Linh's Cool and Accent

Linh suggested that I send my response to his comments on the "Cool" as a direct post to the blog. I am doing so:


The problem with "School of Quietitude" is that it is a putdown rather than a descriptive term. Its main effect is to be blind to -trying to erase- anything written outside the perimeters of The New Sentence.

The contemporary Turkish poetry anthology, "Eda," is 300 pages of hot poetry and sixty pages of hot essays. The poems or essays there have nothing to do with any school of quietitude and almost as little to do with what the new sentence is purported to have achieved.

It is a poetry and poetics of an integral outside (from the American point of view), spun, woven out of the consciousness of a "hot" place in the contemporary world. Having been born and spent formative years outside The United States, you understand that.



Let me add a few comments in response to Patrick’s. When I began reading American poetry for the first time –in the very early sixties- my impression was how this poetry was defined by what one is not permitted to do in it. I do not feel like this any more; not because I am completely Americanized, but because I see American English as an imperial language. Coolness is embedded in it (this blog is an interesting place to bring up the point). I wrote about it in 1993, in my essay "Questions of Accent," calling American English a "step-mother" tongue.

In my view, the only way a poem can be written in American English is by being completely hot. The coolness will derive by the relationship of the poem to the general public, the heat deriving from its survival function. In other words, an American poem is simultaneously completely hot and completely cool.

For instance, the coolness of Ashberry’s poetry derives, in my opinion, from the intense subjectivity of its vision, forcing the poet to create a language "parallel" to the public one. It is amazing that a poetry of such obsessive reverie projects an aura of coolness (the deceptive transparency light also brings to a photograph).

My very best,

Murat Nemet-Nejat


Linh Dinh said...

Hi Murat,

I'm thinking about your observation of "American English as an imperial language. Coolness is embedded in it." An empire, by definition, extends its influences everywhere, sticks its noses, guns and dicks into everyone else's business. When you can't keep track of who your government is screwing, maybe coolness is inevitable. Unless you're enlisted into "an army of one" or "the few, the proud," your government's many wars are just cool snuff films to watch today or tomorrow, if you can tear yourself from the NFL, the NBA, "reality" shows and NASCAR.


Murat said...


I just watched (as my Christmas package?) the English film director ... Hawkins's "War Games."This one is different from the computer virtual Armaggedon Hollywood produced a few years ago. Hawkins's "War Games is made of two parts. The first enacts what will happen in England if a thermo-nuclear war started, using a pseudo documentary style; this section is slightly disappointing, though still horrifying.It uses an educational/informative format which oddly reminded me of porno films of the fifties where censor had to be eluded. In that way, the idea of snuff is oddly apt. The second piece in "War Games" reenacts a battle in Scotland in the 18th century when the King George's army had to supress a group of rag tag Scottish rebels, instigated by the Catholoc pretender to the throne, Charles. This section is absolutely amazing. The battle scenes are interspersed by speakover background information about soldiers of all ranks of both sides. Though made I think about thirty years ago,this movie is eerily reminiscent of the language used by the American government at the beginning of this Iraqi War.

Hawkins has also an absolutely fantastic film about a "game" American dissidents condemned by a special tribunal in the Vietnam War had to go through in the Mohave desert. The name of the film escapes me now, but it is on DVD. An absolute must-see, one of the suppressed masterpieces of cinema.

What I mean by an imperial language is a language one must use without the language quite belonging to the person. That creates a peculiar embrace of the language by the user, a kind of obsessive hotness, which I call accent. In my very first public essay in English, "A Re-definition of Transparency," I talk about this embrace in relation of Reznikoff.


Hawkins also has an absolutely great film around the encamp