and by juvenalia, i mean my essay ‘My Michael Magee & The Frontier of Democratic Symbolic Action’ which appeared in the current issue of JACKET. i say appeared, because i requested the essay be withdrawn, and tho my name is still in the issue, the link is dead.

about this, there are some things i need to get out of my chest:

over the past week or two that the essay has been live, i’ve received over a dozen emails from people on all sides of the ‘avant-divide’. and these people were not happy. i’ve thus far been accused of mis-reading & mis-representing magee’s critical work & poetry, Flarf in general, the Glittering Guys discussion, magee’s comments, and others’ comments, some who defended magee and some who attacked his work. i can’t really refute any of this because there is material in the essay that supports all these accusations.

i’ve also been picked-on for my flamboyant use of semi-colons (okay, she didn’t actually use the word ‘flamboyant’), my dependence on transition words, and my remedial use of the phrase “In conclusion,” (which i use 4 times in the essay, compared to the 20 times that i use the semi-colon). someone even noted that i didnt use MLA format, whatever that means!, and that i dont have a bibliography. none of this i can refute either. tho i must admit that the semi-colon bashing opened old wounds. when i was an undergraduate, i did a one-on-one poetry writing seminar. the professor on our first meeting told me that i will never get into an MFA because of my semi-colons. needless to say, i spent the rest of the year, replacing all the semi-colons with colons.

altho all this has been quite embarrassing, it’s not the embarrassment that made me withdraw the essay (i’m pretty able to live with embarrassment–have you read my online poems!). in the end, the threat of a lawsuit if i didnt take the essay down ultimately led me to ask the editors to withdraw the essay. i dont know if this person was really serious, but i was seriously afraid (the odd thing was that this person wasnt even part of the original discussion!); i must admit, it seemed like he did have a legitimate, legal gripe. tho i still cant believe someone would sue over a essay.

what really irked me tho, is that some a-hole middle-aged, middle-rate writer who teaches at some middle-class, middle-america college, had the nerve to accuse me of mis-reading the YEATS poem! this was the only part of my essay that i really thought i nailed, but perhaps you will have to decide for yourself.

anyways, out of emotional and legal fear, i withdrew the essay.

now, if you’re wondering what ‘glittering guys discussion’ im talking about, you can visit the archives here; if the link doesnt work, it’s probably because the archive was deleted (you missed that train my friends, haha!). i did have the opportunity to re-make the archives, but i am too lazy.

alas, if you want to read the essay, mail me a check for $5. just kidding, just email me (csperez06 at gmail dot com) and i will send as PDF. but PLEASE dont post it on a blog or send it to anyone else. i would love feedback on the yeats section of the essay. and am not particularly interested in any other comments, unless they are in a generous spirit of critique. (just leave my semi-colons alone!)

BEFORE YOU READ MY ESSAY, there are a few things you must know:

1) first, read the archive so you can have context for the discussion & essay. i also quote heavily from the discussion, and the quotes–and the quotes the quotes quote– are completely out of context in the essay. at the end of each quote, i note the exact date / blog the quote appeared on, so find that in the archive and read it for context.

2) second, the essay is not a ‘fair and objective’ representation of magee, flarf, the discussion, or anyone’s comments during the discussion; the essay is my own idio(t)syncratic approach to the material as a whole. if you want a ‘fair and objective’ representation/reading, write that essay yourself.

3) third, it’s okay to laugh while reading the essay. it’s also okay to take it seriously. here’s a radical idea: DO BOTH. there’s a part where i mention MACBETH; it’s really funny. there’s also a part where i use the word ‘cum’; that’s funny too. there’s also a part where i use the phrase ‘imperialist nostalgia’; that’s the serious part, but still kind of funny.

4) fourth, the essay takes several risks and fails at many points; just LEAP over these.

in conclusion, please dont sue me! and to all those that i offended in this essay, or in any of my comments about the essay, i do sincerely apologize, again, here, publicly.



14 thoughts on “juvenalia

  1. Craig, I am shocked by this. I was one of the lucky ones to read the essay before it was taken down: it is eclectic, erudite, eccentric, subtle, prolix, evocative, ambigious. In short, it was everything an essay should be. The tag of juvenilia is nuts. The thing was mature, and I’m afraid I’m at a loss on memory to recall anything that anyone may have found offensive. This is simply the most typical reaction of almost any individual in the poetics community to what manifests and instates a dialogue, inciting exchange and the construction of new dilaectical boundaries rather than the rehashing and rehearsing of dead and comforting tropes. I’m sorry, but this is the sad state of a dialectic-depraved poetics community, who jump to private accusation rather than public rebuttal or debate, who revert to legal or behind-the-scenes editorial attack in place of open and humane challenging through language such as a literary community used to be for. In my opinion this sort of action can often constitute a form of literary and civil censorship, and I’m sad you had to go through that.

