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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

"But the green nuts are falling on my heart."

(a real line of poetry - by Marjorie L. C. Pickthall. From Marguerite Wilkinson's New Voices, 1924.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

God Forgives, We Don't

The flap over the release of the Pan-Am/Lockerby bomber, Abdel Al-Magrahi, has gotten me to thinking about the American national character.

I saw interviews with victims' families from the UK. One wasn't convinced by the evidence that the guy was involved in the plot. Another one didn't care b/c it wouldn't bring back her daughter. Another said the guy's spent the rest of his life in prison already, who cares where he dies.

I saw interviews with victims' families from the US. To a person, they opposed releasing the guy. He should die in prison. He should rot in jail. He should rot in hell - in prison. He didn't show compassion to the victims, why should he receive any compassion. (It goes without saying that he was guilty of the crime; it has to be the work of some one, so it might as well be him)

This made me realize something: Americans never forgive. Sure, some of them do, in some cases. But by and large, it's not part of our make-up. There are no mitigating circumstances, no desire to move on. If you stole that candy bar when you were 12, then three strikes and you're out - you should have the rest of your life to think about it behind bars. If you fuck up and lose your job, then you deserve to be homeless and hungry. Those people wouldn't have AIDS if they hadn't brought it on themselves. Right?

Even in more personal, piddling situations, people here hold grudges for an extraordinary amount of time - usually their whole lives. I guess they do that in Sicily, too. But if you posted that injudicious photo on facebook, or said something stupid in front of a microphone, or are a politician who has an affair, then bam - it's going to haunt you for the rest of your career (if you have one). It seems like the French shrug off shit like that. Life is too short. And it's going to happen anyway.

Even in the realm of criminal justice (the absence of the death penalty in EU countries is the most obvious example), there isn't the same kind of thirst for vengeance you see here. Prosecutors say that the accused should be executed so the victim's family can have "closure." Capital punishment as therapy. As though that was going to close anything. After that, you move on to suing the perp's family, then city where the crime happened, then you get more draconian laws passed, etc. It never ends.

This is all kind of ironic, since closure is big in America - in our juridical discourse, but also pop psychology, best-selling novels, religion, poetry, etc. I once was lost, but now am found. Period. Epiphany. End of story. No second acts. It's a wrap.

(Cf. Lyn Hejinian's brilliant essay linking the "closure" discourse in capital punishment to the desire for discursive closure)

Why the discrepancy? Well, closure never closes, for one thing - you have to keep tamping down the lid, b/c something is always bubbling up. That takes a lot of rage and resentment.

Then there's religion. In a country founded by religious fanatics, you'd expect this sort of thing. US Protestantism centers around the Old Testament (irrational, vindictive father-god) and the epistles (Christian unity, discipline, hierarchy - vs. the Other people). Forget the gospels - Jesus says crazy shit like "forgive your enemies." And killing him sure didn't produce closure.

Tocqueville understood that Americans embraced religion not in spite of, but because of their acquisitive materialism - it was a way of convincing themselves that they really are good people, even though they stab each other in the back from 9 to 5. Maybe the same is true for American desire for the happy ending (whether it's the guy getting the girl, or the perp frying) - we never have closure, b/c we never unclench our jaws from the rag we're shaking and growling at. There's always something else that needs closing - except in the movies.

Why are we thus? In a society where capitalism is the air you breathe, and where that social arrangement results in a lot of pain and resentment, then nothing ever gets resolved. Even if it occurs to you to, say, blame the corporations instead of the government or the immigrants for your bankruptcy, you know you can't do anything about it. So that anger and resentment is always festering, always looking for objects to cathect upon.

All speculations, of course. If anyone has figured this out, pls let me know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

En Ponge

I've been looking for blog lit - or for pre-blog lit that might suggest models for blog lit (esp. w/Jen Humphrey's Up From the Ground in mind). There's serialized novels. And syndicated newspaper poetry. There's diaristic books, like WC Williams' Descent of Winter - which also meanders in an unmanaged way, which blog entries do tend to do.

I also thought of Francis Ponge, and his mini-essays in The Voice of Things (Parti Pris des Choses). For instance, here's an excerpt from "Flora and Fauna":

The time of plants: they always seem fixed, immobile. One ignores them for a few days, a week, and their pose is all the sharper, their limbs have multiplied. Their identity raises no doubts, yet their form goes on elaborating itself.

