Autobiography by Other Means

Contributed by Louis Bury Assistant Professor at Hostos Community College, CUNY
November 30, 2014
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Context: The following essay is the “Introduction” to my book Exercises in Criticism: The Theory and Practice of Literary Constraint, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press in Spring 2015. First written in 2011 as my doctoral dissertation in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, the book uses rules and procedures to write poetic and autobiographical criticism about works of literary constraint (such as Georges Perec’s La Disparition, a novel written without using any word that contains the letter “e,” and Gilbert Sorrentino’s Gold Fools, a novel written entirely in interrogatives). The essay itself—written as an ad hoc recorded monologue, then transcribed and edited—outlines the personal and intellectual background that led to the book project’s conceit. The original voice recording of the monologue, which differs from the transcribed version in ways small and large, has been published alongside the transcription so that readers can experience the performance in its unedited state. My dissertation demonstrates that even while staying within the general frame of the protomonograph, there is enormous potential for innovation of both form and content. 
 

LBury1

LBury2

Introduction
August 7, 2010
3:15 p.m.
 
this book had its beginnings in a workshop     about three or four years ago     at the CUNY Graduate Center     where I’m a student in the English PhD program     it was called a “Dissertation Workshop” but it was actually more a professionalization workshop     where instead of coming in each week and exchanging dissertation chapters     let me rephrase that     strike that last     I’m not sure how this is going to work exactly but I’d imagine      compared to other writing I’ve done this way     that is     talking into a voice recorder     I’m going to edit afterwards a lot more     I’m writing this way      why am I writing this way        first I find it easier than actual writing     easier to write though harder to write well this way     but I’m willing to make that sacrifice for the sake of getting the work done     but second     and equally as important     this kind of rambling associative monologue has something to do with the personal nature of my project     that is     it’s as though I’m putting myself on the therapist’s couch     I’m actually lying down on a couch now     and trying to diagnose where this project came from     why I undertook it     but the point I want to make is that        I don’t think the intellectual origins of this book can be separated from its personal origins     in other words       the intellectual rationale for the project is not a pure clean one      a matter of argumentative necessity       the project arises instead out of my temperament and beliefs       and that’s important because while many academic projects have a clear basis in the personality the background and the life of the author      the scholar has to write      has to mute those personal origins      has to write as though those personal reasons weren’t the motivation for the book      to make it seem that the motivation comes from purely discursive and argumentative reasons        the personal motivations alone aren’t sufficient       and in my project      the personal motivations      if they’re not sufficient      which they may well not be      they’re nonetheless primary      and not being disavowed      there are intellectual reasons for my project       and I’ll lay some of them out as I go      but ultimately      as I’m nearing the end       it seems more and more personal than I initially realized       I don’t know       this all sounds clumsier than I’d like       it will be hard to spontaneously      this is an example of a point that suffers from not being written out     where it could be articulated more thoroughly         more airtight       anyway the point I want to make is that my project takes it as axiomatic that [phone rings] not only      oh Jesus       phone going off      [phone rings]                         hello      hey how’s it going      yeah I’m working             no no I just started           yeah probably another hour or two     where are you                well do you do you want       yeah I’d like to go biking when I’m done with this      it won’t be for at least another hour though                                                             so yeah what time do you want to go          I don’t know let me check the weather                      let me check when sunset is                                                                  where do they have it on here     “Details” you think          here it is     sunset at 8:04          so why don’t we plan on going at seven                                          yeah sounds good     let’s say seven     and figure you get home by six-thirty or so                I don’t I don’t know          we can eat together if you want      just give me another couples of hours              okay sounds good      see you later                                           okay      sorry about that interruption       it was Shari      and actually the interruption was appropriate because it was a personal phone call       Shari being my wife           so the point I wanted to make was       I don’t think scholarship would be better or worse with or without the personal included in it      but that my project suggests that the inclusion of the personal might be a slightly more honest way of doing it      or [sigh] it’s hard to set it up as non-hierarchical       or not value-laden       these claims      so maybe the way to say it would be that the inclusion of the personal in scholarship      is an alternative      a generally unacknowledged alternative      one that’s not at this point in time by and large considered licit      which proscription I think closes off certain interpretive possibilities        I’m certainly not opposed to traditional scholarship         am not trying to hack at its legs and cut it down into something else       although I will say       I do tend to find a lot of academic