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, September 25, 2009

Mark Cunningham and Cyrus Console

I heard them read last night - great reading. Good crowd, too.

Anyway, I don't agree with Kenny Goldsmith that the fragment is dead, but there sure is a lot of hypotactic poetry going on. Mark Cunningham's prose pieces are really built around the sound and ideational patterns of the sentence. And the sentences are grammatically correct sentences:

Metallic Wood-boring Beetle
Leaf eaten into lace: lingerie calls forth the death drive. Not only could philosophy not prevent any of the 20th century holocausts, it couldn't stop the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" from running through my head all last Tuesday. It must really be Spring: the cherry tree is blooming for the third time.

The abrupt veering from high to low subjects and registers, and the (short) "new sentence" feel of a piece like this really came forth as Mark read them with his (Alfred E.) Newmanesque insouciance. And the comedy; and the social commentary. Always a red-headed ash borer in the ointment. I guess this is pretty paratactic after all.

The pieces in Body Language started from the body part/function or letter/number of the title. However, it turns out the beetles and the leaves were titled after the pieces were written. You make the connection.

Cyrus Console read bits of his w.i.p. "The Odyssey," which makes some superficial structural nods towards the Odyssey, but pitches away from it quickly. It sounds a little like a hash-smoking Old Testament prophet trying to chant the story of the hero while reading Noam Chomsky (or Al Krebs). Or something like that. Lots of incantatory dependent clauses - you just gotta go with it. But still: hypotaxis + complete sentences (long ones).

However, last Friday's "Actual Kansas" reading by Stacy Szymaszek made the case for the fragment. Her long poem "Heart Island" sounded like a white-out poem - glimpses and overheard bits, rather than fragments in the Sappho sense. And an affecting picture of the destitute of NYC - and their final resting place on the eponymous isle - came through distinctly - the emotional geography of it. I've been teaching Mina Loy lately. "Heart Island" was kind of like "Hot Cross Bum" with the abstract nouns (and a lot of the other words) erased.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MARK CUNNINGHAM & CYRUS CONSOLE read in Lawrence tomorrow!

Well, it’s the Fourth Thursday this week, which means it’s time for another BIG TENT reading, at the Raven Bookstore, 8 E. 7th St, Lawrence, on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 7:00 p.m.

The readers are:

Cyrus Console, KU creative-writing doctoral student and author of Brief Under Water (Burning Deck)

Mark Cunningham, nationally-known writer of short prose, author of Body Language (Tarpaulin Sky), 80 Beetles (Otoliths), 71 Leaves (BlazeVox), amongst other titles. His new chapbook, Nachträglichkeit (Beard of Bees), is available for download here:

The third “act” is Nancy Hubble, long-time Lawrence poet and artist, author of the chapbook Dharma Dog.

For more information on all the poets, see:

Hope very much you can make it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gertrude Stein; Blogging; &c.

I post a lot in the summer, less in the fall, and hardly at all in the spring. I am a seasonal worker.

But this is a pure existential activity, this blogging, this posting. Have you ever sent a letter to an address you knew didn't exist - and with no return address? That is purity.

If I wrote about my personal life, it would be so fucking fascinating, your head would explode.

Not really. Don't worry. It doesn't matter.

Soon this planet will be like all the others.

* * *

Is Gertrude Stein for real when she talks about "exactitude"? As in "exactitude in the description of inner and outer reality"? That begs the question, no? Like Pound directly treating "the 'thing,' whether subjective or objective." Like, I'm going to be able to verify your subjective reality, Ez. . . . Pls.

I once asked Walter Benn Michaels if it was possible to have an intention that one was unaware of. He responded that it was possible to have unconscious intentions. OK. And maybe the martians are channeling their intentions through me.

Now that I think of it, I think the martians are in fact channeling their intentions through me. And I haven't been taking notes!

