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The Callow Heart
Inside of anyone you see
There is s heart of candle-wax
and a slender string
That is lighted
by trivial fires
So that when
A heartbreaking incident
The wick burns crimson
and after a time
Callow and soft
Is melted hard
and nothing, now,
will light it
Because it is wiser
than it once was
when faint orange glows
set it afire.
As far as I remember, this was my favorite poem in 6th grade. My grandfather bought me Minou Drouet’s First Poems at a library sale. (Thanks to this blogger for typing it up.) (Academics may cf. Barthes’ “Myth Today”)
“Tree that I Love”
by Minou Drouet
Tree that I love,
tree in my likeness,
so heavy with music
under the wind’s fingers
that turn your pages
like a fairy tale,
knowing like me
the voices of silence
the depth of your green locks
the quiver of your living hands
that I love
my all alone
lost like me
lost in the sky
lost in the mud
lacquered in the dancing light
by the rain
echo of wind’s grief
and birds’ joy
tree undressed by winter
for the first time I watch you.
In the spirit of the Twitter trends #booksthatchangedmylife and #happybloomsday, 217 words that changed my life:
INELUCTABLE MODALITY OF THE VISIBLE: AT LEAST THAT IF NO MORE, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.
Stephen closed his eyes to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells. You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. A very short space of time through very short times of space. Five, six: the nacheinander. Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o’er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably. I am getting on nicely in the dark. My ash sword hangs at my side. Tap with it: they do. My two feet in his boots are at the end of his legs, nebeneinander. (Proteus)
The last time I had time to “read for pleasure” was 2005, in the short summer months between finishing my MA and beginning the PhD. I was in Sweden and few books were available there in English, so I worked my way through Jane Austen and a few Henry James novels (DM, WMK, WS, TB) with the occasional Woolf, Kafka, Duras (my three favorite authors who I’d brought along) for good measure.
This week I read The Handmaid’s Tale and I’m now reading The Bell Jar. How did I get to be 30 years old without reading these books? Continue reading
There are too many things going on in real life (remember “real life”? the one where people have to do things like make money, have families and not write/make poetry all day?) for me to be here. I may be back in July.
Today I learned of Arakawa’s death.
With his partner Madeline Gins, Arakawa created many gorgeous pieces of experimental architecture and wrote a number of interesting, challenging books. I have written on their work a few times, and mention it in my one published article on architecture, poetry and ethics. I encountered Arakawa and Gins in a specific moment in Poetics Program history, in the late 90s or early 2000s when they came to visit, lecture and read for a few days. At first, we were all in love with their work.
However, we were surprised at how tenaciously A&G believed that mortal life is inherently immoral, and that to be ethical, one has to at the same time pursue immortality– and how absolutely, how literally they believed that ethicality and immortality could be achieved by living in certain kinds of architectural spaces.
It may be true that architecture bears upon mortality and morality to a degree. A concentration camp supports neither. Tightly enclosed spaces (“the projects,” refugee camps, and other conditions of poverty) lower quality of life and are perhaps partly responsible for people living in such conditions acting unethically toward one another. Architecture that makes one aware of how one’s body moves through space and time may also lead one to think more critically about existence and one’s impact on others’ existence.
But architecture creates neither morality nor immortality, because at the end of the day, bodies and architecture are extricable and one lasts longer than the other. Bodies are mortal; they wear out. Most architecture lasts longer. Sometimes the life of a body can be elongated or curtailed by architecture, but bodies are not designed to last (with our increasing ability to make them last longer, we face increasing diseases of old age). Similarly, the short-circuiting of bodies– chemicals acting in certain ways in certain minds– makes morality really impossible for some people. Bodies matter. The chemicals running through them matter. Bodies are their own complex architectural systems and cannot simply be reworked with new blueprints.
Moreover, the mortality of bodies is the basis for morality. As someone who rarely feels violent, I am probably never going to kill anyone. But if I wanted to kill someone, I would be stopped not by the the threat of reprisal or of consequence (punishment in this or another life), but by my feeling of the absoluteness of that action. If I kill someone, that person is absolutely dead. I am responsible for their absolute death. It is the absoluteness of mortal life that underlines morality. If we were all going to live forever, it wouldn’t matter if I killed someone– they would not die. Similarly, it would not matter if I merely hurt someone, because their memory (bodily or mentally) of the pain would subside in the flow of constant time. There is no need for memory in immortal life.