criticism not only difficult to endure but also not particularly useful or informative       that said      scholarship that is useful and informative      an example       a book that for whatever reason      probably because I know the author       he teaches at the Graduate Center     is David Reynolds’s Beneath the American Renaissance      and I remember reading it and thinking       this is what criticism is supposed to do      the book was a magisterial work of historical restoration      placing the canonical writers of the American Renaissance in their historical context       in the context of popular literature of the time      dominant cultural strains     and so forth     and it was just this prodigious effort     measured in a crude way by the sheer size of the book       that took a topic I knew a fair bit amount      and completely illuminated it in ways that hadn’t been done before      though I do recall       thinking about it        a conversation with David in his office       early on in grad school       where I was expressing my dissatisfaction with the conventions of academic writing        and he told me that I reminded him a bit of himself when he was starting out        but that he came around to realize scholarship is a kind of game        and that if you want to play it you eventually learn how to play by its rules        which ultimately I’ve refused to do      but so       let me go back now        and I think I’m going to stop lying down      and will instead walk about my apartment      like I do when I’m on a phone call I’m excited about       so anyway       I was taking this dissertation workshop       and in terms of practical nuts and bolts information about how to navigate the university profession       this was by far the most useful and valuable experience I’ve had in grad school       it was a tremendously practical course      and as I was saying       the students didn’t just come in and exchange dissertation chapters      the course covered all aspects of professionalization       how to write an effective CV       how to decipher job ads       how to write a dissertation prospectus      all sorts of pointers that you’d have a hard time getting       getting all in one place at any rate      so I’m taking this course      and as useful as I’m making it sound      it actually threw me into my first of two minor life crises in graduate school       the crisis pertained specifically to anxieties I had about professionalization      simply put       and I realize there are problems with this position       it seems to me more a vocation than a profession         that the very notion of being a literary professional seemed somehow oxymoronic or absurd or against the very spirit of the enterprise       it’s like poker        another activity I’m marginally professional at       what does it mean to be a professional poker player       I guess the most obvious definitions hinge on economics       you make a living off the game       so I’ll grant that it’s possible to be a literary professional      and in many ways I am one myself       but professionalization goes to such an extreme in a certain narrow direction       that as an intellectual slash artist slash whatever I am      I couldn’t imagine wanting to do it on those terms       didn’t want to claim that identity       and further       the workshop made it starkly apparent that the things I was going to have to do in order to professionalize were things I was loath to do      in other words       I was headed down a career path      and you could say “well you should know this before going into a PhD program”      but the passage of so much time is involved      and who you are at each point is so different     that it’s impossible to predict where the process is going to take you      actually for our school newspaper I wrote an essay evaluating the humanities PhD as a kind of wager       or gamble      looking at it from a risk assessment point of view      and of course it’s a terrible bet from that point of view       the other thing       the weird thing that happened to me as I went through graduate school       it started out as a hobby       but over time I got good enough at it that I could make significantly more money playing online poker than I could teaching          which is as much a commentary on an adjunct’s salary as it is my poker prowess        so I became a kind of part-time professional poker player       which at points interfered with my schoolwork      that was the subsequent crisis I had after the one I haven’t finished talking about       but anyway       backtracking      when I say I was loath to professionalize     what I mean is I didn’t want to write the kind of work that academic discourse encourages      not just encourages      requires      the professoriate to write      in order to be credentialed as expert             get tenure and so forth       that the majority of refereed academic journals and the articles in them      I mean I’m not against scholarship per se       there’s loads of wonderful scholarship that gets done        but the current system seems designed turn out a lot of second-rate work that I find it hard to get excited about       and I don’t mean that criticism needs to constantly shock and thrill       reading Kant thrills me      so it’s not about a certain level of entertainment or excitement value       it’s about intellectual stimulation      and grappling with things in a way that makes them seem like they matter       I don’t know      I’m getting carried away      the point is       and actually another important aspect of the personal intellectual history that I’m trying to recount       is that I had these feelings well before I entered graduate school       and I’d actually like to go a little further back in time      because this seems important      when I was an undergraduate I took a couple of electives on essay writing with Pat Hoy       the Director of the Expository Writing Program at NYU       who’s a dynamic engaging orator       but also a stern no nonsense professor      I’ve met few other teachers more capable of getting the best possible work out of every student in the class      and Pat attended West Point      and ended up having