulatto works appear in Prairie Schooner, Poetry, APR, Corn Bred, New American Writing, The Nation, Patina: A Magazine of the Arts, Jacket, The New Yorker, Iowa Review, Nebraska Review, Montana Review, Partisan Review, Oregon Review, Poughkeepsie Review, Lubbock Review etc. etc. ad nauseam.

Charles Bernstein made an academic career out of claiming to be a Field Nigga ignored by Masaa and the House Niggas on the University Plantation with its White columns and the brothel that is Madison Avenue Publishing. Now, things have changed. Now, that he's a House Nigga of the first order attending to Massa's every whim and doing his empty academic monkey suit writing, Buffalo's Electronic Poetry Center biography section reveals his secret to making the successful transition from Field Nigga to House Nigga without incurring one non-fetish lash from Massa's whip along the way. Massa, who had better things to do, never directed any of the House Niggas to whip Bernstein's ass and Bernstein used that to build his resume as a rebel in absentia. The House Niggas would'a been all to happy to police Bernstein. After all that's one of their duties. But why bother? It was obvious, he didn't really require it.

Putting The Notional Cart Before The Imaginary Horse

Bernstein, while a self-declared Field Nigga, was actually very docile and never got out of line. His big news was calling Ezra Pound a 'fascist sympathizer' when he felt he could get a little press from such a stale pronouncement. The Language poem was a concoction designed to demonstrate to Massa what a clever House Nigga poet Bernstein would make. He produced paper after academic paper required to prop up the poser poetry form known as House Nigga Poet without exhibiting any poetic talent or passion at all. Meanwhile, Massa recognized a House Nigga in Field Nigga clothing. "Damn! That Bernstein is a good little Field Nigga turning everybody in and all," Massa said. "He's PhD. material. I think I'll give him a chair because he can't write a lick of poetry and therefore will make an excellent and embittered talent cop who'll never allow any writing with any energy or imagination in on his watch. David Jones described him perfectly in his poem "The Fatigue". He's so worried about someone with genuine talent coming along, he'll turn `em in in a heartbeat before they can infect the other Field Niggas with the happily lost idea of talent."

The Secret To Success, House Nigga Style Or The Virtual Land Of The Living Dead

The Electronic Poetry Center, aside from its famous dead poets' bios, includes reams of other unknown poets like Bernstein who have taken to heart the Langpo method. The secret is to create enormously anal resumes that go on for electronic page after electronic page and often require the author to expand his harddrive while locking up the computers of those who try to download said narcissism. If you wrote a poem for Arbor Day when you were in Ms. Crosby's 4th grade class, present it as a reading sponsored by the Lumbago County Public School system's Poets In the Dark Program and, if possible, try to present it at assembly so you can claim an audience of 1200. Never, mention that you were scarred for life by the boos and the catcalls and that it's partly responsible for why you were able to transition so easily into the bitter existence of the House Nigga poet. Every scrap must go into the resume, every cancelled conference and guest poet you arranged to have read from the Nebraska State Poetry Society, APS or the local high school. Bury the published poetry section of the resume with reviews of friends' chapbooks or poems in small magazines, conferences held at the local junior college that paid Bruce Andrews $200.00 to attend and unfinished manuscripts for a sequel to Tchanting. If you can't organize a poetry reading, cater it. Serve baloney sandwiches and Tab---anything to pad that resume.

I'll Blow You In My Magazine If You Blow Me In Yours.

Constantly seek small magazines to place work whether it be criticism, poetry or a memoir of a phone conversation you had with Larry Eigner's sister. Use your burgeoning resume to schmooze your way into yet other unread journals and poetry mags. Give readings whereever and whenever possible. Evoke Bohemianism by calling Starbuck's a coffee house. Call Border's readings a poetry workshop and arrange to have cookies and cider. Best of all, start your own mag or blog and quid pro quo like there's no tomorrow. Do that while meticulously recording every unnatural poetic act you perform and you to can be laid to rest beside Loss Glazer, Rod Smith, Ron Silliman, Maria Daemon, Mark Wallace and Aldon Nielson. Who? Wha? Huh?

The Virtual Field Nigga Or Do You Become A Scolding House Nigga By Virtue Of Being Virtual?

