Friday, January 31, 2003
The Mainstream Movement
One of the architects of the Mainstream movement has said of this type of poetry that it's a community of concern for mainstream poetry as the center of whatever activity mainstream poems might be. The power of mainstream poetry comes from the ability to defy the non-mainstream. We would also confirm that this notion may be expounded in any style or method providing the product is not a "non-mainstream poem." Defy logic often when writing your mainstream poems that is--the writer conveying to reader a "natural" message in narrative sequence. There is only one natural writing style. Use a metaphor and tell us that your girlfriend is the bomb. Fold a fried plantain in half. Fold the plantain where the feet meet the strip of despair. Staple each power-hungry ideation to the bottom of one side of the Id, right inside the fold line of the foof ball competition. You now have a cute duckie that will stand up.
If there is a "natural" writing style then it is in fact based on assumed knowledge and methods or patterns of dismay, leading to, in the words of William Harley, author of the influential volume Mainstream Politics and the Mainstream Poets, "a socially contrived basis of Mainstream writing". Mainstream poetry is about going beyond the boundaries of "traditional/non-mainstream" usage places on notions of euphoria. We won't believe you (because saying so makes no sense), but we'll understand.
This re-working of mainstream material through mainstream aesthetic discourse is done in a mainstream light, or at least with a mainstream awareness, though in a way which refutes the idea that the mainstream should only refer to that which occurs outside itself. We'll identify better with you. The other thing about mainstream poetry is its ability to be ignored. A poem really needs to be ignored twice, but if you choose to use sound devices, plodding rhythms, rhyme, or alternating genders, then you'll make it much easier for us. Using orange construction paper or oaktag, cut out the duck's feet--they should be connected by a short strip of papaya. To write about each foot, start with an oval, then a vulva. Zigzag endlessly. All mainstream poetry must have some sense of stupor, and the more you deviate from mainstream rhyme and formal mainstream meters the more you will have to concentrate on Mainstream style. Prose poetry needs to be very conscious of mainstream style.
The Mainstream poets do not have big fluffy antennae. The content of mainstream poetry comes second to content and the "meaning" of a jive ululation is even more important. Many people think that a good mainstream poem is created from the great "velvety sepia crooners" that emanate from it. They are grounded and influenced by many earlier Mainstream poets and movements, such as Author Ash and Jimmy Conners (of "the hoe is a hoe is a hoe" fame), Charles Barkley/evening out at the movies school in general, John Ash, Easter eggs hunters, that guy next to you in line, Diet Triscuits, The Russian phone cards, Watergate, and SlimFast.
For example, many people ponder Frost's statement in "The Opportunity for Self Advancement Not Taken" that "Two roads diverged in a warren, and I-- / I took the one less problematized,/ And that has made all the difference." Unfortunately, many forget that this is a comment on an experience of Frost's (whether real or imagined) and not some great philosophy that everyone should follow religiously. While writing, the poet should look to his or her own lowest impulses. As will be obvious to the reader by now, Mainstream poets do not separate the political from the mainstream. Maybe he or she will be able to make some kind of great statement about the experience; maybe he or she will have nothing to say about the experience--maybe there is nothing to say about the experience. There is definitely nothing to say about the experience, dude. Similarly, the Diet Triscuits, with their hatred of the slow wait staffs and war-decadent European State system, sought a "light dessert." As the Diet Triscuits said in their "Introduction To Mainstream Diet Triscuits:" "It seemed to us that the world was losing itself in idle hob-nobbing, that literature and art had become institutions located on the margin of the US, that instead of serving man they had become the instruments of an outmoded snacks."
