PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
if you use blogger, are you ever tempted to punch the button that says "monetize"? i mean, it's just a button - all you have to do is push it. and you're monetized. everybody's getting monetized. why not??
I'm sure a lot of elegies, eulogies, and encomiums are being written for Lucille Clifton right about now. And I'm sure I don't have much to add. Clifton's poetry was pretty important to me about 20 years ago, but, regrettably, I hadn't read much of her stuff since then. When I heard of her passing tonight, I went back and read some of her poems - aloud, which is, I think, how they ought to be read. What an ear! Both the aural music and the emotional pitch are dead-on. The much-anthologized "reply" is a brilliant response to those who see "documentary poetry" as being crudely mimetic. And it's pretty amazing that a twentieth-century poet could pull off a soliloquy of Lucifer to God (in "brothers"):
come coil with me
here in creation's bed
among the twigs and ribbons
of the past. i have grown old
remembering this garden,
the hum of the great cats
moving into language, the sweet
fume of the man's rib
as it rose up and began to walk.
These lines contain rather more high seriousness than most of the lyric verse I read these days, which makes it all the more remarkable that it binds my attention as it does.
My dad is 83 tomorrow. Lucille, you were robbed. So were we.
"I feel like a spectator
of the present. History, help."
- Kaia Sand, Remember to Wave.
That just about sums it up.
Does looking at the past make one feel like a spectator of the present? What is the point of looking at the past, if it doesn't enable/empower you to do something in the present? Is History the agent, or me?
Maybe I look at the past like a train wreck, disgusted but unable to look away (could Benjamin's angel of history have chosen to turn its back on the past? I don't think so.). I hope I am not merely a "history buff," building a Civil War ship in a bottle. In America, "history" is a hobby - hence, the present.
"To those who were held prisoner in the Portland Assembly Center, and to those whose lives were ended or rent by the Vanport flood - to you I acknowledge a responsibility," Sand writes. "Here is one small attempt at addressing that responsibility through committed inquiry, through pedestrian investigation" [in both literal and figurative senses of the word]
Notice that she says "addressing," not "redressing." It's not inquiry in the service of a larger goal to which she is committed (I don't think). And this distinguishes this approach to "docupoetry" [*cringe*] from other poets I admire a great deal, e.g., Muriel Rukeyser, Mark Nowak, Ed Sanders, or Craig Perez, all of whom envision poetry as doing cultural-political work. All of those poets have educated me, which I guess is cultural-political work.
But Sand's attitude is not dissimilar to Susan Howe's in this regard - a kind of psychological/ethical compulsion to "address" the past - acknowledge the dead were alive - but not necessarily to change it (or the present, for that matter). I guess that resonates with me, insofar as I'm trying to write a (poem? multi-genre monstrosity?) about history, personal and national. I have no idea what it will do. But it is an attempt to "address the past." Somehow, that seems apt.
Of course, contemporary lyric might ought to all blur together, come to think of it. In place of the "unified speaking voice," there's that suffused, dispersed subjectivity floating around. Not to mention flarf, which is all about mining the collective pop unconscious. If Picasso and Braque signed each other's paintings, then why worry if you can't tell who wrote which poem, or if one seems pretty much like the next?
When I become a famous writer, anytime I write a blog post, no matter the content, other writers will comment on how smart and perceptive it is. They may even post their own poems as comments, like a kid showing the adults his crayon scrawlings, to get their attention. If I write one of my curmudgeonly, self-righteous posts, they'll write to tell me I have every reason to be indignant and disgusted. If I write that I think poets should love everybody, they'll tell me how much they love me. If I condemn all poems that begin with the letter "K," they'll confide (publicly) that they've always been a little ambivalent about K-Po ("One doesn't want to agree outright . . . I know I've read a poem by Ron Silliman that begins with 'K.'").
It seems like, whenever I hear a writer talk about how unsentimental he is (and it usually is a he), something pretty schmaltzy is bound to follow. If a macho intensifier ("relentlessly," "unflinchingly") is used to modify "unsentimental," then get ready for pure treacle.
Don't worry about un/sentimental. Just write interesting or affecting words, and deal with it in revision. What you resist persists.
. . . or not. I mean, "Stephen Harrington" is a lovely Irish-Catholic name, and it was probably in contention when my parents gave me the name I have to this day - which is not Stephen. (I mean, I could see "James" or "John" - but how did "Joseph" become "Stephen"?)
To their credit, the good folks at Pinstripe Fedora have assured me the correction is on its way, as soon as their tech person gets back to Europe, where his computer is. Do check out the issue - aside from the editorial gaffe, it's a dandy collection of work!
Author of Things Come On: (an amneoir) (Wesleyan University Press’ poetry series, 2011), earth day suite (Beard of Bees Press, Dec. 2010), Of Some Sky (Bedouin, forthcoming), and Poetry and the Public (Wesleyan 2002).