  2. I second what Nicholas says, Craig. I’m sorry all your hard work had to encounter such small-headedness.

  3. Wow. I didn’t get a chance ot read it yet. Could you please email it to me?

    anneboyer at gmail dot com


  4. what is wrong with people? seriously?

    sorry you are being harrassed for expressing yourself! even sorrier that you felt you had to bend on it.

    i only got to read about 1/4 of the piece (at work) before it came down and can’t imagine who might have cause to sue or what over. it seemed like a thoughtful, carefully considered piece, and was (at least to the point i read to) meticulously documented and supported with quotations and links. (even if you quoted someone without permission, that’s not illegal, if their remarks appeared on the internet.)

    the threat of a lawsuit seems bullying and censorious. shame on whomever issued it. anybody calling themselves a writer should know better.

    rock on, c.

  5. Craig, I read the entire essay, and like Nicholas (and Kasey and Shanna) I am truly sorry and disturbed that you have had to experience this.

    It’s simply wrong.

  6. HI Craig – from our personal and list serve conversations you know my responses to your article, but I will reiterate publicly that I believe what you accomplished in your article was a demonstration and enacting (enactment) of the things you set out to critique and indict.

    You also know I had to “work” in order to access these things; this speaks to what I believe is convincing in your article, and I think this is perhaps where I can see folks got lazy in their reading. Not to say that everyone is obligated to “agree” with you, and I think the list serve discussions in which people were able to actually dialogue critically were quite fruitful. I am finding that I am disappointed with that “community” for making it so personal that eliminated the space for critical dialogue to continue. I am also disappointed in that the dialogue (while it was still critical) remained closed private, especially when I believe that folks do have legitimate criticisms of the poem, poet, and poetics in question.

    Again, as per my personal communications with you, I hope this chapter of unpleasantness will not shut you down. I am glad for your work out in the world where it belongs.

    And whoever threatened you with law suit – that’s just terribly poor form.

  7. well, you should also be able to laugh off the law suit. that’s simply banal. as for the semi colons; who gives a fuck? i mean those aspects of the whole thing just seem absurd. on another note, every one is so two faced in this community, it makes me want to vomit. write a new piece as your alter ego, to the first. to all your detractors, myself included. i still cant understand how emerson has any thing to offer to this dialogue, but perhaps you can elucidate when i bomb your garden.


  8. Craig,
    I’m very sorry to hear that you had to pull the essay.

    I did get a chance to read and print the essay before it was pulled. In it, Craig provides discussion passages from several blogs, including mine. The original Open Reader blog is now defunct, but I’ve just resurrected the original posts referenced by Craig’s essay, in case any of his readers are interested in seeing the quoted passages in context. Here’s the link:


  9. I respectfully posit that the question of whether Emerson has something to do with this dialogue is irrelevant. The reason this essay was important, I feel, was that it made part of some of the first attempts to build a contemporary context, a receptive history, in this case of flarf, by reading flarfist/proto-flarfist works in the light of what came before them. It ceased then to see this particular type of writing as a bubble-encapsulated atemporal novelty development, whose writers had sprung from the no-prior-aesthetic ether. It was a piece which did what a lot of reactions to Flarf in particular have not done, that is, it proffered a reading modified by the variagated spectrum of a receptive historiographical kaleidoscope.

    It helped to prove then what will seem more obvious in 20 years, namely that it would seem rather silly to talk about Gary Sullivan’s work without placing this in relation to “How to Proceed in the Arts”, or indeed Michael Magee without “pre-Flarf” Michael Magee, such as the extraordinarily interesting “Morning Constitutional” and “MS”.

    This is a necessary precedent for any truly contemporary poetics, wherein what has come before is quickly swept away by recurring tides of renewable novelty.

  10. “The reason this essay was important, I feel, was that it made part of some of the first attempts to build a contemporary context, a receptive history, in this case of flarf, by reading flarfist/proto-flarfist works in the light of what came before them.”