* * *

The time of plants is conditioned by their space, the space they gradually occupy filling in a canvas doubtless determined forevermore. Once finished, weariness overtakes them, and it is the drama of a certain season.
Like the development of crystals: a will to formation, and the impossibility of forming any other way.

* * *

Their poses or "tableaux vivants": mute entreaties, supplications, unshakable calm, triumphs.

* * *

None of their gestures has any effect outside themselves.

* * *

A body of the most excessively complex laws (pure chance, in other words) presides over the birth and distribution of plants across the globe.
The law of undetermined determinants.

(trans. Beth Archer)

I'm skipping around here, but these are complete sections, separated by (centered) asterisks in the original. Whatever one thinks of the content, the form does, I think, open possibilities for blog lit, esp. for authors who are heavily invested in (shackled by?) the form of the traditional essay - a form which does not, in my view, lend itself to the Blog Form. And there's even pieces on goats. And manure.

(the fact that Ponge could write this stuff while the Nazis occupied his country raises some other interesting questions, which I won't attempt to address - not in a blog post)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Image + Text

a propos the last post (below):

"Many . . . literary journals [of the early 20th c.] . . . printed photographs of paintings and sculpture, thereby invoking a general revolution in the arts and urging us to mark similarities and difference between the literary and visual avant-garde. It is, however, very difficult for academics [and apparently non-academic poets, too, one could add] to read this way, since it works against the way they are trained in traditional disciplines. The counter-reaction is also apparent. The Fugitive aimed to have almost no physical presence; anticipating the aesthetic that would dominate conservative magazines in the 1950s, its neutral typography and layout was designed to project the poetry it printed directly into the imagination. Poetry, for The Fugitive, was a spiritual not a material phenomenon.

"The cumulative evidence of the illustrations in this book should demonstrate that the material presentation of texts can significantly increase the kinds of meaning they can be used to produce."

- Cary Nelson, Repression and Recovery, p. 218.

I would only add that in some of the poems he presents, it is difficult to distinguish between "the literary and the visual" - for instance, the collaborations between Marius De Zayas and Agnes Ernst Meyer - or Walter Steinhilber collaboration with Langston Hughes in "Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria."

I guess if The Fugitive wanted to be disembodied, the web would be a good place for them today - tho since they were conservatives, they'd probably be fetishizing print. There certainly is a lot of "neutral typography and layout" amongst literary web journals. And sure, things have progressed - many journals include visual art. And literature. But rarely mixed.

Bob Brown, Stevie Smith, Robert Grenier, Kenneth Patchen, Eleni Sikelianos, Cecilia Vicuna, Anne Waldman, Anne Tardos, Stephanie Strickland, Roberto Tejada, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jenny Gough, Jena Osman, Debra DiBlasi, Mark Nowak, Tan Lin - et alia - you can add to the list. So it's not such a weird thing anymore. And it's not that image-text writing/composing is being suppressed. It's that not many people are doing it. I would like to encourage it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prison-House of Genre

Why is it that so many "avant-garde" or "experimental" or whatever journals are divided into sections for Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, etc.? And why don't more poets use pictures (except for vizpo - which seems to be segregated into its own journals)?

Even "experimental" is a brand-name, I suppose. But if you're serious about challenging literary inertia, surely generic expectations are the place to start - the genesis of generational gentility.

How about having a grid, instead of sections? For instance:

more words ------------------------more picture

more print-------------------------more sound

So that most journals would be flush against the left margin, here. Concrete poetry would be in the middle of the top edge; vizpo, considerably to the right of that. Flash/animated work would be on the right (vertical) edge. And variations in between.

As to sub-divisions of printed words, maybe:



These are hackneyed terms - but the idea is to make it a map, instead of a series of cells (or even a "spectrum"). Nightwood would be towards the top right corner, maybe. "Mainstream" fiction, over on the left.

Obviously, I haven't thought through all the permutations - what the "directions" should be, or in what configuration. But I'm with B. Croce about each work of art being an irreducible "aesthetic fact." Family resemblances, sure. But genealogy, not genre.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

even the zephyrs act out,
need a hard refresh,

control, alternate, delete:
everyone orders me around!

