MYTHBUSTER: you don’t have to be dangerous to be important

Or else I’m screwed.

I believe you don’t have to be dangerous to be important for other reasons, too. This post is going to be short and to the point. Paul Corman-Roberts has just started another monthly reading series in San Francisco: Bitchez Brew. I spoke with him a little bit recently about “the SF lit scene”—as people are whispering to one another—from here to NY and back, it seems.

The truth is, we don’t have a mission statement. And we don’t have a vision. But we are a community. Paul asked, “How do we make our group dangerous?” And I know what he means. It used to be that one needed venom in his pen if he were to make a difference, to step up to the microphone and literarily spit all over it if one were to wake people up from their comfortable slumberings.

To be dangerous is to be toxic, nuclear—to be so potent that exposure could cause death, mental illness, or other serious harm*; it is the poet in the room who nobody wants to talk to but everyone ogles from their deep-rooted desires to be genius, on the edge, to walk the line between FINGER ON THE PULSE and I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN KEEP BREATHING AND DON’T KNOW IF I CARE.

But what makes a group dangerous? With all the inevitable comparisons to those guys in that gallery half a century ago, I wonder if anyone considered them to be dangerous or just freakishly weird, slovenly, and occasionally frightening.

Let’s consider this: in order to be subversive now you have to forego showers and underpants, avoid smiling at all costs, betray your friends, and never create a single thing—just sit in the same place for 14 days without moving. It will be quite the statement.

Now consider this: our elders are a lot smarter than their elders were, or at least a lot more … hip (I shudder to refer to my parents this way but you know what I mean: they smoke weed and understand that just because they don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s outrageous, offensive, and completely confusing, as their parents did. They are open-minded.).

And this: we are mainstream, baby. Look at how many of us there are! I can’t even keep track and it’s all I do. I once read some article that proclaimed our generation would produce a vast volume of artwork—that there would be incomparably more artists than ever before, but that the art would not be as … significant or dangerous.

But I want to switch gears. I’m not interested in teetering off the edge, thank you. Mine is an investment in fertility. Let’s produce work and leave the deeming of significance to other people. Any voice like any road that is followed long enough will eventually lead to a dead end. At this dead end is a wall and a small box of cans and in these cans are different colors of paint. Write on, my friends. Must we use bullhorns and shout from rooftops to be significant, or just loud?

What do we want to do with our writing? To wake people up? Is that not what has happened to us? Are we not the woken? Then let us sing! And wake, dear people, if our voices do sweetly stir you.

Paul Corman-Roberts

Rebekah Edwards

Kathleen Wood

Meg Day

Jonathan Hirsch

Valerie Chavez

 

* Exposure to the SF Lit Scene right now might cause productivity, inspiration, and a larger network of similarly-minded … friends. Be prolific. Send money here.

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9 Comments on “MYTHBUSTER: you don’t have to be dangerous to be important”

  1. […] Evan Karp and Charles Kruger cover the SF lit scene, here. […]

  2. Faust says:

    Can any of us be dangerous if we don’t feel like we’re in danger/

  3. Evan Karp says:

    CHARLES KRUGER Yes, Evan. Not everything you say in the article, certainly. But yes, and yes again to jumping into some challenging thoughts and something more than just celebrating the scene. It is time for the discussion of “what do we mean”? I would say that art – if it is art at all – subverts the inevitable injustices of power – by definition – always and everywhere – and the ways this happens do not always need to be articulated by the artist and certainly don’t need to be outwardly obvious in the art. But its there or art isn’t there. There is so much more to say on this. My own little essay to follow.

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA forties & glocks, daddio.

    CHRIS COLE guns and money just excites people. if you really want to be dangerous, then you challenge people’s belief system. that has always been the best way to get pegged as a real threat. if you come along and challenge that even indirectly they’ll jump on that shit and raise the threat level so high they’ll have to make new colors to account for it. threat level: ultraviolet.

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA badbadbad, baby! ultraviolet blasphemy since 2009… can I use that for a bumper sticker?

    CHRIS COLE yes.

    PAUL CORMAN-ROBERTS Why don’t we do it in the road?

    CHRIS COLE cause no one will be watching us.

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA dirty boyz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38eYeLsYnhs

    PAUL CORMAN-ROBERTS But it would be dangerous if they were watching wouldn’t it?

    EVAN KARP threat level ultraviolet has been confirmed. we are calmly leaving our buildings and traveling en masse to city hall. there will be no refreshments. i’m really interested in continuing this conversation, by the way. i saw that lynn posted something about it here: http://www.fullofcrow.com/blog/2010/11/danger-brewing. and i think we should do it in the road before it gets too cold.

    CHRIS COLE i’m in.

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA threat level ultraviolet — the next theme for quiet lightning???

    CHRIS COLE just jotted this down, inspired by our dialogue. http://on.fb.me/9EqR6a

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA Solid, CC. It is all about an open heart b/c an open heart brings us together — and that’s dangerous for the dominant power structure, which keeps us separated for a reason. This is what I did/wrote this past wknd: http://electricliterature.com/blog/2010/11/08/dogen-lost-found-in-translation/ Similar idea.

