A Common Strangeness has been selected as runner-up for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present 2013 Book Prize. The honor recognizes A Common Strangeness as “as one of the finest works in every field of contemporary arts criticism that was published last year.” The A.S.A.P 2013 Book Prize was won by Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (Verso). My congratulations to the book’s author, Claire Bishop, on this richly deserved award.
A.S.A.P’s citation for A Common Strangeness reads:
In this remarkable book, comparative literature outdoes itself, becoming fully contemporary and transnational: Edmond innovates a genuinely global poetics that discovers the fullest cultural crossings among Chinese, Russian, and U.S. poets. Reading correspondences among Yang Lian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, and Lyn Hejinian, Bei Dao, Dmitri Prigov, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Edmond aims to give a field “still shaped by the history and conceptual and political structures of the Cold War” the resources to read the “appositional, transnational, and multicultural poetics of our current era”; its focus is contemporary poetry’s “common commitment to forms of strangeness,” which disallow old assertions of what unites or foreignizes the world’s populations. And its great advantage is a sense of literary culture equally powerful in its three languages, which translates to interpretive insight uniquely adequate to the world today.
“In this ambitious and rich work, Jacob Edmond explores the relationship between recent poetry and globalism. Rejecting both the traditional East/West binary and the local/global opposition which he sees as its replacement, Edmond maps out a middle ground––an area of contact and exchange in which seemingly disparate poets pursued a common poetics of strangeness in the post–Cold War years. . . . Edmond’s book is thoroughly researched and theoretically complex, drawing on Benjamin, Baudelaire, Bakhtin and Barthes, as well as numerous contemporary critics. . . . These theorists help reinforce Edmond’s larger argument about the poetics of common strangeness, but his careful examination of each poet’s individual work should not be overlooked or underestimated, especially considering the wide range of his subjects. In A Common Strangeness, he employs his own proposed method of comparative literature––one that is simultaneously global and local; abstract and particular; and resistant to dichotomous binaries.”
––Sarah Clovis Bishop, Slavic and East European Journal
“Poetry Communities,” a companion to the conference “Poetry Communities and the Individual Talent” held at the University of Pennsylvania last year, is now online as a feature on Jacket2, edited by Katie L. Price and Jonathan Fedors. The feature includes pieces by Maria Damon, Craig Dworkin, Al Filreis, Vanessa Place, Steve Yao, Adeena Karasick, and many others. My contribution, “Everybody’s a Genius,” begins by evoking Dmitri Prigov’s performance with the musician Vladimir Tarasov in the apartment studio of Ilya Kabakov in Moscow in 1986 (you can watch the performance and read Gerald Janecek’s commentary on it here). I then go on to discuss how Vanessa Place appropriates Prigov’s assertions of his own and others’ genius and what this might tell us about the “shout out effect” and Facebook “like” effect in contemporary English-language conceptual writing. In the spirit of this practice, you can even “like” the essay.
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Tagged Adeena Karasick, Al Filreis, community, conceptual poetry, conceptual writing, Craig Dworkin, dmitri prigov, genius, Gerald Janecek, Jacket2, Jonathan Fedors, Katie L. Price, Maria Damon, Steven Yao, Vanessa Place, Vladimir Tarasov
Here is the first of a four-part series of highlights from the wonderful symposium “Book Presence in a Digital Age” organised by Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, which I was lucky enough to attend last year. Speakers in this clip include Jessica Pressman, Doug Beube, and Garrett Stewart. The clip also contains some extracts from my discussion of Dmitri Prigov and the iterations of the book. The full set of four recordings is available
“There is no doubt that A Common Strangeness, with its focal point in the aesthetic concept and device of estrangement, is a valuable contribution to recent scholarship that aims at finding new ways to look at the intricate network of relations of poetry to the world.”—Cosima Bruno in The China Quarterly (read the full review here)
Lisa Samuels (Photo: Joanna Forsberg)
Lisa Samuels‘s review of A Common Strangeness is just out in The Landfall Review Online. The review begins:
Jacob Edmond’s refreshing book focuses on concerns common to avant-garde poetry and comparative literature, specifically poetic material produced primarily in the 1980s and 1990s by six writers from China, Russia, and the United States and comparative literature’s interest in negotiating dialectics between self and other. Edmond’s introduction indicates his interest in sighting a ‘third alternative’ to Maurice Blanchot’s 1971 concept of ‘common strangeness’: Edmond wants to write within zones ‘between the common and the co-man, between speaking of others—of exile literature, modernism, or world literature—and speaking to them: responding to how we can know or write about each other in the first place’ (10). I might wish the book had been titled something like Estranging Poetries: Avant-Garde Dialectics in a Transnational Era, especially given the distancing Edmond wants to achieve from the uses to which Blanchot’s phrase ‘common strangeness’ can be put. We can imagine more dynamism in dialectics than the advice to speak to rather than speak of, so I am certainly sympathetic to Edmond’s resistance to Blanchot’s cited stance. Such a stance arguably encourages identitarian siloing, and Edmond’s book is invested in building bridges across those silos, in this case avant-garde poetry and comparative literature on one hand and U.S. Russian, and Sinophone literatures on the other. Edmond proposes ‘encounter and superimposition’ (197) as ways to imagine what it means when something transcultural and translingual happens, especially when it happens self-consciously. This course of the particular—one writer going across to another culture and language—over-mapped with palimpsestual revisiting is figured as an alternative to historical repetition and so-called progress narratives, with all their damaging social and critical consequences.
As the book repeatedly conveys with its interest in related dialectics, and as its conclusion re-visits, we are working after Benjamin’s world of repetition, which is better than being in a world that fancies itself as blooming ‘toward’ progress. Each iteration—each chapter here, each poet turning toward a different land of language and location—performs a differential repetition, or what Edmond calls a differential ‘insistence,’ that can turn us constantly toward attention to each other and our practices. It is that kind of attention, that suspending of tribal blinders, that Edmond’s book encourages, and it is a pleasure to see this kind of work in the world.
Read the full review here. (I should note that the quoted price of NZ $96.76 is not correct. The University Bookshop in Dunedin has been selling copies for around $40, and copies are available for purchase online for well under US$30.)