My impression of Arakawa and Gins is that their work exists in a kind of post-Frankfurt School world where “rational” thought shows the marks of deep trauma. Born in Japan in 1936, Arakawa would have been nine when the bomb fell on Hiroshima (Gins was four). The resulting interest in curtailing mass destruction and violence is certainly understandable (I imagine that anyone reading this would like to avoid such horrible events), and to dedicate one’s creative and intellectual life to increasing ethical awareness and curbing death is admirable. But to deny the value of death is to deny the value of life. We would like to prevent violence because we can be hurt, because we can die. We would like to prevent untimely death; we would like to prevent murder, war, rape, suicide. But if we were not inherently mortal, we would have no need to try to prevent death or to base systems of morality on the prevention of it. Mortality is not immoral; immortality is amoral.
Yesterday afternoon I made a giant list of almost 300 contemporary female poets compiled from three lists I’d previously made. And I asked for more.
By 11pm there were over 400. By midnight there were over 500. I woke up this morning to over 200 more.
I know there are poets who aren’t on the list yet, who are on Pussipo or Wompo or in editors’ TOCs or catalogs. I know there are poets writing in English who are not American (this list is heavily American with a smattering of Canadians so far). I know there are poets who are so famous we don’t even think about them anymore, like I didn’t think about pouring my coffee this morning. Is the goal to collect everybody? Is that even possible? … Of course it’s not possible. There are just too many women writing poetry for a list of them, even a long list, to represent all of them. The moral of this story is that women in poetry are ubiquitous. There are so many women writing poetry today, in English, and publishing it, that it’s impossible to record them all.
I will continue to take names because I know there are people who do not believe me. There are people who think that there aren’t many women writing poetry. But there are a lot of them. Or who think that female poets are hard to find. But they are not hard to find. Whatever blindness, ignorance, or simple innocence one has regarding the sheer massive numbers of women currently writing poetry can be cured by clicking here.
I’m wrapping up Foursquare, a project I started in 2006. As my obligations to other things expand and my desire to work on my own poetry grows, issues of 4SQ come out less frequently, such that the year of 2009 issues is now in its second year of production/distribution. In total, there have been three “years” of issues (36 issues, with 7 still to be released) as well as 9 Special Editions (there will be three more). The full list of contributors, poets and artists, can be found on the Foursquare blog.
The last few issues of Foursquare are still in development; I’m seeking work from women whose work has not previously been published in the magazine. Please familiarize yourself with the magazine before submitting work. I know every magazine says this, and it is indeed good practice (and simply polite), but with Foursquare it cannot be overstressed. The magazine does not look like other magazines. Although it is hard to find a physical copy of Foursquare unless you know someone who has been in it or have access to the SUNY Buffalo or U Wisc-Madison special collections, the first two volumes (24 issues) of Foursquare are online and you can look over them at the archive.
Once you know what you’re getting into, please send 3-4 poems in .doc, .jpg, .tiff, or .pdf format to me. Please do not include poems in the body of the email. Please accompany your submission with a brief bio.
Now, a little story about Foursquare:
When I started thinking about Foursquare in 2006, I sat down and brainstormed a list of all the female poets I could think of off the top of my head. Here is the list (I think some may be spelled wrong, but that’s what happens when you’re brainstorming):
Erica van Horn
Joyce Carol Oates
K. Lorraine Graham
Linda V. Russo
Monica de la Torre
Myung Mi Kim
Rachel Blau Du Plessis
Sheila E. Murphy
Note that only a few of these 114 women have been in Foursquare. Here is the list of 124 women who have been in (or accepted to) Foursquare so far:
Angela Veronica Wong
Erin M. Bertram
Jill Alexander Essbaum
Judith S. Askew
K. Lorraine Graham
kathryn l. pringle
Lee Ann Brown & Miranda Lee Torn
Michelle Naka Pierce
Natalie Zina Walschots
Sharon Harris et al.
Sue Hammond West
Tessa Joseph Nicholas
(At some point, I will merge these lists with a couple of other lists of female poets and they will be easily locatable all in one place so that no one but Lacan has to bemoan the “lack” of female poets.)