Virgil Thomson, in his note on "Patriarchal Poetry," claims that the poem is all about emotion - that it is a neo-romantic text. "It is hermetic writing; direct communication of ideas is not its purpose. Its purpose is the description of emotion . . . " And "'Patriarchal Poetry' is not cubistic at all . . . It is rounded, romantic viscreal . . ." Hmm. Well, neither I nor my students got that. But maybe we're all fools - entirely possible. Or maybe Virg is pulling our leg.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Canadian Feral Bunnies - the three cutest words in the English language

You may know that the feral bunnies of the University of Victoria (B.C.) campus have at times made an appearance on this blog. Well, now you can take them home. I have no idea how hard it would be to take them across borders. I do know you want to keep them away from electrical cords - they like to chew.

Friday, September 11, 2009

closure never closes

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Conceptual Poem of Quietude


Monday, September 7, 2009

Blog Lit Redux

I just read a really interesting post on Susan Schultz' Tinfish Editor's Blog. It's about "blog lit," and what might consitute some characteristics thereof.

I think I may be ambivalent re: the notion of blog lit. On the one hand, I love the idea of using the medium in the message - of exploiting the form, both textual and social, that blogs enable (and require) - not least of all the collaborative, and sometimes a(nta)gonistic, comments. On the other hand, I sure don't want to create another genre, with its own generic (or genetic) characteristics.

Fortunately, I think that the Blog Form (even in the rather narrow window of Blogger) provides for enough latitude that there is very little danger of that happening. Or at least the parameters of the genre are so capacious as to be meaningless. For one thing, one can incorporate multiple media. And if you do even a little html, Word Press lets you expand your repetoire (and, as Susan points out, refers you to other posts - based on content, not style or form, unfortunately).

However, as I've mentioned before, I can't think of many examples of books or blogs that utilize the protocols of blogging (whether structural or stylistic).

I like the idea of Spring and All's being a model for blog lit. Not to mention Descent of Winter. I'm "teaching" Gertrude Stein's early poetry right now. I have absolutely no doubt that she'd be a blogger, in today's world. She'd link to prepositions.

* * *

What is the relation of this blog to my real job (postsecondary eduction)? Is it siphoning off and diluting any real aesthetic or pedagogical ideas I might have? Or is it providing a proving ground for them? Certainly, the tone is much breezier and offhand than that I'd use in an article (there are those generic parameters, again - with a vengeance).

Occasionally, I post poems that I assume noone would ever want to publish. To my surprise, one day I found out that some of them had been re-published - to a blogzine, of course. That's good, I guess. The tenured have less fear of being dooced than the genl. population, to be sure. But you sure can lose face and embarrass yourself. Particularly by aimless posts with no real point.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's not so amazing to me how soon Obama's most enthusiastic supporters have soured on him, but rather how suddenly. It seems like it happened all at once, about two or three weeks ago (or at least that's how it appeared in the media, and as the man said, "I only know what I read in the newspapers"). This is largely b/c of the difficulty he's having with health care reform.

That's unfortunate, b/c O. is doing about as much to advance public health care as anybody since Truman (remember him? he didn't win reelection - but that was because of an unpopular war).

If you want to know why significant health care reform is not going to clear the Senate, look here, here, and here. Note especially the shift in percentages between the last election cycle and this one. Nothing succeeds like success, esp. when it comes to political fundraising.

It's useful to compare this round with that of 1993. In that year, Clinton and Gore pulled out all the stops to get NAFTA passed - promising anything - new air force bases to freshman representatives - to get it through. C & G did an LBJ number on the Congress, and, despite the majority of Americans' opposition to NAFTA, got it through. Just barely. But that's all it takes, in our System. And passing NAFTA and GATT was what Clinton was hired to do.

Then came health care, and Gentleman Bill in effect said, "You handle it, Honey."

Sorry - I've worked in politics too much to be idealistic about "The Process" (as pols unironically term it), but not enough to be cynical enough to pretend it works for anyone who's not at the top.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"A 'Maybe' Is a Double, Triple 'No'"

Earlier this year, I wrote a post in re: the growing tendency of literary journals to simply not respond to submissions they don't intend to publish. That is, instead of sending a cute little rejection slip or email ("sorry!"), they just blow you off.

