Published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe, April 2019
ISBN: 9781090582249

this is no longer entertainment is formed entirely out of untreated anonymous or pseudonymous text found in the open comments sections of media websites and other digital platforms. It was composed by filtering this un-authored writing through a process of immediate, instinctive selection and reframing, which is inevitably modulated by the author’s interests and emotional temperature. The poem’s composition roughly covers the period 2014-2017; a period marked by a range of notable social-political shifts and events. In its use of avant-garde compositional methods as parallels with experimental documentary filmmaking practices, this is no longer entertainment borrows from and extends the documentary poetry tradition. It is a poetic exploration of public-private language and multiple/shifting personas enabled by digital technologies and communication, and their effect on social discourse and the broader political climate. Cumulatively, the juxtapositions of the primary material consider mutual influences and intersections between themes like (mis)-information and error, the diffusion of authority, pop/celebrity culture, identity politics, the rise of nationalism, and others.




Acknowledgements:

Excerpts from this is no longer entertainment have previously appeared as individual poems in the following journals and anthologies: some mark made, Poetry Ireland Review, Icarus Magazine, CORDA, Paris Lit Up, The Pickled Body, Studies in Arts and Humanities (SAH) Journal, Free Poetry Irish Anthology, Wretched Strangers, Hotel Magazine, The Tangerine.

A non-sequential 10-page selection from this book while in progress formed the text of my limited edition pamphlet if we keep drawing cartoons (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016).



Introduction:

'Poetry and Cultures of Feedback', a short essay introducing the book, was published in The Irish Times on 9 May 2019.



WHAT THEY SAID:

A starkly innovative, by turns funny and worrying book.
Karl Whitney


This is really rather glorious, and poetry isn’t like receiving communion. And the cover is quite fabulous. Go buy it, folks.
Christopher Cusack


A very intriguing book. Themes emerge, repeat, are revisited and sink into the reader's consciousness... like listening to some kinds of jazz.
Liz McSkeane (Turas Press)


A huge work and an imprint of our time.
Maria Malinovskaya


An incredible book that I happily devoured in one reading. It communicates [...] just how comical, upsetting, absurd and dangerous the online extensions of living can be. A great and important book.
David Spittle


[...] In Poems 47 to 51 in particular, the collision of Irish identity politics with the Syrian refugee crisis and immigration is unflinchingly laid bare with a jostling of voices and all the horrific figurative hyperbole one finds in comments sections. Crucially, these figurations are often repeated across comments in a ritual manner [...] It is difficult to imagine an Irish lyric poem addressing this subject as effectively or explicitly, yet this poem, through the material it deploys, relies on our familiarity with the moves made by lyric poems. We continually await the lyric speaker to appear, the one who will enunciate and therefore clarify for us where our voice, the reader’s voice, sits in all this cacophony; we are waiting for the lyric poetic speaker to tell us what to say so that we may shape the words in our mouths. Markis’s refusal to do this is vital to the overall project.

Kimberly Campanello
(from the conference paper '"I was not able to help, but I tried my best": Material Lyricism in Contemporary Irish Poetry,' presented at Text / Sound / Performance, University College Dublin, 27 April 2019)



Christodoulos Makris’s poetry falls somewhere between that of two of my favorite contemporary poets, the Flarfist Sharon Mesmer and the Conceptualist Rob Fitterman, who similarly appropriate most of their raw materials from the shallow waters and the murky depths of the internet. Like Mesmer, Makris is fascinated by the vibrancy, color and variety of the online world, its carnivalesque atmosphere, inseparable as it is from the vulgarity, ugliness and violence that confronts us whenever we daily find ourselves lost in its captivating labyrinths. It is in this latter sense that his poems resemble Fitterman’s grotesque confessions. Makris’s poetry is not merely voyeuristic but also unabashedly complicit in the sordidness it seeks to portray. Makris is voracious and encyclopedic, as comfortable referencing Michelangelo as the anonymous author of unremarkable dick pics, which at once recall and ridicule the great master’s classical nudes. But if Makris’s poetry shares many similarities with that of Mesmer and Fitterman, it is also strikingly different in tone. Makris oftentimes assumes an ironic, satirical and critical stance towards its material and its authors. In other words, he is celebratory, but not quite. Complicit but also concerned. This is no secret. After all, the question that pervades his most recent book is right in the title: to what extent is all this no longer entertainment?

