Brian Kim Stefans, Bruce Andrews's I Don't Have Any Paper So Shut Up (or, Social Romanticism) (Sun & Moon Press, 1992)

Bruce Andrews's I Don't Have Any Paper So Shut Up (or, Social Romanticism) is three hundred pages of prose poems of a little under three pages each in length. The titles of the poems are taken from their first lines, and are arranged alphabetically, thus detracting from the emphasis usually placed on the titles of poems. Many of the titles are, nonetheless, provocative; "All My Friends are Dead", "America Shops", "Am I Alive?", "Animal Dicks in Bed", and "Anti-Enlightenment" are the first five. This confrontational attitude is generally characteristic of the text of Shut Up, and yet the titles do not begin to hint at the nature of the delirious, vicious, irresolute, aggravating and aggavated poems that follow them.

Shut Up may be the apotheosis of the last possible mode of socio-critical poetry available to those of the "avant-garde," or at least to those who do not think that simplified reiterations of the major themes of "progressive" social discourse are legitimate avenues of expression. In many ways Shut Up can also be seen as the elaboration of a persona, though the definition of "persona" would have to be modified to include "anything that speaks," meaning that one needn't attribute the voice to a historical or fictional being (Bertrans de Born in Pound's "Sestina Altaforte", for instance) but can attribute it, instead, to a mode of discourse. An initial characterization of Andrews' persona in Shut Up could begin with Charles Bernstein's definition (cited in Marjorie Perloff's Radical Artifice) of "imagabsorption" as "'the im-position of the image on the mind' from without." Baudrillard's idea of the "ecstasy of communication," in which "the scene and mirror no longer exist; instead, there is a screen and network," our time being a "narcissistic and protean era of connections, contact, contiguity, feedback and generalized interface that goes with the universe of communication," is also valuable here. In any case, in Shut Up there is a voice being elaborated, one that seems as much governed by the barrage of images, words and rhythms (often originating from the impersonal, merciless realm of mass media) that compose its speech as it is by the momentary caprices of the poet's personality. Thus, Shut Up is a drama of sorts, though with no protagonist.

The following is from If Pods Could Talk :

If pods could talk — so, how
about a sperm-a-thon? Liz's Dick
thank your fluke
journey to the forbidden dish. Invest in the retarded,
such intelligent anti-intellectualism for a change;
the upturned nose of the politically incorrect. Feet are
pinned with light pertinent torts
on an exuberant scale
more of a mess than
who can grow the most organs without any desire to keep
them? Let Europe & and the Middle East just stew in their
juice. (Donner party picnic baskets & a Nuremberg
coatrack.) Hardy Boys save the Third World in the comfort
of their home.. bald flag does not warm up. Sponsorable mush
1/2 mental insect sorority; flagellant ribbon
chill my crack. God treats us like we were felons.
Quality is depressing. (120)

If there is comedy here, it is not so much in the individual phrases (many of which seem tasteless in-jokes, like those uttered by the over-drunk at parties) but in the fact that it just doesn't stop. Many of the phrases can be read as fairly self-conscious comments on the text itself: "so how/ about a sperm-a-thon?" (highlighting the "masturbatory" element), and "Quality is depressing," (meaning that the gracious is something hypocritical) are most apparent. "Chill my crack" sounds like something kids would yell to an elder they are trying to offend; "Hardy Boys save the Third World in the comfort of their own home" sounds like a headline, but is also an acrid commentary on certain bourgeois liberal practises of the day. "Invest in the retarded" also sounds like something from a newspaper, but the clause following places it somewhere within the realm of some academic discourse. Even the linking of the word "invest," which has connotations of money, with such a phrase as "the retarded" resonates to encompass notions of present-day practises of, for instance, obtaining cheap labor under the guise of philanthropy. Shut Up is relentless and often brutal, and may even be thought of as a study of end-of-the century misanthropy. It's virtue, however, besides the richness of the language and imagery, is that it is not hermetic, and in fact exhibits a terrific appetite for the "real," abstract as its expression may be. It is an unusual and rich book, and will no doubt be talked about for years to come.

[ St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter , December 1993/January 1994)]