Johannes Göransson is the author of four books - most recently Entrance to the colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate (Tarpaulin Sky Press, forthcoming 2011) - and the translator of several more - most recently Johan Jönson's Collobert Orbital and Aase Berg's With Deer. He teaches at the University of Notre Dame and co-edits Action Books and Action, Yes.

Out of Nothing, Out of the Body Possessed by Media

by Johannes Göransson

A lot of poets have been trying to write works that somehow respond to the Internet Age, and some critics have expressed appreciation for this because this no doubt makes the critic’s job easier. Both poets and critics have largely depended on academic studies of how modernism was influenced by technologies such as cinema. That is to say, these writers have depended on a modernist notion of structure reflecting changing media. The poets try to incorporate the Internet in their writing and the critics can point out that this is what they’re doing. This strikes me as boring writing and boring criticism.

To a large extent I think it’s defensive: an effort to establish the correct influence of the Internet and other technologies on writing. Everybody's writing is already writing in media, through media, with media. The Internet has among other things generated countless journals and new social groupings of poets – often cutting across linguistic, national and other borders. The sheer proliferation of these sites and networks and infections and viral bodies is a problem for critics, for a writing hierarchy: It’s too much work, it ruins the discipline. There is no more literary history!

A much more interesting approach is instead to move through this proliferation, to "wade through the plague grounds," as Joyelle McSweeney writes in one recent essay on "the "Future" of "Poetry":

"The future of poetry is the present, and it has already arrived. The present tense rejects the future. It generates, but it generates excess without the ordering structures of lineage. It subsumes and consumes pasts into its present, erasing their priority. It’s self-defeating; its rejection of survival into a future may be infanticidal." (http://exoskeleton-johannes.blogspot.com/2009/12/future-of-poetry-by-joyelle-mcsweeney.html)

In a recent Internet post, "Fie Jae Lee: The Body Posssessed by Media," about the contemporary Korean artist, McSweeney proposes a trope for art that does not exclude or create order in this world, but instead engages in a kind of interpenetrative relationship:

"Can a body be possessed by media? It’s a trick (and tricky) question, since a medium, in the occult sense, is supposed to be possessed by others. If an entity can be possessed by a medium, or, worse, by media, it is then opened to all kinds of possession, penetration, contents it cannot contain, overcrowding, doubling up, debility and damage. Deformation and eclipses, ellipses, reemergence and reemergence." [http://www.montevidayo.com/?p=43]

When I read [out of nothing] I sense something more like a publishing and writing like bodies possessed by media. Writing that would not even have to be on the Internet to be bodies possessed by media, journals less interested in the correct response to our age as to launch these bodies into a flux of media. These are writers who seem to write from a position of possession: lobbing contortive bodies into the unwell images and screens that makes the technology spasmodic.

Perhaps most importantly, it is me, the reader, who becomes a body possessed with the technology - the unwieldy, clicky, spazzy technology of this site – which interferes and distracts and thus locates the writing in a kind of mash-up zone of the paramodern –not high literary landmark, but mucked up hybrid writings that are written from a position in the technological hullaballoo.