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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Does the "School of Q" Blog?

I mean, really? I tried googling a lot of names of poets I'd associate with "mainstream" poetry, followed by the word "blog," and all it showed were other people's blog posts about them. (To make sure I was searching correctly, I entered "Joseph Harrington blog," and this here came up).

It may very well be that I don't know enough younger poets writing in the conventional acadmic mode to know which names to google.

Any ideas?

More on the Documentary Impulse

"Why spend so much time recounting these more or less pointless anecdotes? When they do seem at all meaningful to me I instantly blame myself for choosing them (putting them together, fabricating them maybe) precisely in order to give them a meaning . . .
"I'm caught in a bind: either I'm elucidating prefabricated meanings, or, on the other hand, exploiting the gratuitousness of a purely random pointillism (illusory into the bargain) as I grope my way forward at the mercy of obvious or absurd associations."

- Robbe-Grillet, Ghosts in the Mirror

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Benjamin's Ladder

"How this project [Arcades] was written: rung by rung, as chance offered a narrow foothold; and always like someone climbing dangerous heights, not looking around for a second, in order not to get dizzy (but also to save the full power of the panorama stretched before him for the very end)."

- Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 5, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, passage trans. Richard Sieburth.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Narrative Poetry is COOL!

I recently read an article in the Writer's Chronicle (I almost wrote "Writher's Chronicle"), the official organ of that official organ, the AWP, on "Narrative and Poetry," by Natasha Saje (41:1, pp. 62-72). I was kind of interested when I saw the title, since it's seemed to me for some time that the welcome resurgence of lyric in recent years (as a territory safe for "experiment") has tended to elbow out narrative verse, esp. longer, experimental narrative verse ("it's so - well, Olson").

Unfortunately, I don't think this piece helps:

"The dissatisfaction with narrative represented by theorists Louis Althusser, Frederick Jameson, Lennard Davis, Francois Lyotard, Michel de Certeau, Catherine Belsey, and poets including Ron Silliman, Charles Bernstein, and Bob Perelman, stems from two assumptions. First, that narrative creates a unified, stable subject position. In personification [sic], characers are recognizable because they are coherent, predictable, and knowable. Readers create characters from signs [?!], in poems as well as other kinds of literature. Readers try to make sense, and thus to read character into art, for instance by assuming a speaker for a poem. Conversely, real human beings are neither as knowable nor as predictable as literary characters."

The article then presents a 1944 quotation from "Althusser and Horkheimer" (Adorno receives his rightful credit in the works cited).

Anyway, what's interesting here, aside from the example of discontinuous narrative and sloppy paraphrase, is the upshot. First, if you're engaged in absorptive reading and "personification," then it's your fault, not the text's (see, you're "reading into" it). Moreover, even critique of narrative per se can be salvaged for good ol' fashioned middlebrow humanism, because, by golly, the true complexity of the human heart cannot be tied down by any literary representation.

Saje then goes on to do pretty good close readings of poems by Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, Linda Aldrich, Eleanor Wilner, and [are you ready?] Lucie Brock-Broido. But the point ultimately seems to be that Mainstream poems are complex, too! In other words, control of institutions and capital is not enough - we should accord them intellectual respectability and cultural capital, too.

Or: someone is feeling threatened (maybe me).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poets are shameless with their experiences: they exploit them. {Nietzsche}

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Touche, Olson

" . . . life itself's
Beauty which all forever so long as there is
a human race like flowers and, I suppose,
other animals -- they too must know something
of what it is to love, to be alive, to have
life, to be on the sweetness of Earth herself,
great Goddess we take for granted, God the Father so much
more the strain of our beings, she the sweetness
we arrive in pursuit of . . . "

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More on Olson

Joseph Hutchinson hits the nail on the head: "Olson is spiky, craggy, and ultimately fairly linear; Duncan's brushstrokes enlarge the canvas as they go." The spikiness is the result of two formal features - viz., that REALLY irritating habit of enjambing the last word of the line onto the next. Rachel Blau DuPlessis describes this as "the invention of a posthumanist practice of line break" - one of the things (in spite of his maximalist masculinism) that makes him "inspiring." I guess it's supposed to make it feel spiky and posthumanist - like Bauhaus, maybe. But you get the idea pretty quickly, and after that, it seems like a bothersome tic.