to serve      reluctantly     as an officer in Vietnam        after he left the military       he went to graduate school to study literature     and I don’t want to speak on behalf of Pat      but as I understand it when he began sending out pieces of his dissertation for publication he realized that his academic work didn’t bear the  stamp of who he was as a person      what he had experienced in and around the war       it was almost a suppression or effacement of his experiences     which is fine I guess       scholarship doesn’t need a personality to do what it does       but the work somehow seemed less vital       well      again     I think I’m speaking more for myself here than for Pat       but this is a long way of saying that      given my age when I studied with him      and given how great a teacher he is       Pat had a big influence on me      and I was taking these essay writing classes     and in them he basically taught us to write as writers and not as academics       a distinction that      again       is really my own not Pat’s       but it’s an insight I first had through him      even if most academics wouldn’t be flattered by this notion      and it is an unflattering one      but I think it’s true too       I don’t know      I’m making lots of tenuous claims       well        in Pat’s case      what he went on to realize was that there was a disconnect      geez       I’m really putting a lot of words in his mouth      ventriloquizing him because I know him and his work so well       it’s like when you’re teaching and you say      in response to a student question      “well I think Kant would argue”      and you assume       on the basis of what you know about Kant      what Kant would say if faced with that exact question      but anyway         there was this disconnect between the highly concentrated academic work Pat was doing on E. M. Forster       and what his broader experience in the world had been       and so he started writing these personal essays       about soldiering       about West Point       things based on personal experience      and the essays would draw on his literary background and learning       but they were always firmly rooted in the personal       but so      even as an undergraduate      I had these certain vague       partially formed notions       about trying to live a life that was engaged with literature but that wasn’t operating in the ruts of academic discourse      and yet       at the same time      I wanted the work I was doing      and maybe this applies more to my work now      in graduate school       I wanted the work to have some sort of relationship to scholarly discourse      what I didn’t want was the taint of dilettantism or amateurism      the idea that you could only be doing serious scholarship in this exact way      that      for example      if you were writing the introduction to your book by pacing back and forth in your bedroom and talking into a voice recorder      that it may be more or less interesting as an experiment      but it’s not serious scholarship      I think that’s emphatically false     I think what I’m doing here has as much intellectual integrity as any of the more conventional ways of writing scholarship     it’s funny      the things I’m recollecting as I talk are not things I thought of        or imagined as all that relevant         as I’ve worked on this project over the past three years       but now that I’m talking aloud      and not writing        that background seems like such a natural arc or progression       that not mentioning them would be a disservice      it’s not that mentioning them is ethically irresponsible      irresponsible would be doing it the other way       to pretend that none of this came out of this decade-long process of personal-intellectual growth      and I certainly don’t claim uniqueness in this regard      what I’m doing here is what anyone writing an academic book could do       to trace its origins in this way        what’s unique is that I’m making the gambit and doing it       dreading what it’s going to sound like when I transcribe this      but for now I feel inspired and somewhat justified      okay      so I had this background       and entering graduate school I wanted to study the essay as a literary form      and actually what I’ve done is instead of studying it      I’m practicing it      my project      from this point of view      is basically an attempt to write as many different kinds of essays as possible     so I’m not writing about the essay       but trying to write scholarship essayistically      as a trial      and everything such a term would imply      so with that rough background        I’m taking this dissertation workshop and I have this crisis regarding professionalization      specifically it dawns on me that my current projected       I’m being encouraged from a few different quarters to write about Native American literature       American poets who have written about Native American cultures in the twentieth century      and obviously the topic interests me       but it wasn’t work       I mean I specifically had this realization when I went to a conference on Native American literature      and I actually had a great experience there      the people I met were friendly     there was interesting work being done      good conversations that were happening       but being around other scholars and writers working in the field      I realized that my relation to it      I couldn’t ever feel the level of connection that they felt to it      my interest felt a little touristic      it would have been a course of study that [sigh] at a certain point in my life I would have been going through the motions      I always would have been doing it in part because it would probably give me a slightly better chance at getting a job      and taking the dissertation workshop intensified this sentiment       I started to feel that I was doing certain things in my intellectual life purely because of how they would situate me to get a job      and not because I wanted to be doing them     and you know that’s the definition of a job       that you have to do things you don’t want to do      but not only did I have these anxieties      and midway through the