Dear Emily Post-Avant,
I just read this review of Heriberto Yepez’s new book, Transnational Battle Field. Apparently, there is a section in the book where he more or less calls Amiri Baraka an Uncle Tom of Empire for maintaining a deep admiration for Charles Olson. WTF? Have you seen this? I was wondering what you thought!
–Not White on the Holidays in Newark
Dear Not White on the Holidays in Newark,
Heriberto Yepez has built much of his Lit career by snuggling up to the Academic, institutionalized poetic avant of the U.S.A for some time now. This cozily legitimized formation, largely ensconced in upper-tier Universities, whose work is sanctioned now by publications and cultural organizations of high prestige, owes much of its privileged, carefully cultivated position to a growing backstory of capital gifts, government funding, corporate grants, State fellowships, elite prizes, and even international cultural initiatives that bear evident ties to security agencies of the U.S. and other nations (China, for major instance, whose invitations for collaboration numerous of these poets continue to happily accept, even as dissident writers and artists there suffer persecution and incarceration).
Here, in illustration of Yepez’s game, is an article by him, sycophantically highlighting his Avant Imperial guru, Charles Bernstein, who for many years now has proudly held (he announces it like a prize) the “Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature” post at the University of Pennsylvania. http://www.milenio.com/cultura/milenio_laberinto-Heriberto_Yepez_Archivo_hache-Bernstein_y_Rothenberg_Mexico_0_496750631.html A position endowed, that is, by the Merrill Lynch CEO and war criminal Donald Regan, who served as both Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. During that tenure in the 1980s, Donald Regan was one of the principal overseers of a genocidal “counter-terrorist” policy in Central America, which brought torture and death to tens of thousands of people, not least to the Mayan and other indigenous communities in Guatemala. Yet Yepez has no stated problem with this, even though in a revolting irony, he accuses Charles Olson (and by extension, now, Olson’s friend and supporter Amiri Baraka) of being an “agent” of Empire for his admiring investigations into Mayan language and culture (!). Ask yourself: Would Amiri Baraka (the serious faults of his prejudices acknowledged) ever accept a Professorship endowed with the capital of the Empire’s ruling class, drenched in the blood of countless innocents? He would have spit on the offer.
The simple truth is that Heriberto Yepez, beneath all his “anti-imperialist” strutting, is a shining example of poetic comprador capital. In his hypocrisy, he is organically positioned within the culture of Empire, and his immediate masters are the Imperial official-verse “progressives” of the U.S. post-avant.
Though in all fairness to him: His Field-playing Yankee “innovative” friends are much more cagily opportunist than he is, in the end.