    If the poet in question attempts to produce a ‘radical’ poetics; why deploy Emerson in ones aesthetic praxis? The point here is, if one wanted to (indeed, if one had the time and energy, apart from doing the night shift at a Catholic morgue) one could construct genealogy from (a)Emerson’s ambivalance to the issue of ‘race,’ as argued by his historians to (b) the aesthetic praxis in question and what went down last summer. If one drew a line from Emerson to the aesthetics in question and what went down last summer, one could see the iteration of Emerson’s ambivalance to issue of ‘race,’ gender etc. in the aesthetics in question (not to mention Eurocentrism etc, a fashionable term, I know). Obviously, it is important to historically contextualize the argument, as you note, but it should also be equally important to draw out the ‘iteration’ in question, so as not to (a) idealize Emerson; (b) idealize flarf. Hence I am baffled that one could read point (a) to (b), without also noting the historical resonances of ‘race’ (Emerson’s ambivalance to ‘race’ repeats in the praxis in question. At least this is how I would read through Emerson, who doesn’t strike me as a model for the kind of revolutionary poetic praxis that we now need. Thank you Craig…


  11. Asher: sure, this is a really stimulating argument you propose I think, but I’m sure you agree that the fact that you feel Emerson to have a different, perhaps less anodine influence than the one attributed to him in the essay in question, surely only supports the argument that Craig’s piece should be in the public domain. That is, you’re not opposing the “relevance” of Emerson to the Magee discussion, but rather Craig’s “position” with regard to Emerson flowing through, in some ways, to Magee. And of course, that’s something complex to be talked about, and it needs to be, but it does mean on the other hand that Emerson has something “to offer to this dialogue”: an idea you seem to reject above.

    Noting the particular “historical resonances” you talk about in Emerson is no doubt, as you say, quite crucial; but that only adds to a conviction that this sort of receptive study is the right one to be doing right now (note the semi-colon).

    Don’t we just need to remember that “reception” in literary studies does not equal “influence”, in that reception is dialectical, dialogical, and complex, which is surely the nature of the historico/aesthetic relationship here, as of any diachronic, or synchronic for that matter, relationship?

    Relevance is different to dialectical positioning: and what proves Emerson’s relevance is precisely that here we have different dialectical positions in respect to him.

    That’s why, though I respect Craig’s decision very much, and I understand that it’s entirely personal, I still feel that his essay should be reinstated at Jacket, and rebecome freely available for public consultation. I feel this quite strongly, 1 because it’s an exceptional essay 2 because I hate to see the scary spectre-lawyers beat freedom of speech 3 because I think this particular dialogue is a pretty important one to be having.

    That said, anything you choose here Craig is *right*, and can’t be otherwise, of course!

    It’s just sadly ironic that an essay about “offense” was taken down for perceived “offense”, and that this reaction is the furthest pole from emancipated pragmatism imaginable.

    Peace to all,


  12. nicholas, kasey, lee, pam, barbara, shanna, anne, francois, and asher–

    thank all of you for your kind words and support.

    and thanks pam for putting up the posts for folks to read.

    asher, i must admit that i have never read emerson before, so my only context for emerson is magee’s emerson–which does seem to me a kind of idealized emerson, and a strategic emerson for magee’s aesthetics.

    and as nicholas said, reading magee’s flarf thru magee’s emerson does highlight magee’s own iteration of his inheritance. tho it’s also true that magee never mentions Flarf in his critical book, but in my reading, it seems like an implicit inheritance that magee is trying to establish for the white avant-garde.

    altho asher might not consider emerson “a model for the kind of revolutionary poetic praxis that we now need” (and i dont either), my magee does.

    nicholas, i definitely appreciate you differentiating reception and influence. and i appreciate that you respect my decision not to republish the essay. many folks have requested the essay, but who knows if that will lead to dialogue? but i am at least happy that we here can talk here about things openly.


  13. Hi CS,

    I sent you an e-mail privately asking for the essay, but wanted to say here that, even though I see you’ve decided not to reinstate the essay that I really strongly want to echo Nicholas’s encouragement to consider doing just that.

    I know, I know, you’ve heard enough about all of this already. But, still. As I said earlier, I scanned the essay before going on vacation, although I wasn’t able to print it out, and what I was able to get from it suggested that it was very well-considered, dense, and even–ghasp!–entertaining. Something that poetry essays these days almost always are anything but.

    Very sad about this and what you’ve gone through.

    –Gary Sullivan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s