The reading last night was excellent - Rachel is not only a good reader of her own work, she is a good interpreter of her own work - both on the page and in performance. I urge you to check out her PennSound page and listen to some of the recordings. Ben Cartwright, mastermind of the Kansas Blotter Project, recorded her (and me - ! - co-performing the latest Draft, #105). Hopefully, this recording will soon be up on PennSound, along with Ben's recording of Univ. of Kansas readings by Fred Moten and Ken Irby.
I had the pleasure of introducing her - and I'll paste the text below, for the heck of it. And, as the text below indicates, there are (as of this writing) a couple more events w/Rachel in Lawrence before we bid her au revoir. Hope you can make one or both!
I would like to thank the KU Department of English for sponsoring this event, as well as the John F. Eberhardt Memorial Lecture by Prof. DuPlessis tomorrow night at 7:30 in Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union on the KU campus. The title of that lecture is “Reflections on the Long Poem: Autobiography of a Practice.” I would invite you to that lecture, as well as to a Q &A at 11 am tomorrow in the “Parlors,” 5th floor of the KS Union. I would like to thank the Eberhardt family for allowing us to bring Rachel to Lawrence.
Tonight we will hear some of the long poem in question, namely the multi-volume work Drafts. However, I should say that I knew Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ work as a critic a good ten years before I knew that she was writing one of the most important long poems of the post-World War II era. Like most of my grad school chums, I knew her work on H.D. and George Oppen, her articles, and her foundational study The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice (1990), but I didn’t realize that her first book, published ten years previously, was a book of poems, Wells. DuPlessis had been working on Drafts since 1986, but it wasn’t until Wesleyan University Press published Drafts 1-38, subtitled Toll, in 2001, that I began to read the poem(s) in earnest and become aware of the scope of the project. The subsequent three volumes, subtitled Pledge, Torques, and Pitch, all published by Salt Publishing, have made it clear that Drafts rivals Ezra Pound’s Cantos, H.D.’s Trilogy, and the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson in breadth, skill, and moxie.
But the content of Drafts is very different than those other poems. As my students have pointed out, it lacks the Authoritative Recounting – and persona – of Maximus. It rejects the mythic machinery of Trilogy. And it is nothing short of a left-feminist answer to the macho fascist Explaining of the Cantos. While Drafts deals with the whole of life, from the cosmological to the daily news in Philadelphia, DuPlessis’ poem is not afraid to express un-knowing, doubt, and to acknowledge the other within her poem. Indeed, despite – or maybe because of – the ethical demands that pressure every Draft, they are still drafts – provisional investigations or internal dialogues of a person who is often just as confused and terrified as any of us, but whose powers of perception and sensitivity to the nuances and phantoms of language are shared by few.
The result has been an inspiration and a permission to expand the notion of what a poem is and can do, to challenge the received boundaries between critical and creative writing, between lyric, epic, and meditative poetries. We are very fortunate to have her in our midst. Please welcome Rachel Blau DuPlessis.
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.