I’m hugely intrigued by appropriate writing, as I think it’s the way literary fiction has been headed for some time now and will be headed for a while yet. But, a point rarely raised in this discussion is that the poets were all over this ground before the novelists. So it’s nice to see Marjorie Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century.
Bookforum has a review of it.
In the first section of Unoriginal Genius Perloff surveys a century of reaction to the cult of authenticity in poetry, a century of experiments in quotation, citation, pastiche, copying, found text, and outright plagiarism. It all begins with the first generation of Modernist poets and artists, of course—T. S. Eliot larding The Waste Land with quotations from his reading, Ezra Pound beginning The Cantos with an extended translation from Homer, Picasso pasting bits of newspapers into his Cubist still lives; or more radically, Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-mades” (like the urinal turned upside down and titled “Fountain”). Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project in its unfinished state (it’s unclear how much commentary Benjamin would have inserted among his vast sea of quotations) becomes an important precursor to contemporary “unoriginal writing,” and dovetails nicely with Language Poet Charles Bernstein’s libretto to the opera Shadowtime, which recasts Benjamin’s own texts into strict forms specified by the composer Brian Ferneyhough. . . .