Wednesday, November 07, 2007

 


Photo by Janie Eisenberg



Fred McDarrah

19262007

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Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Shanna Compton, For Girls (& Others), Bloof Books, no location given, 2007

John Crouse, Monodys, Small Chapbook Project, West Hartford CT 2007

Sarah Hannah, Inflorescence, Tupelo Press, Dorset, VT 2007

Mary Rising Higgins, Borderlning: Pieces from R & B, Small Chapbook Project, West Hartford CT 2007

Jukka-Pekka Kervcinen, Paragraphs, Small Chapbook Project, West Hartford CT 2007

Jennifer Knox, Drunk by Noon, Bloof Books, no location given, 2007

Tony Lopez, Covers, Salt, Cambridge 2007

Chris Martin, American Music, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend, WA 2007

rob mclennan, ottawa poems (blue notes), Small Chapbook Project, West Hartford CT 2007

Helen Mirra, Cloud, the, 3, Christoph Keller Editions, JRP Ringier, Zurich 2007

Brian Mornar, Repatterning, Punch Press, Buffalo 2007

bpNichol, The Alphabet Game: a bpNichol Reader, edited by Darren Wershler-Henry & Lori Emerson, Coach House Press, Toronto 2007

Brian Strang, Dark Adapt, Small Chapbook Project, West Hartford CT 2007

 

 

Books (Other)

Ken Edwards, Nostalgia for Unknown Cities, Reality Street, Sussex 2007

Tony Lopez & Anthony Caleshu, editors, Poetry and Public Language, Shearsman Books, Exeter, UK 2007. Includes Lyn Hejinian, Barrett Watten, Andrea Brady, Allen Fisher, Peter Middleton, Robert Sheppard, Hélène Aji, Carrie Etter, more.

Matt Marinovich, Strange Skies, Harper Perennial, New York 2007

 

Journals

Chicago Review, 53: 2/3, Autumn 2007, Chicago. Includes C.D. Wright, William Fuller, Sarah Gridley, Roberto Harrison, Mark Tardi, Erin Moure & Oana Avasilichioaei, Ronald Johnson, Georges Perec, Juliana Spahr & Stephanie Young, Jennifer Ashton, Allen Grossman, Catherine Wagner, Kent Johnson, Joshua Kotin & Robert P. Baird, more.

Damn the Caesars, vol. III, 2007, Buffalo. Includes Thomas Meyer, Steve McCaffery, Karen Mac Cormack, Dale Smith, Bill Griffiths, Thom Donovan, Sotère Torregian, Michael Kelleher, Richard Deming, Jonathan Levitsky, Jonathan Greene, Contemporary Korean Poetry feature, more.

Modern Review, Issue III.1, Fall 2007, Richmond Hill, Ontario. Includes Noah Eli Gordon, Jared White, Rebecca Stoddard, Tom Whalen, Ange Mlinko, Peter O’Leary, Tomaž Šalamun, Simon Perchik, Cyrus Console, Thomas Heise, more.

 

Broadside

Richard Owens, from Bel & the Dragon, no date or location given.

 

All items received since Halloween

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

 


Photo by Steve McNamara, courtesy of Jacket

Ange Mlinko
on
poetry & community

Numbers trouble” –
A.E. Stallings
on
women & publishing

Emily Warn
on
essentialism & gender

(Essays all in response
to Spahr & Young (PDF)
in the new
Chicago Review
on the subject of gender,
diversity, anthologies,
Jennifer Ashton (PDF)
& [sigh]
Silliman’s Blog)

”Poetry Magazines & Women Poets”
by the editors of
The Chicago Review
(PDF)

Further commentary by
Stephanie Young & Juliana Spahr
&
Dale Smith
&
K. Lorraine Graham
&
Simon DeDeo

§

Mlinko’s blog archives
for the
Poetry Foundation

§

A review of
Lydia Davis’
Varieties of Disturbances

§

At a slam
in Kuala Lumpur
six of the seven contestants
are women

§

Ruth Stone
isn’t slowing down

§

A portrait of
Nikki Giovanni

§

Saul Williams
&
NiggyTardust

§

Jackson Mac Low
in conversation

§

“Is the avant-garde
necessary?”

§

Christian Bök’s blogs
for the
Poetry Foundation

§

Bob Hass,
political poet

§

Campus librarians
fight surveillance

§

Bonnefoy
receives Czech prize

§

Talking with
Franz Wright

§

One Kansas Poet Laureate
looks at a predecessor

§

This week’s
death-of-a-bookstore article
comes from
Santa Barbara

§

But the Irish
book market

is doing okay

§

The bard
behind bars

§

Robert Pinsky
on
Reed Whittemore

§

“But is it poetry?
I can answer positively
in the negative.”

