Let us perform a search. Let us research the online journal Action, Yes, edited by Johannes Göransson, Joyelle McSweeney, and our very own John Dermot Woods.
Google tells us in bright blue (then purple) letters that Action, Yes “may be compromised,” and, below, appears evidence of such “compromisation”: “Our drugshop has everything you need. Buy online viagra Buy viagra cheap.” Who, we may wonder, is actually talking? Who presumes to tell us about what we desire?
“To compromise,” in common parlance, has a negative connotation. To compromise means to “[w]eaken (a reputation or principle) by accepting standards that are lower than is desirable” (Merriam-Webster). Something (a site, a body, a person) that is “compromised” is “[e]xposed to risk, danger, or discredit”; it is, alternately, something “[t]hat has been in contact with infectious disease” (OED). For Google, a website that “may have been hacked or otherwise compromised” means that a “third party has taken control of the site without the owner’s permission.” Cleary this is not a desideratum…or is it?
For any of you following Montevidayo, the blog to which Göransson, McSweeney, Woods contribute, these terms of risk, infection, and third party possession may sound familiar as they line up quite nicely with Montevidayan rhetoric.
And see the variety of posts on influence such as Josef Horáček’s “Bacterial Poetics” (“Art is an airborne type of infection”). This is all to say that to be “compromised” can be understood as a way to open oneself to art’s alterity, to reject the socio-aesthetic irresponsibility of restrictive “standards.”
This brings me to the new issue of AY which is a special “Swedish Issue” guest edited by Anna Thörnell and Sara Tuss Efrik. With text, sound, and images by Ida Börjelm, Nathalia Edenmont, Sebastian Eskildsen, Cia Rinne, Leif Holmstrand, Stina Kajaso, Eli Levén, Lidija Praizovic, Imri Sandström, Danilo Stankovic, Pär Thörn, and David Uppgren, the issue seems to have, to echo the guerilla Viagra ad above, “everything you need.” There’s prose poetry, a nice representation of longer projects, conceptual work, genre-bending work, video poetry, video performance, photography, painting… And such work nicely demonstrates a poetics of compromise, a lively polemic against literary standards.
Take, for instance, Holmstrand’s “I wanted to get up but could not” (translated by Göransson):
And when I broke my arm it was because I DOES NOT BELONG was
I knew GRANITE IN WATER that I would hurt myself because I jumped with the kite at the playground
and the kite was too small and really bad so I broke my arm.
It was XXXX the big girl at the end of our rowhouse
who FOREIGN carried me home, IN WATER it hurt a lot.
It was strange that I already had the sperm inside of me.
This text presents what appears to be a childhood reminscence “compromised” by language in caps that suddenly punctures the continuity of the narration’s register (in the same way the Viagra ad unexpectedly interrupts our online research). Thematically, too, “I wanted to get up but could not” highlights issues of foreigness, appropriateness, and pregnability.
And Sandström’s digital poem “Play Onwards: A Play On Words #1” nicely demonstrates that “CONSISTENT” and “SPECIFIC” lexical meaning is always about to be compromised by the proliferation of play.
There is, of course, much more — check it out for yourself. Check out Christopher Higgs’ engagement with the issue at HTML Giant. Check your preconceptions and standards about art and literature at the door. Expose yourself.
Michael Leong is the author of the poetry books e.s.p., Cutting Time with a Knife, Who Unfolded My Origami Brain?, and Words on Edge. His creative work has been anthologized in THE &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing, Best American Experimental Writing 2018, and Bettering American Poetry, Volume 3. His co-translation, with Ignacio Infante, of Vicente Huidobro’s long poem Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven is forthcoming from co•im•press in late 2019. His critical monograph Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry is forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press in May 2020. He has received grants from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts.