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, March 25, 2011

I Google Myself

Sunday evening at 7 CDT, I'm doing my first "live chat" ever - for the Rumpus Book Club, with Camille Dungy and Brian Spears. Any advice about doing these things is most welcome.

I finally made it to the Academy of American Poets. Well, the web site anyway.

Do check out those other new titles from Wesleyan. I'm saying that, not just to be a team player, but b/c I've read them all, and they all really do reward one's attention - in very different ways. And I'm already looking forward to the next Notley and Gizzi -

I also made it into Ron Silliman's blog as "Other," which is what I've been all along.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hello from the Parallel Poetry Universe

I never ceased to be amazed by the way that American poets, even now, seem to live in parallel universes. This tendency is nowhere more evident than among younger poets, who bear strongly the stamp of their tutelage and who have perahps not ventured very far from it.

That's the sense I get from Weston Cutter's "Thoughts on Structure" at Plougshares blog. He bemoans (understandably, and eloquently) how many poems take the form of the "block-o-poem: left justified, without stanzas," and written in free verse. If you added "memoirsitic," "representational," and "about a page in length," this description could still go for most poems mass produced in The [Insert Place Name Here] Review.

But it also made me realize how few poems that I read are like that. Not that they're all sestinas and villanelles, but they either use stanzas (at least) or some kind of patterned form (often aleatory), are serial poems, or make use of the field of the page in some interesting way. Indeed, if Cutter were to read the poetry books (or the journal) from BlazeVOX, which just published his book of short stories, he would encounter a variety of poetic forms that do not conform to the norm he's described.

Aside from reading (immediately) the Language book and The Politics of Poetic Form, and maybe Anthony Easthope's Poetry as Discourse, I'd recommend that Weston ditch the print journals and the big-name outfits for a while and browse some of the on-line mags that Spencer Selby lists here. Look through the Small Press Distribution catalogue, which is chock full of formally inventive (as well as formally traditional) poetry. Read up on Oulipo and New Formalism both. Read books from Fence, Coffee House, TinFish, Wesleyan, Ahsahta, Coach House, or any of the many non-commercial indy presses publishing writing in innovative forms. There's a whole 'nother world out there - and your teachers may not have told you - may not have known - about it.

I know a number of younger poets who are in a kind of indeterminate, exploratory, and probably scary space - between the conventional quasi-confessional poetry they were reared on and the "post-avant" poetry that they've heard is hip. Maybe they're biding their time, like uncommitted troops waiting to see which side is likely to win a civil war. But I hope they're learning - both by trying out new forms and also by learning a little about the history, theory, and motivations behind them.

Then there is the third parallel universe, the one that Aaron Belz lives in:

Dear New York Times “Week in Review” editors, whose gesture toward our dying art (soliciting “Twitter poems” from famous poets) has not gone unnoticed,

The results of your solicitation are most emphatically not“Twitter poems” because they do not conform to Twitter’s lack of line breaks. I want you to know how careless and silly I think your solicitation of “Twitter poems” therefore is! It makes me really, really mad. One of the reasons poetry is so hard is because it requires recognition, then possibly even mastery, of formal rules. Line breaks are one of our primary means of achieving rhythm, and otherwise an essential element of poetic form. With/without them is an enormous difference. You, a big publishing empire, toy with our art this way. Have you not heard of the poor man’s lamb? Thou art the man!

Yours somewhat dramatically!

Aaron Belz

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hawai'i in Kansas

Susan M. Schultz recently visited northeast Kansas (from Kane'ohe, HI) - and gave a wonderful reading to an absorbed and appreciative crowd in Topeka. She has written some very thoughtful and generous comments about my book Things Come On, along with a terrific sketch of some people and happenings in the poetry scene hereabouts, at Tinfish Editor's Blog. Here at Blog of Myself (which is, in fact, myself) we (i.e., I) are looking forward to the publication, in book form, of another volume of her Memory Cards (whose prequel is Memory Cards and Adoption Papers).

[Please note that in this context "Cards" refers to small pieces of heavy paper and is not affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, its owners, players, or affiliates. Though the author may be.]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Latest in the Kanzanian Literary Scene (sort of)

Poet Dennis Etzel, Jr. interviewed me for seveneightfive magazine. Thanks, Dennis!

And former Kansas poet laureate Denise Low wrote some very generous comments re: Things Come On at her blog. Thank you, Denise!