João Guimarães
(University College Dublin, 2 December 2019)



Christodoulos Makris’ this is no longer entertainment (2019) also uses a conceptual writing approach to illuminate fissures in our social fabric. Makris builds his poems from the internet, culling lines and quips from chat rooms, comment streams, and other ephemeral online spaces. In the poems, he connects his collage work to the avant-garde history of similar experiments from Pablo Picasso to Brion Gysin, John Cage to musical sampling in contemporary hip-hop.

In other words, this kind of experimental writing has its own tradition from which to draw and respond. Rather than pursue beauty in isolation, this manipulated found-text tradition makes art of the ugly truth. Tradition is, after all, just a shared preference that lingers over time.

He explains in the introduction that this is no longer entertainment is “formed entirely out of untreated anonymous or pseudonymous text found in the open comments sections of media websites and other digital platforms”. The poet concedes that the book is, in this way, “unauthored” and demonstrates a variety of artful strategies in processing the mess of the internet into an art that sustains its violence, its contradictions, and its attractions.

There is a lot of graphic sex, perhaps inevitably, but because of the way he has decontextualized phrases from their flow, the poems enact a kind of messy sex of language smashing gangly bits into odd juxtapositions. By building from the “language of real men” today, he invites us to consider the implications of daily experience with language: “confused, disappointed, and scrolling to the bottom / we can actually cause genetic mutations simply by watching violence” (“4”).

As befits true art, there is a movement across the collection. The themes of the poems develop from mouth-breathing, porn-crazed misogyny to mouth-breathing, ultra-glib xenophobia. In other words, the moods of the era are mapped out in this core-sample of the internet where “we watch them pretending to be other people / speaking other peoples words […]why the anger? / it’s easier to be snide and anonymous” (“71”).

This is poetry because it uses language to store a complex network of ideas about the age in which we live. Like the best of Ireland’s literary tradition – the canonical tradition of Swift, Wilde and Joyce – it also highlights the hypocrisies of our age. We use the language of inclusion and tolerance, while permitting casual racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

Makris’s project also bumps into the limits of what constitutes tolerable artistic practice. The UK publisher was obviously comfortable publishing a collection of found or artfully-plagiarised text that challenges the boundaries of acceptable authorial practice (hence, avant-garde), but yet still found it necessary to put in a disclaimer in the colophon: “These poems are a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination.” Are the poems, then, “untreated” as the author suggests or entirely of the author’s imagination as the publisher insists? The colophon also reminds readers that though made up of plagiarised text, “No parts of this publication may be reproduced.”

I believe this hypocrisy in the literary industry, in how we experience and perform language in Capitalism, is at the heart of Makris’s documentary. We want to experience commonality, that national sense of belonging, just as we want free access to the best ideas percolating across humanity.

The kind of conceptual poetry I have highlighted here documents intense and essential limitations to that commonality, to that aspirational freedom. Taking us right to the edge of our ideology is the proper task of experimental poetry, as in Makris’s work [...] This kind of writing that gives up the nationalist illusion of commonality to expose the fault lines of a society is particularly necessary in an age of complex social turbulence on the precipice of even further changes. As the world transforms, so too must its poetry.

Gregory Betts
('As the world transforms, so too must its poetry, disregarding tradition', The Irish Times, 26 December 2019)



The rolling composite voice on show in Makris’ this is no longer entertainment realizes a more complex relationship with polyphony than the page alone can allow. The experience of reading these texts can’t help but engineer a little bad detective work on the part of the reader; we’re accustomed to wading through a myriad of multi-authored opinions as we stroll a heavy thumb through the roll-call of comments that accompany any video, article or op-ed we encounter on screen, and the panoply of voices hidden behind Makris verse linger as spectral voices behind the text. Simultaneously elsewhere and imminent, on the page it is almost as though this is no longer entertainment is in conversation with its sources; toying with the degree of disassociation involved in shadow reading digital text fields, the mind can’t help but err towards an effort to identify where these ideas stem from. Hearing Makris read from the text is a different experience all together. Delivered in his staple flat and unshakeable timbre, the poem becomes a little joke on possession. A play with both the ghosts behind the poetry and with sense of a passing ownership of the perspectives on offer as they interlace behind a first-person vocality. An “I” built out of an acreage of text fields.

