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, December 31, 2010

_Earth Day Suite_ is ready for your downloading pleasure!

My (e)chap, Earth Day Suite, is now availble for download (free) from Beard of Bees press.

I got yer nature poetry - RIGHT HERE!

While you're at the site, check out some of the other fine chaps on display - including those by that lovable poetry-bot Gnoetry - whose poems are, to this pre-post-human author, scarily good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Multi-Genre?

I applied for a fellowship to work on a series of books I’m doing about my mother’s life and times (the first of which, Things Come On, is scheduled to be “out” next month). I was told that I didn’t get it because I hadn’t provided adequate reasons for my writing in multiple genres (verse, prose, dramatic dialogue) within a single book. I thought I'd addressed that issue – but then I’m not the one handing out the fellowships.

So I started thinking more systematically about it. The most obvious and general reason is that I’m a believer in trying not to separate form and content – i.e., that it’s a false dichotomy. So, rather than trying to make a welter of heterogeneous materials fit into a pre-determined form (e.g., the linear narrative of standard prose autobiography – or Spencerian stanzas – or five acts), I am attempting to let the materials of the books – diaries, scrapbooks, conversations, photographs, hand-written documents, letters, etc. – and combinations of materials from a given time period – suggest the shape of the text into which I am integrating them. As the nature or tone of the materials change, so does that of the narrative, and therefore, its shape.

The bigger issue here, one which I’ve addressed before, is the generality/particularity or deductive/inductive issue. Writing a biography of any kind (maybe a non-fiction book of any kind – maybe a book of any kind) is the experience of being confronted with lots of materials, voices, ideas. The author must somehow select from amongst that mass of Stuff and compose the selected materials, along with his or her own words, in such a way that the reader gets, at the very least, patterns of images, themes, feelings, that add up to something more than any single one (whether or not that something is "greater than the sum of the parts" – the assumption behind that expression is precisely the problem, seems to me).

One way to go about that, of course, is to select for a certain type of story, or a certain genre of story, and then to force any recalcitrant materials to conform to that type. The default type is the absorptive “page-turner” that sews everything together into one central storyline – like a realist novel, whether or not the nonfiction book includes dialogue, point-of-view, composite characters, etc.

But to my mind, part of the thing that makes life stories interesting is precisely that welter of particulars – either because I recognize some of the places and personality types instantly (e.g., Memphis Afternoons, by James Conaway) or because I’m confronted with a set of people and details that are radically different from those in my own life (e.g., The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot). The Skloot book, for instance, makes no bones about switching from a journalistic to novelistic to memoiristic telling of events, as the events themselves seem to demand it. And I think one reason is that she took seriously this question of fitting the structure of the narrative to the narrative that needed telling - in part as a way to try to honor the particularity of the lives she is writing about (including her own).

So, the multi-genre non-fiction book is less like a novel than a scrapbook – that hybrid, connect-the-dots story book formed by the relations between its elements – which are very diverse elements indeed. As Susan Howe puts it, “The relational space is the thing that’s alive with something from somewhere else.”

Now to try to condense all this into a single paragraph for the application!

Tomorrow (well, OK – soon, anyway): Multi-genre writing and the elegiac mode.

Friday, December 10, 2010

She Ain't from Around Here, Is She?

The admission by a local poet to being "incapable of confrontation" led me to reflect upon why Kansas is the reddest of red states. "Power concedes nothing without a demand," as a famous person once said (and he oughta know!); it's precisely demands - esp. of people in power - that midwesterners (and maybe Americans generally) seem incapable of. Demanding and confronting are not "polite" (i.e., quietist) activities, and therefore are cardinal sins in these parts - even for political liberals. Accordingly, that which has happened happens again - which is a good definition of conservatism. And this state of affairs makes it easy for an unscrupulous person bent on political power to get it and keep it. One doesn't talk back to one's betters, around here. Consequently, nobody fights, so nothing changes.

In the state capitol in Topeka, there is (or was) a photograph from 1893 of the Populist Party legislators who were elected (as a majority) in 1892. They pose, brandishing rifles, some, next to their desks. The Republicans ended up stealing the election and ejecting the Populists from the capitol w/the help of the National Guard. But the incident shows that Kansans were not always as cowed and timid as they are now (a point Thomas Frank has tried to emphasize); perhaps they were more desperate, perhaps they were more ornery. All that is certain is that they are very different today.

Then I came across the following, from the book Parenthood in a Free Nation (1963):

"Perhaps the whole thing is that she isn't afraid to be afraid, when there's real danger. She's not afraid to show anger when a situation calls for anger. She isn't afraid to take a chance on being disappointed if her plans go wrong. She meets hostility on the part of a classmate with a certain amount of - well, almost composure. As a matter of fact, she actually seems, somehow, to have a very good understanding of what the world is like. She's learning to take things in stride. She seems to know - and really feel it - that when she gets thrown off balance she is capable of regaining her footing."

This passage describes a fourth grader, but I devoutly wish the same could be said of University of Kansas students - graduate and undergraduate alike - today. Not to mention everyone else in the state, the midwest, and the nation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm Officially "Hot"! (and anti-papist, apparently)

I googled my forthcoming book - as one can, I think, be forgiven for doing in the nervous weeks leading up to its publication. Here's what I saw at Library, under the headline "What Else Is Hot?: More Spring Poetry," by Barbara Hoffert, dated Dec. 1:

"This time, I’ve organized the 22 titles by category—a dangerous venture as the best poetry can’t easily be contained by labels. Joseph Harrington’s Things Come On: an amneoir ('Storytelling') might just as easily be classed under 'Political Edge,' for instance, given how it parallels the story of a death with the story of Watergate. And Harrington’s work could have as easily been classed with Alice Notley’s Culture of One and Tom Waits and Michael O’Brien’s Hard Ground in another category called 'Multimedia,' given their blending of material beyond verse."

OK - so I've never seen my name in print alongside Alice Notley's, let alone Tom Waits', so that got me interested. Here's what she says about my book:

"In Things Come On: an amneoir (Wesleyan Univ. Apr. 2011. ISBN 9780819571359. $22.95 eISBN 9780819571366. $11.99), Joseph Harrington blends poetry, prose, documentation, and images to narrate his mother’s death from breast cancer around the time of Watergate. Both the public and the private event involved denial and a struggle to get at the truth (hence amneoir, which combines memoir and amnesia)."

She goes on to present the following teasers re: forthcoming books by two of my fellow (?) Wesleyan poets:

"Evie Shockley’s the new black (Wesleyan Univ. Mar. 2011. ISBN 9780819571403. $22.95) considers various concepts of 'blackness,' past and present, while Elizabeth Willis’s Address (Wesleyan Univ. Mar. 2011. ISBN 9780819570982. $22.95. eISBN 9780819570994. $11.99) considers how civic structures shape the way we think."

Personally, I can't wait to read those. And, since all three of us are reading at the AWP on Feb. 4, I probably won't have to wait as long as these pre-pub notices indicate (in fact, you can pre-order all three from University Press of New England, amazon, etc. now).

In other news, I found my book listed on, Australia's answer to Amazon. My name was listed as "Professor Joseph Harrington" - which I certainly have been called before (and worse!), but never as a by-line. I clicked on Professor Joe's name. I did not find Poetry and the Public: The Social Form of Modern U.S. Poetics (for instance), but I did find this title:

Popery and Treason Inseparable. in a Discourse Upon the 5th of November, Not Forgetting the 4th. Wherein Is Also Some Remarkable Memoirs Discovering the Arts of the Papists in the Death of King Charles the First, by Professor Joseph Harrington (1714)

Faith and begorrah - 'tis not me! On me honor, I don't think the man is even kin.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"They show many different reactions . . . when faced with failure.

Some grow angry and fly into a rage; some try to evade the issue by distracting attention from the unpleasant situation. . . . Some try to bluff their way through, refusing to admit their inadequacy. Others blame persons or objects instead of admitting their own limitations, like the one who, when she could not fit wooden forms into the holes of a board from which they had been cut, exclaimed, 'You just ought to have bigger holes! These aren't right at all!'"

(from Parenthood in a Free Nation, by Ethel Kawin, 1963)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More on oldness (and me)

I should say, in re: my post in re: Old Women Look Like This, by Susan M. Schultz that my remarks are colored by these factors:

- I've been visiting our next door neighbor, who is dying of cancer, in a nursing home recently, and I haven't been in one for a while;

- I have a father who is 83 and - knock wood - lucid, healthy, and mobile (for now);

- I am not getting any younger and have yet to fully come to terms with that fact.

I think that, if I see the chapbook as being tragic, rather than - what? - a romance? - then it probably has as much to do with me as with it. It also has to do with the fact that the chapbook asks us to take in a lot of people at a glance - so the full force of dementia in its many permutations hits one all at once. In this respect, the work is different than the same author's Dementia Blog (Singing Horse Press, 2008), which chronicles her mother's decline into Alzheimer's (and her own responses, in historical context) - backwards, in good blog (and dementia) fashion. The upshot is that the change, while already an accomplished fact, is revealed more gradually - and we focus on one sufferer in greater detail. Moreover, the loss only becomes fully apparent at the end.

But I still think that the power of Old Women comes from its unwillingness to try to give a happy ending to a process that resists it - a rare resistance to the forced optimism of American culture.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"The Civil War - the War of Northern Aggression - was still a vivid reality for some people, my grandmother included. The mere existence of Yankees was a difficult proposition for her. . . . Once, when I asked her what was wrong with Yankees, she said, 'They put sugar on their meat.'"

