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.

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.”