Dominic Jaeckle
(Hotel Magazine, 13 March 2020)



With so much of our public discourse now played out over the internet, the vast network of musings and meanderings has long been ripe as a source of found material for poets to work with. However, as we have lived longer with the internet and the internet as a thing has morphed, so too has our relationship with and to it. In her recent ground-breaking work, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff has finally managed to put a name to what the internet is being purposed for: our 'behavioural surplus'. Rather than the asinine assertion that if the product is free you are the product, Zuboff's work convincingly charts instead the contention that, in fact, it is our behaviour that is the product - the behaviour we initially feed to the search engines, social media networks, and news sites, and eventually the behaviour that the internet tries to predetermine and direct us towards.

It is one part of the raw material of our behavioural surplus which Christodoulos Makris repurposes in the poems that make up this is no longer entertainment. The title itself is a stark warning, as strong as Zuboff's core argument in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Makris uses comments and other user-generated material from websites - the behavioural surplus which many of us are guilty of giving freely - to create a sustained and at times terrifying glimpse of the world as it now exists. What began as the diversionary act of commenting below the line, whiling away the time online, has become an all-consuming part of the public discourse. It has shaped it, transformed it, created a kind of monster - a host of monsters indeed. We talk less to one another because we type more. We comment, and we get stuck into preposterous arguments that go nowhere. Reading this is no longer entertainment, in which lots of online commentary is stripped of its original context, one still feels the enduring sense of vertigo that can easily be achieved by going 'below the line' on almost any news article, video, or other piece of online content:

"Unless it's toilet graffiti or schoolyard banter at a family wedding it goes right over my head which is why (takes a deep breath and holds head defiantly high) I don't understand poetry at all. Nobody calls Leonard Cohen a pervert."

Like the internet it draws inspiration from, the poems in this book offer a heady mix of gratuitous sexual imagery, violence, and much of the other ugly reality that people feel freer in expressing online than they (might) feel comfortable expressing in the 'real world':

"Many days I walked in the rain rather than get a non-Irish taxi. Starving Ethiopians in the 1980's was it? Live Aid to feed them? Well look at the big strong Africans in Dundalk now, well able to drive a taxi and claim dole at the same time."

And of course, this too is part of the point and the problem. We talk about the online and offline, although the line between one and the other - as Zuboff's work demonstrates - is thin to vanishing now. Makris' poems reinforce this. The incongruous encounters of the online comment section, where people hide behind handles and other forms of anonymisation, have in the years since his project began spilled out into the offline world. It may no longer be entertainment, but it has become decidedly more vital to engage with: our world is being shaped by the online discourses which these poems upend. In that way, to read these poems is to see the decontextualised nightmarish qualities of them in a way that indicates that we may have to work harder to fight against their worst excesses and outcomes. Makris has taken our behavioural surplus and fed it back to us as art, and it is terrifying.

David Toms
('Feeding the Engines' Poetry Ireland Review 130 - April 2020)



Subtitled ‘a documentary poem’, Christodoulos Makris’ this is no longer entertainment records the author’s encounters online over a number of years. In seventy-one numbered sections Makris presents a document of the years 2014 to 2017. This document shows a partial or framed view of the world in that period, viewed via the ‘open comments sections of media websites and other digital platforms.’

   Why oh why do we read this insignificant tosh?
   Why is it strangely magnetic when I’m scrolling down the screen?
       (57)

Makris tells his reader something of the process and procedure of the making or assembly of the book in his ‘About the Book’. This showing of the workings feels important, there is a sense in which the how, the process, while not explaining the poetry, is significant to Makris’ contract with the reader. Here he is revealing the stuff under the bonnet, the recipe for the dish, in a gesture of openness and of belonging. An openness in the sense of open source software or open content sharing, and belonging in the sense of having kinship with or being in a tradition of other procedural poetics.

   that’s ok then cos it’s not stealing, it’s copying

   abolish copyright and patents, the whole process is riddled
      (35)

In an online essay on ‘Browsing History’, a related project performed while poet-in-residence at the 2017 Stanza poetry festival in St. Andrews, Makris writes of these processes of making, he raises questions of appropriation and ownership:

   our current technological environment has helped mature the appropriative
   into a valid form of art making. A new understanding of artistic ownership
   is beginning to emerge, slowly, challenging received ideas of copyright
   and content use. (Makris, 2018)

In this is no longer entertainment, the textual material is appropriated from a specific online environment that foregrounds particular modes of voice, and rhetorical styles. These resound and babble through the pages, persisting across topics and times to produce a rhythm or beat that is familiar to readers who are also browsers of the web.