- James Conaway, Memphis Afternoons

Friday, November 26, 2010

_Old Women Look Like This_, by Susan M. Schultz

Old Women Look Like This, by Susan M. Schultz, is a (free!) e-chapbook that came out this year from Argotist Ebooks. It was inspired by, and partially ekphrastically responds to, paintings of elderly people by Elizabeth Berdann (one of which graces the front cover) – portraits framed by openings in the shape of a suite of cards (hearts, diamonds). Each of the old people in Schultz’ poems are identified only by first name and age. “Do not refer to them as them or as they or as those people, because we could be they as they could be someone else.” Indeed – and, demographically, if you live in the US, you have a pretty good chance of being one of those people – many of whom, in this book as in real life, suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or just confusion.

While it would be an overstatement to say that Old Women Look Like This makes me want to slit my wrists to avoid growing old, let me put it this way: if I were the sort of person who liked to get drunk and drive real, real fast, this book would not be an argument for changing ways. “’Are you my mother?’ Martha asks them each, and they said no, they were not hers but someone else’s mother, sister, aunt, niece. ‘I took care of you,’ one said, ‘but I am not your mother . . ..’” Martha is 92, and she is not unlike the other women and men in the nursing home. Schultz paints their portraits to rather chilling effect, by playing off children’s books, Wallace Stevens (mashed up w/the Alzheimer’s Assoc. 2010 report), or by creating a scary, perfunctory, and breathless nursing-home soap opera. “Ronald Reagan (90) Remembers His Challenger Disaster Speech” samples and scrambles the (even-then-defamiliar) words of that president. There is an engaging variety of verse and prose forms here that tell the story of Juanita Goggins, first African-American woman elected to the South Carolina legislature, who freezes to death in the house where she lives alone.

The final poem, “Waiting Adults,” gives only initials for names (and ages, of course): “P (82) is sweet and kind and listens to Christian Radio. She misses her baby, and often cries over him.” “J (85) is well dressed and sports a mustache. He moves constantly, as if he has somewhere to go.” Perhaps the most poignant poem of the bunch is the second-to-last, “Anne of Manor Care Gables,” which depicts “the residents” as a group: “The residents are all relinquished./ . . . The residents do not recognize themselves, boxed up and memorialized beside their doors. . . ./ The residents are like children. No one says that children are like them.”

This book could be seen as a kind of coda (or sequel) to Schultz’ groundbreaking Dementia Blog, which is, in fact, the blog the author kept as her own mother slid into Alzheimer’s. Like that book, this one stares straight at you and at the “residents” at the same time, recognizing that you – and those you love – are them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"It is true that man can only become man by first suppressing this unhistorical element in his thoughts, comparisons, distinctions, and conclusions, letting a clear sudden light break through these misty clouds by his power of turning the past to the uses of the present. But an excess of history makes him flag again, while without the veil of the unhistorical he would never have the courage to begin."

- Nietzsche, “Use and Abuse of History”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

- resource depletion weakened the internal economy
- resource depletion abroad led to mass influxes of peoples
- the military scarfed up increasing amounts of recourses
- the military increasingly relied on foreign mercenaries
- class stratification intensified
- large landholders drove small ones from the land
- state power became more and more concentrated
- state power fell under control of wealthy individuals
- and the corrupt officials who served them
- municipal government was being financially ruined
- a large cohort in both center and periphery was unemployed
- the infrastructure was decaying
- taxes fell disproportionately on the poor and middle class
- the wealthy avoided paying taxes altogether
- religious controversy played a central role in statecraft
- clergy actively intervened in politics
- the people withdrew all loyalty from the state
- and regarded events with steadfast apathy
- social deterioration and anarchy resulted
- politicians proclaimed the greatness of the nation
- a new regime assumed control

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In the 1950s and 60s, when industrial workers in the US were earning a good wage (in large part due to the strength of trade unions in that period), they were receptive to the notion, ubiquitous on TV, that everyone was middle class. It stuck - esp. since TV hasn't stopped sending that message since then. It was in this way, and not by confrontation, that capitalists eliminated the working class in America (and with it, working-class solidarity). So now that we’re back in the 1880s, everyone is still middle class.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"A lot of the stuff that I wrote and said that I thought was funny when I was younger turned out to be merely clever. Later, it started to appear merely precious. I thought I was blasé – I actually felt blasé – but it turns out I cared a very great deal. I'm even pretty sure that on occasion I had an 'idea.' The false modesty, the smirking abjection, the pathetic aesthetic and the rest of it now looks like shtick of the most unselfconscious, prepostmodern, late-capitalist variety. Who knew."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Machines are taking over the world - I was being chased by a knife- throwing woman who said it was all done with mirrors - and she was working for some big-brother-type person - she said she had to do it, b/c they were holding her son hostage - very frustrating for me, b/c how you gonna defend against something like that? - something about needing to hide something in my suitcase (are they moving me to another prison?) - is part of this taking place in a motor court, or was that another dream?

Then a neighbor built a pavillion on the corner to cover up a hole in the ground.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Something about children and wild cats - the snow is going to accumulate and accumulate and accumulate - packages of disassembled, shrink-wrapped houses that we thought were just already built little houses that we wanted to buy; some ovbviously are those houses, but they're old and they've just been disassembled.

Monday, November 8, 2010


My mixed-genre book Things Come On (an amneoir) will be released by Wesleyan University Press' Wesleyan Poets series at the A.W.P. convention Feb. 2-5.

Between now and then, I will visit your town/institution to read/talk/teach, completely HONORARIUM FREE! - save for the price of a plane ticket, a place to crash, and some food here and there.

So please email me at jharrington [at] ku [dot] edu, let me know when you'd like for me to visit, and we'll sho nuff work something out! Thanks!
It's 20 years after the politically-motivated assassination of the Mexican woman, and I'm in the apartment of this Japanese graphic artist and designer. I talk to somebody else at this party who knew this woman. And there are pictures of her incorporated into some of the artist's works - like Marilyn Monroe in Andy Warhol's. It's clear that somebody there is hiding something, but I can't figure out what. George W. Bush's senatorial campaign is running ads on the TVs. There are daily explosions at the White House. I ("the hero") get a check from the World Bank for writing accounting software. I tear it up, b/c I wrote them a virus instead. I keep wanting to go back to the hangout of the killers of the Mexican woman, but people try to dissuade me. I then see on an adjacent rooftop a sailor setting up his sniper position - to "reenact" the killing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some kind of slasher film - about Jack the Ripper - who's played by Tim Robbins. Some guy hands him a knife - asking him to "take care of it" or defend him or something. But he [Jack] realizes he can just hack the guy to death with it (duh), so he does.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kansas, Mississippi

"Democratic processes could hardly help oppressed minorities who were barred by discriminatory election laws from even participating in the process. Those who did participate had a special interest in keeping the bar. Nor could those processes rectify the widespread and blatant violation of the constitutional requirement that election districts be realigned to conform to shifting demographic patterns, espcially the urbanization of the population. Those elected from the anachronistic rural districts had a compelling interest in maintaining their underpopulated fiefdoms."

- Richard M. Abrams, America Transformed: Sixty Years of Revolutionary Change, 1941-2001 (Cambridge UP, 2006)

This passage explains both what's the matter with Kansas politics, and the reason it will not change in the foreseeable future. The population is becoming more and more urban, but the legislative districts, esp. in the House, are lagging behind. The rural districts are overwhelmingly Republican (and right-wing), so that party, which controls both houses of the Leg, has no interest in redictricting. And there is no demand for same from beyond the Corn Curtain - there is no oppressed minority - no larger (galvanized) national constituency in more populous and richer states to demand attention and action. German-Americans are not being knocked over by firehoses and mauled by dogs. And there sure as shit ain't no mass movement. Result: an ever deeper shade of red (in the 21st c. sense).

All of which makes me wonder how many other states between the Rockies and Appalachians are in the same boat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

if this time next it sounds
a voice beyond the tomb,
Cassandra: "If only I -
It - hadn't been right" -

permaculture and guns:
The voice behind the tune.
Thank you.

the worst are full of passion-
less entropy the best
lack all cojones

So this is what it is like
to be poor, we will hear
us say - "us"? . . . Humnph -
quote your own self.

I will ascend this ex
crement of some sky, this
this. It butters
no parsnips. It batters
my heart and deep
fries it, sho.

Fact it: Time
to make your con-
cession speech.
Time to time
your each &
ev'ry act.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Khaled Mattawa's "Tocqueville"

Read a very interesting poem yesterday – “Tocqueville,” by Khaled Mattawa. I don’t know that it’s the Great Poem of the Era of Globalization, but it’s definitely a draft of part of that poem (which we are all writing, whether we leave a record of it or not). It is mostly a collage, drawn from materials as disparate as Franz Fanon, Robert Pinsky, and first-person accounts from Somali refugees. The work is composed of verse, found prose, and imagined dialogues. Mattawa manages to bring together the quotidian and the Big Events, the masses and the players, in a way that evokes the nature of neoliberal globalization – in particular, neo-colonialism and the global politics/psychology of race.

It also attempts to “get at” the psychology of the folks in the metropole – not least of all via Tocqueville himself:

“Such a government does not break men’s will, but softens, bends, and guides it; it seldom enjoins, but often inhibits action; it does not destroy anything, but prevents much from being born; it is not at all tyrannical but it hinders, restrains, enervates, stifles, and stultifies.”

It also puts into place tyrannical, destructive, will-breaking governments in subject territories. And sets those territories against each other. Just before the passage above:

“If you talk to the Chinese about cheap labor, they begin to complain about Vietnamese competitiveness.

