What do we make of Vanessa Place’s curious presence in the special dossier “On Race and Innovation” that Dawn Lundy Martin edited for the November 2015 issue of boundary 2? To put it mildly, Place is not the first person one would expect in such a grouping. Is this an example of “conceptual editing”? Martin, not surprisingly, explicitly frames the dossier in terms of the recent controversies that have inflamed the poetry world since last spring:
Kenneth Goldsmith was excoriated for reading Michael Brown’s autopsy report in a conceptual poetry performance at Brown University, and a petition successfully got Vanessa Place (included in this issue) removed from an AWP subcommittee because of her Twitter appropriation of the black voices from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Still, in all the mayhem, in all the personal attacks on social media, there has not been much actual conversation about what poetry has to say, and can say, about race in the contemporary moment.
A diptych of two hand-drawn phrases, “IT’S KIND OF FUCKED UP” and “IT’S FUCKED UP” (see above), Place’s piece seems to demonstrate in a colloquial register what Freud calls the “narcissism of minor differences.” Continue reading