Saturday, November 24, 2007

 

Giant Benefit Reading
for Will Alexander

Saturday December 1, 2007
7:30 PM in Timken Lecture Hall,
at the
California College of the Arts,
1111 8th Street, San Francisco

Donations: $10-up

Readers include:

Nate Mackey
Juliana Spahr
Taylor Brady
Lyn Hejinian
Andrew Joron
Tisa Bryant
Adam Cornford
D.S. Marriott
and more!

As you may know, poet Will Alexander
is quite ill with cancer and is undergoing
chemotherapy. He’s spent his life largely
off the poetry grid, and has no financial
support or health insurance. Donations
will be bundled & sent directly to Will.
If you cannot make it, but would like to
contribute, look to
Joseph Mosconi's blog for information.

 

Hosted by David Buuck and Small Press Traffic

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

 


Lyn Hejinian

A quick note on what is Thanksgiving in the United States, a day commemorating the ability of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts to do what the Roanoke Colony of North Carolina had not – survive. In practice, this celebration has always been one commingled with politics. The Continental Congress first declared a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1777 for it too had as yet survived, tho the army of George Washington had recently suffered the worst military defeat in American history, the Battle of the Brandywine, September 11 of that year, and had retreated to the relatively protected confines of Valley Forge for the winter. Washington himself would proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday in 1789, this time in honor of the newly ratified Constitution. Other presidents followed suit on six occasions until 1815, after which it was dropped until resurrected by Abraham Lincoln, who twice declared the holiday as the Union once again survived. This initiated a sequence of proclamations that has been followed ever since, although it was another president with war clouds gathering, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who set it into the form we have today in 1939. Congress put it into law in 1941.

I am, in honesty, thankful for many things, from my family to my readers to my health. I’ve outlived the span of my own father’s life now by some 23 years, so I’m acutely aware that there are no guarantees. But this year one group of people I really want to note just how much I appreciate are my collaborators on the Grand Piano project. These are all people I’ve known for at least 30 years – Barrett Watten and I go back 43 years, Rae Armantrout and I 38.

Lyn Hejinian and I first appeared on facing pages in the magazine Arts in Society 40 years ago, tho I wouldn’t begin corresponding with her for another several years, and wouldn’t actually meet her until October 1976. I can recall the event exactly. There was a book fair at Fort Mason in San Francisco – the art fort as we thought of it in the years I lived in the City, a couple of piers and buildings of a decommissioned military facility turned over to non-profit use. Hejinian had a table for her Tuumba Press chapbooks, tho she had not at that point printed all that many of them, as number 4, Kenneth Irby’s Archipelago, was sitting there on the table with its deep blue cover and “Tuumba 4” & “November 1976” printed on the upper left & lower right corners of the cover and here it was not yet November.

Although I knew who Lyn was – we’d had a fitful correspondence earlier as I’d misunderstood what she was trying to do in her writing – and I knew, at some level, that she was the person responsible for Tuumba, so that this person behind the table very likely would be her, I just burst into some rhapsody about how wonderful I thought the poetry of Ken Irby was – still do, in fact – and that it was terrific to see that a new press existed that recognized this. She then introduced herself – count on her to have the better social skills here – and I apologized for being such an idiot during our correspondence, and we took it from there, a conversation that in some important ways is still continuing, in good part of late thanks to the Grand Piano. Irby must have been around that weekend as well – when did he moved back to Lawrence? – since my copy of Archipelago is signed/doodled by him in his terrific calligraphic hand, dated “Ft Mason / Oct76.”

