Josef Kaplan’s 2013 book Kill List is made up of the names of 232 contemporary poets arranged in alphabetical order into 58 four-line stanzas, with each name qualified as “a rich poet” or as “comfortable.”
Vito Acconci is a rich poet.
Gilbert Adair is comfortable.
Rachel Adams is comfortable.
Etel Adnan is a rich poet.
The political value of the form of a “kill list,” in the list’s production and circulation, is so obviously central in the age of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Kill List is an information leak and a threat, both in its information and its form. The more serious political content of the book, however, is in the Deleuzian flow from out of the form, through the eyeholes and mouthhole in the mask. Everything but the text. In this case, the excess lies especially in the book’s reception. Let’s not fool ourselves into believing that poetry “itself” contains anything.
Barrett Watten, a rich poet, is afraid of Kill List. In his essay “On Naming Names,” he likens Josef Kaplan to no less than Joseph McCarthy, and sees in Kaplan’s list an echoing of blacklisting during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Like many readings of Kill List, Watten’s is curiously unambiguous. This is curious because Kill List is far less determined in its thrust than Watten claims. As Vanessa Place, a rich poet, has written, “A good conceptual poem is too dumb to persuade anyone of anything.” It’s doubly strange that Watten compares something he interprets as fundamentally anti-capitalist to one of the most infamous American symbols of capitalistic state power. Capitalist or communist: it’s all tyranny to Watten. This romantic political viewpoint is chiefly what informs Watten’s critique, which is in part based on a desire to separate political arguments from actuality. Kill List, though it offers no easy conclusions (or condemnations), interpolates the real world into the ideological conversation around class.
Kill List calls poets capitalists; Cathy Park Hong, in her essay “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde,” calls conceptualists racists. Of course, these are different forms of calling. Like Althusser’s cop, Hong means to force conceptualists to recognize themselves in her call-out. Central to most conceptual writing, though, is the Foucauldian denial of the role of the confessing (expressing) subject. As Vanessa Place, again, has elsewhere noted, ideology is “a game that everyone can play, given they bring their own sock-puppet.” The romantic poetic subject, the Author, has historically been poets’ preferred sock-puppet. But Kill List is playing the ideology game without a net: conceptualism is free verse ideology. Fantasies of revolution have always been institutionally co-opted and reified in the market of literary exchange. Conceptualism inverts this process. As Robert Smithson wrote a long time ago, “It would be better to disclose the confinement rather than make illusions of freedom.” Kill List is open to interpretation in part because it denies the plain revelation of the subject. 
Joey Yearous-Algozin’s Real Kill List documents the intersection between the cultural exchange of contemporary poetry and social media. His book is a series of screenshots of poets reacting to Kaplan’s Kill List on Facebook. Many of these reactions are strong and heated.
Because Kill List was clearly designed to provoke, it seems appropriate that a documentation of the symbolic action the text creates should be a “conversation” among poets. Yearous-Algozin’s piece is especially effective in offering a similarly voyeuristic pleasure to that of Kaplan’s book: we watch, from a safe distance, the messy (de)formation of a cultural group and its supposed interests. In Kill List, those interests are flattened into a simplistic economic binary; in Real Kill List, the poets interpolate themselves into the corporate-defined limitations of Facebook interactions. The action has been subtly altered, though: after Rod Smith (comfortable) has attempted, almost solely, to defend Kill List from its detractors, he finally surrenders:
This is the only time the option to “Unlike” something appears. Real Kill List questions just who is constructing the conversation, who is listening, and who has the final authority and permission to constitute and define appropriate social exchange. Facebook—and much of the discussion in the poetry “community”—is regularly funneled into the simplistic binary distinctions of affirmation or rejection (or in the case of Facebook, affirmation or non-affirmation). Real Kill List “discloses the confinement” in which its production was possible. There is no outside. Both the overtly corporate-controlled forms of communication available on Facebook, and the supposedly communally-constructed forms of discussion mediated by poets on Facebook work primarily as reductionist techniques that manage and package conversation into efficiently consumable definitions. The cultural exchange among social networks of contemporary poetry is always already mediated by politico-economic configurations. Kill List and Real Kill List demonstrate the fundamental actuality of these restrictions.
 One has to wonder how Watten might feel about the recent Empath literary journal, which includes a “blacklist” of members of the literary community who have been accused of sexual assault violations or called out as rape apologists.
 Conceptualism, of course, does not necessitate the absence of identity. However, when identity is present in conceptual works, it is almost always destabilized, complicated, deconstructed. There is room for identity in conceptual writing, but not the whole, autonomous subject. In other words, there is no room for the fantastical Wordsworthian self. The ways that avant-garde work destroys the absurd fantasy of the whole subject are precisely what make it a particularly appropriate platform for identity-based work.