Now part of that phenomenon is undoubtedly due to the geometric fecundity of MFA programs and other poet-procreators, & to the overworked, don't-give-up-your-day-job status of editors. I lose track of emails, so why shouldn't they lose track of submissions?

But now it seems like it's becoming a standard response to any request. Don't want to write that letter of recommendation? Don't answer the email! Don't want to serve on that committee? Blow off the request. And so on. If they call you on it, say "sorry - I lose track of emails."

Part of the problem is undoubtedly email itself, and this is a good argument for the good ol fashioned phone call. Sometimes you need to put someone on the spot. But not if they don't want to help you - you don't want them to say yes if they're not going to do it, or do a half-assed job of it. But if the answer is No, and if you're facing a deadline or time crunch, you need to know No.

Part of it may also be a creeping nicey-niceness in US culture - a way of papering over the thoroughgoing instrumentality of many if not post human relationships in this country, or compensating for conditions of universal competition in a "down" economy. This is a particular problem in the Midwest (tho Califas has this problem too; in the South, you just think up a sweet and clever way to say No).

Then again, maybe I'm just being a sucker. I actually write the person back and say things like "I don't know your work well enough" or "I'd love to, but I'm swamped." Those phrases seem so quaint, as I write them now. But I get sentimental, don't you know.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This partial liberty renders the ethical sense
a joke. What self-flattery to think
all destiny can lie at a fork in the road.

In the end, nothing is certain
except that those who seek their own
salvation will betray their brethren.

- from "The Quest," by Jennifer Moxley. In Clampdown (Flood 2009)

That book is a weird - I mean interesting - combination of relaxed, representational, confessional narrative and high sentaunce and Big Statements. I happen to agree with most of the Big Statements, but (as with Lisa Robertson, sometimes) I balk at the imprecision of abstract nouns. I expect this is more my problem than theirs.

* * *

Irony: The new Chancellor and the Athletics Commissar at my institution jointly announce the expansion of the football stadium by 3,000 seats on the same week the Chronicle runs a front-page story about the disproportionate growth of athletics spending vis-a-vis academics, in the US. And the same week as the controversy over Budweiser's college-team-color "Fan Cans." The fact that the new Chancellor is an African American woman, and the Athletics Director is an aging bald white guy - and one who earns more money than she does - doesn't help matters.

But it's OK, b/c KU Athletics, Inc. is a separate entity from the University. And it has graciously deigned to bestow $40 million on the University - over ten years (possession = 9/10 of law). Soon we'll be going hat-in-hand to KU Athletics, not the legislature.

* * *

From the Yes-I'm-a-Philistine Dept.: I'm becoming addicted to Tilly and the Wall. A folk-punk/flower-power-pop band with a tap-dancer for a percussionist, six people singing the same melody at once, sounds like a harmonium, kickstand, paintbucket etc. - what's not to like? And they're SO much more sincere than most of the stuff I listen to (or read) - it's good for me. "Poor Man's Ice Cream" is about all that needs to be said about the Alien Other in (or out) America. And "Chandelier Lake" is the creepiest ballad since Tam Lin (not Tan Lin - tho I just got his new book, and it looks pretty outre, too).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Objectives considered to be essential or very important by US undergraduates

Being very well off financially 76.8%
Raising a family 75.5%
Helping others who are in difficulty 69.7%
Develping a meaningful philosophy of life 51.4%
Influencing social values 44.7%
Becoming a community leader 36.2%
Becoming involved in programs to clearn up the environment 29.5%
Influencing the political structure 22.3%
Writing original works 16.6%

(Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, Almanac Issue, Aug. 28, 2009)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

From the Diary of Lib Peoples

Fri. 19 39. Had family picnic tonite. Went to scavenger hunt with B. tonite. Fannie and Foots, too.
Dark clouds over all.
Every body lisning to war news.

Sat. 19 39. Frances came last nite.

Sun. 19 39. England has declared war – France, too. Everybody hangs on radio for news. All family together – first time in ages.

[I haven't heard anybody in the media mention this anniversary. Maybe I don't listen to/read/watch enough media. I bet I would have heard about it if I lived in Europe.]