“And who are the Vietnamese complaining about?

“Bangladesh. And the Bangladeshis are pissed at the Burmese.” (36)

A lot of the passages are deadpan accounts of unimaginable cynicism and cruelty, often recounted in an elliptical, allusive manner – along with the surreal, nightmarish mode one often finds in poetry dealing with the postcolonial condition:

“The wonder of it she’d sung,
the wonder she’s spring into the world singing,

and you say bless this goodness
wrung of amnesia, of the whips’ hieroglyphs,

this song rattling the creaking church,
this gale of cool air washing away the savannah’s moss.

Hearth in winter, Abel’s
blood streaming endless from your veins.” (40)

There are several voices, themes and sources that recur over the 25 pp. of the poem, which links the general and the particular, as well as different parts of the world to one another, via the principle of montage. To his credit, Mattawa doesn’t exempt those who live in seeming “safe havens” (like Ann Arbor, Michigan) from scrutiny. Then there is the rest of the eponymous book, in which Mattawa presents some fascinating and disconcerting experimental work.

“And these idiots still think we lost Vietnam.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm reading at Wesleyan UP poetry reading panel at AWP

. . . on Friday (February 4, 2011), 12 noon-1:15 p.m., in the Delaware Suite, Lobby Level of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, with Elizabeth Willis, Evie Shockley, Ed Roberson, and Adrian Blevins. Book signing by me 2:30-3:30 that afternoon, tho I plan to go up to the WesPress booth right after the reading, and I expect that Elizabeth, Evie, and Ed will be there, too, and maybe Rae Armantrout.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Book (_Things Come On_) Has a Cover . . .

. . . which is suitably noir-ish and indeterminate, not unlike the contents (which see, right above).

If you click on the cover, it will take you to a description, blurbs, etc. You can also order the book then-and-there (unless you're going to AWP, where you can buy it at a discount - unless, of course, you want one less book in your suitcase, in which case, you should order it). I think that you will like it, in a pity-&-terror-cathartic sort of way.

In fact, if you think you're going to buy it anyway (and I do hope you do), then please go ahead and order it, so that Wesleyan will want to publish my next book, which is called No Soap (about my mother's life and times up to mid-1947). You can read the first chapter of that book here. If Wesleyan likes it, and publishes it, you will get to read the rest of it. So, if you like the first chapter of No Soap, and want to read the rest of it, please order Things Come On. Plus which, if you order it now, you will completely forget about it, and it will show up on your doorstep in February, when you undoubtedly will want a surprise of any sort.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Abayomi Animashaun Reading

A friend asked me about Abayomi Animashaun's poetry reading last night. I answered - and figured I might as well share it:

I think Abayo's book The Giving of Pears is much more interesting than your run-of-the-mill representational narrative verse. For one thing, he's keenly aware of sound - incl. cadences of sentences - and thinks about line-breaks. He read wonderfully (and slowly). Secondly, he uses his imagination. The poem rarely stays in one locale (or even in one apparent reality) for long. [indeed, many of his poems have a surrealist - or magical realist - aspect] Thirdly, I really like the way he handles the Nigeria/America thing - with a light touch - matter-of-fact, but again, taking it places you don't expect.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Formal Indeterminacy as A Epistemology

"Grounded in situational practice: that is, there are no a priori determinations regarding specific use of style, technique, form, order. Importantly, this is not a lack of aesthetic theory. In a sense it is theory theorizing upon theory. The indeterminate is never, here, transcendentally indeterminate: rather it maintains a connection to the determinate of its being claimed in the first place. Just as the unknowable is only and merely something a person may come to know, this indeterminate is something that may very well be tethered to a forthcoming determination."

- Brent Cunningham, quoted in A Tonalist, by Laura Moriarty (Nightboat 2010).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's one thing to not be aware that your literary friends are, in fact, a coterie. It's something different, however, to start self-consciously thinking of your literary friends as though they were a coterie. This latter procedure can produce some useful and principled results. See, for instance, the "coda" to A Tonalist, by Laura Moriarty, where she makes a good case for interpellating friends and strangers into a "movement" she's thought up - one that is especially a Bay-Area phenomenon. A Tonalist values the contingent (not nec. continent) and fictional nature of coteries, one gathers. I'd sign on, but I can't, and it would defeat the point anyway.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm zipping around trying to find books, clothes, etc. for my second day of teaching primary school math. I stop at my apartment. The dog is there, a pug. But somehow this is only half the dog. What happened to the other half? A black and tan miniature dachshund - really, really miniature - is submerged in the water dish. Suddenly I realize I haven't been home for days. I pour out some food and apologize to the pug. "I don't know how he died," the pug says, matter-of-factly, nonchalant. "I guess he fell in the water dish and drowned."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Being "in" a coterie means not thinking of yourself as being in a coterie. You might be vaguely aware of it as a "community" or "group of friends," but it's the nature of coteries to be like the water to the fish. And wondering why all those people on the other side of the glass are excluding you from their coterie.

Then there are the fish in the next tank over - now there's a coterie. They're so exclusionary. Those are BAD FISH. Nobody would want to be in their tank.

When there is money (or jobs, publication opportunities, etc.) at stake, everything gets a little more intense. And when you start writing about your coterie's exciting adventures, recording their bons mots, and referring to them by their first names, you've started writing to your coterie - and only them. The people on the other side of the glass have gotten bored and gone home.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Bayle is suggesting that any merely truthful account of mankind is liable to take on the appearance of a slander simply because the usual run of mankind is more likely to be ignoble than noble, and that the truth itself is therefore more than likely to take on the aspect of a calumny."

- Hayden White, Metahistory

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A former student is telling me about the beautiful place in Oregon where he's gotten a job. I grow increasingly jealous and despondent, until he tells me his partner complains about it all the time, b/c the wind blows the waves the wrong way, in that place.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Green Party has taken over and appointed me acting governor of Denver, which is a Chinese province. I'm buying horse stuff in preparation to flee. I/we are trying to get out of Alaska once and for all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sui Wha?

Nicholas Ripatrazone has posted an enlightened appeal for more literary magazines in creative-writing classrooms (over at Luna Park ) - and for students to read them before they submit work to them.

But one part tripped me up. He recalls having stumbled upon some poems by a novelist in a lit mag and comments, "Something about such genre jumping seemed freeing; I would learn that such freedom was endemic to literary magazines."

Endemic? Now, novelists have written poems ever since there have been novels - and there are novels and plays, etc., by poets, memoirs by playwrights, etc. And it's not like literary journals are en masse including "other" or "trans-genre" as a generic category (save with some shining exceptions like Hotel Amerika or Fringe). It's still the Big Three, when it comes to officially approved genres. So, I have to wonder what the excitement here is all about.

A few lines later it becomes clear what Ripatrazone means: "The poem had felt like prose . . . ." Well, in my view, there are way, way too many poems that "feel like" prose - i.e., that interrupt the cadences of prose with arbitrary and unnecessary line breaks. To me, that's not freeing, that's irritating. And the fact that a novelist can do it doesn't make it any less irritating.

I think maybe what's at issue here is the (unconscious?) co-optation of the term "mixed-genre" (or "multi-genre") by the literary establishment. Instead of meaning a text that combines the conventions of, say, poetry and fiction, verse + prose, it comes to mean (get this) - a novelist who also writes poems!

In other words, a term describing a literary trend that is, if not new, certainly coming into its own is re-purposed to describe something that has been going on for hundreds of years. One could come up with a worse definition of ideology.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Plot Junkie

I keep meaning to write some “book descriptions” (a.k.a. chickenshit pseudo-reviews) – and indeed, I have a stack of books on my desk awaiting just such a fate. But I’ve actually been too busy – a.) working on my writing or b.) getting really depressed about my writing.

But I’m going to break down and write one today – about Gilliam Conoley’s The Plot Genie – not new new (2009), but new enough, right? Anyway, this book is inspired by what I gather were a series of books by Wycliffe A. Hill (his real name?), a silent-film director who titled the series (yep) The Plot Genie. I further gather than it presented one with options for story elements at any given stage of a plot – maybe a 1930s version of hyper-fiction.

That’s what I gather – based on Conoley’s notes in the back. But it’s not a docupoem. It’s a reflection about plot and plotting – about narrative and narrativization – how we tell ourselves about ourselves accordingly – successfully or un.

There is a cast of characters: Comedy Boy, Tyger, Miss Jane Sloane, Handsome Dead Man (I “gather” this phrase actually appears in the original P.G.), Redhead, E., and R. (a couple – either more so or once again – get it?). Where one ends and another begins is sometimes in doubt.

Stories begin in these poems, only to slip into a different story and then a third, fourth, etc. – until there’s really no “story arc” at all – only arcs that form a kind of squiggly curve (or wheel – see p. 24 – I Gather that there might have been some kind of wheel device included w/the original PG – maybe as a random plot-element generator):

drain the pond to see the fish.
Or sometimes tortoises, gulls, empty vials of human growth –
maybe a messenger – a slope nosed boxer on a junket
in a satin cape. In an alley – speaking out the side of his mouth –
I am thy father’s spirit,
doomed once more and for a certain time
to walk the earth
– quipped
Comedy Boy, darkening the door

And so, “with one journey finished,/ so begins another, and with another over, so starts// the next, asn on, on into//the long intolerable arc,/no hour of doom to come” (this just after a passage from The Postman Always Rings Twice - maybe they are interchangeable). It’s just one damn thing after another – which is what Hayden White would call the Ironic or Satirical mode of historiography, I reckon. Which also means there are bigger stakes, i.e.: “That’s precisely how antagonists wreck one’s mind./ To feel no identity aright except/ one first stirred/ by becoming someone else – // which does not so much relieve/ my hunger to become,// as keep it immortal in me . . .” So the storyteller and character are uncomfortably close, as is that character to all the others. If the story is a wheel, it don’t never stop. “The future is a probe, tied to its fear/ of stopped time . . .” Got to keep the story moving. So get up in the morning. I guess – anyway, I get the sense of a pathological and irresistible demand for plot – for story and more story being drawn out of - language? the subject? the author? – in this book – which I guess is what the 1001 Nights is (are) about, except that Scheherazade stays Scheherazade in that one. The end, for now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

You Can Buy My Book Now, But You Can't Have It Yet

But you can have it soon - like, January. It's called Things Come On (an amneoir), from Wesleyan University Press.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Middletown Lit.