Online poetry lists have brought into clearer contrast these two types of contemporary American poet, the House Nigga Poet and the Field Nigga Poet. As we've said, the House Nigga poet is usually attached to a university or occasionally some other institution and is generally deaf to the plight of the Field Nigga poet, viewing him as an inferior breed. From the vantage point of Massa's Academic House on The Hill, he looks down on the groveling Field Nigga. With the House Nigga poet in Massa's House, the university has become the set table for most of the career opportunities for poets in general. Its good eatin' in the Massa's kitchen where you never have to venture farther than fillin' Massa's swill pail with your poetry and emptying his chamber pot in your monkey suit before Sunday service. Why toil in the fields when you got the gifts of subservience and mediocrity so endearing to Massa and so necessary for the House Nigga lifestyle.

Money is accessible in the form of grants including money for translation, teaching in prisons, teaching in schools, teaching in nursing homes, church basements, abandoned theme parks, bookstores, libraries, roughed-in car ports, highway underpasses, bars, urinals etc. There's money for editing, judging, babysitting a creative writing program and criticism. Connections to taxpayer money is largely tied to Massa's university. It ain't bomb making, baby killing kind of money like the engineering, math and physics departments, but it's dirty money nonetheless, given to Massa for dirty work. Prizes and awards originate among faculties of House Niggas and, of course, because these incentives spring from Massa's school house, most poets, because they just got that fire in their bellies, aspire to be House Niggas.

"I do find the exploitation of experience offensive."--Robert Duncan

When the Field Niggas look up from their labors, wipe their brows and try to protest the advantages enjoyed by the House Nigga, the House Nigga poet shouts him down because the Field Nigga has implied that the House Nigga's poetry is somehow tainted by sleeping under Massa's roof. Some House Niggas like Andre Codrescu, Jorie Graham, Carolyn Forche, Ed Hirsch, Ted Kooser and Philip Levine etc. etc. ad nauseam try hard to walk like they still deserve their Field Nigga creds with their once I slept "in a paper box behind the ranch mart" as dear Lenny Bruce once put it. Phil Levine is the supreme example of this phenomenon. Levine's poetry still trades on experiences that he didn't have 40 years ago. That the poems lack a cunt hair of authenticity or integrity is further confirmed by his poetry being published by Knopf second only to William Morrow in advancing the "sentimental lie as poem." Or as Lenny Bruce also said---"Without polio, Salk is a puss."

Other poets of this ilk include Louise Gluck, Billie Collins, Sharon Olds and Robert Pinsky. There are hundreds more. Going from Field Nigga poet to House Nigga poet has become such a rite of passage for the house broken, middle class fop poet poser that its become generationally recursive, an institution unto itself.

The extreme delusion of the House Nigga who still considers himself a Field Nigga provides enormous amusement to Massa. Another source of enormous amusement is the House Nigga who runs a poetry list and invariably apes the authoritarian qualities of Massa by enforcing a brutality of manners. Further, mere House Niggas without their own lists give the list owning House Niggas unseemly obeisance in order to remain "part of the community" because they have a great deal at stake remaining House Niggas and sleeping head to toe in that narrow bed. Field Niggas often smell the stink of martinet sterility steaming off the Listserve House Nigga's postings. Many Field Niggas resort to the same scolding techniques as the Listserve House Nigga.

But most who consider themselves Field Niggas simply brag about all the aesthetic "chilluns" they left in their wake as they been sold again and again to toil the fields as a market analyst for the computer industry or computer programmer or some such other soul smothering occupation, unable to acknowledge that they have simply sold themselves out to an entirely different class of Massa.

O Massa! Don't You Look Fine Today

Once again we turn to the extreme example of the House Nigga who calls himself a Field Nigga in order to boost his resume as a House Nigga---Charles Bernstein. To illuminate matters more, the Buffalo Poetics List which he founded along with a couple of other House Niggas like Chris Alexander and Loss `Tiny' Glaser belies a temperament so far from that of the usual Field Nigga, it is hard to imagine that Bernstein hadn't been destined to one day clean the Stygian Men's Room in Massa's Big White House. This Bernstein now does admirably even to the extent of doling out scoldings, prohibitions and punishments that his Massas don't have time for because after all this is just contemporary American poetry and hardly worth Massa's time.