You can buy whatever you want
inside a security zone:

always a fly at the ointment
always a duck at the soup –

invention of writing caused dyslexia
in the mad-lib machine

on auto-pilot
pardon our progress pls

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dick as the Death

I don't usually include pictures with posts, as you may know. I even just recommended that Jen Humphrey (Up From the Ground, see below right) try doing a post without pictures. People usually use pictures, in blog posts. Sometimes they're illustrations. Sometimes they substitute for words. Sometimes they compensate for words.

Be that as it may, I'm inspired by having watched Frost/Nixon last night. Now, my admitting it's taken me months to see this movie is kind of like Howard Ringbaum's admitting he hadn't read Hamlet. I mean, I've written a book with Nixon as a character (in effect - see links at right).

What struck me last night is that Nixon is Death. It's as simple as that. He kept looming more and more during the Watergate saga. And when my mother died a few hours before he resigned, she didn't have Death to kick around anymore - & vice versa. As a kid, Nixon was a fixture - there all the time, like Death and taxes (or tax cuts, as the case may be). And our family was against him, because he was BAD. Then, in the space of 24 hours, neither my family nor Nixon were there. Weird.

I can't picture my mom on a rocky beach playing chess with Richard Nixon. But that's closer to my version of Thanatotic Dick than Rachel Loden's dead Nixon (in Dick of the Dead and Hotel Imperium), who seems like more like a revenant (and in her family, Nixon was Death in a much more literal sense).

But as far as the Imago of Nixon, in the kid brain, that's the missing link, I think.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

_P-QUEUE_ 6, Described

Well, I got and read my copy of P-Queue, issue 6. Andrew Rippeon does such great work with this journal – both with the editorial selections and with the production. It’s a really beautifully designed and printed little book. I think that’s why this is the first time I’ve ever seen something of mine in print and been happy with it.

But there is other good stuff in there, e.g.:

- figetoglyphs
- talking body parts
- word grids
- ovidian torture poetry
- a poem written on a typewriter (really!)

- a beautiful lyric sequence by Rob Halpern:

To make the other sky this
Sky being a thing we’ve failed
To do having survived our own

Survival of the one failing sky
The dead this time will bury
Themselves & their graves

- a beautiful & politically uneasy lyric sequence by Stephen Collis:

The overwhelming need to do something
Is this poem helping at all
Brick after brick the
Wall of contracts rising between us

- A terrific and graphically adventurous sequence by Juliette Lee – reflecting on nationhood, (in)visibility, selves:

The “nation” as a furtive
heterogeneity we want
to read as flat

And it casts back
an arbitrary stasis of

[imagine that last side-by-side, about twenty spaces apart]

- Perhaps the most ambitious piece - for the editor and writer/artist - is the reproduction of a letterpress book/imagetext by Emily McVarish, called The Square (Granary Books). The original is 10 ½ x 8 3/8” – but in the journal, it’s more like 3 x 2 ½ - with the text reproduced underneath. Sometimes the printing in the original is so light as to be invisible – which is a shame, b/c on the pages where you can match the text in the original to the text below it, you really see how McVarish is using space and graphic placement to full effect.

- Oh – and all the back issues have sold out. To order, send twelve dollar to:

c/o Andrew Rippeon
306 Clemens Hall
English Department
SUNY Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260 USA

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blog Lit?

One of the earliest posts to this blog raised the (to me) disturbing possibility of the future existence of a book called The Collected Blog Posts of Joseph Harrington. Well, that frightening prospect is not as outlandish as it may first appear. Aside from the obvious growth of blogzines in recent years, there is the additional possibility for blog books. There are already examples of books that originally appeared as/on blogs - from Caleb Crain's The Wreck of the Henry Clay to Michael Magee's My Angie Dickinson.

But how many books have made use of the blog form itself - the reverse chronology, informal voice, comments, links, etc.? There's Susan Schultz' Dementia Blog, but beyond that, I come up short. I mean, sure, it's a new medium, but c'mon! How many new writers are born every minute? It's a geometrical curve, for sure, that's all I know.

This issue is of importance to me for two reasons. First, this blog is mostly about blogs. And literature. So, finding a latter that uses the former as an organizing principle is an exciting prospect. Two, I'm trying to advise an MFA student who is writing an MFA thesis en forme du blog. What should she read??