I think it’s remarkable that a group of friends – the circle doesn’t stop at the border of this particular series of books – can have the kind of lifelong sustaining relationships that we have had & are still having in the lives and work of one another. As a writing project, The Grand Piano is a fascinating, complicated, sometimes extremely difficult task. (Right this very moment, I’m ten days overdue on my assignment of turning in a draft of my section for volume six, the book in which I go first.) Although we are now in the second year of our actual writing & production of the series, we have been discussing this project now for ten years, mostly via email & a listserv. When I was in Detroit last month, Barry mentioned to me that his email folder for the Piano had over 5,000 items in it. I totally believe it. Mine is lighter than that mostly because I’m not the person who has to deal with printers, nor with the finances, nor with the distribution questions that Barry & Lyn both have to handle. Nor Tom Mandel with the website, nor Alan Bernheimer with the documentation. This is a daunting amount of labor and none of us could do it by ourselves, frankly. I can’t even begin to say how impossible The Grand Piano would be without Barry to do the typesetting, design work (tho in fact we all review and sign off on it, so that the man is in the unenviable position of reporting to many masters) and trying to manage the calendar. That last one is a skill completely foreign to me.

It’s certainly true that The Grand Piano is a work empowered by the literary diaspora of the West Coast language poets & that it wouldn’t likely be happening now if we were all still living within a BART ride of one another. Yet in the past year, I’ve been most fortunate to see seven of my collaborators, eight including Bernheimer. Barry & Carla have been good enough to let me sleep under their roof, as has Tom Mandel & his spouse Beth Joselow. Bob Perelman & I have found ourselves at the gardening store buying plants together, or at least accompanying Krishna & Francie who are the knowledgeable ones in that domain. But the Piano gives us each so many other ways to be involved in each other’s lives – the work itself is an act of joy.

I look at other collaborative projects around poetry, such as the Subpress Collective that has produced so many important books in the past eight years or so, and I hope that there’s more to this experience for its editors than simply the process of taking turns putting out editions, each the lonely accomplishment of just one or two individuals. The real difference between the Grand Piano poets and so many of the other collective or collaborative literary formations over the past century always seems to me just how deeply and for how long we have meant so much to one another. Whenever I hear language bashing today, what I really hear most profoundly is an envy on the part of isolated individuals that language poets, so-called, seem to have such a big, loud, mostly happy family. It’s something I wish every writer had the opportunity to experience. So today I want to say thank you to Rae Armantrout, Steve Benson, Alan Bernheimer, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Tom Mandel, Ted Pearson, Bob Perelman, Kit Robinson & Barrett Watten – your lifetimes of generosity are extraordinary.

§

Plus a special thanks today also to Geoffrey Gatza, who each year creates a menu of poetry for a member of the literary community for Thanksgiving. This year’s selection (which is now on the BlazeVOX website) is This is It, a feast in the shape of an alphabet, and the guest of honor c’est moi. It’s a sumptuous feast in several ways, those you’d expect and some you wouldn’t. I put on two pounds just reading the table of contents.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

 

Julian Brolaski
on
Stacy Szymaszek’s
queer poetics

§

Reginald Shepherd
on John Ashbery’s
Some Trees

§

America
has stopped reading

But Amazon
tries to
invent a better book

Nonsense, say Forbes,
the real competition
for reading
is the web

§

GASP!
William Shakespeare’s works
were really written by…
William Shakespeare!

§

Language Poetry & the Body:
the complete panel
(Maria Damon, Steve Benson,
Leslie Scalapino & Bruce Andrews,
moderated by Tim Peterson
& Erica Kaufman)

§

Pound’s language

§

I am “out of fashion
(actually, he gets what I’m trying to do,
but mostly isn’t interested)

§

The ghost-writer
of
Akron

§

Keith & Rosmarie Waldrop
in
St. Petersburg, FL

§

Auctioning China’s
contemporary poetry archives

§

J.H. Prynne
on
Ken Edwards’ novel
Futures

Plus an excerpt
from Edwards’
latest novel

§

The Marin Independent Journal
on the suicide of
Landis Everson

§

Charles Alexander
reading
Creeley whole

§

A peek at
Beedle the Bard

§

Barrett Watten on
the radical particular:
critical regionalism
vs. globalization

§

Readers’ reports:
an assassin’s list
for contemporary books

§

How
War and Peace
works

§

A column on academic presses
in the daily paper?