"And so, as in primitive story-telling, the social function of these forays into the realm of fancy demands that the experiences thus vicariously shared be happy or valorous ones. 'There's enough trouble in the world all about one, so why should people have to put it in books?' is an opinion frequently heard in connection with the prevailing demand for happy endings - or at least endings that if not exactly happy still exalt you and 'make you feel that the world is coming out all right.' Many people in Middletown would agree with their favorite poet, Edgar Guest,* in condemning people who condone 'sin or unhappiness' in fiction by saying, 'The book is sordid, but it's art!'"

* "'Eddie' Guest is more widely read in Middletown than any other poet, with Riley as runner-up in popularity. Rotary has tried to secure him as a speaker, as has the Men's Club in a leading church. In a group of college-trained men prominent in local life, one said that 'Eddie' Guest and Riley were his favorite poets, 'That man Guest certainly gets to my heart'; one liked Kipling, 'never could get Burns, and Byron always seemed a dirty fellow dressed up in poetic form'; while a third prefers Kipling and 'never could get Browning. Why didn't he say it in prose instead of the awful way he did?'"

- Robert and Helen Lynd, Middletown: A Study in American Culture (1929)

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Genre, Journals, and Student-hood

In recent posts (Sept. 7 & 10), I reflected on the relative merits of print vs. on-line journals. The occasion was (is) a new journal being put together by some young writers I know. So, I've become more aware of editorial statements by grad student editors of literary journals.

One such statement recently made me do a double-take. The Editor in Chief, in her note, states that "Here at X, we've never been known for our strict adherence to genre definitions; on the contrary, we've been pretty outspoken about our interest in examining, stretching, blurring, and even shattering the boundaries that define all types of creative genres." An editor after my own heart; so far, so good.

But, of course, there are other editors at the journal, and at X, like so many, those sub-editors are defined by the genres they edit: creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, period. No "'Other' editor"; no "boundary-shattering department."

So in the Introduction, written by an Editorial Assistant, we find that "two pieces in this issue of X by G.W. offered a unique voice, approach, and, most interesting to me, a unique need for classification. It was the decision of this Editorial Board that '[title A]' would be published as nonfiction, and '[title B]' as a poem. . . . It's worth mentioning that these were submitted to our editor without the benefit of a genre assignment, the sole note [from the author] on the matter being . . . I'm just not sure what these are. Do with them as you see fit." [Go, G.W.!]

Rather than being an exciting opportunity and opening for examining, stretching and blurring, this note set the classificatory bees to buzzing about their work: these submissions "were thrown into the editorial fray for us, as editors, to decide not only their value to the magazine, but also how they would be presented. Some easily recognizable characteristics helped sort out the genre question for each piece. '[title A]' is longer, and broken up into . . . sections, where as '[title B]' is only twenty stanzas. This isn't to say that a poem couldn't be longer than an essay, but, in general, this is not usually the case." The former genre employs "proof and argument, rather than observation" or trope, which characterize the latter. Poetry "seeks to bear witness to the world, while creative nonfiction attempts to struggle with the questions that arise because of it."

Moreover, the Editorial Board was clear that "there was some risk in taking them and deciding for ourselves their individual genres; that perhaps only one could be taken to avoid this decision."

Why the "need" for classification? Why the sense of risk and trepedation? In my view, this statement is an excellent example of genre at work as an institution. Here we see genres operating as departments (or fiefdoms): who would get to make the call about each piece - the poetry editor, or the nonficiton editor? More importantly, perhaps, who would decide who would get to make the call? I imagine that, in the editorial meeting, there was a delicacy in articulating, when these issues became clear - followed by a "fray."

Secondly, there is the disobedience of the author, who refuses to pidgeonhole his own work, but rather has the nerve to ask the editors to make that editorial decision (or not). One gets the sense that if G.W. were not pretty well-known, the editors might not have taken either piece. ("404. genre assignment missing. this operation has committed a fatal error and must be shut down")

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the status of (many of) the editorial board as students. The Editor, she of the examining, blurring, etc., is a faculty member. The Editorial Assistant who expresses such anxiety about achieving the correct genre classification is a student. Being a student is perforce being subordinate - and hence, insecure. You don't want to look foolish in front of your peers ("you call that a poem?!"), and for grad students, this condition is exascerbated by the confusion as to when one ceases to be a student and begins being a colleague. Your creative-writing teachers have most likely defined their careers by specializing in one genre or the other (certainly not by mongrelizing intermixture!).

So the question naturally becomes, not whether or not genre is an aid or a hindrance to creativity, but rather, to which genre shall said piece be consigned. For these reasons, one is much more likely, I think, to see a non-genre or trans-genre section in a journal which is not beholden to a university for patronage, or in which one individual has editorial control.

I'm sure there are many (if not most) students who are comfortable with genre - and who might be relieved that some of their creative endeavor is already decided for them ahead of time ("my piece bears witness to the world - must be a poem. Whew!"). But there are a growing number of writers (and artists) both inside and outside academe who see genre as, if not a prison-house, then definitely just another tool to be taken up, put down, or refashioned at will. I expect the editor of X is one such person, and it is indeed incumbent upon those of us who are faculty (esp. the endangered species of tenured faculty) to create a space for that kind of work.

But putting students at their ease about publishing genre-bending work is harder. The publishing market is over-saturated, and the academic job market is super-hyper-saturated. Nobody wants to make a false move. Nobody wants to slip up. Being without a genre is, in some sense, being off the map. Who wants to be there, before you've even gotten anywhere?

All of which is also kind of sad. But hopefully, the young genre quotin' and totin' writers of today will at some point decide they're too old to give a shit, start writing whatever they want, and let the young folks worry about sorting it out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Said It, Brother!

"I called the upshot of the events soulless. I called the upshot of the events history-less. I equated lack of history with lack of soul. I turned a deaf ear to the chain of news items. I thought of the news system as wanting me deaf. I set myself up against the news system, on higher ground. I listened. . . . I felt I did not have much anger in me. I felt I was a quiet person. I felt the sky being torn apart. I heard quietude say: go along, go along. Though inexperienced, I was not tempted by quietude. I considered everybody untemptable. I thought of the many as not facing up to their untemptability, not opening up to their own purity, not preparing for the vision of themselves."

- from Language Death Night Outside, by Peter Waterhouse, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop (Burning Deck 2009).

Friday, September 17, 2010

NO SOAP at The Collagist

Which is better than no soap at the gym. Or no room at the inn.

Anyway, No Soap is a book I'm writing, and the first "chapter" is in this month's issue of The Collagist. This is very much a work in progress, so if you have any suggestions (or even observations), pls let er rip.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Said It, Sister!

"Enough poetry and novels. Those resolutely surveyed territories. Those paralysed spaces surrounded by smugness, which eradicate themselves as they are erected. Speak to me instead of what eludes genre, what eludes situation . . . Who has not yet understood that the risk, there, of the nation - of territorialisation - is also that of literary, littoral, plottings." [Nathalie Stephens, from Notebook of Discord (Carnet de desaccords). Excerpted in Volt 15 (2010), p. 128]

God Hates Flags.

I've also been reading the wonderful Language Death Night Outside, by Peter Waterhouse, trans. Rosemarie Waldrop, subtitled "POEM. Novel." I wonder if the non-English-Speaking World is way ahead of us when it comes to thinking about literary form(s).

Friday, September 10, 2010

More on Print v. Digital

There are, of course, BEAUTIFUL print journals. Volt, for instance. It is so tactilly and visually appealing that I find myself rubbing it against my chest somtimes (or I could, anyways). Ditto for P-Queue and a lot of others. Covers, too - the one on the last Tinfish, or several Forklift, Ohio's. If you wish to appeal to touch, print is the only and obvious way to go - with smooth-finished covers or letterpress covers that bear the impress of the type. This is the idea behind Slow Poetry. Anything 3-D is still best in print. Or, if you are appealing to a retro-techno abject aesthetic - whether mimeo, or stapled and spraypainted (a la With + Stand) or just photocopied and stapled, like Abraham Lincoln (the journal - the president died of a gunshot wound, I'm pretty sure), then dead trees and ink-dust are the way to go.

The best of the smallest print journals sell out. That's a minus, from the reader/librarian point of view, since if you didn't get one, you're SOL.

And there are a lot of crappy-looking on-line journals. And there are a lot of boring and mediocre-looking print ones.

Print: who is going to keep up with subscriptions? How soon will they cash the checks? (that's my pet peeve) Are you going to sell ads? Who's going to do the selling? Who will do the grant-writing and fundraising to capitalize the venture (i.e., pay for all the paper and printing)? Will you allow libraries to invoice you? Even if you do, how will you get them interested?

