Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • 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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"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.

2 comments:

Aaron said...

Thanks for this deeply informed and thought-provoking post. While the redressing of past oppressions may ask us to do cultural work that the simple addressing of history and its personae does not, lack of proper attending to and addressing of our fellows in the present moment well may lead to a felt need for redress in some predictably imperfect future we are creating from the shoddy materials of today's blocked and subverted dialogues.

Joseph Harrington said...

Good point. Well said.