§

The Nantucket
youth slam

§

What parts of the bookstore
to kill next

§

Visit to a rare book shop

§

Remembering
Jaun Elia
& the witch of
Lahore

§

The Marine poet
of YouTube

§

Ted Hughes,
eco-warrior

§

A review of
Galway Kinnell

§

Subtleties
of global English

§

Simon Armitage,
war poet
by proxy

§

The T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist
is pure
School of Snoozy-tude

§

Another review
of
Edmund Wilson

§

Bad books
about Homer

§

Kahlil Gibran,
from bad to verse

§

Galway Kinnell,
raconteur

§

Erica Jong
on
Fernando Botero

§

Auctioning art
in a bad economy

§

Michael Roth
on
John Brenkman
on
democracy post-9/11

§

Is there anyone
who can report
on the reading
of Robert Grenier
& Aram Saroyan

at Beyond Baroque
November 2nd?

 

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Monday, November 05, 2007

 

Where is the body? In the North American version of the old game of Clue – Cluedo in its original British setting – Mr. Boddy, two Ds, is the only given in the game (in the U.K. he’s Mr. Black) – you have to puzzle out who did it, where they did it & with what weapon. It might even have been yourself. Playing the game as a kid, it was always a mystery to me how we could always know there is a body without actually knowing where the crime occurred. Nowadays, with the benefit of CSI, such possibilities proliferate into a cornucopia of potential false clues & wrong turns. Even when the body is present & fully opened up on the morgue slab – such a far cry from the tales of viewers vomiting as they fled Stan Brakhage’s film The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes mid-screening – it’s narratively rich, capable of telling any number of different stories.

Where’s the body in the text? That’s a recurrent question in poetry, one that I think is at least implicit in the “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads over two centuries ago & which turns up explicitly at last in the work of Charles Olson & the Projectivists. They are, after all, the first writers I can think of who actually theorized the text’s relation to the body that created it. The whole idea of the line as a tracking of the poet’s breath, the break that pause needed to inhale only to set forth again anew, very much suggests that each set of lungs will beget something different. In recordings, you can hear Olson’s scale, all 6’8” of him, wheezing as he reads into the mic. A much smaller man, Robert Creeley had shorter more hesitant lines. You can hear the tobacco clouds in his lungs as well – decades of smoking brought him to emphysema.

Among the Projectivists, Robert Duncan was different. He emphasized not the lung, but the hand & often employs the figure of the dance as an allegory for his own creative process. I must say that I never saw him truly dance, and can’t quite imagine him actually doing so. My own memory is of a man most at home sitting down. Even when he wore his cape publicly, its effect was to enshroud the body. The one period in which he did emphasize the line in his readings – the presentation of the complete, at least to that point, Passages over a couple of readings in Berkeley in 1970 or ’71¹ – Duncan audibly counted to three between each line of text, whispering the numbers as he went.

My own personal image of the Projectivists & the body is of Denise Levertov, the MC at a large, vastly overcrowded anti-war reading at Glide Church in San Francisco, getting genuinely hysterical onstage at the sight of The People’s Prick, an attendee who turn up in a six-foot tall bright pink terrycloth dildo costume. She threatened to shut the evening down on the spot and it took several of her peers to talk her down from this position, her own body visibly trembling with anger. She did not view this little bit of agitprop attendance – a direct antecedent, I suppose, of the panda who showed up at my reading last month in Ashland – in the spirit of women going topless at rock concerts, common enough at the time, but rather in the sense of the penis as an ever-present assault on women. Where is the body in this sense fragments almost instantly into questions of which body, where body, how body, and ultimately whose body is it? What might have happened had The People’s Prick been any other color, even blue?

In 1967, in an undergraduate writing class taught by Jack Gilbert at San Francisco State, two dancers suddenly burst through the door stark naked, did a short duet that was only vaguely erotic & dashed back out across the hall where presumably their clothes were waiting in another classroom. Jack had us each write down what we saw. The remainder of the class consisted of a demonstration of how different the experience was for each, that the eyewitness version was hardly neutral or objective.