If I were running an on-line journal, I'd send e-mails to the periodicals librarian at all the universities and colleges where I wanted my journal to be read, pointing them to the URL and asking them to put it in their on-line catalog ("freely available via the internet," is the U of KS libraries' tag line). Then I'd follow up with a postcard in a few months, if it wasn't in the catalog already. Remember: libraries are cancelling print journals and increasingly relying on digtial substitutes.
AND (at ours, anyway) it's a heck of a lot easier to get them to order a multi-thousand dollar database than a $15 little mag subscription - b/c the former will invoice and fill out a W-9, etc.

Postage. I'm a huge fan of the Postal Service (UPS sucks, IMO), but it still costs more money than an internet "hit."

You can't link directly to pieces of paper.

You can't do audio, video, animation, podcasts, RSS feeds on paper - and it's more expensive to do still images.

Which is worse for the environment: a grove of felled trees, or a bucket of burnt coal? (I honestly don't know the answer)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Print vs. On-Line Journals

I've been engaged in a coversation with some young friends who wish to start a literary journal. I'm arguing that they should provide all of the content for each issue digitally (i.e., on-line). I'd love to hear comments from people who have edited either print or on-line journals, as to the relative advantages and disadvantages of each. Here is a note I sent them recently, detailing my own thinking re: the topic:

Biggest practical advantages to print (IMO): (1.) Better resolution. Screen resolutions are getting better, but they’re still only (what?) 1/4 or 1/5 as sharp as print. (2.) Portability: it’s a lot easier to take a 5 oz. journal to bed than a 7-lb. iPad or Kindle. (3.) Write-ability – if you mark stuff up, like I do, print is cheaper and better than a tablet computer that does so. All three of these problems will be resolved, sooner rather than later, but for now, they aren’t.

Biggest practical advantages to on-line: (1.) Cheapness. This is going to be important, if you don’t want to spend time doing your own fundraising, grant-writing, etc. (esp. since we’re at KU); you can have bigger, more frequent issues, for less money; (2.) Accessibility and immediacy. It’s easier to get, so more likely to be read. How many people send in the check, then wait for the thing to arrive – or even go to the library? How many journals do they already subscribe to? How many people in other countries subscribe to US lit journals? (3.) More content options: audio, video, MUCH easier/cheaper to do graphics, visual art.

As to the prestige thing, I don’t at all mean to suggest that the Internet is losing in prestige – quite the contrary. Internet publishing is a fact of life; there are fewer print journals now than there were 10 years ago, plus more well-respected on-line journals, and I think that trend is only going to continue as budgets everywhere shrink. Only the very wealthy institutions are going to be able to financially afford print. This is my principal reason for hoping you all decide to go digital: to adopt a forward-looking attitude. That’s something I think our CW program could use more of.

I think there is indeed some of that dead-tree fetishism lingering in academe – though that is disappearing quickly, as more peer-reviewed journals go on-line. It’s usually the cultural conservatives who see on-line journals as the death of Western Civilization. In fact, you can pretty much tell how conservative a poet’s poetics are by seeing whether s/he has any on-line pubs. If there are lots, s/he’s probably more experimental; if there aren’t any, s/he’s probably pretty conservative.

I expect there is a greater reliance on print for fiction, since there are more commercial publishers. But, by the same token, such a journal needs to be very well capitalized going into it. And stay well-capitalized.

As to access to computers’ being an impediment: I would love to think there are inner-city schoolchildren who are or will be reading literary journals produced by Euro-American college students. But let’s face it: everyone who’s reading this thing is going to have access to a computer. And if it’s print, they’ll either have to afford the subscription price or have access to a library that carries it – big if’s. As for sifting them, there are sites such as Selby’s List ( and Web del Sol’s list of e-journals ( that do a good job of weeding out the rubbish. And there are some storied periodicals that have gone exclusively on-line (e.g., TriQuarterly:

One does have to decide for oneself, however, and that holds for print as well as on-line; hopefully, if you’re an aspiring writer, that’s something you’d like to do – and it’s a whole lot easier to sift on-line. There are a lot of crappy or mediocre print journals: The [insert place name] Review – though often you don’t know that until you’ve bought it. For these reasons, I believe on-line is actually a good bit more democratic than print.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Narrative Issues

I’m not going to stuff the story of Lib's life into a meta-narrative or over-arching trope (that would be both cynical and flat, since I don’t believe in such things). In fact, I have an ambivalent relationship to narrative in general; in the US narrative is typically conceived of as the "other" of poetry, and I'm fond of poetry. But I do want this work to have a framework – an angle.

I think it has something to do with the time warp that any kind of creative life-writing or memoir involves. It has to do with a dialogue of the past and present – “hello from the future!” And the past people who can’t shut up – whom we are joining – who are as dead as our own childhoods. Since my mother died when I was barely 12 years old, most of my life I’ve imagined her as a rather static image – and part of the appeal of this project was to discover (i.e., assemble) her narrative self. But since I did know her (and her family) some, and since there is some documentary evidence as well as memory, it’s really as much a dialogue with past-me and present-me – or 1930s Lib with 1960s Lib.

Roland Barthes comment, re: the photo of the condemned anarchist assassin, from the 1880s: “He is dead and he is going to die.”

We know the ending, but only of the past.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Narrative "Issues"

I have a book coming out early next year, called Things Come On. It covers the period from autumn of 1972 to summer of 1974, during which (a.) the Watergate scandal was “unfolding” and (b.) my mother was dying. That concurance provided a ready-made structure.

Now I’m writing the rest of my mother’s life and times – and there is no obvious narrative structure waiting for me. Instead, I have to pull one out of my – brain.

In part, this is because I’m dealing with 50 + years instead of 2. Also, I’m working on the part that covers her childhood and teens, during which not much extraordinary happened. I’m hoping that once I get her to Washington and onto Capitol Hill, the content will buoy me up and carry me along.

This is not to say that her childhood and teen years (1920-1939) are not interesting. I find them very interesting – not just b/c they involve people I knew later in life, but because, well, I’m a sucker for particularity. I can get immersed in the minutiae of anyone’s life, esp. if it’s new to me, esp. if it’s from a bygone era. And I think that the minutiae, the seemingly random and haphazard memories, quotations, and factoids, form a lot of what we take to be life.

But not everyone feels that way, alas. So, how to make it interesting to others? Isn’t that always the question?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2 By Rachel Zolf

I’ve been meaning for some time to write something about Rachel Zolf’s book Masque (Mercury Press 2004), and now she’s come out with another one, Neighbour Procedure (Coach House 2010). The first is a “masked” memoir in the form of verse dialogue. The second deals with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it was occasioned by a trip to “Israel-Palestine” and contains “some of the journey’s mad affects.”

Masque is large – 10x8” pages – and the verse is spread out over the pages. It is “spoken” by various characters – The Media Man (who is also The Father, the egomaniacal reporter/TV personality, Benny Z-d); The Daughter; The Philosopher (who is mostly Marshall McLuhan); The Censor (who “redacts” certain words); The Whisper (which says things like “you fucking screaming idiot”), and so on. At first some of the voices occur on separate pages, then in consecutive dialogue. But finally, they mostly are all talking at the same time, by way of interlined stanzas; the names in the right and left margins alert the reader to the first line of the character’s speech, but the parts are written in alternating lines. Sometimes there are just a few short lines crouching in the upper left-hand corner of the page; sometimes there is one column of text that is left-justified, one that is right-justified, and one coming down the center. There are even drawings and extended etymologies. I’m not going to try to reproduce this method on Blogger. Suffice it to say that Zolf depicts a very complex set of relationships within and beyond a family in a few (colloquial) words. Much of the material is taken from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation footage, as well as newspapers which her father – who just happens to be a Media Man, too – wrote for.

Neighbour Procedure is rather different. The title refers to the practice by the Israeli army of using residents of Palestinian neighborhoods as de facto human shields. Again, much of the material comes from “found” sources: newscasts, web sites, commercials, the Qur’an, Judith Butler, etc. The first section reminds me of the ghazal form – that is, the juxtaposing of lines of verse that do not follow one from the other, but which have a lot to do with each other. (In this respect, it reminds me of Susan Tichy’s Gallowglass, except that there it is the American-Iraqui conflict that is the source). Other poems are lists of numbers and names, or a mosaic of the words “car [mule, belt, bike] bomb” with musical notations added. The middle section is composed of white-out poems from Ibn Barun’s 11th c. “Book of Comparisons” of Arabic and Hebrew words, as a method of glossing the Torah (mixed in with the poet-speaker’s own stutterings). The rest are various mash-ups and docupoems – one section is composed of “word maps.” And the notes at the end are well worth reading.

The barber

One soldier danced into the shop, 'Nice, nice'

Whose faces were painted certain images don't appear

Cutting in random lines the machine touched my scalp

Can you be gentle I'm not an expert open your mouth

A group of children stones his weapon on my shoulder

Intolerable eruption patting his chest, 'Now I'll tell you my name'

Sometimes staccato sometimes continuous

The soldier left the barbershop with the scissors

The soldier left the hair on my lips

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Memory, History, Poetry, and the Nature of Nature

A couple of weeks ago, I heard Lawrence Buell, ecocritc extraordinaire, give a talk on what he calls “environmental memory” in literature. The argument is still developing (unlike some “big names,” he didn’t just read from an already-published book), and is sort of perspectival and descriptive, rather than anaylitical and critical. In any event, it seemed to me that “memory” was being used as a kind of ahistorical, psychologized category – an individualized version of history.