workshop I sort of shut down and couldn’t do any schoolwork whatsoever      reading      writing      nothing       not only did I have these anxieties      I started to have a train of thought that went something like this      I got into literature and tried to make a life or career out of it       or something in between      because I liked doing it      I had started college in the business school      but it didn’t take long for me to develop intellectual interests      before college I didn’t read or write much       and suddenly I really started to enjoy doing those things       so the reasons for studying the humanities were very clear to me       I passed up a course of study where the financial rewards are very obvious       business school      which was an important reason why I even went to NYU in the first place      I mean I got a small scholarship there but not particularly much      it was on the margins of what my family could afford      we both took out loans      my parents and I      and I reasoned      well I’ll go into debt      but when I get out      I’ll make a decent amount of money and will be able to pay it off without much worry       the point being       it was a very clear trade-off for me      in terms of what to study      between the financial viability of it       and the enjoyment of it        so now I’m sitting here       I’m having this crisis       and I think      if I’m going to continue on and get a PhD in literature       the only way in which it’s worth doing is if at every step of the way I act idealistically      that is       I only do things based on whether or not I want to do them      and not out of a sense of obligation       or because it will get me a job       here was my reasoning       and I’m not saying it’s not flawed         but I felt that if I was going to do things that I didn’t like or that I felt lukewarm about      or that were unpleasant      then I may as well not get a PhD at all      that the only reason to get a PhD in the humanities was because you were doing something you like      work-wise      if I was going to do something I didn’t like      I’d at least do something that made me real money      I don’t know     maybe the poker money I started making was going to my head a bit       but it just seemed that in academia the payoff was too unlikely      in terms of the likelihood of getting a job      and even if I were to get one       tenured or not        the rewards were likely still too paltry        the sacrifices too large       to make it worth doing anything other than exactly what I wanted to be doing as a scholar      as an academic     as a person       at the same time that I had this realization       that the way for me to go through graduate school in the humanities was as an uncompromising idealist      and there are problems with this position      but I do believe it’s a useful corrective to the careerist pressures that have only escalated in the past decade       anyway      at the same time that I’m having this crisis      indifferent to school-related things      what I was doing at that time       in my own personal reading        there was creeping over my consciousness that the only things I wanted to do in relation to reading and writing were things that thrilled me       things that I just absolutely enjoyed       and that sounds like an obvious thing to say       who doesn’t want to read things they enjoy        but it’s a hard principle to follow when you’re studying something       study by its nature saps some of the vitality from what you’re studying       but so at this time      most of the reading I was doing was about Oulipo and constraint       Oulipo being a group of mathematicians and writers     founded in 1960      with the goal of inventing constraints that could be used to generate literary texts      so I was reading stuff by Oulipo      I had previously taught Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces and Other Pieces       which isn’t strictly Oulipian       but it’s a literary sensibility that felt very close to my heart      weirdly austere and distant      and yet somehow affecting and touching      poignant and perceptive      in a way I was just following up on my interest in this one book       and I was also doing a little of my own writing with the use of constraints      writing poems on the subway and so forth       so I was having these thoughts about the importance of pleasure    I haven’t used that word in this introduction yet      but it’s an important word for me        in both my pedagogy      and in my reading and writing       so I was having these intuitions about the centrality of pleasure to literary study at the same time that I was taking an immense pleasure in this mode of writing just for its own sake      and so what suggested itself to me was      if I was going to only study things that I really liked      why not work on Oulipo      and in keeping with my prior intuitions about the nature of academic writing      about essayism as a more supple mode of intellectual inquiry      the most logical idea suggested itself       which was that not only would I write about constraint      and I couldn’t write about Oulipo specifically because my French isn’t good enough      but I’m glad actually      because I think Oulipo’s legacy is the more interesting topic at this point in time      English-language writing that’s broadly in the tradition of the group     and that’s what this project is about      I mean this introduction is really     it’s not much of an introduction in that it doesn’t frame what the project is about but how I arrived at it       maybe I’ll have to write a second introduction       like Oulipian Marcel Bénabou in his Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books       in which the first several chapters are prefaces where he keeps starting over      he writes chapter one and he says no no no no no       chapter two begins he says no no no     chapter one was all wrong     this is the actual beginning of the book      and then chapter three comes and he says      I’ve failed yet again      here’s how I’m going to start      he sort of performs his nervousness and anxiety about writing by continually beginning again       