That same year, in another course taught by George Hitchcock, he argued repeatedly that any author of a play needed occasionally to act, if only to understand that you had to write from the perspective of the actor, that you couldn’t give the actor things to do that were physically impossible. In 1970, I heard that same argument being made in an undergraduate drama class at UC Berkeley – I forget that teacher’s name – but this was a class in which some students actually had sex on stage. This was, I suppose, a logical next step after Michael McClure’s The Beard, which had been prosecuted a few years earlier largely because of the simulated act of cunnilingus that occurs during the play’s climax. The one time I saw The Beard performed – at the Fillmore Auditorium to a sizeable audience – the performers had mics, which rendered the physical & practical process of Billy the Kid proclaiming his lines from between Jean Harlow’s thighs problematic, to say the least. The class at Berkeley may have been notorious, but it was never busted, tho perhaps that was because, in the year of Kent State & the way UC, among so many other campuses, responded by transforming into fulltime antiwar machines canceling all else, teenagers having sex in front of their peers was the least of anybody’s problems.

I’m reminded that Steve Benson once played Billy the Kid in a production of The Beard, tho it’s not clear to me quite where or when. Before I knew him certainly. Steve is the person I think of first when I hear the question where is the body asked in connection with language poetry. All of his performance pieces seem rooted in the body, such as improvising onstage while listening to a work of classical music over headphones. So much of what actually occurs, way beyond what you can see in the later printed text, has to do with his own body language, full of hesitation & literal twitches, even tho he is one of the most graceful men I’ve ever known. As wonderful as Steve’s texts are, those that replicate his performances function to my mind as documenta – the “real” occasion is the performance itself, in real time, not replicable as such.

One step – and only one step – removed from this is the work of the language version of Poet’s Theater, and especially the writing of Carla Harryman, both there and in her other work that continues to this day.

Hardly any accusation about language poetry makes me more furious than the one that it had (has) no relation to the body. One hears this in different forms – two that I’ve come across recently were that the language poets never mention sex and “language poets can’t dance” – neither claim is even remotely true. It is no accident that the first poem in The Age of Huts, Ketjak, alludes both in its title & formal structure to the Balinese “monkey chant” by that name, nor that Ketjak is the name of the larger cycle of which The Age of Huts, Tjanting, The Alphabet, and Universe are parts. One need only hear the David Lewiston recording to find out exactly where I’m coming from as a poet. On the question of sex in my poetry, just spend a few pages reading Sunset Debris (PDF), also in The Age of Huts. Nor is it coincidental that the vast majority of my poems are originally written by hand, in notebooks. In The Alphabet, only my collaboration with Rae Armantrout, Engines, was first composed entirely on a keyboard.

One could, I think, go through the entire roster of contributors to The Grand Piano and discover much the same all through the list. Indeed, I responded to an earlier generation of this same insinuation about the lack of eroticism in language poetry, in that instance from Jeff Hansen, with the following on February 10, 1996:

Geez, Jeff,

I think there's lots of eroticism in most all of my langpo friends. Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian's collaboration The Wide Road would be an obvious place to start, but Bob Perelman's early 11 Romantic Positions wouldn't be bad either (tho it's a more fugitive work). I've been criticized for having too much in my own writing. So your question puzzles me

Nor was I alone. Douglas Messerli, Rae Armantrout, Joe Amato & Rod Smith all offered their own suggestions. Rae’s brief note pointed out that

Carla Harryman and Ron Silliman’s work (just for starters) is very much engaged with the erotic.

I’m reminded of this today because of reading in the big pink anthology, The noulipian Analects, which is an anthology that might be said to report on, cover, and/or have been provoked by, Noulipo: The Conference, held October 28-29, 2005, in Los Angeles. The anthology itself describes the event (on p. 149) as follows:

The purpose of noulipo was to examine the legacy of Oulipian constraint-based writing among Anglophone writers. Organized by Matias Viegener and Christine Wertheim, the event consisted of five discussion panels, a summary panel, and two evening readings.

I just happened at this same moment to be reading a series of reports about the Politics of Constraint panel at this same event, specifically Juliana Spahr & Stephanie Young’s attempt to spell out what they called Foulipo, which must stand for Feminist Oulipo, much in the way that noulipo signifies an Oulipo + n, at least theoretically an unknown, a supplement, a transformation to a new stage. The conference itself appears to have been interesting, even if hijacked to some degree by the success by scandal of Spahr & Young, who stripped during their presentation & were joined by three other naked performers, and who made claims made about the nature of Oulipo & the body, especially women’s bodies, that turned out to be controversial. A lot of this was documented in the eighth issue of Drunken Boat, one of the better webzines around. Of particular interest are the text of the event itself, Kenneth Goldsmith’s scolding response, which begins (not inaccurately)

Stephanie Young & Juliana Spahr’s “Foulipo” is awash in nostalgia….