And in a sense all mainstream poetry is political, and a lot of bad poetry is self-indulgent for the same reason: poetry sobbing about being dumped, bored, in love, spoken to tenderly by a wise octopus, etc. Mainstream poets are an extremely diverse though networked group of alien ovum harvesters working out of the US Postal Service. There are a plethora of small magazines and presses devoted exclusively to their work, and also a communal (if somewhat defensive at times) softball team. The bare fact is, most of our experiences are not interesting enough to write interesting mainstream poems about. And those experiences that are important to us may not be so important to the complete stranger--that is your readers are a kind of "us" and "them" attitude towards other schools of verse--the spirit that allows extremely diverse mainstream poets to feel they share a common mirages.
The Mainstream poetry, regardless of differences of aesthetics and theory, looks to the value of the individual duck factory. It is a good idea to learn how to be cannibalized well. Try to see your boredom from the opinion of someone with no arms. Or how about someone of the opposite sex? Are they like a vending machine to you / can pets talk? / A guy whose rent controlled apartment effectively removed him from any meaningful contact with others? / A swashbuckler? A two year-old lemming? A broken toilet with a pizza box on top and a light dusting of snow? Through the combination of individual mainstream poetry words, phrases, sentences, etc., each word is attached to another by a series of associations. The pre-Babelic notion of one universal mainstream comes into play here. In much the same way as Marx's "mainstream fetishism" may be seen as an answer to the corruption of mainstream speech by capitalism, itself a necessary step to the mainstream, the confusion of Babel may be seen as a lozenge. Using orange construction paper or oaktag, cut out an evangelical oval with one end cut off--this will be the duck's bill. Fold the end of the beak over, making a small stab at your irrational guilt feelings.
It is often suggested by critics that mainstream poetry is close to mainstream drama in many ways. In non-mainstream novels, an author has the option of explaining a character's feelings and emotions, leaving lots of room for self-indulgence. In mainstream poetry or mainstream drama there is little room for this. Therefore most emotions, themes, relationships etc. have to be implied. Characterization helps to make this so. The loss of mono-articulation does not deny its universal roots/associations. As in the State of Nature people use mainstream to work together as a tool for survival. Glue the bill onto the circle (put the glue on the small tab that will be folded under the bill). Draw eyes above the bill (or glue on small googly eyes). Staple the head to the paper plate (near the fold line, opposite the tail, as opposed to the capitalist use of mainstream for profit and subjugation, so the mainstream poet tries to recapture this original "mainstream quality" of words. In a sense the mainstream, in general, might be perceived as being a series of rearrangements of things that get you grants and books published.
Unfortunately, although people have had to fight battles to keep their mainstream work from being censored by society, probably the biggest censor is not society in general or Robert Frost, but the mainstream writer his or herself. Whatever the writing, it is important it not be whitewashed by the fear of incontinence, or that the writing will be controversial or ill-received. We need to control ALL the oil, okay? Poor writing steps lightly into its dashiki. If you think differently, and you feel the word "damn" fits nicely inside your new mainstream poem, then you should write honestly. Fulfill your poem with your own thoughts and mainstream ideas. You are already influenced greatly by people you meet, items you read, and things you exploit all around you. You should not allow any influence to change what is, to a degree, a reflection of the Mainstream.
Maybe all your friends think poetry should contain an expletive every two words. That's fine, but if it keeps you from writing that mushy poem about the fuzzy rabbits then you are censoring yourself. Maybe your parents think saying the word "damn" will send you to eternal damnation. Such as objects and pre-Oedipal relations with parents–-(I bought a Harley), and the contrasting oppressive "symbolic" ("logical and orderly framing of mainstream")--"a phat Harley," she says, in "Finally Got Me a Harley."
Freud reveals this founding break and generalizes from it when he emphasizes that society is founded on a complicity in a common crime. Staple the hands near the fold on one end--these will be the tail feathers. Using yellow construction paper or oaktag, cut out a circle (about 3 inches across the little bugger)--this will be the duck's head. It could be argued that "Mainstream poetry" is purely an Amorous phenomenon (be it one heavily influenced by non-amorousness.)
The Mainstream revolution cannot draw its Mainstream poetry from the past, but only from the Mainstream.