   Donald Trump’s already
   visually so uninteresting. and the conceptualism is so tired
   being told to wrap it up
   by doing something worthwhile
   Kim Gordon
   eating a live spider in front of the tv
      (110)

Makris takes the material and shapes it into sequences, into sections, chapters, themed threadings or associative collages. His ‘process of composition relied on identifying the poetic potential in the material I encountered’ (Makris 2018), the writing was ‘composed by filtering this un-authored writing through a process of immediate, instinctive selection and reframing’ (Makris, 2019). The source material, anonymous or pseudonymous, is decontextualised by selection and reframing, to generate poetic passages organised by theme or connotation. Multiple voices are folded and stitched into a smoothened text, that can shift between conversation, dispute, debate and monologue. The voices don’t sit quietly in their new setting, as the reader recognises modes of response, the staking of a position, forms of agreement, strategies of distraction.

The printed text of the book, in its clear Times New Roman 11-point font, likewise shifts the material into a smoothened environment. The stitches don’t show on the page surface, the joins are invisible (beyond the use of line or paragraph breaks which in their way visually nudge the text further toward poetry and away from their source). The words don’t look like they do on a screen. They have a bookishness, a different materiality that contributes to a different reading experience, less scanning and scrolling is prompted, more attention to the operation, the functioning of the phrases and words. And these words operate in particular ways, with recurrent patterns, rhetorical, thematic, topical, verbal.

There is the listing of points, in support of an argument, as evidence, paratactically piling on examples to bolster a truth:

   Shakespere would have liked Linux LaTeX and modern version control
   software all a product of the Internet he would also have liked Internet
   shopping creative talents tend to be highly obsessive so anything not
   directly relating to the task at hand was a distraction his handwriting
   was terrible and  stage | formatting is so the drama so getting the plays
   into a computer would have been helpful [...] there was probably some
   wenching going on safer and more discrete if ordered off a website so
   I’ll say he would probably have written more not less
      (61-2)

There is the careful pointing out of errors in the comments of others, so following a fine example of hyperbole, further down the page is a rejoinder:

   This is why we see entire rainforests being chopped down to produce
   Top Gear books. [...] oil production and cattle rearing, the main causes
   of deforestation (rainforest trees are mainly hardwood and paper is
   mainly made from softwood).
      (59)

or taking away with one hand and giving with the other:

   They speak Cantonese in Hong Kong. But otherwise, well put.
      (76)

or a polite pointing out:

   most of the words here seem to be under- / researched
      (62)

   Err, this is not very well researched.
      (118)

or in the faux-apologetic acknowledgment of a typo or unintended autocorrect:

   wrong spelling I know
      (33),

   darned autocorrect
      (80)

   Of course, pardon my typ.
      (123)

and the ironic faux-naive or humblebrag pronouncement:

   I am aware of some obscure book I haven’t / purchased
      (36)

and then there is an interruption by a voice that sits somewhat to the side of the others:

   This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by
   our community standards. Replies may also be deleted.
       (69)

or the other type of refrain which is the comment as meme, repeating in the book as it recurs online:

   Thank you, Patrick.
       (12, 119)

And there are moments where with a sense of knowing self-referentiality, a nod and a wink, a glance across the fourth wall occurs:

   a guy pushing enter on his laptop
   cut and paste mish-mash wrapped in an enormous ego
      (55)

In a recording of Makris reading from the book, published online by Hotel, Amsterdam (Makris, 2020), these multiple voices are sewn more tightly into one. The rhythm of Makris’ delivery, the flattening of the emotional charge of some of the text, presents a less populated agora, the many speakers voiced by one. The listener hears the varied references, the shifting threads of association, but they are gathered, corralled by the single reading voice into a (provisional) harmony.

   the ream of words are obfuscatory to the point
   it doesn’t really matter what was written
      (123)

Themes or topics recur through the book, arguments around immigration and migration, discussion of art and culture, the relative merits of analogue and digital technology, the value of different cultural products. These are determined in part by the forum the comments operate in, responding to news stories, releases of music or video content, political events.