I can't help but notice - zoot alors! - that Susan M. Schultz of Kane'ohe, Hawai'i (author of Dementia Blog; publisher of Tinfish Press) is giving a reading in Topeka, Kansas this Tuesday night. Who woulda thunk! See above for location and time.

If you haven't read her stuff, you oughta. You can get a sample at PennSound. Also, see here for part of Dementia Blog, and here for a free chapbook by her, Old Women Look Like This.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rachel Blau DuPlessis Reading (and Lecture)

The reading last night was excellent - Rachel is not only a good reader of her own work, she is a good interpreter of her own work - both on the page and in performance. I urge you to check out her PennSound page and listen to some of the recordings. Ben Cartwright, mastermind of the Kansas Blotter Project, recorded her (and me - ! - co-performing the latest Draft, #105). Hopefully, this recording will soon be up on PennSound, along with Ben's recording of Univ. of Kansas readings by Fred Moten and Ken Irby.

I had the pleasure of introducing her - and I'll paste the text below, for the heck of it. And, as the text below indicates, there are (as of this writing) a couple more events w/Rachel in Lawrence before we bid her au revoir. Hope you can make one or both!

I would like to thank the KU Department of English for sponsoring this event, as well as the John F. Eberhardt Memorial Lecture by Prof. DuPlessis tomorrow night at 7:30 in Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union on the KU campus. The title of that lecture is “Reflections on the Long Poem: Autobiography of a Practice.” I would invite you to that lecture, as well as to a Q &A at 11 am tomorrow in the “Parlors,” 5th floor of the KS Union. I would like to thank the Eberhardt family for allowing us to bring Rachel to Lawrence.

Tonight we will hear some of the long poem in question, namely the multi-volume work Drafts. However, I should say that I knew Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ work as a critic a good ten years before I knew that she was writing one of the most important long poems of the post-World War II era. Like most of my grad school chums, I knew her work on H.D. and George Oppen, her articles, and her foundational study The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice (1990), but I didn’t realize that her first book, published ten years previously, was a book of poems, Wells. DuPlessis had been working on Drafts since 1986, but it wasn’t until Wesleyan University Press published Drafts 1-38, subtitled Toll, in 2001, that I began to read the poem(s) in earnest and become aware of the scope of the project. The subsequent three volumes, subtitled Pledge, Torques, and Pitch, all published by Salt Publishing, have made it clear that Drafts rivals Ezra Pound’s Cantos, H.D.’s Trilogy, and the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson in breadth, skill, and moxie.

But the content of Drafts is very different than those other poems. As my students have pointed out, it lacks the Authoritative Recounting – and persona – of Maximus. It rejects the mythic machinery of Trilogy. And it is nothing short of a left-feminist answer to the macho fascist Explaining of the Cantos. While Drafts deals with the whole of life, from the cosmological to the daily news in Philadelphia, DuPlessis’ poem is not afraid to express un-knowing, doubt, and to acknowledge the other within her poem. Indeed, despite – or maybe because of – the ethical demands that pressure every Draft, they are still drafts – provisional investigations or internal dialogues of a person who is often just as confused and terrified as any of us, but whose powers of perception and sensitivity to the nuances and phantoms of language are shared by few.

The result has been an inspiration and a permission to expand the notion of what a poem is and can do, to challenge the received boundaries between critical and creative writing, between lyric, epic, and meditative poetries. We are very fortunate to have her in our midst. Please welcome Rachel Blau DuPlessis.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over (and I don't have any paper towels)

Yeez-oo-pete - my book Things Come On is in a club! Viz., The Rumpus' poetry book club. And Camille Dungy wrote a very generous article in the mag re: why she picked it. Thanks, y'all!

I've also been interviewed about Things Come On and its "prequel" No Soap, at The Collagist/Dzanc Books blog. All will be revealed (ha ha).

And if you're in or around Lawrence, Kansas, Deb Olin Unferth and I are reading memoirs/amneoirs at The Raven Bookstore Friday eve. (March 4th) at 7.

THEN - Rachel Blau DuPlessis is coming to town - to do a reading and a lecture!

I should say that, despite the title of this blog, it is NOT going to turn into one of those obnoxious "All Self Promotion, All the Time!" sites. Once all these festivities are past, and the external review of my department, and papers are graded, and the visit by prospective grad students has happened - THEN i shall get back to posting scintillating, insightful, well-crafted mini-essays about contemporary literature and prospects for shale-oil exploration in the upper midwest, as is my wont.