That’s a consummately American approach. Europeans can see history for the succession of tragedies that it is (b/c it has been more so, over there). Americans need to boil history down for their own personal use. If Europeans philosophize, Americans psychologize. This tendency is especially problematic for environmental discourse, as there is already a penchant for organicist tropes (and essentialist thinking).

I asked what to me was the obvious question: What is history? He was obviously quite tired (halfway through a two-week intensive graduate seminar), and the response kind of rambled, but I think he understood what I was getting at. I do hope that he thinks some more re: the relation of history to memory (and how each gets represented). That’s crucial.

I also hope that he branches out generically. “Literature” meant “novels.” This conflation is typical, esp. amongst Americanists. Moreover, he did not talk about the form or structure of novels – that is, how the shape and texture of the text might interact with the way it represents memory or the environment.

The grand theories of American literature from the 50s and 60s dealt with motifs in novels. Those were the days of structuralism and psychologistic readings. Nowadays, not many people presume to account for all of American lit – and increasingly, monographs limit themselves to one or two genres (in the titles, even). But Buell is the generation just after the Theories of American Literature (Novel) crowd, and while he has branched out in dramatically new directions, this basic assumption – and approach – remains in place. It is a criticism that takes “content” for granted.

It is a pivotal assumption, since, it seems to me, the nature of representations of nature is what is at stake – not simply the semantic, hypotactic meanings, but the syntactic, material nature of the text as well.

I recommend that Prof. Buell read poets who deal with memory and history: Susan Howe, Adrienne Rich, Charles Olson, Nathaniel Mackey, et al. They may or may not deal with the environment as well. But one needs to think about the medium in order to understand the message. And to do that, one cannot accept genres as natural phenomena. To do so means to misunderstand “nature.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lost at Midnight

I still don't quite get what Susan Howe was doing in The Midnight. I mean, it hits on a lot of her major themes - legibility, lostness and discovery, textual mediation, margins v. center, etc. And there are the small, double-spaced poems in the middle of the page. But this book seems very different.

In many (most?) of Howe's books, we get a short prose introduction/explanation/narrative detailing what motivates the poems - and where some of the lines come from. This is a very useful and clever method, insofar as it preremps the "What's it about?" question. The prose bit gives you some notion of what the poems are alluding to, what the tone is to be, and what's prompting the feeling (and leaps of thought). In The Midnight by contrast, we get a series of poems, then a section of prose snippets, poems, prose, poems. The final set of poems, "Kidnapped," clearly pick up on themes and even texts that the prose parts introduce. But the relation between the other poems, "Bedhangings," which were originally collected as a chapbook of that name, and the prose sections that divide them, is rather cryptic.

Moreover, the relation of the prose pieces (each titled) to one another is often a bit mystifying. How does the early life of Frederic Law Olmstead relate to the origin of starching in fabrics relate to Howe's aunt and uncle? These sections are rendered in prose that is more-or-less linear and representational: it's clear how one person relates to another, or one object relates to those persons, and usually how one sentence relates to the next - which maybe leads me to expect more connections between the titled sections. One of the themes of the book is relationality - what's created when one thing is set next to another. That's OK until the relationality looks like that between the strands of spaghetti stuck to the wall. I mean, if I sent this to a publisher - even your friendly neighborhood avant publisher - they'd tell me to get lost. Granted, the writing wouldn't be as good, or the family stories as interesting. But even if they were, the form of the text offers so little purchase for the reader, that the reader has to be motivated already. You keep reading b/c it's by Susan Howe. 

So, I read Marjorie Perloff's article, which gave excellent close readings of individual sections, but not much sense of why all of these disparate elements are in the same book. Then I read John Palattella's review, which told me that "Howe catalogues details in an almost forensic way" and does so by "cracking the looking glass and making the incongruous appear even more so." Moreover, "The prose sections . . . . present a collage of brief narratives, with coincidence and synchronicity being the only means offered for aligning and organizing them." Reading these lines made me feel like I wasn't losing my mind after all. But in other books by Howe I always had a sense of how each section w/in a book hung together (loosely, anyway), and I saw the thematic filaments that led me from one to another and back.

Then I read Stephen Collis' review, and that helped. The "Bedhangings" poems relate text and textile, and the obssession w/the interleaves of books deals with another kind of "curtain," which in turn "is also the false front we present to the world," which Howe's actress-mother certainly did (when the curtain went up). "The curtain protects . . . but it also excludes." All of which rhymes with the account of trying to get into the Houghton Library at Harvard, and then trying to "get at" the books behind the "locked glass." Or how "while one voice excludes ('Go away') another includes."

That's really the issue: why these fragments? Why not that one - the one that was left out?

In any case, I had been suspecting what Collis says in as many words: that The Midnight is not so much about Howe's mother (as Palattella holds) as about Howe herself - or at least her work. It's almost like reading a "greatest hits," at least in terms of her intellectual concerns, tropes, forms: "she notes how 'you must turn Uncle John's books around and upside down to read the clippings and other insertions pasted and carerfully folded inside.' Again one is struck by the similarity between this and Howe's own books, where upside-down and off-kilter lines cause one to constantly turn her books about inthe midst of reading."

So, yes, noone but Howe could have published a book like this, but noone but Howe would have written it. And perhaps noone but Howe fans would be interested in reading it. If this were the first book of hers you read, it would be a disaster. But if you read it in the context of the rest of her oeuvre, you can see how one part of the book might "rhyme" with another. The family history/memoir is in a sense just another path into the woods - albeit a particularly treacherous and overgrown one.

All of which makes me wonder if one should read each of Howe's books as a chapter of a larger, yet-to-be-collected work.

All of which is, of course, my own anxieties about my writing projected onto Howe's book.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blogger v. Facebook

It's old hat to say that Facebook has replaced Blogger and Twitter has replaced Facebook. The latter replacement surely has to do with the prevalence of mobile devices (and the difficulty of "typing" on them), esp. among young people. But what about the former? Both blogs and FB are mostly old farts like me.

If Twitter is also about reduced attention spans, perhaps FB is about reduced patience and time. People post and respond to posts more frequently, because it doesn't take as long - or at least you're not expected to be as smart and eloquent (or prolix). By the same token, one can "keep up with" more people in less time; if Blogger is like a virtual public sphere, FB is a virtual cocktail party (emphasis on "virtual," in both cases).

There are some folks who have done good things with "microblogging" on FB. Ben Friedlander is the first person who comes to mind - pithy posts arising directly from his research and thinking about poetics; the responses tend to be equally good. Sure, it's like overhearing snippets of conversation, but a really good conversation.

The rest of us just make wise-cracks.

In one respect, FB is head-and-shoulders above Blogger: you can SEE the comments to the original post (well, several, anyway). It's like a digest of bulletin boards delivered to your computer. So the dialogic aspect is always in front of your face - unlike Blogger, which seems to think the Comments are the Footnotes. (In Word Press, you can make the comments part of the "main page" of the blog - but the print is so damn tiny!).

Please comment!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Would Walter Benjamin Have Said About the Voice Synthesizer?

Reading the Arcades Project, I have to wonder what would have caught Benjamin's eye (and other senses) had he been working on the 21st c. US instead of 19th c. Paris. I have to think that the ubiquitous voice synthesizer would be one item on his list. Why is it so pervasive in pop music? Is it the desire to have the natural fed back in distorted form? In order to denature the voice (and, by implication, the body), or to hear the natural distorted by the machine, so that it corresponds to the experience of everyday life in capitalist society, blah blah blah? I have to think it would be more original than all that. Or maybe that's the problem - the New, the desire for novelty, which relapses into spleen afterwards.

What are some other things WB might fix upon? Vitual reality of all sorts, surely. Environmental bumper stickers. The NBA playoffs in the summer. Facebook, of course.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Jeez, I'm behind!

. . . my last post was JUNE 30! And here it's the Fourth of July. You have to WORK to PRODUCE, Joe.

Actually, I have been blogging on Dale Smith's blog Possum Ego - responding to his and Boyd Nelson's posts - and responding to their responses.

Oh and happy 4th. I guess.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rethinking (Reality-checking) Poetics

I have been reading (w/some degree of amusement, I admit) the reports from last month’s “Rethinking Poetics” conference at Columbia University in NYC. All of the (first) name dropping and who-said-what makes it more entertaining than Rolling Stone and the E! network rolled into one. Ditto for the anti-academism coming from tenured academics (are we not supposed to notice? . . . ).

I especially liked John Keene’s fast-forward time-lapse quasi-versified précis of the whole thing – well worth reading through to the end. Frankly, it sounded like it was another (above-average) professional academic conference that went onto a lot of c.v.’s. Which is fine.

As I commented after that post, it also sounds to me like there was a lot of liberal hand-wringing going on – over the state of the world, and over poets’ inability to effect change qua poets (or qua academics). This is, of course, a very old sport, as any student of Anglophone poetry in the 1930s knows. The difference now, of course, is that there is not an over-arching, semi-numinous ideology to redeem it all – and no Uncle Joe to tell us we’re doing our part and it will all work out in the end. In fact, it’s looking less and less likely that it will all work out (has the bottom of the ocean dropped out yet?).

Those of us still clinging to (or dreaming of squeezing into) the comforts of lower-middle-class existence don’t want to do anything to jeopardize it and are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges. We want to fight the Man, but we want to do so by doing things that will also advance our careers (which involve working for the Man). One can retreat into the belief that cultural change will lead to political and economic change (“it may take a very long time, of course” . . . the problem is that there isn’t a long time. Read The Iron Heel, by Jack London, to see how discomfiting this time-scale can be).

