Thursday, February 21, 2013

Introduction for Andrew Levy (at the Poetry Project)

Andrew Levy’s work reminds me that we have not yet determined what a search engine can do. Nor assemblage, nor appropriation, nor lyric. Inhabiting multiple voices—including his own at times—he pits an assortment of discourses against one another, humorously sounding their dissociations. Like the Flarf Collective and others, Levy uses Internet crawls to gather content.* Yet in Levy’s work we are never exhausted by an ironic disavowal of an elusive scene of political and social possibilities infecting the multitude through social media. To great effect, Levy channels the mad affects pervasive in our current media environments, transmuting them through an alchemy of cut and paste and ‘original’ writing. Disparate affects enter center stage—like actors before there was a subject. His daughters Sadie and Gita, for instance; his students at CUNY; and those friends with whom he daily corresponds via email (Levy may also be one of the first poets I know to actively mine his inbox for poems). “There is hope, just not for us, “Kafka writes. And substituting for hope, what then, love? And when love is not an adequate intention, perhaps we must do with the secular messianism of our common sense being put to the test. Common sense—the commons of language subjected to systemic injustice, economic disparity, and environmental travesty—is re-alienated and only thereby renewed.  Language becomes a prosthesis for seeing subtlely, hearing at the thresholds where what we can expect poetry to do is nothing less than reignite our sense of sense itself. Don’t Forget to Breathe, Levy’s latest collection, is a high-point for me in an ongoing discourse about what lyric can do face-to-face with the accelerated collapse of a global economy structured by a series of wars all of which test the alibis of whoever should posit 'the good life.' I feel extremely privileged to be able to read this book. That it would be available to me like so very few books of contemporary poetry are.

*immediately following my introduction Levy admitted that he has never used Google searches to compose his work.