In contrast to the first list, many of the poets in the second list are not poets I’d ever met before working on Foursquare. Most are young and were, at the time of publication, “emerging” — many now have multiple chapbooks, books, and awards to their credit. Foursquare, like all periodicals, is a slice of time. And like most small periodicals, since calls for work are mostly viral, Foursquare shows who knew who and who was working with whom during this slice of time. There are poets I simply never knew about– who I still don’t know about, might never know about– because I don’t run in every poetry circle.
What Foursquare further demonstrates is how many female poets are working today. Foursquare mostly publishes poets of the “experimental” persuasion and tends to favor visual poetry over narrative poetry (if those two things can be– not “opposed” but “contrasted”). The list above is not a list of everyone who ever submitted work to Foursquare or all the poets who ever could. I’m retiring as the editor of Foursquare, but there is still a great need for magazines who are willing to go out of their way to publish women and there are still hundreds of women who were not published in Foursquare (who never submitted, never heard of it, didn’t fit with an issue) who should be published. I do not mean that all magazines should be women-only like Foursquare is, but with such a plethora of female writers (and with this list and this older list of female vispoets) before you, there is no excuse for magazines to only publish men because they can’t find any women, or even to have disparity between the sexes in a table of contents. There are so many female poets working today, and many of them are amazing writers– you just have to open your eyes and see what’s right in front of you.
Please use the comment box to tell me about female poets you love and/or link to other lists of female poets. I’d like to gather all the lists and merge them (here’s a start).
It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Halloween for poetry. Carry a poem in your pocket to give to someone like a valentine or trade with someone like a baseball card. Or just hoard poems in your own pocket. Bonus points for poems that taste like candy.
I remember this day last year with nettle-like clarity. It was a sunny spring day much like this one. I walked to Gates Circle, up the Parkway with its tiny white flowers and yellow-green budding trees, and down Elmwood. On Elmwood I stopped into Talking Leaves and obtained a poem from Tina Zigon (a Poetics student). I thought I recalled getting a different poem from her than the one I am about to reproduce, but upon looking in my drawer of small special things, I found a new poem. Perhaps the poem I received magically changed into this poem, as this poem now seems more appropriate than the one I remember (which was appropriate last year):
Remember the sky that you were born under,
___know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
_____in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
__strongest point of time. Remember sundown
___and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
___her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
__Remember your father. He is your life also.
___Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
_____brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
__tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
___listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
__origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
__dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
___Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
_____Remember that language comes from this.
___Remember the dance that language is, that life is.
This seems to be a favorite poem for a lot of people. It’s recorded by multiple readers on YouTube (there’s also this filmic non-reading) and reproduced on many websites, often with pictures. Harjo’s work seems to beg to be illustrated with wide landscapes of the desert (like this).
My first experience with Harjo’s work was with one of her most famous poems, “She Had Some Horses.” I do not remember whether our ninth-grade English teacher assigned this reading or if it was merely via her suggestion that I read it. Like “Remember,” “She Had Some Horses” employs repetition to establish both similarity and difference. The plurality of “She” (femininity) is reinforced by a listing of attributes, but the rhetorical sameness of each line brings these disparate parts back into the fold of the subject. This was one of the first “feminist” poems I read and provided encouragement to my ninth-grade psyche, whose sense of self was both rich and well-established at an early age (read: trouble). “She Had Some Horses”: as text and as a sound recording.
Only two more days to vote for the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.
I voted the year that Amy King won (I voted for Amy) and I voted for rob mclennan last year, who came in second. This year the list of nominees is strange– I don’t know who most of these people are. For some, I knew they existed but I didn’t know they blogged. I don’t really keep up with blogland anymore outside my own back yard, as I really hate getting into blog wars and it seems inevitable. Anyway, I think there are a handful of poetry bloggers not on the list who should be, but maybe they will be next year and maybe if I think they should be I should nominate them (the candidates are chosen by nomination).
I see the competition as between four people: rob mclennan, Sina Queyras, Geof Huth and Robert Lee Brewer. I say that knowing that 3/4 of the people I just picked are men. I say that knowing that most of the blogs I read are by women (whose blogs are not on the list).
