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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THINGS COME ON done come in.

Not the most photogenic person in the world am I, but you get the idea. Things Come On: (an amneoir) is now available from Wesleyan University Press. Order from the University Press of New England web site using the discount code W301, and you get 30% off - which brings the price more in line with a regular poetry book. While you are there, check out the terrific recent books by Rae Armantrout, Kamau Brathwaite, Ed Roberson, Elizabeth Willis, and Evie Shockley - all of which are available at the same discount, if I'm not mistaken.

Between being sick and having to read 150+ graduate applications, I have neglected the bloggo. I apologize to my thousands of fans. Ha ha.

Really, what I was going to say about mixed-genre work and elegy isn't very profound, and inadvertently got way more build-up than it's worth, simply b/c I haven't been blogging.

It's just this: that there seems to be a lot of it. Or rather, that a lot of work that mixes, defies, or invents genres seems to be in an elegiac or eulogistic vein. The book above being an example, but also:
- Kristin Prevallet, I, Afterlife: An Essay in Mourning Time
- Eleni Sikelianos, The Book of Jon
- Anne Carson, Vox
- Susan Howe, The Midnight
- Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip
- Mark Nowak, Coal Mountain Elementary
- Susan M. Schultz, Dementia Blog (arguably)
- Parts of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee
- Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness
- Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family
And I'm sure there are lots of other ones you could name that are not occurring to me.

Why is this? Part of it may be that contemporary writing generally is in an elegiac mode, in the broadest sense: it conveys a sense of lostness, belatedness, etc. When I read a longer Ashbery poem, I always feel like I'm reading an elegy.

But the best specific explanation I've encountered is a sentence from Prevallet's book (which I quote in the notes to mine): "If the body of the text has suffering at its root, then language will take a fragmented, torn-apart form, as if it too is suffering" (p. 50). There does seem to be something about the physicality of the text that connects with the physicality of loss - the feeling of being held together with chewing gum and baling wire. The mixed-genre text presents itself as something not-whole. This feature is certainly in keeping with Prevallet's principled refusal to impose "closure" on mourning.

Then there are scrapbooks (in the English-speaking world, esp.)- an ad hoc memorialization via physical artefacts collected in a book. The keeping of relics.

Half-baked hypotheses on somebody's blog. What do you think?


susan said...

I haven't read quite all of these books you list, Joe, but I wonder if the outlier here isn't Nowak's book. The others (that I know) all engage family and history, lyric and documentary modes. Nowak's fits better with Kaia Sand's _Remember to Wave_, which is an act of poetic journalism, as she calls it. So I'd recategorize: lyric documents (which are elegiac, personal) and political/social documents (which are arguments). Something like that. Congratulations on the new book!!! aloha, sms

cd said...

"The mixed-genre text presents itself as something not-whole."

This feels true. Mixed-genre text presents itself as stringed fragments, a kind of searching across forms and modes for answers. It says conclusion or resolve might be found here, or found here, or found here, but ultimately the result is profoundly inconclusive.

I think that the launchpads of grief, strife, politics, and documents, open the author to other erratic forms, or an erratic combination of forms. I've never really felt safe and comfortable when reading mixed-genre pieces if only because so much is left open, and yet so much brought in. This sentiment seems to reflect what Prevallet was saying about the "root."

Grief and suffering oftentimes require new forms to be dealt with, for the author to get a sense that something has been resolved, for the author to properly deal with the artistic potential of his or her experience.

If we can attribute the rise of mixed-genre work to the myriad ways we communicate--each with its own language and character (and artistic potential)--its elegiac qualities seem to reflect a sense of distortion and dissonance--that these various languages--internet forums, bank statements, politician speak, mattress tags, text messages, printer error messages, song lyrics, traffic epithets, self-help pamphlets are too too much for us to balance all the time. Certainly these are things that haunt me and infect my language, not only shaping the way I write, but the way I behave and talk to others.

But these mixed-genre, mixed-media forms are ours, whether personal(documents, etc) or political. Perhaps that it was most elegiac about these new genres. You mention the idea of scrapbooking and "keeping relics." They are things we cannot be rid of, and yet they rarely hold a finite narrative, sense of history, and certainty to them. The only thing that is certain is that we must keep them.


a.k.a. "Joe" said...

Thanks so much, CD, for the good wishes and for the GREAT post! Your thoughtful comments just increased the intellectual and aesthetic value of this blog by about 53% (at least next to my posts).