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.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

So, if we really believed what the scientists say about global warming, it would mean that, inside of twenty years, masses of people in North America will be rendered homeless (due to rising seas and violent storms), be hungry and thirsty much or most of the time, will have lost their jobs, have to scrounge for food, suffer from tropical infectious diseases (and more of the insects that carry them), possibly be part of desperate gangs of armed persons (or their victims), and even suffer from worse hayfever due to increased ragweed pollen, would we continue living our lives as we do? Would we be as passive towards corporate neoliberalism as we are?

Or do we:
1.) Not believe it - i.e., global warming is a hoax, or at least vastly overblown
2.) Don't believe it will happen for many decades or centuries (i.e., it's not my problem)
3.) Believe it, but are unwilling or unable to confront the magnitude of the problem (denial),
4.) Believe someone else is taking care of it or will (contrary to any extant evidence), or
5.) Not know the extent, pace, and irreversibility of the problem?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sic Transit Wetlandia

On Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the suit by a class of environmental and indigenous organizations to invalidate the environmental impact statement for the construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway, a proposed six-lane superhighway that will barrel through one of the most ecologically rich and sensitive areas in northeast Kansas, the Haskell-Baker Wetlands in south Lawrence. (It has been argued that this road is part of the larger plan for the "I-35 NAFTA Corridor," from the Mexican to Canadian borders).

But here are today's responses on the Facebook page for the Wetlands Preservation Organization, the group created to defend the Haskell-Baker wetlands:

A.)  Time to take A STAND
Rally the peeps
N StOP it by force

B.)  OH, NO!!!! What do we do now? Darn, I am in Vermont when you need me to lie down in front of the bulldozers!!! I am sad to not be there, very sorry. Oh, my, horrible. What is our next step????

C.)  Shame on them.

D.) this is not right. There are plenty of roads why do they not realize once u destroy a natural setting it will never be the same. So sorry to hear this unfortunate decision has been made.

E.) Sad.

A.)  How come everyone talks like its over ? There's children's graves to be protect n a tipi site there's precious life to be protected
Civil Disobedience NOW
Our prayers our Strength
It's time for ACTION
Diplomacy ended
Yrs ago damnit

F.)  Based on my personal experience, I'm afraid that direct action/civil disobedience doesn't work in Lawrence anymore. The powers-that-be just ignore the protesters who get arrested and continue to do as they please. This fight has been going on for 25 years and I thought that the powers-that-be would ultimately give up. But I was wrong. Their egos and greed are just too big.Plus, there is the greed of the land speculators, developers, bankers and Chamber of Commerce. The highway engineers also have big egos and don't want to admit they were wrong. The Obama Administration could have killed it using the Environmental Justice Executive Order but they didn't. KU's chancellor could have blocked it by deed its 20 acres to HINU but she didn't despite repeated requests.

You'll notice that, with the exception of (A.) all the responses are apathetic, defeatist, hand-wringing, buck-passing. Part of that response can be attributed to the construction of a "remediation area" (great term) to the west of the wetlands - a kind of artificial wetlands designed as a consolation prize for environmentalists. Many of them have taken the bait, and given up on the historic wetlands themselves.

"There's you and your family, and that's your world. . . . People don't want to get involved. Everybody's concern is not to be concerned."

Those words were spoken in 1969, but they're just as true today. Except that time has now run out. Whatever.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"A" Poem

The owner of one of our local Chinese restaurants introduced us to "A" vegetable. Yes, "A" - apparently that English long vowel is how one pronounces - a tasty green (the way they prepare it at Panda Garden, anyhow). "It's easy to remember," she said: "it's a vegetable." Smiles all around: get it? The vowel, the article, and the proper noun are identical.

Which reminds me of a poem with a title that works the same way - whose author would undoubtedly have appreciated the bilingual play on words. Indeed, if it had happened to Zukofsky, it probably would have ended up in his Very Long Poem. He'd already written "Poem Beginning 'The,'" so he knew whereof he spoke, when it came to articles. Then this, from Rachel Blau DuPlessis' new book Purple Passages:

"The importance of verbal intensity to Zukofsky is shown in his response to L. S. Dembo's serious question: 'Do you conceive of ["A"] as having an overall structure?' Zukofsky turns the answer from large to small and from structure (scope, design, plan) to intricacy of diction, condensation of syntax, verbal focus: 'It's the detail that should interest you all the time.' Dembo is observing the sheer overall scale of the thing, its obvious daunting scope and largeness. Zukofsky answers by insisting on smallness and the local detail as sustaining interest."   (77)

Indeed, Dembo's question is the one we keep asking in our "A" discussion group (which I've affectionately dubbed "The 'A' Team" - precisely the opposite meaning of that letter than the one DuP. is insisting upon). But DuPlessis goes on to read Zukofsky's insistence on the micro as being in the midrashic tradition - but without its teleological premise. "The poem may supersede The Cantos," she writes, "but it cannot 'fulfill' itself - it can only be a perpetual midrash on its own ambition" (84).

