Wednesday 21 May 2008

Long Poems : : : Major Forms Conference--Charles Bernstein's "The Social Text as Long Poem: Epic Frauds and Phantom Authors" (16 May 08)

Frauds depend on a stable sense of authorship.

cf. Alan Sokal's fake essay in Social Text--motive of exposing intellectual fraud

A hostile or retributive fraud is a hoax with a trap.

Kent Johnson's fraud in the creation of Yasusada, with the supposed Hiroshima survivor publishing poems in Conjunctions, Grand Street, American Poetry Review, raised questions about poetry--do we value it for cultural information instead of aesthetics, etc.? Authenticity of author's identity eclipsing the aesthetic quality of the work. Johnson acts as the police, bringing out the crimes of American editors in their sentimentality toward victims, prioritisation of authentic voice over aesthetics, etc.

Yasusada's Double Flowering as retributive hoax--cf. responses by Forrest Gander (in The Nation) Eliot Weinberger, Charles Simic. The effect of Johnson's hoax depends on his being a white male. Who speaks in a text is always important; we need to know the historical social space in which a poem exists and participates.

Nasdijj--false memoir of Native American life; significance of the fraud addressed in Time by Sherman Alexie.

The fraudsters want their work to be seen as more authentic than that which they are faking. Resentment toward feminism, gays, other races as arbiters of taste.

The ironising of what is being mocked may then increase its aesthetic emphasis in a way that paradoxically shows its possibility.


  1. For those who may be interested, there is this video of a talk I gave at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, this past April, wherein I discuss issues related to Yasusada, literary forgery, and authorship, along with Charles Bernstein's extremely weak claims on the matter.

    Kent Johnson

  2. Thanks for giving another side of the story, which I've been keen to do but wasn't sure where to begin.

  3. Anonymous3:51 am

    I found your blog when I looked up Kent Johnson. He has now, (as of December 22, 2011) told his local paper, the Journal Standard in Freeport, Illinois, that his book "Question Mark Above The Sun" has been placed on the Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year list. Here's a link to the article:

    If this possible? I don't find his book on either or Does it even exist? The paper doesn't say he told them, but there is a cheerful photo of him that doesn't appear to be a file photo.