Speaking of which - speaking of speaking - if O. really believed that the breath was the measure of the line, all I can say is, he shoulda stopped smoking. In some places, he barely stops for breath - at others, he's panting.

The other feature - the other way of "breaking" - is breaking off in the middle of a thought or story - not to clarify or start over or move the current in a different direction (as in Spring and All), but just because he's moved on. This may speak to the business about poetry as divorced from the audience (Joseph has written about this topic on his blog lately - and thanks for quoting me, BTW!) - maybe that's why it's "posthumanist." But I wonder if posthumanism is capable of being a content that form is following . . .

No question for me that Duncan is a humanist (despite or b/c of the platonism), and I'm not, really (tho I do think humans deserve the same rights as other species). I agree that, in the final analysis, it feels like his writing is more "open field" than O's (and, of course, D's form is following his content, in this regard). But I still resist what seems to me to read history in terms of the mythic. I'm more for burrowing down into the local - like Olson's mole - or WCW's Paterson.

BTW - can anyone tell me how I can make comments appear automatically beneath the original post? For me, dialogue is part of the point of blog, so why hide the comments?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Olson v. Duncan Smackdown!

OK, well, not exactly. As far as I know about it, they were always pretty amicable. But I've been teaching some Olson, and I have confronted this terrible fact about myself - I like Duncan's poems better! Oh, sure, I like Olson's poetics - all the stuff about particularity, esp. - and I like the way he merges personal biography and communal history (sometimes against each other) - and always keeps bringing it back to the local. Some of O's poems are truly magnificent - but others (a lot of others) seem self-indulgent. OK, so he's mercurial and really smart, and this is the record of the dance of his intellect, blah blah. But what about all us laggards?? We deserve some respect, too! And too often I feel like O. is leaving us in the dust, & mumbling to himself. The transitions are not as clean as Pound's, and not as smooth (and inconsequential) as Ashbery. They're just abrupt, unmotivated, and irritating. It's all a kind of coy shorthand. Well, some of it, anyway.

But, see, this is where I start to feel like a real philistine for liking Duncan - and his more mellifluous romantico-modernist collages. It's all a little too sweet for me to credit. And then there's his flaming platonism. All those archetypal images lining up neatly in "rimes." Yuk! I mean, seriously, nobody who has to earn a living can be a platonist!

And yet, I'm taken by the music. Bourdieu would put me down with the people digging "Blue Danube," probably.

But even Olson, Mr. Local Polis Materiality can sound pretty duncanesque about these things: "to construct knowing back to image and/ God's face behind it" - or "no event// is not penetrated, in intersection or collision with, an eternal/ event." Penetrated, indeed - ravished by the divine forms. (And then there are those enjambments that leave the last word of a sentence on the next line. I mean, that just bugs. (And all those parentheses with no close-parentheses

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Niedecker and Overemployment

No, I'm not dead, just busy. Speaking of which, I want to mention a comment that Joseph Hutchinson posted re: my Jan. 20 post ("When We Are All Unemployed"), to wit:

"What about overemployed but underpaid? Will we all become one-line poets? Might be a good thing. As Tadeusz Rozewicz writes somewhere: you could say that the poets have stoned poetry to death with words."

This struck a chord, since I've just finished "teaching" Lorine Niedecker. It's quite striking the way that, when she begins her cleaning job at the hospital, her poems become very, very small. "Haiku-like," I think the term is. Anyway, very, very condensed - even moreso than in New Goose or For Paul. And it's hard not to reach the conclusion that working long hours of demanding physical labor (in her 50s) left little time or energy for poetizing - as important as that was for her.

No matter where you are
you are alone
and in danger -- well
[space ..............] to hell
with it.

This seems different to me than, say, Dr. Williams scribbling stanzas on his scrip pad. The "in danger" seems to have to do with the bomb (it's the late 50s, and many of her poems mention it), but there's clearly more to it, for someone in her economic & social position. Or less. A room of one's own ain't much good without a few hours of one's own. "Time for sleep, time for work, and time for what we will." That was a long time ago.