Also worth noting here are Young’s brief report of the event, which she uses as a lead-in to the paper itself, and Joseph Mosconi’s far more reportorial essay, presented on his blog. An edited version of Mosconi’s piece appears in The noulipian Analects under “Politics of Constraint: The Panel.”

I have to admit that I concur with Goldsmith’s judgment here – Spahr & Young had taken some potshots at Fidget – and that the whole conference as presented in this anthology reminds me of Rae Armantrout’s joke that she has to bring her very worn copy of the Rolling Stones LP Let it Bleed to school at least once each year to let certain undergraduates know that they did not invent nihilism, punk, dressing in black, whatever. Oulipo itself represents but a minuscule fraction of constraint-based literature – one can trace it back well past the trobar clus of the troubadours to the invention of rhyme itself – and to note that a conference on constraint-based literature that so fetishizes Oulipo, as this one did, has already gone off the tracks avant la lettre.

In the actual instance of Young & Spahr, the constraint placed on their piece on the body & writing was not the omission of the letter r from portions of the text nearly so much as it was historical amnesia. They’re permitted to discover that they have bodies by virtue of forgetting that everybody else got there first. At one level, this is not unlike children who cannot imagine the erotic lives of their parents.

By comparison, the body in language poetry occurs not only in Steve Benson’s performances or Poet’s Theater – they’re just the obvious places. Steve Benson once wrote a work that was composed in a notebook while he waited for his computer to boot up each date. How can anything that entails time not entail the body? What else is there, after all, through which to experience this? In Paradise, each paragraph was written while on a lunch break, most of them sitting in Dolores Park. Sitting Up, Standing, Taking Steps was composed entirely on public transit. Dare I say likewise for BART? What’s perhaps unique about Spahr & Young’s definition of the body in the work of art is that they mean the body as an object of the gaze, which is something quite a bit different – and far narrower – than the body as such.

Language poetry came into being in San Francisco within a literary community that had included Kathy Acker (Noulipo conference co-convener Matias Viegener, Acker’s literary executor, must know this) and that her works were as important for their use of procedures as they were for her formula that pornography plus plagiarism equals autobiography. Acker went so far as to work in the sex industry, making low-end porn flicks that would play in the Tenderloin back when I still worked there. Her work in that context has to be seen in the broader historical framework that included, for example, the existence of both the Cockettes & the Angels of Light, the post-Stonewall pre-AIDS explosion of gay sex-positive culture, a large infrastructure of bath houses in San Francisco where relatively anonymous sex was not uncommon, including one or two bath houses aimed at least partly at the straight community. It’s in this frame that I would argue, happily, that what was/is revolutionary about Kathy Acker was not that she was a writer who was willing to fuck onscreen, or to kiss & tell in her writing, but that she breached the bad girl, post-Burroughs genre of the novel using procedures. This is, after all, a dozen years after works like Carolee Schneeman’s Meat Joy.

It’s true that in the 1970s poets who were then younger & single, or at least not yet fixed in their life partnerships, did more, and more various, things than these same people do today turning 60. When I first met X, that New York language poet, he was living as part of a threesome, an arrangement that has roots in literature back to Mayakovsky & the Briks, or to H.D., Bryher & Kenneth Macpherson. But this is really no different than learning that my octogenarian neighbors here in suburban Chester County, Pennsylvania, were actively swapping partners at parties during that same period. Language poetry is not only more of a moment than a movement, but it likewise is very much a creature of its time. One might characterize langpo precisely as a writing that took place between the last years of the Vietnam war & the shock of AIDS in the early 1980s. Oulipo is itself no less an historical phenomenon, bounded in time & geography, with constraints as to gender as well as textual practices. Spahr & Young may well be on safe ground critiquing the absence of women as card-carrying Oulipo members. But their critique collapses when they attempt to expand this frame rather ahistorically outward. And Noulipo’s own frame, derivative rather than new, tends to obscure the degree to which many of its conference presenters, listed by novelist Vanessa Place here Saturday as including

Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, Johanna Drucker, Paul Fournel, Jen Hofer, Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, Ian Monk, Joseph Mosconi, Harryette Mullen, Doug Nufer, Vanessa Place, Janet Sarbanes, Juliana Spahr, Brian Kim Stefans, Rodrigo Toscano, Matias Viegener, Christine Wertheim, Rob Wittig, Stephanie Young

are much more interesting to think about not for what they’re doing that’s oulipian, but rather what’s new.

