A preview of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media is now available through Google Books. You can read a substantial portion of the introduction and a taster from a couple of other chapters. The full version (in hardback or ebook) will not be available until July but you can pre-order it now. Use the code CUP30 for a 30% discount when ordering directly from Columbia University Press. In the meantime, you can read the start of the introduction, “The Copy as Global Master Trope,” below or through Google Books.
Everywhere the same story: our world is full of copies. The Internet is made of billions of pages and files ceaselessly copied between machines, and many of those pages are themselves copies, the products of cut and paste, hard-copy scanning, or remixing. Mash-ups of other texts, images, videos, and sounds in turn generate the millions of memes and remixes that circulate online every day, producing yet more copies. Repetition is equally evident in the discourse and concrete products of the networked global economy. While science has long relied on the principle of repeatability, the terms iterative and even copying are now buzzwords of business, computing, and design. The manufacture of buildings, clothes, cars, computers, and countless other products involves ceaseless acts of copying that will only increase with the growth of 3-D printing and the Internet of things. These diverse copies and copying practices range from Bach concertos to Donald Trump memes, One Direction fan fiction to modular buildings, and game design to experimental physics. They are united by one thing: repetition itself.
Repetition has always played a role in culture, from the reiterated words that constitute language to the intricate rhythms of dance, music, and poetry. But never before have these repetitions been so overt and pervasive. If copying has become the dominant mode of cultural production, it is equally the condition of its distribution and consumption. Consumption itself becomes production when writers, artists, and social media users alike make their art and their personas through the selection and rearrangement of texts and images copied from elsewhere, whether in a book, a gallery space, an Instagram page, or a Facebook profile. Such repetitions on- and offline also produce the transnational copying of cultural material that we call globalization.
Make It the Same addresses this confluence of the form of the cultural work with the form of the global cultural system. The book traces a common turn to repetition and reproduction among diverse poets working in three global languages: Chinese, English, and Russian. Poetry is the literary genre traditionally most associated with repetition as a conscious stylistic element, through such devices as rhythm, rhyme, parallelism, anaphora, and pun. Poets over the last half century—and especially over the past two decades—have expanded their emphasis on repetition. The principle of repetition, for instance, undergirds the widespread use of sampling, performance, translation, writing constraints, digital networks, reiterations across multiple media, and the cut-and-paste compositions of “citational,” “unoriginal,” or “uncreative writing.”
In the field of contemporary poetry, scholars and poets alike have tended to treat these various kinds of repetition as largely separate phenomena. By contrast, Make It the Same shows how these diverse practices share a common iterative poetics. It explores the breadth of this iterative turn by crossing the fault lines of stylistic, cultural, and political commitments in contemporary poetry. One task of this book is to reveal the common cultural logic underlying the seemingly contrasting practices of such poets as Anne Carson and Christian Bök, Kamau Brathwaite and Kenneth Goldsmith, Hsia Yü 夏宇 and Yang Lian 楊煉, and Tusiata Avia and Dmitri Prigov. While these poets differ radically in their approaches, themes, and affiliations, they and a great many other contemporary writers wrestle with the cultural condition of repetition. By examining the work of such poets, I show how literature has over the past half century turned to iteration to address new media technologies and global cultural change.
To continue reading the introduction, go to the Google Books preview.