Unfortunately, social movements require leadership, leadership requires enormous amounts of time and energy, and if one is leading a movement against People with Money, they don’t pay you for it (which, in the era of neoliberalism, means you don’t get paid) – until you get coopted or sell out, which requires you to work at it long enough and successfully enough (w/o money) to have something to sell. You have to eke out a living doing something tedious and exhausting, and then, “after hours,” do your organizing work (and there actually are people who do this). This is why poets generally aren’t organizers. They spend “after hours” writing poems and arguing with one another. Academics have to grade papers, prep class, do committee work, get published, etc.; we call this "burrowing from within."

It’s no wonder social movements are often composed of mostly young people w/o kids – they have the energy, resilience, lack of other commitments, and naivite necessary to achieve goals that are far short of what they had desired.

Rebecca Wolff wrote a pretty good piece on the relation of poetry to “social change.” She ends up sounding a bit like John Crowe Ransom (“Poetry butters no parsnips and delays the eating of them,” or something to that effect), with one big difference – Ransom thinks one shouldn’t write poetry that touches on political and social issues at all – which is true of some (unlikely) poet-critics today, as well. But Wolff doesn’t care about that, one way or the other. She does care about being dictated to, especially on the authority of grandiose and unfair claims for poetry. She gets exercised where I get amused.

Monday, June 28, 2010

how did I get mixed up in this? . . .

. . . or rather, mashed up. It's Mad Bashers, a joint issue of the neo-dadaish Mad Hatters Review and the humor magazine Bunk. I "mashed" Lyn Lifshin and Patricia Carragon (b/c her piece contained the word "dwarf") - 20 ways til Sunday (or at least 4).

Did anyone at the "Rethinking Poetics" conference mention fun?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is a joke, right? . . . Yeah . . . it's a joke . . .

boundary 2 intends to publish "only materials that identify and analyze the tyrranies of thought and action spreading around the world and that suggest alternatives to these emerging configurations of power. To this end, we wish to inform our readers that, until further notice, the journal will not accept unsolicited manuscripts."

Monday, June 21, 2010

"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - Orwell

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Case Against Courtesy

Academic politics is not electoral politics. It is court politics.

The term “professional courtesy” can be taken two ways. If taken ironically, we are returned to the original meaning of courtesie: that is, the manner in which professional courtiers behaved at the Court of the monarch. They bowed and simpered at one another, danced rondels with each other, spoke lovely, flowery words to one another, all the time scheming about how to stab each other in the back. When the king or queen was around, they did not say crude things like “Why, Your Majesty, that fellow’s plotting against you – you shouldn't trust him any farther than you can throw him!” No, no, no. They dropped hints. They circumlocuted. They made passing references designed to pique the interest (or fear) of the ruler. They told half-truths, raised eyebrows, exchanged glances. And next thing you know, somebody got their head chopped off, and nobody could understand why. And then you had a war. That’s “professional courtesy” for you.

This is, of course, the opposite of democratic politics – indeed, it’s why the latter was invented. That which is courteous is by definition the opposite of demotic: these categories are defined over-against one another. Those to the manor born are not part of the rabble in the street. Likewise, the lace knickers (and garrotes) of the Court are not the rags (and brickbats) of the street. But a democratic regime is designed precisely to allow for conflict that can have an outcome other than bloodshed. It is, for that reason, often verbally rough-and-tumble. People say inflammatory, even scurrilous things; and usually there’s an equal and opposite reaction, if it’s done clumsily.

But the point is not to eliminate conflict. The point is (as Chantal Mouffe puts it) to replace antagonism with agonism. Antagonism means brickbats (or civil war). Agonism means skillful rhetoric; forming alliances (ex. political parties); placing pressure at vulnerable points by presenting the right information at the right time to large groups or individuals. It means using the public (in all its senses) to attain political and social ends.

This is a big part of “civility.” “Civility” is the way that citizens are supposed to behave in civil society (i.e., the civitas, the city). That way is different than courtesy. A civilian citizen can (and indeed should) publically express dissatisfaction; openly form political networks; even tell people exactly what s/he thinks of the opponent. Caning your colleagues on the Senate floor is uncivil. But denouncing them for their policies or methods is not.

It is, however, the height of discourtesy. It is the manner of the court to maintain the façade of tranquility, stability, harmony – because that is how the monarch (the state) wishes to be seen. Conflict amongst the courtiers = conflict in the state. If l’etat c’est moi, then chez moi had better look pretty damn placid. Needless to say it’s not in fact – it’s just breeding conspiracies.

The problem in the US academy (and indeed, in US culture generally) is that its denizens confuse civility with courtesy. The belief seems to be that one is either courteous or one is uncivil. You are either minueting or you are caning somebody. Either you’re sitting with your hands folded in your lap like Pollyanna, or there’s the danger that, at any moment, you’ll start screaming at the top of your lungs (and, indeed, it's a culture that breeds such polarized responses). You’d think otherwise smart people (some of them are even historians of the absolutist state, or public-sphere theorists) would recognize this kind of “category creep.” But not so.

However, it is precisely because everyone is expected to sit quietly with hands in lap that they end up whacking each other. The repressed returns. People mistake conflict for violence and try to quash it. Everybody’s going to get along just fine. And, of course, this is how things had to be at Court.

But Members of Congress from different parties can denounce each other’s policies (and sometimes each other) on the floor, and then go out for drinks afterwards and kid each other about it. Why aren’t they caning each other instead? Because the conflict is already in the open, within the space of the legislature. They know and acknowledge that they have different political philosophies and aims, and sometimes they can leave them at the office. They are colleagues, and they are not on the same side.

What if we had political parties amongst faculty? There are certainly differing interests: between multiculturalists and cultural conservatives; between sciences and humanities; between those who make a lot of money and those who make less; between those who believe in top-down control and those who believe in power-sharing. But to lobby your colleagues openly about a particular policy; or to address such conflicts directly in a departmental meeting or faculty senate is considered unbecoming – unprofessional – dangerous to the body (not to mention one’s career). It does not evince Professional Courtesy. And people are surprised that we have the simultaneous simpering and backstabbing that characterize so many departments – or departments that seem to be getting along just fine until they suddenly disintegrate into lawsuits, defections, and receivership.

So, the model of the professional academic is in some ways the model of the professional courtier: the one who can gain the ear of the chief – and who can keep a plot secret – while making everyone think that nothing is going on. Maybe this is a legacy of the origins of the university as an outgrowth of the monarchy (which is why we have boards of “regents”). Maybe academics like to think of their departments as one, big, happy family, instead of a sometimes-agonistic polis.

I wouldn’t argue for political parties (not necessarily) in English departments. But what if it were OK to (for instance) approach a colleague and say, “I really don’t like the way Jane is handling the department. I know for a fact that she’s lied to my face. And I’d like you to sign this petition to ask her to step down.” This direct approach is very honest; it is, indeed, civil, in the truest sense of the word. It is how a citizen should conduct herself. But to do so within the culture of academia is considered – well, if not treasonous, then certainly discourteous. And, since we mistake courtesy for civility, it is termed (inaccurately) as “uncivil” – when precisely the opposite is the case. Maintaining “a culture of civility” thus becomes, effectively, maintaining the status quo – which was precisely the function of courtesie.

Perhaps this is all another way of acknowledging that the university is not a republic. “Shared governance” is not the same thing as shop democracy. In part, that’s because of the hierarchy (those regents and all). But in part, it’s because the faculty have internalized the ethos of the hierarchy. We are all professionally courteous.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"I'll Show You the Life of the Mind!"

I've been discreetly "waved off" trying to educate our grad students on just how much worse the academic job market in the humanities is now than it was two years ago (waved off via third-party back-channels: "Hey, Mister - can't you see you're scarin' the kids??").

So it is with great interest that I read James Mulholland's essay "Neither a Trap Nor a Lie," in the March 12 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (pp. A 38+). Mulholland is arguing against "Thomas H. Benton," whose relentlessly debunking articles I have (in the past) sent out or linked to. Mulholland writes that "I am arguing here for the life of the mind, or," as he is quick to add, "at least a version of it." As the article goes on, that life starts to look more and more pallid.

He's starting from the premise that, unlike us naive greenhorns of yore, "Most graduate students now understand how dire [the job market] is, while still attempting, perhaps with incomplete information, to weigh the risks" (?!? - italics mine)

Uh, now, I'm not a rational-choice theorist, but even I will insist upon the importance of information - lots of it - for assessing risk. And he's right, people who apply to - and stay in - graduate school need it. Boy do they. And they usually don't get it (sometimes through no fault of their own).

I do think that our grad students have a good sense of how dire the job market was when they entered graduate school - but not necessarily how much worse it has become since then. This is true even for those who entered last year.

I've been insisting that our graduate students consider a "Plan B" - that is, What will you do if you don't land a sweet tenure-track assistant professorship at a solvent institution of higher ed. - one that will allow you to begin a lifetime of paying off interest on debts? That Plan may be "go into administration" or "publishing" or "NGOs" - or maybe "be a penurious adjunct for the rest of my life" or "move from one temporary visiting position to another," but if you don't have a plan for the future, the future will plan you. And the future, left to its own devices, is nasty, brutish, and neoliberal.  In any event, it seems to me that this kind of hard-headed contingency planning and facing up to the facts is what any rational individual should be doing - not least of all right now. [Indeed, those of us who are tenured faculty should also be thinking about a Plan B! - speaking of avoidance . . .  (Mind you, I think one should also be prepared for success. This is at least as big a blind spot for grad students.)]