I voted for rob again. He deserves to win it one of these years. He does an incredible amount of work for poetry for both Canadian and American poets, but with regard to Canadian poets he’s kind of the Ron Silliman of the CanPo blogosphere. I really don’t know how this guy does so much– how he creates so much work himself and manages to publish and promote others as well. His blog is just one tool in his toolbox for promoting himself and others (especially Canadian poets). I love Sina and Geof’s creative work, but I don’t think they have the same impact as rob. Sina may have a growing impact as she continues to blog for the Poetry Foundation, but I feel like blogging for Poetry also means that you have kind of an automatic audience. My impression is that rob is a more grassroots, bootstrap, work-hard-with-your-xerox machine kinda guy and that his energy is constantly directed outward, toward helping other poets.
I think the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere is kinda bullshit, but I also know that it will make the day of whoever wins. I decided to vote knowing that whoever wins will know that it’s kinda bullshit but will also feel that they’re making an impact larger than themselves and that will make them happy. And all we can really hope for, as poets working in a largely irrelevant medium, is those moments of kinda happiness.
(Full disclosure: rob published a chapbook of mine, Shifting Landscapes, in 2006).
Salman Rushdie was here. No one died.
My notes, as they are, not cleaned up (except to be typed rather than handwritten):
laughter & forgetting
–> A novel of memory becomes a political novel
literature to preserve the human scale… that which can be obliterated
Addressing Am. power in Am. novels — but not prescriptive
can’t force it
–> but these political subjects change so rapidly
Why do novels try to address large scale? Space b/t public & private has shrunk – our lives shaped by things beyond the frontier of our lives – counter-example = Austen doesn’t write about Napoleonic wars – no ref to “news” – it is hard 4 us now 2 talk about our lives w/o addressing the public space
-> Heraclitus - man’s character is his fate
Moby Dick – the obsessed characters all die.
–> lives shaped by events over which we have no control - 9/11 had nothing to do w/character of people who died
literature offers a pluralistic cure to the narrowing of identity, which spurs conflict
–> capaciously viewed self
Satanic Verses – problem w/people who define themselves by their rage
For Islam “history” is the enemy
–> revelation as pre-linguistic, reception is translated from divine to human language
Novel – nobody owns it– an artist offering his vision to the world
And now we get to see how I’ve managed to relate my real life to my LIS life in my final projects. First complete project: a very personal, very condensed, almost to the point of being just plain wrong, look at the history of small press publishing. Constraint: 25 slides. Hit “Start Presentation” in upper right.
Joseph Massey posted these links to Facebook and I wanted to repost them because they are fascinating: the Philadelphia Wireman and a mini-gallery of his work. I’d never heard of this person until Joe posted these links about 24 hours ago.
Compared in the Wikipedia article to Henry Darger for his “unusual, possibly monomaniacal devotion to the particular demands of his chosen form,” the Wireman reminds me less of Darger and more of Philadelphian Alexander Calder. The characterization of of the Wireman as someone “[monomaniacally] devoted to the particular demands of his chosen form” also reminds me of most of the best artists and poets I know (including Massey). I have long considered “monomaniacal devotion” as one of the hallmarks of a great artist– the artist has one idea, or one kind of material, and works his or her way through it with a loving and relentless but often frustrating devotion to pulling every possible thing out of the idea or material (think Monet, Pollock, Dickinson).
(Not that there isn’t something to be said for the interdisciplinarian inventor, whose ADHD “devotion” to constant change and experimentation often hits upon a delightful discovery… but often those who seem to be running around to every new ride at the carnival are actually under the spell of a single driving idea.)
The gallery’s biography of the Wireman offers this tantalizing tidbit:
Heavy with associations — anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and socio-cultural — to wrapped detritus, the totemic sculptures by Philadelphia Wireman have been discussed in the context of work created to fulfill the shamanistic needs of alternative religions in American culture. Curators, collectors, and critics have variously compared certain pieces to Classical antiquity sculptures, Native American medicine bundles, African-American memory jugs, and African fetish objects.
The “poetics of objects” (beaulieu variation) here described remind me of the ritualistic object-art and object-poetry of “interdisciplinary artists” like Ono, Cha, and Vicuña. Cecilia Vicuña, who is visiting Buffalo this week, often starts her poetry readings with small object-oriented ritualistic performances, such as blessing the reading space.
April, once uncomfortably known as National Poetry Month, has been re-branded, much more comfortably, as National Poetry Writing Month. This makes us feel less passive in our minority. The challenge is to write 30 poems in 30 days.