The Buffalo Poetics List; The New Jim Crow

What's worse is that the strict penal code and Jim Crow that operates on Buffalo Poetics, Poetryetc. and, to a limited and entirely delusional degree, on Newpoetry are predicated on the notion that the postings will be part and parcel of some careerist immortality. The fact that this very delusion negates the possibility of anything durable ever being recorded on the list, seems to escape everyone. Punishment is meted out to anyone, House Nigga poet or Field Nigga poet, who challenges this peculiar institution and Niggas are banished from the list for, well, being Niggas . Ezra Pound, though long dead, is in like manner banished from the Ezra Pound list. Most House Niggas thrown off the lists try to beg themselves back on cause they miss the scraps. More often than not if they show the proper contrition and present a paper at the MLA they are eventually allowed back on with shit smeared cheek to jowel. Professor Gabe Gudding's groveling is paradigmatic in this regard.

The Field Nigga poet getting back on a list? Well that dog don't hunt. No matter how much he kiss's academic crack, he finds it impossible to get back aboard unless he wins a prize or two or maneuvers himself into a position to control some money and provide a quid pro quo that one, don't offend Massa and, two, the Field Nigga sees some advantage in accepting. Otherwise the Field Nigga can walk. Has Henry Gould, a mere librarian in Buffalo's eyes, been allowed back on the Buffalo list?

Teaching Lyndon Johnson To Say `Negro'; The Hard Pseudo-Poetic Realities Behind The Voting Rights Act

No matter the rationales to the contrary, the Field Nigga in general is at a decided disadvantage if what he seeks is the same public acclaim as the House Nigga academic poet. Like the House Nigga poet in Massa's house, the Field Nigga is already accustomed to Massa's whip but in the real, non-academic world beyond the Massa's house. The occasionally defiant Field Nigga poet now has to face the punishment and rejection of his own kind and also have it reinforced by the mulatto arrogance of the House Nigga academic poet. When a Field Nigga poet acts out---O! Lordy! Do Massa's genes come out in the creamy institutionalized House Nigga poet. The Field Nigga is reminded he is the lowest of the low and can never aspire to be a House Nigga poet because of his crude manner and grammar which reveals that he is unsuited for House Nigga work."

Get Out My Massa's Kitchen Yo' Nappy Headed Mothafucka

But the Field Nigga poet shares much of the blame for this situation. He's had the rebellion beaten out of him by himself. First, he aspires to the same sort of fame and recognition as the House Nigga poet, even though those rewards are largely a creation of the Slave Poetry Economy. This causes frustration on the part of the Field Nigga poets who attempt to break through. Some handle their disappointment with an odd mix of subservience and grace like Henry Gould. Others endear themselves by their grumpy, eccentricity like Bob Grumman. Still others overwhelm the system by sounding duller and more conformist than the Academic House Nigga poets themselves like Ron Silliman whose poetic product has been confused with legal briefs from product liability cases and pathological glossolalia. Then there are the technocrats, people handy with gadgets, like Allen Sondheim, who simply have seized upon the computer and internet after stints with Super 8, video, tape recorders et al and tried to force out a small niche for himself by flooding the plantation with every neural spasm his brain ever produced. Finally, there are just the Harry "Dr. Noodles" Nudel, a blind, untalented, idiot poser, without a drop of the wisdom, knowledge or the savvy of most Field Niggas.

But the site of a Field Nigga aspiring to the aesthetic lifestyle of the House Nigga no matter what the strategy, is mere bathos because none of this has anything at all to do with poetry. Many of our most famous House Nigga poets know this instinctively having lived under Massa's roof. Jorie Graham is prominent among them. She understands that an exchange of genetic material whether it occurs during sexual intercourse or just an old fashioned lip pucker into Massa's rump pucker is predicated on intimacy no matter how phony. This has been Massa's supreme lesson---its who you know not what you know. Dana Gioia is another case in point, having toiled in Massa's Field at Pepsi, he now winds his lips around Laura Bush's labia.

Take My Poetry, Please

Take a discipline, though I have grave reservations about calling poetry that now, like Contemporary American Poetry where talent is so subjective that one Nigga is not under any circumstances willing to communicate honestly with another out of fear of both being exposed as talentless posers . Quickly the situational demands lead to no one knowing which motherfucker is onto something. So the poet must be validated through the rewards system that is largely dominated by House Niggas because they can appeal to Massa's institutions. In something close to snitching, they serve to confer value on what they do as part of their service to Massa. Some House Nigga poet schmuck teaching composition at Crack In The Wall Junior College in Lip Flap Clayton, Illinois has more pull than a Field Nigga trolling the open mikes of New York City. The House Nigga in Lip Flap can request money to bring superstar House Niggas like Jorie Graham, Ted Kooser, Robert Haas or one of the myriad of Wrights who write House Nigga poetry and if he or she is remotely charming exchange a little DNA in furtherance of her career as Massa's House Nigga. That's why obscure New York Field Niggas like Nada Gordon or Alan Sondheim, who write reams of crap will never live in the Massa's house like House Niggas Kent Johnson, Andre Codrescu, Charles Bernstein and Liam Rector whose entire poetry output could be engraved on the head of a pin with a jackhammer.