So, it's interesting to me that, in this high-minded and principled response to Benton, Mulholland ends up presenting the same gloomy assessment of the market that Benton does. And he ends on a somewhat utopian note - not unlike Benton's article "Dodging the Anvil":

“We – adjuncts, full-time professors, researchers, administrators, politicians, and parents – must retool how we talk about graduate school in the humanities. [When did a politician talk about graduate school in the humanities?] We can no longer present it as a professional school or as career training, with the assumption that more education and advanced degrees always lead to better lives, more income, increased happiness. Instead, we must think of graduate school as more like choosing to go to New York to become a painter or deciding to travel to Hollywood to become an actor. Those arts-based careers have always married hope and desperation into a tense relationship. We must admit that the humanities, now, is that way, too."

Of course, Benton has said as much, in as many words, on more than one occasion. So, whether you are championing humanities grad school as the life of the mind, or declaring it (like Benton) a "trap and a lie," you end up with the same rather desperate utopianism: that the only reason to pursue it is for its own sake. That conclusion seems entirely just. However, if you want to eat, you'd better have a separate source of income.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"American Hybrid," Cold-War Style

“The current battle of ‘obscurity’ versus ‘clarity’ (or of ‘to be’ versus ‘to mean’) tends to divide poets into two extremes equally deadly to poetry. The first extreme, in the name of anti-philistinism, is for cross-word-puzzle poetry which, whatever its fascination, would kill poetry by scaring away its audience. The second extreme, in the name of communication, would demagogically popularize poetry, in betrayal of all integrity of standards, until it reaches the widest but also lowest common denominator and is no longer poetry at all, but verse. The first group would sterilize the muse. The second group would prostitute her.

“Is there not third possibility for the curious craftsman? Must he become either précieux or ‘corny,’ either Babbitt Junior or Babbitt Senior?

“The answer is: an act of creative faith in a new and third force in poetry, already emerging, equally remote from the muse’s mincing sterilizers and back-slapping salesmen. Such a third force must prefer a difficult simplicity to an easy obscurity. It must return to the function of ethical responsibility and of communication of ideas and emotions. Any fool can lucidly communicate an easy greeting-card level of ideas and emotions. Any fool can obscurely ‘impress’ a would-be modernist reader by incoherent and pretentious approximations of difficult ideas and emotions. Great art communicates lucidly and with classic simplicity the most difficult level of ideas and emotions.”

- Peter Viereck, Dream and Responsibility: Four Test Cases of the Tension between Poetry and Society (1953), p. 20.

“That bed is too hard; that bed is too soft; but this bed is just right.”

- Goldilocks (attrib.; n.d.).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To B.O. - A Sonnet

I remember when you loved me -
We would make love all night;
When we awakened in the morning
We never knew who was on top -

But then you wrote me that letter
In which you said you were dropping out
Of NW Missouri State University, library science,
Class of 2012, and of my life, to wed another -

I went back to the small town
Where we both grew up, to Grandma's house,
Now so empty, yet so full of memories,
And watched the sunset through the flyspecked glass.

I thought, It is always that way with life -
What you expect is never what you get.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Letter to a Young Poet

Dear Young Poet,

You need to know:
I don't care about your exotic vacation locale,
or your feelings about the peasants there.
I don't care what happened to your pet.
I don't care about your sex life.
I know that's hard to believe.

I don't want your vatic nuggets of wisdom,
esp. that one? - at the end of your poem?
Even when you're old enough
to dispense them plausibly,
leave it to the self-help books
and checkout-line philosophers, ok?

Please don't talk to me in present tense
unless you are transcribing something
actually happening as you write.
If you're writing while it's actually happening,
please get a life. . . . Especially a sex life
(look, if you were raised Catholic, we know for sure
it's not as fascinating as you're making it sound).

Don't tell me what I do ("you do this, you do that").
You're not here.
I know what I do, and that's not it.

And don't use foreign words if you can help it.
Esp. when describing your exotic vacation locale.
OK, you went to high school. We know.
You don't have to tell me anything
about yourself to make me feel sorry for you.

If you "weird up" a confessional poem,
it's a weirded-up confessional poem.
Everyone will know this
(writing confessional poetry in 2010
is like writing "thee" and "thou" in 1968
in a poem w/rhyme and meter -
so if you do it, do it proudly).

Feel free to use "thee" and "thou."
Think of it as "Post-TheeThou" poetry.

And then and then you don't
have to think about line
breaks at all. Or you could go back
to writing stories in prose.

O yeah and BTW it's like
what we imagine knowledge to be, b/c
I have wasted my life
reading poems
that have already been written before.

Thank you very much for your consideration.
Please do not hesitate to contact me
if I can be of any further assistance.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Here is a playlist of poems read at the Meadowlark in Denver, Fri., 9 April 2010. It's not a forensic reconstruction, but doggone it, it's the best I can do. Read, link to, pass along, ignore, mythologize.

To click on the readers directly, click here.

Kathleen Ossip - "The Deer Path," The Believer (forthcoming May 2010).

Daniel Borzutzky - "Budget Cuts Prevent Me From Writing Poetry," PFS Post; and "In Other Words," in One Size Fits All (e-chap; Scantily Clad 2009).

Janet Holmes - From THE MS OF M Y KIN (Shearsman 2009). Janet also edits Ahsahta Press.

Tony Trigilio - "The Manchurian Candidate (1962)," MiPOesias Summer 2008, 55-56.

Sandra Doller - "He Works for a Smithy," from Chora (Ahsahta 2010).

Keith Newton - "I Lived Among Girls," included as part of a video collaboration in SCORE! 20 Years of Merge Records (2009). Keith is the editor of Harp & Altar.

Charles Alexander - Coda from “Pushing Water” (unpublished – for parts 1-32 of this long poem, see Charles’ book Certain Slants, Junction Press 2007). Charles is the publisher of CHAX Press.

Chris Davidson - "It Really Happened," "The Opossum," and "Farewell" (these last part of 52 Songs).

Shanna Compton - "Fabulous Fake," Spooky Boyfriend 1; "Argument Nine" (audio), Dusie; "Collapse Seems Too Romantic a Word," No Tell Motel (24 March 2010). Shanna publishes Bloof Books.

Rachel Loden - "Scarified Beauty"; and "Black Sun on a White Sun," New American Writing 27.

Jennifer L. Knox - "Nice 'N' Easy Medium Natural Ash Brunette," Octopus 12; "Burt Reynolds FAQ," Abraham Lincoln 3 (summer/fall 2008).

Peter Davis - "Poem Addressing People Who Love Heavy Metal But Don't Know Anything About Poetry," "Poem Addressing People Who Are Reading this For the Third or Fourth Time," "Poem Addressing My Contemporaries, Many of Whom I Am Competing Against for Sweet Teaching Positions." These will appear in Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! (Bloof, forthcoming - scroll down). There are also probably links to some of them somewhere on Peter's blog. We just can't be sure.

Ana Božičević - "Intervals of Please," Wheelhouse (winter/spring 2009).

Joseph Harrington - “The History of Sexuality,” A cappella Zoo 4, and "[history becomes fate when]," from Things Come On (forthcoming Wesleyan UP 2011; also in P-Queue 6, p. 113).

Aaron Belz - "Avatar"; and "My Last Duchess," "Regret," "Dial Tone," "My Chiquita," and "Love-Hat Relationship," all in Lovely, Raspberry (Persea 2010).

Susan M. Schultz - "Old Women Look Like This," Honolulu Weekly 7 Apr. 2010 (excerpt in sidebar). Susan publishes Tinfish Books.

K. Silem Mohammad - 2 Sonnagrams: “‘TV Gunfight: Tut, Tut! Tivo Bullfight: Huh, What?’—T. T. Mutt” [from Sonnet 38 (“How can my muse want subject to invent”)], Open Letter 14.2 (2010); and “Uh Huh, Uh Huh: I Dry Fried Air, I Eye a Freed Ferry, I Fry Runny Ray’s IV” [from Sonnet 104 (“To me, fair friend, you never can be old”)], trnsfr 2 (2010).

Steven Schroeder - "Never Loved a Shovel" (title stolen from The Clash); "Get Your Fucking Shinebox" (title stolen from Goodfellas); "Face like a Barndoor" (title stolen from Robert Creeley), forthcoming in The Journal.

Katie Degentesh - "I Wanted to Be Closer to God," from Reasons to Have Sex (working title), some of which will appear in A Public Space 11.

James Belflower - From "Johnny Cash Poems," originally published in Melancholia's Tremulous Dreadlocks (unarchived, alas). For similar work by James, see EOAGH 5 (only it's Blanchot instead of Cash).

Chad Parmenter - "Vivienne Eliot Stands at Her Window to Pray."

Kate Greenstreet - "[He stands beside the body of the man he couldn't help]"; and "suddenly as night," in The Harp & Altar Anthology, ed. Keith Newton and Eugene Lim (2010).

Jorn Ake - "Watching Hogan's Heroes in German," from Boys Whitstling Like Canaries (Eastern Washington UP 2009).

Reb Livingston - "Lament for Fronting," Coconut 14; "Spell for Refunding Her Who Bozoed a Wineglass," No Tell Motel; and "Diminished Prophecy 6:3," Gargoyle 55.

Ben Doller - "[Your ode is too short...]" and "[I wasn't outraged...]," both from FAQ: (Ahsahta 2009).

Jeff T. Johnson - “Separation Anxiety” and “What Was That Again,” Cannibal 5.

Luc Simonic - "Joy at a Truck Stop" (reg. req.); "Giving Up on Poetry at a Young Age" (scroll down).

Amy King -"Necessary Instinct"; and "Brooklyn White Ink Party," Moria.

Thanks to the readers - it was a knockout.