For the past two years I have attempted to write 30 poems in 30 days without “success” (“as such”). I don’t remember how many I wrote the first year. I suspect none. Last year I wrote 11. I was particularly inspired and these poems are short and narrative, the kind of poems I write when inspired (generally 1pg with a narrative arc, left-aligned with some use of tabs but no textboxes (textboxes are how I get the “half-line drop”)). Writing 11 poems in a month is a lot for me because I don’t write narrative, inspired, left-aligned poetry. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: some people do it very well. But I think it is easier to write those poems than to make poems like the ones in Organic Furniture Cellar. It is easier for me, at least, and I do not value ease. Growing up in a world of handmade clothes and now living, for many years, in a world adjacent to the Roycrofters and heavily marked by the Arts and Crafts movement has made me value “craft.” I want things to take time. I want the maker to consider his or her work more closely than any magazine editor ever could. (Quality, not quantity, of publication should be the goal.)
This year, instead of trying to write 30 poems in 30 days and ending up with 11 that don’t accurately reflect my poetics, I’m planning to write something every day, which is more than the nothing I usually write (I journal a lot, but rarely get over the intimidating hump of turning ideas into poems), and which is more in keeping with my poetic process.
I see poetry as a “craft” rather than a “flow,” and I differentiate these in terms of control and construction. Although like almost all poets I tend to be more productive when “inspired,” I have long gestation periods where elements come together– more like writing a novel from the pickings of every day life that suddenly reach a critical mass. When I do put pen to paper (literally — sketchbooks, not computers, are still the birthplace of my poems), I rarely erase. However, I do superimpose. For instance, I’ll write two or three fragments that are not enough in themselves to substantiate the content or visual bulk of the poem on the page, and then I’ll combine them, keeping their original placement largely intact except where words would overlap (I dislike illegibility — I am still writing to be understood). Thus my editing process is more about generation, placement, and superimposition than about generation, erasure and rephrasing (except on the rare occasion that I am writing a narrative poem, in which case rephrasing to decrease ambiguity is my major editorial hurdle; in visual poetry, I use placement to increase or decrease ambiguity).
I can’t think of a good example of this in other arts. Maybe it is most like music (often mythologized as a “flow” but so often, in the process of writing, more of a “construction”) or sculpture or even quilting/appliqué. “Superimposition” is a term from film, but it’s rare that a filmmaker would superimpose discrete elements in this way (superimposition is usually planned in advance).
“Moving stuff around” — poetic phrases like transparent building blocks — doesn’t jive with the “30 poems in 30 days” marathon of getting “a whole poem” down on paper each day, as what this collage method requires is time and familiarity: I see only in retrospect, after they have sat around for awhile, how the pieces come together. I imagine this is similar to how poets who primarily write “inspired narrative poetry” work, too, although it might not look the same on the page, as the process might happen mentally instead (“how do I use this story about x”).
As poets, many of us are skeptical of editors. They have the power to reject or accept our poems and even edit them, and what do they know? Those of us who are visual poets are even more skeptical. Will the editor preserve the text we created? Even if we’re careful to send a .pdf or .jpg, will they resize it or alter it and print it in a way that doesn’t correspond to how we think it should look? Will an editor know how to look at a visual poem, much less reproduce it?
The new Collected Eigner (eds. Faville and Grenier, Stanford UP) has drummed up some pretty passionate feelings from Steve Fama and I would like to respond, albeit not on his blog (on which the argument is a bit heated for my taste).
Grenier held a series of lecture at Buffalo when I was an undergraduate (late 90s) and spoke about both his own handwriting work (its aesthetic based in part on Eigner’s handwriting as his palsy worsened) and the layout of the Green Integer Eigner publications, which until the Collected are what we Eigner fans have had.
Grenier edited readiness / enough / depends / on too, and as in the Collected the poems are standardized– they do not look exactly like the drafts Eigner prepared. In an age where printing pictures is the same price as printing text, we have been lucky to get some poetry published in facsimile editions that show exactly what the author did to the page. But what the author did to the page is often what the author considered to be a “draft” that would later get cleaned up for publication, and this is the case with Eigner’s poems (according, convincingly, to Grenier, with whom he was close).