Instead of the Massa's institutions being literally constructed around a hard science like nuclear bomb making as the University of California did wooing a top experimental physicist, E.O. Lawrence, by giving him the funds to build a high energy particle accelerator, the situation in poetry is analogous to Texas voters rejecting a proposal to build an accelerator 50 miles in circumference for Ed Witten so he could experimentally confirm string theory. Too theoretical Ed. We see no practical application on the horizon. What's 9 or 11 or 13 dimensions got to do with making a bomb, Ed?

The Free Nigga

Rare bird. That Free Nigga. Not much to say except its glorious out here. Just check out the sections of Joe Brennan's Work in Progress that appear in many issues of FlashPoint to get a sense of the what can be accomplished when the act of writing is paramount and not clouded by the banality of career and public acclaim.

Def Poetry Jam: The Return of the Black Face Minstrel Show

Thus, Ed Witten briefly entered the funding world of the House Nigga poets. To break this chain some Field Nigga poets as well as a few House Nigga poets have returned to the old black face minstrel show. Poetry slams and hip hop/rap are long standing examples of this embarrassing trend toward the popular and commercial.

Its Not Poetry, Its HBO: Def Poetry Jam

Now, HBO offers a sanitized version of this phenomenon with Def Poetry Jam which can serve as a paradigm for this latest attempt to end run the anonymity and economic impoverishment of academic House Nigga poetry. House Nigga poetry ain't practical enough. the best you can fuckin' do is get tenure have 2 books published with a trade house before they find another tax writeoff and end your career on the roster of University of Anchorage Junior College Press. The goal of the Def Poetry poet seems to be to get a bit part in a movie that Eddie Murphy produces. Eat your heart out Mike Lally.

Def Poetry Done Pimped My Ride

Pick up virtually any Walt Whitman poem and Walt will hand you a poetic IOU. One day Whitman is going to "Sing the Song of Myself", "Sing the Song of America," "I will make the continent indissoluble, I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon..." etc. Until you want to say, "Well, hurry the fuck up and sing that song instead of just talk'in about. I ain't got all fuckin' day." You read poem after poem and he never delivers on his promise to write the poem of this or the poem of that. The songs he sings are more often than not, vague, generalized catalogues of what others sing, the Calamus poems excepted. He's got balls though. He claims he can do all that shit himself. In fact his sense of other people around him is so self-absorbed, sentimentalized, deluded and historically full of shit if not congenitally stupid that the line "What I guessed at when I loafed on the grass," pretty much captures the intellectual and emotional squalor that are the trademark of his work.

Def Poetry Jam poets put on their minstrel show in the same spirit. I am going to write the poem of "universal love," "the poem of woman," "the poem of the oppressed.", "the poem of the white suburban nitwit," "the poem of the brown urban bullshit artist with nothing to say" etc etc. ad nauseam. Week after sad week unfulfilled poetic promises by mostly young turkeys until you're thinking "well then get off the fuckin' stage and write that poem y'all been prattlin' about, motherfucka. Don't come on the show and tell us what you're gonna do. Come the fuck back when you got it done. No more IOUs, please. You sound like that loafing oaf, Whitman."

But Whitman is, of course, Def Poetry Jam's ideal counterpart. He was American poetry's first black face minstrel show and his own personal P.T. Barnum. And deafness is certainly a desirable condition when confronted with Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam.

"You can become drunk in any art on your own emotion"-Paderewski

The title of the show, Def Poetry Jam, is funny if a little too spread wide open to ridicule. The poets are certainly `deaf' to anything that might resemble poetry and the implication of confirmation such as `definitely' or accomplishment as in `deft' are dispelled in the first affected, over-rehearsed, artificial babble of words that clutter up the tube. The performances and the poetry's rhythms are so stagey and predictable that it makes an academic reading by the creative writing staff of Flouride Junior College, none of whom ever look up from the text, sound authentic, original, musical, even radical by comparison.