   No doubt he’ll use the Bahar Mustafa defence. Only yesterday Connor
   made some valid rhymes concerning Caitlin Jenner’s award for bravery.
   I read about this on twitter.
      (41)

In their usual environment these are time and context specific, as events prompt responses, and then things move on. Issuing the material in book form, a mode associated with longer time scales, less linked to immediate responses, would suggest that the reader would encounter out-of-date content, news that hasn’t stayed news. And yet many of these are recognizable, familiar stories; and the reader may recall details or at least the background or broad context for them. Makris commented on this when he looked back at the St Andrews residency after a year:

   Looking at the results a year on, I note that certain concerns looming
   large in March 2017 have remained so in early 2018 (eg Trump, the
   refugee crisis) even if altered in focus or intensity; some news stories
   were particular to that period (eg Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes,
   email security) but continue to cast a shadow.
     (Makris 2018)

Reflecting on the unanchoring of the texts from their source, from the urgent or passionate moment that provoked them, Makris shifts the focus to the new responses that are possible in belated or unlocalised reading of them.

   What remains, I hope, is a poetic attention to language and image that
   prompts a memory or an extrapolation in the mind of each new reader.
      (Makris 2018)

Makris doesn’t pretend to be without agency here, he acknowledges that ‘instinct’ and ‘selection’ as well as ‘the author’s interests and emotional temperature’, have contributed to the shaping of the book’s texts. The link to documentary suggests a wish to record, to offer the possibility of a position, or to make available information and material from which a reader or viewer could build an opinion, or gain knowledge.

Makris points to the tradition of documentary filmmaking and of documentary poetry in his subtitle and his note before the texts. This situates the work in a line of avant garde making practices that include found and cut-up texts, collage, mash up, and connects to work in moving image, visual arts, poetry and other writing. The text references Duchamp (114, 121-23, 125) and Burroughs and Gysin (112-113) as well as quoting other discussions on sampling, copyright and reuse that contextualise the text I am reading (116-117).

In a tradition of documentary poetry, that uses found or appropriated material there is a range of modes of presenting that material form Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony or Holocaust, to M Nourbese Philip’s Zong! where source matter is reorganised with the poet becoming an arranger. And in projects which use time limits to constrain the selection of material such as Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day or Hannah Weiner’s Weeks, the found matter in some sense carries a timecode. But the sense of ‘gathering’ that feels more appropriate to this text links to works such as Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I in documentary film, or Nat Raha’s Of Sirens, Body and Faultlines in documentary poetry.

   gleaning, collecting wood, harvesting grapes, making a selection; ‘reading
   a book’ is just a variant of ‘gathering’ in the authentic sense. This means
   laying one thing next to another, bringing them together as one—in short,
   gathering;
      (Heidegger, 2000: 131)

This book gathers one person’s gleanings from time spent online over a number of years. The text is organised, shaped, to offer an obviously self-conscious curating of the material, opinions, ideas encountered there. ‘The word curate is not a synonym for “chosen” or “collected”. (119) This is a reading, that is open to other and others’ readings, it frames a view without determining what another will see there.

   you could say you are parasitical on their labour
       (78)

   it doesn’t include labels nor pity
   it just floats quietly
   and serves to begin conversations such as this
      (103)


References:
- Heidegger, Martin (2000) Introduction to Metaphysics, Trans. by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt, New Haven: Yale University Press
- Makris, Christodoulos (2018) ‘Browsing History: Looking forward to 2018, looking backwards to 2017’, http://www.stanzapoetry.org/blog/browsing-history-looking-forward-2018-looking-backwards-2017
- Makris, Christodoulos (2020) reading from this is no longer entertainment for Hotel, Amsterdam, https://soundcloud.com/user-897396947/christodoulos-makris-this-is-no-longer-entertainment-amsterdam-020320-3220-322-pm

Mark Leahy
('move away from blatant plagiarism', Stride magazine, 29 May 2020)



A serious project that stealth bombs the reader while they're smiling.
Bridget Penney



Media:

- I read section 5 from this is no longer entertainment for the poetry podcast series Words Lightly Spoken, available on i-tunesSpotify, and other platforms (13 June 2019).





- I read five sections from the book for Hotel magazine's online archive. Recorded in Amsterdam on 2 March 2020, and published on 13 March 2020.





Translations:

Five sections from this is no longer entertainment translated into Russian by Maria Malinovskaya, and published in Cirk Olimp on 9 October 2019.



Accompanying Publication:

yes to the above, a limited edition pamphlet published on 12 November 2019 by The Lifeboat Press (Belfast) in 50 numbered copies, is a collection of outtakes, or 'deleted scenes', from this is no longer entertainment conceived as a 'bonus material' accompaniment to the book.

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