which is a very Oulipian gesture        anyway        the idea I had was that not only was I going to write about literary constraint      I was going to do so using constraints       my dissertation would itself be constraint-based       and one rationale for this approach       beyond just the principle of self-pleasure       is that criticism is the one area of creative endeavor        and notice I’m describing criticism as a creative endeavor       it’s the one area of creative endeavor Oulipo hasn’t explored       using constraints not to write a novel or poem but to say something critically substantial       so that’s what this project is      and I guess the question at this point isn’t how to describe the project       since it seems pretty apparent that this introduction won’t quite do that       the question then becomes       what can I say or conclude          let me try to put it less grandly        I’ve recounted some of the personal intellectual origins of this project       what might it indicate       about the project itself       about criticism         why is this background relevant        I guess that’s kind of the same question      but that’s to say       well here’s how I’m going to attempt to answer the question      I haven’t really posed a question       but maybe the answer will suggest what the question would have been had I been more articulate        I had the idea to write the introduction this way after re-reading Ben Friedlander’s introduction to Simulcast       which is a work of literary criticism that experiments with plagiarism as a critical mode       and what struck me about re-reading his introduction       which I hadn’t noticed the first time I read the book      was how personal in nature it is       his introduction is about fifty to sixty pages long      in what is maybe a 200- or 250-page-long book      so you can tell just by the length of the introduction that Friedlander feels a defense of his project needs to be made      and I understand why he feels that way     given the strangeness of what he’s doing     and also given the intricacies of his project      some of what he wrote was inflammatory within poetry communities when it first appeared      so he addresses those controversies and the ethics of what he was doing      so he’s writing this defense of his project     but when I first read his arguments      I found them so gripping that I failed to notice how rooted they are in the personal    I specifically remember      in my rereading      a passage where he mentioned his skateboard       and I thought       “who would admit       in a work of scholarship     that he used to ride a skateboard”      in other words      it’s not just an academic argument he’s making about what criticism is and isn’t      the argument he’s making is about how he grew up as a scholar     as an intellectual       and as a poet     and has everything to do with who he is as a person      that those two things      the intellectual and the personal      are inseparable       and that to shroud the personal in intellectual justifications      again I don’t want to put value judgments on it and say it’s bad      that would be too simplistic      but not hiding the personal makes it I think a different project       and changes its tenor      implicit in Friedlander’s book       in other words       is an argument that who one is in the world     and how one interacts with and relates to others in the world      has everything to do with the ideas that one puts forth in writing      scholars by nature are actually very naturally constrained          obeying an elaborate       almost bureaucratic      system of discipline and rules       protocols       and these issues relate to the contents of Friendlander’s book and the fact that some of his essays were originally written pseudonymously      and the fact that the essays attempt a social mapping of various experimental poetic communities     and I’m reminded too      maybe this will be where I wrap up      I remember when I began this project        talking to Wayne Koestenbaum       who said something that stuck with me       that at the time I didn’t exactly have the context or experience to be able to grasp its full import      he said something to the effect of        “find as many ways as possible to bring your work out into the world       to make your project part of some sort of larger social fabric”     and I can’t say at this point I’ve done that in any widespread way      which is fine      but the ways in which my project has experienced nodes of connectivity      even if only to other individuals who have sustained and nourished my thinking     has been vital      I think Wayne framed it     I think he said something along the lines of     when you’re doing something this strange      you don’t want to feel like it’s just you      like you’re totally in outer space    and you’re doing this really bizarre project      and it has no relation to anything       because      implicit in that point       is that when you’ve abandoned certain safety nets      and maybe I have others in place      listing them here isn’t the point      but that if I had written a dissertation on American poets and Native American cultures in the twentieth century      even if I had never shown a word of it to anyone       I would still feel like I was in conversation with previous scholars and with the discipline      and so there’s a way in which you wouldn’t be as out there       yeah I mean      am I just saying if you’re out there you need other people      that’s a little simplistic      you need other people even if you’re not out there                                                     well I’ve definitely lost my momentum at this point      I’ve arrived at a sheer cliff-face        I guess what I’d say is       that the risk for this project       is now       and always has been       that I’d be trying to have a conversation with the discipline       and the discipline wouldn’t be interested in listening       and then the question becomes       why is it        if I’ve abandoned all these conventions       why is it that I feel that having a conversation with the discipline is so important       and the answer to that      