 

¹ I’ve donated my tapes of those events to PENNsound, but much remains to be done digitizing them, making them audible, getting permission of Duncan’s estate, etc.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

 

Jane M. Cooper
has died

§

Gil Ott
interviews
Jackson Mac Low

§

Three views
of
Joanne Kyger’s
About Now

Plus
Jacket’s
2000 feature
on Kyger

§

Helen Adam
on
PENNsound

§

12 poets
look at the impact
of their first books

§

Thomas Fink
on
the poetics
of questions

§

Did Kenneth Koch
really write
”A True Account
of Talking to the Sun
at Fire Island”?

& a dreadful review
of Koch’s
On the Edge:
Collected Longer Poems

§

Maggie O’Sullivan
on
PENNsound

§

Reading
On the Road
in
Petaluma

§

Lucas Klein
on Victor Segalen’s
Stèles / 古今碑,
stone prose poems
of a pre-modern
China

(Volume 2
&
the complete
original text
of
Stèles /
古今碑
are available online)

§

Thomas Fink
interviews
Noah Eli Gordon

§

English
as an
invention

§

Is an MFA
or PhD
really necessary?

§

Washoe,
the first chimp
to use sign language,
has died

§

Rigoberto González
on online journals

§

Digitalization
& its discontents

§

Archiviste

§

Academic blogging:
pro & con

§

Talking with Philip Corbett,
the man in charge
of grammar & style
at The New York Times

§

Tom Beckett
interviews
Alan Davies

§

33 Rules of Poetry
for Poets
23 and Under”
from old man
Kent Johnson

(one should be
”never use
poetry & poets
in the same sentence”)

Plus Kent’s
I Once Met
which includes
I once met Ron Silliman

§

Rethinking
d.a. levy

§

Amos Oz
on
literature vs. hate

§

Harriet Monroe
&
Alice Corbin Henderson’s
1917
New Poetry anthology
digitized by Google Books

§

Microsoft will scan
Yale library

§

Mina Loy
& the myth
of
Arthur Cravan

§

Tom Beckett
interviews
Stephen Vincent

§

Reading
Vilas Sarang
is like eating
blue cheese”

§

Japan’s largest
language school
goes bankrupt

§

Pinsky
on teaching English
at
West Point

§

Check out
Michael Ondaatje’s answers
to questions posed
of the Giller Prize shortlist

§

A profile of
Carlos Piocos

§

A review of
Janet Malcolm’s
Gertrude and Alice
almost as unsympathetic
to Stein’s work
as Malcolm herself

§

Leigh Ann Couch
&
Andrew Kozma

§

Rethinking
Wilfred Owen

§

“How to Get Your Poetry Published
(a panel
with the least appropriate
speakers imaginable)

§

The Tales of
Beedle the Bard

§

Mikhail Epstein’s
Cries in the New Wilderness

§

Nathan Brown
blames his obscurity
on writers
who demand
more from readers

§

Rafael Campo,
new formalist

§

Graham Mort:
”consequences
cannot
be avoided”

§

The slam world

§

A profile of
Dave Schonfelder

§

Where retro meets metro:
what’s new
with the Paris Review

§

More about
what’s wrong with
The Atlantic

§

Why Latin lives

§

Women
& modernist architecture

§

Robot nation

§

Right now
we’re around numbers
6 through 8

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

 

Dear Mr. Silliman:

You recently posted as having received The noulipian Analects, noting "author unknown." For 411 purposes, The noulipian Analects is a collection of contemporary constraint-based writing and writing about constraint-based writing – the publishers' synopsis:

The noulipian Analects is an alphabetical survey of constrained writing in modern English. The book gathers critical and creative pieces from some of the most prominent and influential writers using constraint and generative procedures – Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, Johanna Drucker, Paul Fournel, Jen Hofer, Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, Ian Monk, Joseph Mosconi, Harryette Mullen, Doug Nufer, Vanessa Place, Janet Sarbanes, Juliana Spahr, Brian Kim Stefans, Rodrigo Toscano, Matias Viegener, Christine Wertheim, Rob Wittig, Stephanie Young – adding the unknown variable n to the great legacy of Oulipo. The result: an excellent mix of introductory notes for those new to constraint-based writing, blended with in-depth exposition and critique for those already avid readers and writers.

or, as Charles Bernstein's blurb says:

An Alpha Bestiary of Exogenously Exotic Essays and Dazzlingly Delectable Design, Complexly Charismatic Constraints and Occasional Oulipian Outrages, Thoughtful Theoretical Threads and Ludicrously Ludic Limits, Gutsy Gender Gaiety and Dantesque destinies Detourned, Quixotic Queneau Quests and Cocky Combinatorial Collisions, Real Rubber Roses & Radiantly Removed R’s…What We Wanton Woeful Whimsical Wanderers Willingly Want. – Charles Bernstein

Thank you for your attention,
Vanessa Place

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