Not only did Eigner consider poems like this (thx SF) to be drafts, but Eigner’s physical limitations caused him to make orthographic and spatial anomalies that he did not consider to be part of the work. The “cleaned up” version is actually what Eigner would have preferred to be published, but activities like typing in the dark with palsied hands do not necessarily allow “clean” draft copies.
Although there is something to be said for having access to drafts– Dickinson’s handwritten, spatially encoded papers or Eigner’s scrawl-appended, river-like trails down typewritten pages– and certainly a facsimile edition of Eigner’s would be welcome to many fans and scholars, there is also something to be said for having a clean, readable, bound copy of a book that is sensitively edited by scholars and friends who know that what the author intended is not always congruent with what appears on the page. I, for one, intend to buy, read and thoroughly enjoy the Collected Eigner … when I have $140 to spare.
When I was an undergrad taking graduate courses in the Poetics Program, one of the courses I missed out on was Susan Howe’s Emily Dickinson course (I later took her very interesting Wallace Stevens course). I loved Howe’s work but was extremely intimidated by her in the way that 20 year olds often are intimidated by those they admire; I’ve since realized that poets aren’t that scary. Anyway, I didn’t take the class, but it was one of “those” classes at UB that becomes a zeitgeist, as Liz Grosz’s “Time and Becoming” course (including Deleuze and Darwin) and Charles Bernstein’s “Blank” course were. So for awhile everyone was talking about Dickinson, and some people were more taken up by the wave than others, changing their dissertations topics and such.
Last night I couldn’t sleep so I was Twittering, and Lori Emerson (a Poetics alumna) wrote:
I’m struck, over & over again, w/how Dickinson’s line-breaks are so perfectly coordinated w/width of the page – - and the height/width of her handwriting never expands or contracts to fill up the available space. space is *in* her poetry
It’s true, look:
(cite) Space is in her poetry, or rather it isn’t– her sense of white space is not what Eigner’s is, for instance (cf. Steve’s blog)– the only blankness is between words and strophes, and even this blank space is often taken up with a dash or dot. The space is all marked up– the poem is contained in one page, as the poem’s material is contained in a few short lines– there’s a sense of completion or microcosm.
You know I’m the last person to use the tired comparison of poetry to music (at least without deconstructing it), but I can’t help seeing this as a scored page where even the rests are marked as such. The sonic implications of space here are different than simple line breaks or spaces where the time between sounds (rhythm) is left up to the reader; Dickinson seems to want a more controlled sonic territory.
Here a second observation: last year in Buffalo we had a marathon reading of all of Dickinson’s poems. I attended about two hours of the reading. We sat in a circle with readers numbering from a handful to a few dozen. Each reader read a poem, in order, from the Franklin edition. There were two types of readers: those who wanted to stand out and those who wanted to fade into the mass. These two groups read differently (louder, with more “style,” vs. quietly and humbly), but the poems ended up sounding the same.* You can’t mute or mutate Dickinson’s rhythm. It’s its own machine.
Again this reminds me of music, especially spiritual music, where individual singers and styles succumb to the simple melodies and rhythms of the songs. Even without the musical/spatial markers of the manuscripts, the poems take over individual voices and Dickinson’s sense of sound emerges.
And a third observation, this one an indication of what happens when you’re reading Finnegans Wake and Dickinson at the same time: many of Dickinson’s poems are circular. That is, you can get to the last line and start over at the first line and get stuck in a loop. Not all the poems do this and some do it more successfully than others; some of the more simply self-contained poems may be repeated without the same sense of circularity, and the circularity seems to complete those that are not as tight little things. Thematically, this incident of form echoes her major interests: life and death, seasons, war and peace all occur in turn. Musically, this reminds me of singing in “rounds,” a common practice in Sunday school, or the less obviously musical practice of repeating rhythmic prayers to oneself (such as the almost conjurative rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer) (implications regarding what is being conjured when Dickinson makes us revive her rhythm may be drawn by the reader).
* Not only did all the poems sound the same, like a long chant, but from year to year the rhythm remained the same. Such obsession left me with a new sense of Dickinson as a person.
I thought the planets had aligned to make 4SQ 3.3-3.5 possible, but turns out one was out of whack. 4SQ 3.3 (the tomatoes one) apparently has the wrong back printed with the front. On the back, the poems should be Amy Berkowitz’s “lonely toast,” Marie Buck’s “317,” Rebecca Loudon’s “In Praise of Inconstancy,” and Jessica Barrett’s “love poem.”
