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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You Said It, CD!

Click on the comments for the January 20 post - "CD" (CDW?) wrote an amazing little essay re: mixed-genre work, why it is scary, and why there is more of it nowadays. It is far more eloquent and engaging than anything I would put up here. Dig it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Poetry's Death by a Thousand Twits

I recently read an article in The Australian by one Christopher Bantick, complaining that the internet has destroyed poetry. Good Poetry. The problem? That "just about anyone can be a poet, published at least online." Because Anyone by definiton cannot be a poet (only Good Poets recognize Good Poetry - after all, they write it), "the Muse has been kidnapped and abused."

It is undoubtedly true that never has more hackneyed and boring poetry been produced than now. But then, never has more poetry been produced before now. Some of it is fresh and interesting. There is more of that, too. If more of on-line poetry is experimental than conservative, it is b/c not so many conservative poets have availed themselves of this particular publishing technology. After all, conservatives want to conserve the old and resist the new.

But Bantick points out the flaw in his own reasoning when he writes, "Even Horace back in 65 BC was on the money when he dryly observed: 'Skilled or unskilled, we all scribble poems.' The point is that much digital poetry is just electronic scribble."

Clearly, much hand-written poetry in 65 BC was analog scribble, according to Horace. And that newfangled invention, the printing press, only made matters worse. Anyone with a printing press could produce bad mass-circulation literature - from broadside ballads to penny dreadfuls. If you have any doubt about this, I invite you to thumb through an 18th c. anthology of English verse. Page after page after page of derivative, formulaic heroic couplets. Clearly, the printing press was killing poetry (or at least its former readers). And Alex Pope was on hand to document it.

Then it was mimeographs, then photocopies, and now - ugh! - desktop publishing!

There's no way an on-line journal can have the same stringent quality controls as print journals, b/c it is on the INTERNET! And of course, all print journals publish poetry of the highest order, as we know.

The bottom line: more people are publishing poetry and reading poetry b/c of the internet. If you define poetry by its production and consumption by a cultural elite, then of course the internet is the villain.

I like print. I prefer it to reading a screen b/c it has higher image resolution. So I think it's a shame that it is falling victim to snob appeal.

Of course, the joke may be on me. The only Australian poetry I read is on-line. For all I know, "Christopher Bantick" is the satirical persona of some snikering 20-something avant-gardiste in Brooklyn.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THINGS COME ON done come in.

Not the most photogenic person in the world am I, but you get the idea. Things Come On: (an amneoir) is now available from Wesleyan University Press. Order from the University Press of New England web site using the discount code W301, and you get 30% off - which brings the price more in line with a regular poetry book. While you are there, check out the terrific recent books by Rae Armantrout, Kamau Brathwaite, Ed Roberson, Elizabeth Willis, and Evie Shockley - all of which are available at the same discount, if I'm not mistaken.

Between being sick and having to read 150+ graduate applications, I have neglected the bloggo. I apologize to my thousands of fans. Ha ha.

Really, what I was going to say about mixed-genre work and elegy isn't very profound, and inadvertently got way more build-up than it's worth, simply b/c I haven't been blogging.

It's just this: that there seems to be a lot of it. Or rather, that a lot of work that mixes, defies, or invents genres seems to be in an elegiac or eulogistic vein. The book above being an example, but also:
- Kristin Prevallet, I, Afterlife: An Essay in Mourning Time
- Eleni Sikelianos, The Book of Jon
- Anne Carson, Vox
- Susan Howe, The Midnight
- Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip
- Mark Nowak, Coal Mountain Elementary
- Susan M. Schultz, Dementia Blog (arguably)
- Parts of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee
- Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness
- Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family
And I'm sure there are lots of other ones you could name that are not occurring to me.

Why is this? Part of it may be that contemporary writing generally is in an elegiac mode, in the broadest sense: it conveys a sense of lostness, belatedness, etc. When I read a longer Ashbery poem, I always feel like I'm reading an elegy.

But the best specific explanation I've encountered is a sentence from Prevallet's book (which I quote in the notes to mine): "If the body of the text has suffering at its root, then language will take a fragmented, torn-apart form, as if it too is suffering" (p. 50). There does seem to be something about the physicality of the text that connects with the physicality of loss - the feeling of being held together with chewing gum and baling wire. The mixed-genre text presents itself as something not-whole. This feature is certainly in keeping with Prevallet's principled refusal to impose "closure" on mourning.

Then there are scrapbooks (in the English-speaking world, esp.)- an ad hoc memorialization via physical artefacts collected in a book. The keeping of relics.

Half-baked hypotheses on somebody's blog. What do you think?