So, dear reader: Where is the BlogPo? Or Blog lit, writ large? Give me titles - or leads - anything!

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On Literary (and Political) Consensus

“I have written of a cult of ‘American consensus’ that rose up among the punditocracy [in the 1940s and 50s] . . . their fervent imagining . . . that America was united and at peace and would forever be, if only ‘extremists’ stopped stirring up the pot. And I have written about the kind of intellectual self-repression it took to believe this . . . America is divided and will always be. It is not too much to suggest that the rages that accompanied the crumbling of this myth of consensus, as the furies of the 1960s advanced, would not have been so rageful – would not have been so literally murderous – had the false rhetoric of American unity not been so glibly enforced in the years that preceded it: that some of the 1960s anger and violence was a return of what America had repressed.”

- Perlstein, Rick. Nixonland. NY: Scribner, 2008. 747.

“What does it mean to break down the traditional-experimental split [in poetics]? What are the implications of a traditional and experimental hybrid that claims to overcome division and speak with one voice?

“. . . If, as Filreis writes, ‘rhetoric about poetic form was often unacknowledged Cold War politics,’ then what sort of unacknowledged politics is the rhetoric of the hybrid?”

- Ehlers, Sarah. “US Poetry and the Politics of Form” [rev. of Counter-revolution of the Word, by Alan Filreis]. Against the Current, May/June 2009, p. 40.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Lack-of-Food Network

My vieja spends a fair amount of time watching the Food Network. Which gave me an idea for a new reality show: The Lack-of-Food Network (or call it the Food Scarcity Network). Anyway, the idea would be a cable channel that would broadcast nothing but shows about people who are chronically hungry and malnourished - preferably shows hosted by people who are chronically hungry and malnourished (and under military attack, as that seems to go with the territory). And it would be the only cable channel anyone could receive between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. "Iron Non-Chef: Darfur." "Ace of Let-them-Eat-Cake." "Body Flay."

Doesn't the BBC News have their own cable network in the US? I guess that would pre-empt this idea.

All the food is to make you forget about all the people without food. All the war is to make you forget about your weight.

All of which makes me want to listen to Lily Allen. Non apetit!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mark Nowak on KKFI in KCMO

Just wanted to call your attention to the interview with poet-organizer Mark Nowak on this week's Heartland Labor Forum, Thursday, August 13, on KKFI-FM, 90.1. His segment runs at 6:30 pm apparently (the show is 6-7) - it's a show on new labor lit (esp. related to coal mining, such as Mark's new book of poetry/mixed-genre writing and photos, Coal Mountain Elementary, Coffee House Press - which you should check out, if you haven't already). You can also listen on your computer - and apparently, they rebroadcast the show on Friday.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Poets on Modernist Women Poets?

Here's what I want to know, poetry fans: What is your favorite essay, by a poet, written in the last 15 years, on any of the following poets: Stein; Millay; Loy; Moore; HD; (Riding) Jackson; Boyle; Rukeyser; Bennett; or H. Johnson?

Winners will be featured on the front page of this site.
The buzz now is all about whether or not Barrry O. wants to raise taxes on persons earning under $250K/yr. (thereby breaking a campaign promise).

What I want to know is whether or not Barry O. wants to raise taxes on persons (artificial and natural) earning more than $250K/yr. - esp. those earning more than $250 million/yr. - you know, the kind of persons who bundle $100K's in campaign contributions to politicians.

Actually, scratch that. I don't want to know.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jen Humphrey's _Up From the Ground_

I would like to call your attention to Jen Humphrey’s blog, Up From the Ground (which is now a fixture under “Blogs ‘We’ Like,” right). Jen is the Director of Communications for the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas (which also houses the Center for Biodiversity). She is also a (new) farmer and an MFA student.

Over the next year (at least), Jen will be writing her MFA thesis on-line – qua blog. Naturally, it will involve communications, nature, and farming. But I think it will be different from other blogs on those various topics, in that she is becoming ever more aware of the possibilities and limitations of the Blog Form – and how it might intersect with farming. For one thing, I and her other committee members are going to comment on the blog on the blog – thereby becoming part of the blog/thesis. Hell, you can comment on the blog and become part of her thesis! To add to the recursive fun, I fully expect that she will read this blog post, which is a reflection on her reflections on her blog. And she may even comment.