well if I have a good answer to that I’m golden        but the simple answer might be that I also love rules       find them comforting in the way I imagine well-behaved scholars must          the more grandiose answer might be that reading and writing are profoundly imaginative tasks       and consequently      one’s own practices of them need to be every bit as imaginatively engaged as the work under consideration      even for critics       I mean      so what      am I just saying        critics      well you know what      I’ll try to end here      I’ve been trying to end for ten minutes     but I’m not having much luck     because obviously I would like a thunderous ending       earlier I said that I view criticism as creative      and to go back to another moment in my past       I can recall the first literature class I ever took      an Intro to Lit course at NYU      and at the end of the semester      the professor       a grad student       one of the ones who’re cute in their shy quaintness and sincerity       said something that I think meant something different to her than it did to me then and than it does to me now        but it was a notion that always ignited my imagination       and that was     she said     maybe it’s possible to view literary criticism itself as a kind of art       and that idea      I don’t just mean it looks pretty      I mean that the argumentation itself can have a kind of elegance     that in order to be able to make the argument that Beneath the American Renaissance does      it requires a profound and capacious act of imagination                 is that where I want to end      of course not      I don’t want to end              but       here’s where I’ll end      and here I really will end      I think what my professor more or less meant when she talked about literary criticism as an art        is take pride in your craft      I don’t know what she meant     who knows      but I’m confident she was writing regular academic prose      and incidentally     when I was reading up on the art critic Dave Hickey       I saw that he teaches at UNLV      and then I saw that my former lit professor was now teaching there as well     and I wondered how she liked having him as a colleague       what would she make of what the rebellious Dave Hickey does with his criticism      with his life       but it was just a weird coincidence to see that she teaches there now and to realize she has an existence beyond just the class I took with her over ten years ago       it was like when I saw my history professor in the supermarket my first semester of college       we were both buying beer and I was completely startled by it       not by the fact that she was buying beer      or that I was under-aged and buying beer        but that there she was on a Gristede’s check-out line       out in the world      anyway what I find particularly suggestive       I was thinking about the artfulness of literary criticism in relation to this recent movement called conceptual poetry     and conceptual poetry involves a lot of appropriation      and Kenny Goldsmith      the most prominent conceptual poet       makes the point that the simple act of moving information from one place to another is     in our culture      a prominent form of writing      is a creative act       and that’s a lot of what his artistic practice involves      moving information from one place to another      and the revelation for me thinking about this notion in the context of criticism was that that’s what criticism has always done from its inception      it takes information from one place     a book     a movie     a poem     and moves it somewhere else and in changing the context of that information has tried to make it into something else      has tried to make it sing      even if only argumentatively      arguably too       it’s not just in quoting a text that criticism moves information       but it moves information in the sense that      and I know certain critics don’t buy into this notion       but in the sense that there’s a latent level of meaning      there’s a meaning behind the words      that’s implicit in them      and criticism takes that level of meaning and moves it to the forefront     it’s foregrounding it and making it apparent      so it’s not just moving the texts themselves and changing their context     it’s changing the context of how the texts signify      doing something with the texts’ meanings     moving those meanings around     and so in a weird way      the Conceptual practice of information transferal     well of course it’s been done before      it’s been done for centuries      there’s often an historical amnesia in their pronouncements about their practice        which I suppose is an inevitable part of avant-garde posturing        but what I think is most germane      aside from what it suggests about criticism as a kind of stealth artistic practice     and I’ve always felt      as a writer      that I like working off the ideas of others better than I do just creating something myself out of the void     so I like the idea of criticism as a stealth art      but the last point I’ll make     is that if conceptual poetry has these affinities with criticism      as practices       it suggests that conceptual poetry itself is a kind of critical practice      that maybe      you could say      the major breakthrough of conceptual poetry as an art practice      is that it blurs the boundaries between criticism and art in a way never quite so completely done before      and its focus on a “thinkership” as opposed to an readership       a clumsy term       but one conceptual poets have advanced     supports this idea      in other words      conceptual poetry does something critical      it changes the context of an object       and therefore its meaning     and lets you see it in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t have       and in so doing      it makes art     or     even more precisely      the Conceptual framing gesture     which is fundamentally a critical gesture      a kind of reading of a text      the precise way to say it is       that conceptual poetic practice implies that any reading of a text is       fundamentally       an act of artistic creation