The first one

§

Tenney Nathanson
on
the poetics of
Leslie Scalapino

§

The Bad Poets Society

§

Covering Norman Mailer
or not
in
Columbus, Ohio

Rethinking his place
in
The LA Times

§

Matthew Sweeney
makes the test

Each mooed to each

§

A new
Aeneid

§

Michael Gottlieb
on
Lydia Davis
Proust

§

Contemporary poetics
for a whole new century

§

Even more dismal
than the Costa Book Award shortlist
is the roster of judges
who turn up year after year

An oft-rejected novel
makes the list

§

Like playing tunes
out of your armpit

§

Two North Carolina poets

§

Robert Pinsky
celebrating
a fatty, artery clogging
slice of sentimentality
from Mark Strand

§

Angela Veronica Wong
in between

§

A Queen’s Medal
for
a noisy Quietist

& the Royal Society
honors
Peter Porter

§

The trouble with
Janet Malcolm’s
Stein & Toklas

§

A poet’s portrait
with a rare history

§

Alan Davies
on
Roberto Harrison

& on
Norman Fischer

§

Canadian book prices
start to fall

§

The lone poet
on
Florida State’s
football team

§

James Emanuel,
neglectorino
in his own time

§

A little Edith Wharton mystery
appears to solve itself

§

The dynamics
of web-based
social networks

§

Lawrence Weiner’s
word art

§

About Looking

§

Loving Picasso’s biography

§

Hélio Oiticica

§

Surfer dude
stuns physics

An Exceptionally Simple
Theory of Everything
(PDF)

§

Gutting
The San Jose Mercury News

§

Do newspapers favor
the striking screenwriters?

§

The first film postponed by the strike
is Dan Brown’s
Da Vinci Code prequel

§

Whose culture is it?

§

Vaclav Havel
returns to theater

§

Stephen Paul Miller
on
Radiohead

§

The Bob Dylan
camouflage military hat

§

Special thanks
to
E O A G H
for so much
wonderfulness

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Monday, November 19, 2007

 


Photo courtesy of Jacket


Landis Everson

1926 2007

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Hollywood is a bizarre work environment simply because a few people become very rich & famous, while many others eke out livings that make you wonder about why a human would choose that profession. The short-term nature of most projects – ‘tis the rare TV series that lasts ten years, Saturday Night Live is one of the few to be older as a place of employment than Dell – is the antithesis of the academy, where some schools predate the republic. Film reportedly is a director’s medium, television that of a producer’s. The writer’s medium? If you want one, you’d better stick to poetry. And writers in the television & film arts become far less marketable once they advance in years beyond that beloved age demographic of the advertisers’ target audience, which is what – 18 to 34? Why, if you were thinking of getting into the film arts, would you even do so as a writer? It’s not an accident, perhaps, that so many poets who have worked in film have been in front of the camera, from Harry Northrop to Michael Lally. Or morphed into directors as quickly as possible, a la Paul Auster, regardless of how ill-suited they might be to the task.

Most of the screen writers I’ve known came out of theater, worked like dogs for no money for decades & hoped for the rare occasional big payday, meanwhile gradually making a living through script doctoring – basically rendering the bland marginally more intelligible. When it comes to security and benefits, it’s just like adjunct teaching, save for the fact that screen writing is more sporadic, less certain.

Meanwhile the same corporate forces that try to control all media do everything in their power to keep writers (also actors, stage hands, etc.) in roughly the same relationship that the old record companies used to have with blues musicians who could neither read nor write. It would seem that these corporate forces have a bit of a potential windfall from the newer interactive modes of distribution if they can but monetize the web, raking in profits that should, in all fairness, have been the wages of writers. So the writers are out on the picket line & the longer they stay out, the longer it will be before I can see the final season of Battlestar Gallactica next year. But compared to the sacrifices the screen writers & other workers in Hollywood are making, let’s face it, I can wait. And if the screen writers would like to put together a list of companies not to buy from – hello Sony – until this is all settled, I’d be only too happy to oblige.

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