I pointed out to Jen (f2f, can you believe it??) that writing is a technology – and one that was first used to record agricultural produce. All that's left of that Sumerian millet are those clay tablets. (One thing I forgot to suggest is that she speak to a 21 c. Large Producer or two – about how they use communications technology; Jen and Jess are just a few acres and goats).

I also mentioned the potential open ended-ness of the blogosphere (which is really more pear-shaped, in my imagination). Unlike the Traditional Essay, blog posts do not have to achieve Closure. They can be part of a series; they can include links that take you away from them; they can invite comments that become part of them; and there is always the possibility of more to come – even if there is a long hiatus between posts. Blogs never end – either spatially or temporally. Until the coal runs out, anyway.

(Here in Lawrence, we have one of the top-ten greenhouse-gas emitters in the country, in the form of the power plant that is producing electricity for the very words I am typing now. Unlike the blogosphere, the ecosphere really is a closed system.)

All of this self-reflection is crucial, of course, because what is a bigger corn-pone stereotype than being a farmer in Kansas? People in Kansas, like people everywhere, begin to take on the characteristics, interests, and language of what they are supposed to be like. You should hear me talk in reverent tones about my connection to the local landscape. I can even do it in a Bob Dole/Pat Roberts twang.

Anyway, be part of the project. Visit the blog.
Thankfully, there is now a consulting firm to assist aspiring AWP panel proposers.

I should say, by way of clarification, that I don't think what Susan Schultz has in mind is civil disobedience, per se. I get the impression that she's thinking more Dick Tuck than Bruce Franklin (or Donald Segretti).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Barbaric AWP (?)

Susan M. Schultz recently posted on her blog (Tinfish Editor's Blog) a postmortem of some recent panel proposals for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) convention next year. She laments the conservative nature of the AWP, when it comes to innovative writing, and she's issuing a call for "guerilla poetry action," a la the kind of thing described in Jules Boykoff's and Kaia Sand's Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry and the Public Sphere.

I'm reminded of the account, in Paul Lauter's and Louis Kampf's The Politics of Literature: Dissenting Essays on the Teaching of English (Pantheon, 1972), of the left radical takeover of the MLA in 1968. I wonder how many young scholars realize the role that civil disobedience (and just plain "talking back") played in opening up that organization to feminist, historicist, political literary criticism, not to mention study of "ethnic" literatures. And before that, the New Critics took it over from the philologists. Perhaps the AWP is ripe for this kind of thing, just at the moment when a new avant-garde is ascendent in the literary world - and when it is provoking a reaction by the conservators of the style of 50 years ago.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Poetry and Cultural Studies

That sounds like "oil and water" to a lot of people. And my contribution in the new Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader (U. of Illinois) explains why. But, really, this project, from Maria Damon and Ira Livingston, has been long anticipated b/c it will fill an enormous gap in the literature - esp. for the classroom. As the table of contents shows, they include everyone from Wordsworth to Frankfurt to Today, giving "cultural studies" a broad purview - and including lots of definitions of poetry in the process. Hopefully this book will make more younger scholars realize that, yes, poetry is a part of the same cultural-historical narrative that fiction critics have been talking about lo these many years.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Le _P-QUEUE_ v. 6 est ariveé!

Well, P-Queue #6 is in the world now, apparently. It "premiered" at Boog City in NYC this past week. It contains work by David Brazil • Stephen Collis • Rob Halpern • JOSEPH HARRINGTON* • Geof Huth • Sueyeun Juliette Lee • Emily McVarish • Lauren Shufran • Stephanie Strickland • Roberto Tejada • Divya Victor • & Tyrone Williams. I haven't received my copy yet, so the anticipation is killing me.

But seriously, if you haven't encountered this journal, I highly recommend that you do. It's one of the few that presents truly trans- or non-genre work - and even graphically challenging non-vizpo work. And a lot of that work is, by the same token, really and truly innovative. I'm tickled and honored to have my work included.

*please see blog title, above.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pick a Title

Which of the following titles would you notice or remember? (if any):

- The Dead Mom Scrolls

- Say a Poem

- Goodnight, Whoever’s Listening

- A Little Book That Looks Like a Heart

- I’m Showing You Everything

- The Longest Kind of Time

Please “vote” – or leave snide comments – in the comments section. Thanks!