To fix this problem I am going to send out new innards for everyone who received the tomato edition (subscribers and contributors). Keep your sleeve (because there aren’t any more) and I will send you a new foldout. Continue reading
The planets aligned, my printer worked, the software worked (briefly), I had both time and money simultaneously, poets and artists were awesome, and so here are three new issues of FOURSQUARE:
FOURSQUARE 3.5 Love, history, heritage. Poems by Dianne Timblin, Kate Schapira, Tessa Joseph Nicholas and Phoebe Wayne; cover art by Tasha Goldblum. Sold only as part of a subscription.
Foursquare 3.4 plumbs the depths, rides the waves. Cover art by Kara Daving. Poems by Lindsay Tipping, Judith Askew, Farrah Field and Julie Strand. A few extra copies are available.
Foursquare 3.3 is insatiable. Poems by Rebecca Loudon, Marie Buck, Amy Berkowitz and Jessica Barrett with a book review by Ivy Alvarez. Cover Art by Terri Saul. Sold only as part of a subscription.
You can buy subscriptions at my Etsy shop. I dug up a few backissues which are for sale there too.
For one of my library classes, a group of us are making a digital library of art and literature from the Buffalo area. Subsequently, and partly because of the continuous uproar surrounding copyright and other digital libraries (namely Google Books), we have gotten a lot of questions about whether artists’ “rights” will be protected, and it has become clear that not only do artists not know what their rights are, they have no idea what “rights” means. Continue reading
Two subscription deals I would buy if I had any disposable income (which I currently don’t, see previous posts on unemployment):
Chax Press, $70
Alice Notley, Reason & Other Women; Anne Waldman, Matriot Acts; Charles Bernstein, Umbra; Barbara Henning, Cities & Memory; Tenney Nathanson, Ghost Snow Falls Through the Void (Globalization)
As you may already know, there are a couple of discussions going on about gender and poetry following my original post, one at Mark Wallace’s blog and one at Harriet. There are a couple of things I want to say, or observe, that are not going to be terribly organized in their presentation.*
1. The comment streams at these places seem very male-dominated. On the Harriet blog, there are a few astute comments by women that have been overlooked by the train of conversation. This makes me wonder** the following things: a. Are women sick of talking about gender and poetry? b. Do men feel they have a particular stake in the discussion (more than women feel that they do)? c.Do these male commentators even see/read the comments by women? What do they think about them? … I know comment streams are often male-dominated. I haven’t really participated in an extended blog discussion for about three years; I guess I thought the dynamic would have changed by now. Speaking of…
1.1. Anonymous comments? Really? Aren’t we past that?
1.2. … One such astute and un-replied to comment from Michelle Detorie (not sure this even needs a response– it’s as “true” as anything can be):
The men who have established the professional standards that govern the world of poetry are by and large men who have benefited from many different kinds of unearned privilege, including the uncompensated labor of many women (domestic, secretarial, and creative). Therefore, the question should not be “how can women learn the skills that men seem naturally to possess (self-promotion)?” Those skills, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves to be not much more than plain, old-fashioned bourgeois entrepreneurialism that is rooted in inequality. I think it is good that men are asking what they should do vis-à-vis feminism, but I think the best way to begin is through careful scrutiny of their own practices. If one finds oneself with a creative project that does not include women, one should not conclude that it is the fault of women. Rather, one should ask “what’s wrong with this creative project in that it excludes women?” (cite)
2. The idea that anyone ever says anything “objectively” is kind of insulting. The idea of godly or scientific objectivity is a male construct (or, to take gender out of it for a minute, it’s a power construct– it’s just that men have had the power, or the Phallus, for as long as anyone can remember). It’s an idea meant to keep people without power in line. If you’re not in power, your experiences of the world aren’t “true.” Liberal-minded thinkers are happy to agree with this claim when it’s applied to history and race– the idea that the victor writes history is one we’re all pretty comfortable with. But in no universe would any oppressed people claim to be objective, because they know from experience that everyone’s experience of the so-called objective (or truth) is different. So I’m not sure (Mark) why the attack on the claim that women are writing better poetry these days focuses on “objectivity” and “truth” when those ideas are antiquated and false and non one in their right mind would claim to know the “objective” “truth” (such knowledge is probably in the DSM IV by now as a god complex– not that men don’t often have such a complex).