    CHRIS COLE brilliant. just read. what a sweet opportunity and follow through.

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA thanks, man. sweet opportunity is right. the book’s a mind-blower. I’m 300 pages in. dogen was a freak philosopher, way ahead of his time. trying to embrace — let alone understand — his paradoxical approaches to language and meaning and living… really do something to your own thinking. it’s a wild ride. enjoying the brainwave tweakage.

    EVAN KARP cc “just jotted this down.” i’m glad we’re friends or i would be jealous of uuuu. damn.

    jesus. jesus. where to begin. please, sir, keep up the good work.

    paul, we are dangerous because we have pcr standing in a basement contemplating our roles and actually changing them. i was very happy you read vampyre mike—that is something i’ve been thinking of doing as an answer to me not reading … but i think it’s more than appropriate—what the hell do we matter if the people who inspired us don’t matter? i am very firm in my belief that part of our task as serious writers is to serve as megaphones for the doctrines of our instigators. i don’t make sense if you don’t know f. nietzsche, for instance. and i damn sure don’t organize a reading series every month almost all month just to propagandize my own work or develop a personal platform of benevolence.

    i was also thrilled for so many reasons about your poem re: andrew paul nelson’s “wrinkles.” i forgot to tell you how much so. the danger, my friend, is in the opportunities we have to create what we crave. “don’t get high on what you create” i think will resonate here. do you agree with this statement? shall we pitch ourselves into a frenzy and bark at the world? i’m standing by, ready for anything …

    JESUS ANGEL GARCIA I love this, man: “serve as megaphones for the doctrines of our instigators.” Keepin’ on…

    CHARLES KRYGER Chris Cole: you “just jotted this down” — DUDE! It took me two days of thought to compose my little essay and you said it all in a short lyric poem that you “just jotted down” – can I have some of whatever you’re smoking?

    Seriously, you amaze and inspire.

    EVAN KARP Kruger’s essay will be available soon as a separate article. I encourage you all to move the discussion there. Thanks!

  4. To be “dangerous” as a poet would mean to speak a truth that the mainstream is afraid to face or that the authorities do not want the masses to know or understand or else their plans would be foiled. It is to upset the current world order.

    I hear a lot of poets speak about being gay, about destroying the environment, about wanting freedom and liberation of intellect and spirituality. All of these topics are revolutionary, but it depends on WHERE you read them. We are all preaching to the choir in New York City and San Francisco, as these are fairly liberal breeding grounds.

    To be TRULY dangerous, is to take these points of view to places that do not hear them, and then you will see the true power of your words unveiled, when you are staring down the barrel of gun for what you just read…because you have disrupted the strong belief systems of people who do not live in same world as you do.

  5. […] For the first time since last June I left the Bay Area for more than a week, landed in Georgia with thoughts of danger still in my mind, commingled with the family elders and the cousins’ little […]

  6. […] following essay was written in response to a statement by Evan Karp on litseen.com, which you can read here, and […]

  7. Is there any way you could take my video down? I was in the middle of a complete psychotic break that night and this seems to be the only video of me reading poetry on the web. I’m sure it’s absolutely impossible to do and will be up forever, and I probably consented to be videotaped and just don’t remember, but this is embarrassing.
    BTW, I am not part of your generation. I am a Boomer by one year (1962), my parents are not “hip”, and I am not the mainstream. I am a freak- and a force- of nature who is apparently am too weird for my fellow freaks, at least in my neighborhood.
    And you know? I wish you were the mainstream, but you aren’t. I see the mainstream wandering around the Lower Haight every weekend and they are SCARY. Makes me want to move to Dogpatch or something.
    Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you ARE the mainstream. I know that we weren’t. And sheer numbers don’t make a mainstream if the larger population is so much bigger as to dwarf all of us – regardless of generation. I realize this point could easily be argued, but that’s how I see it.
    As to how to make a group dangerous. Well, you can, but it involves a level of mind control that is invasive and often evil. Groups have a collective mind of their own The Babarians didn’t really take off as a force to be reckoned with until Year Two, when Danielle Willis, David Lerner, Vampyre Mike, and others mixed with those of us who were already there. But were we dangerous? Considering that two of the people I just mentioned died relatively young of overdoses, some of us were certainly dangerous to ourselves. To others? Maybe. To the mainstream? “Barbarians WHO???”
    And to anyone who is starting a group: Just let your group grow the way it grows. It will anyway.
    With Love,
    Kathleen Wood

    • Evan Karp says:

      Thank you, Kathleen, for your thoughts. Your performance was indeed very memorable for me, though in a good way. I’m happy to take the video down and have just done so. Google and other search engines will take a couple days to reflect those changes, but the video should not be searchable after that.

      I hope you are well and to see you soon.
      All the best, and with love,
      Evan


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