All of which points up the obvious: It is "A", not "The". It's a poem amongst many poems, composed of thoughts, quotes, word selections among many available in the world (just another parole to the universe's langue). It's a poem that insists on its specificity, contingency, even randomness:

'I've walked thru
some years now
and never till you
said saw these panes'
he consoled with
'mere chance
that I looked'                    (from "A"-15, p. 363)

Does this mean that "A" is ultimately a nominalist poem, despite all the Spinozan and Aristotelian machinery? It's certainly not an ("a"?) humble poem. But it does seem cobbled together in a way I find congenial (as did those other cobblers [or bricoleurs], Duncan and Johnson). Centrifugal, not centripetal. Which is why it supersedes the Cantos (perhaps) and appeals to a reader born not much before both poems stopped: which, if we're into labels, would be tantamount to saying it is a pomo, not a modernist, long poem. It focuses on the anecdote for its own sake, rather than the grand recit.

And, appropriately enough for a poem in the midrashic tradition, I'm quite sure someone else has said all this (better) before. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

The H. is O.

So, who is the Poet Laureate of Global Climate Change? Has anybody really written about the changes taking place within the biosphere with the same force as Joy Williams did in Ill Nature and The Quick and the Dead? With the force of someone with Tourette's Syndrome? How come? I do love formal experiments with writing, whether involving procedural constraints or vocal torque. But our scramble systems do not seem to be taking hold in the way that triple-digit temperatures are.

Remember when the broadcaster in the radio version of War of the Worlds says something like "We'll keep broadcasting until the end"? And then asphyxiates from poison gas?

(of course, in the radio drama, that's just before the intermission, as I recall - the one where they remind everyone that it's a fiction. Which is the function of Fox News nowadays - )

Ron Silliman - what is to be done??

Thursday, July 5, 2012

O Bon O Boy!

Finally got and read O Bon, by Brandon Shimoda (Litmus 2011) - the poems have a combination of delicacy and creepiness that's hard to get over. I wish I could write poems that used syntactic disjunction and reversals to such precise effect/affect. I'm also very interested in the relation of narrative to lyric here - just enough of the former to generate the latter. It kind of reminds me of the m.o. of Susan Howe or Cecil Giscombe in that it's clear that the poems are "based in" or incited by research, but there's not too much of the actual research in the poems. They are more like an emotional or psychic distillate of the events. Which is why they have such force. You can get all of the narrative or sources that you need (or want -- or not) in the 5-page afterword.

The book is really an elegy for the poet's grandfather, a Japanese immigrant photographer, born in Hiroshima, interned during WWII. Japanese ritual and mythology provide much of the imagery and feeling-tone of the book -- for instance, the Corpse Eater, a former priest doomed to cannibalize the deceased (in Japan, this is folklore; in early modern Europe, it was real life). Shimoda is well aware of the Freudian link between cannibalism (symbolic) and melancholia: ". . . I have found myself, repeatedly and throughout O Bon, feasting off of what is resurrected, eating my grandfather's corpse, turning it over in my mouth, as the rest of my body burns out of the sound" (89). Like Genet in Funeral Rites, Shimoda in O Bon accepts, embraces, and explores the implications.

Now, in keeping with my practice of randomly selecting excerpts from books I am describing . . . from "In the Middle of Migration":

we find ourselves
turning --

recalcitrant in the ancient domain

masks simultaneously black
we know not
the sensible thing

sugar mammal, slit throat
thethered to the thickest spar
between home and adopted home

makes no difference in times like these
without bothering to unfold the map
or take it from its sleeve

climb the rungs of bone and limb
to pierce what version of skin or sky
the solvent leaks


I will admit to deliberately choosing left-justified lines for this passage -- which in fact characterize few of the poems -- in order to conform to the almighty Google formatting. But as the multiple spaces between stanzas suggest, these poems are composed of words and the spaces between the words. You should look at the book to get a sense of what Shimoda does with the space of the page. I can't replicate the indentations that "set off" this stanza (in more ways than one): "a visage / nettling the slack / foundation -- may I beg shelter for the night / misshapen where / shall I alight / the valley hymns in the crust" (23).

Want more? See Jerome Rothenberg's blog, where same can be found. Shimoda is interested in contemporary Japanese poetry (vide the poet's ANCIENTS project), from which he has undoubtedly drawn formal inspiration.