Marketing aims to make us better consumers. Stable, efficient, savvy, sustainable. Each trend startles like a sudden thought. Wallets at the ready. Card Security Code Verification Impulse.
The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) curates an annual gala called the Time-Based Art Festival. PICA’s visual art curator, Kristan Kennedy, based her 2014 selections around the theme of poetry. In the pamphlet that accompanied the visual art shows she writes
The presentations are not odes to something… the artists may or may not be poets, but all of it is OF poetry.
Why poetry? Kristan answers
I am not sure if you know this, but poems are very popular. At least they seem to be in my world. This curator’s bookcase/bedside table is/are stacked with volumes by Bishop, Pound, Radon, Coolidge, Creely1, Tompkins, Stevens, Wright, Kapil, O’Hara, Sexton, Ritter, Larsson, Choi, Stevens2, Saroyan, Cummings, and many others… the obvious and the obscure. I believe my growing interest in/need for poetry is a shared one. I can feel your heads shaking in agreement. We know it to be true. In spite of the fact that no one will pay for a poem, poem and poet persist. The Art World’s current obsession with “the poem” and its maker “the poet” seems related to the form’s and the maker’s freedom, as well as to its sparse economy. (For the purpose of this introduction, Art World is THE WORLD.) We have yet to commodify it, to trade it, to destroy its value by placing it on the auction block. Those of us over here want a piece of poetry because some of the magic in our world has been lost. What is more magical than a poem, more otherworldly than a poet?
Magical and otherworldly, she might be right, especially when the poet is one or more bored marketing managers for an international restaurant chain, and the poem is inconclusive evidence against Kennedy’s view of poetry as an as yet non-commodified space, somewhere ‘over there,’ where the chic yet sensitive obsessives from the oh-so Art World can retreat for awhile and revel in Pure Creation.
Thus, the world of nachos enters the world of art.
Kennedy holds poetry on an elevated plane of respect, in part because of its a-economy. Yet, some of the contemporary poetry world’s most recognized and popular figures (K. Goldsmith, A. Reines, S. Roggenbuck, V. Place, B. Rogers immediately come to mind) are very consciously interacting with commodification by skillfully marketing themselves as personified poetry. While many of their books/works/texts may be part of the creative commons, outlandish performativity and a ripe social media presence are these poets’ commodities. The magic of the poem is that it is as nachos, the otherworldliness of the poet is that they are as poems. As the nacho is the subject of the poem, the poem is the subject of the poet.
“Ode to Nacho” discusses a similar kind of complexity, a dense and suffocating gooeyness, full of blurred lines, imperfections, fractured edges, puzzles, transmogrifying souls melting into dualisms and metaphorical binaries such as solid vs. liquid and clean vs. dirty. Marketing co-opted imperfection, irony and awkwardness long ago, and this poem continues in that vein. Instead of extolling the nacho in a final sweeping gesture of love and admiration, the poet feels dirty, they feel the grease, the fat, the sour onions, the old guacamole, browning now, the spiky chips scraping the walls of their intestines, the guilt and shame of lust.
This is kooky marketing. It is an act, a ploy. Like Goldsmith’s fur coats, its artifice is clear, its agenda public, its irony ironic = textual magic.
1 In original text
2 Could it be?