Then there's the "jam" part, but there ain't no jammin'. Its all self-absorbed, over-rehearsed, look at me, laugh at me, see how fuckin' clever I think I am Narcissistic, my hat is on a perfect slant horseshit. Here the jazzy jelly-roll jam has been desexed for stereotypes or thinly veiled bad comic routines on the proclivity of men to sniff after booty or how everybody misses who I am cause daddy was an albino and momma came down in a spaceship. Fuck. Now there's news. Fuckin' Art Bell ought to host Def Poetry, not that scrawny assed little fucker appropriately named Mos Def, no doubt for the double driveling he does on the show.

The shows creator is Russell Simmons, a clothes designer who apparently has read as much poetry of the Alexander Pope, Alexander Pushkin, John Keats, Aime Cesaire, Mel Tolson, Ezra Pound school as a wombat's left nut. And so with the posers that make up the overdressed audience and the poets themselves. You know the planet and its shat upon billions are doomed when the house lights come up on this gaggle of phony, self-absorbed capitalist stooges.

After You Sellout The Sing-Song Of Your Self-What's Next? Or Why Whitman Died Revising Leaves Of Grass

You go on Def Poetry's site online and click featured poets and you get glam photos instead of poems. And like Whitman vague sentimentalized notions of the world that if not consciously designed to do the world immeasurable harm can only be defended because they will not affect anything that matters and like most entertainments prove trivial and ineffectual in the extreme. And please bear in mind. I'm not talking about any way they ought to be. I'm talking about the way they are. What's Staceyann Chin going to do when she's can't find a buyer for her persona anymore?

The problem in part is the `delusion of the individual' that capital mocks to create. The `I' of pre-Public Relations ala Edward Bernays, Whitman had to create an appealing persona about himself without risking too much of who he really was because they lynched gays then, and occasionally still. Comparisons to Tom Paine, as I recently heard one radio commentator make, are ludicrous. Whitman wanted to take no such risks. Whitman wanted to be Liberace and wow the folks from Lima, Ohio in Las Vegas on a junket and interpret that as tacit acceptance of his private proclivity to nail pool boys and blow pretty young men tricking the casinos. Poor Walt. It would be six decades before organized crime would commodify desire to the point where Liberace could flourish and Def Poetry could be called deaf poetry without violating truth in advertising.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised-Its HBO

Bad enough that this farce is being perpetrated primarily by African-Americans in alliance with major corporate interests including Simmons' but it also shows how shallow and misguided Bill Cosby's criticisms are when he fails to address the negative and demeaning effects of materialism, commercialism and capitalism in general and, one might add, on the so-called creative process. What earthly purpose does it serve to read a pseudo-poem about the Invasion of Iraq from a stage owned by HBO and Russell Simmons and their corporate nannies. One thing is for certain. It doesn't help the fuckers under the bombs in Iraq one iota. In fact, its harmful. Iraqis don't give a shit about the blatherings of some decked out western kid on HBO except maybe some day they will forced to be like them, Allah forbid. Fuck your Robert Pinsky, Stanley Kunitz, John Kinsella, Allison Croggin etc. etc. ad nauseam false pathos. Does their level of material hypocrisy actually escape the consciousness of Def's performers? It does everywhere else. What would make the tide of mediocrity on Def poetry any different?

The worst moments of the show, and this they share in common with the House Niggas and most Field Niggas, is when some practiced-before-the-mirror Narcissoid goes on about revolution. I see the faces of doomed motherfuckers in the audience. The Def poet ain't gonna put out any more shit than some phony leftist at Nairopa or on the Buffalo Poetics List. Its all poser bullshit. On the T-shirt, Che's left eye is always over the heart-which is where I wanna stab when I hear one of the motherfuckers.





To keep the House Niggas happy.

For further consideration of this thesis, see "He Didn't Really Mean It: Donald Hall's 'Poetry and Ambition'" in FlashPøint #10.

Two excerpts from Carlo Parcelli's Eschatology of Reason appear elsewhere in FlashPøint #8: De Rerum Natura and The South Tower. A third excerpt, The North Tower, appears in FlashPøint #7

Installments of "Deconstructing the Demiurge" include:

"Crimes of Passion"
"Work in Regress"
"Onionrings: Adding machines_Crisco"
"Collateral Damage, or The Death of Classics in America"
"How Dead Industrialists Dance, or Swing Time"
"Tale of the Tribe"

The poet's comments on his growing poem:
"Is Everyday Language Sufficient to Embody Everyday Experience?"