3. In rereading Martin Earl’s older Harriet post, I came across this gem by Reb Livingston which sums up, or rather complements, my own experience and position (as a reader, editor, female poet) (sorry to drag you into this again, Reb):
Well I feel all kinds of superiority and not just because of my gender, but that’s a start. Heh.
I concur with much of what Martin Earl has written, of course he can get away with writing it and not being labeled as bitter or a ball snipper.
What I mean is that as an editor, I too have noticed a trend in the submission pile. On *average* I find the work of contemporary female poets to be more daring, original and interesting. My magazine receives more submissions from men (about 10-15% more), but it publishes more women. Years ago when I first noticed this, I was surprised. All along I thought I preferred male poets. I owned more books by them, was definitely more familiar with their work from major literary magazines and from my education. Turns out I was incredibly ignorant.
So when certain editors talk about the “number troubles” I don’t understand why this is even an issue. Are these editors living in a cave?
One can chalk up my observations to my taste and bias, which I most certainly have, like every other editor and poet.
4. ‘Why Don’t More Women Do Blog-Oriented Writing?’ or why they do it differently than men: it appears to me that the following may be posited as answers: a. Women’s blogging is largely overlooked unless it includes or threatens male readers b. In comment streams, comments from men abound (just as their sperm-like poetry spatters against every editor’s desk) while women’s less abrasive, more astute, carefully considered comments are overlooked c. Women (for whatever nature or nurture reason***) don’t like to get into heated arguments, would rather spend their time working on more productive and useful things (perhaps because women do have less leisure time). If you say something that someone thinks is controversial, you’re likely to get dragged into a heated argument with lots of men who don’t read your post or comments anyway, so you might as well just stay out of the whole thing, or keep to your own little knitting — I mean blog.
It’s not that women aren’t blogging. It’s that they do it differently than men, and thus men just don’t see it.
Maybe this is the case with self-promotion, too. It’s not that women aren’t self-promoting, it’s that men say things like “oh, I guess there aren’t any female visual poets” because they’re blind to the delivery systems women use.
5. Based on this evidence, it seems to me that FOURSQUARE is still a crucial project.
* Some people seem to think I am using my blog to write dissertation chapters. This is not the case.
** When I “wonder” things or have ideas, it doesn’t mean that the ideas are right or that I stick by them 100%. I’m just thinking aloud– I don’t have to be right all the time. People seem to assume that if it’s on a blog, you’re willing to go to your grave defending it. This is not the case. (However, I do still think most of the best/greatest/most talented poets writing today are women.)
*** Note, none of these are essentialist arguments. It would be perfectly easy to blame everything on sperm and eggs, but it really seems to me to have to do with cultural background as well, if not exclusively. For example, women pay attention to what men say because men are loud and aggressive, and men don’t pay attention to what women say because women aren’t, generally, loud or aggressive.
I drink a lot of Emergen-C, so I figured someone, somewhere in the world probably wants to know which flavors are best. Before I go into that, I first want to say that Emergen-C is way better than Airborne because it is substantially cheaper and dissolves more easily. Now, my Emergen-C flavor ranking is based on two major factors. First, Emergen-C is a fizzy drink, and fizzier flavors taste better; the less fizzy flavors end up tasting chalky (like Metamucil). Second, tastes vary, so my favorite flavors may not be your favorite flavors, but this should still serve as a good guide. The best way to tell what your favorite flavors are without buying a whole box ($10-$14) is to go to a corner store where they sell individual packets and try them all.
Best Emergen-C Flavors:
1. Tangerine. Fizzy and orangey. If you want an orange-flavored vitamin drink, this is your best bet. Good as a daily standard.
2. Pink Lemonade. Fizzy, tastes like pink lemonade. Good as a substitute for higher-calorie, lower-nutrient lemonade. Also, sales of this support breast cancer research.
3. Lemon-Lime. Very fizzy. These are good mixers– they taste good mixed with things other than water, such as Sprite. You can also use half a pack like you’d use a lemon in a drink. There is a low-calorie version of lemon-lime as well.
4. Tropical Fruit. Fizzy; doesn’t taste like Hawaiian Punch (which is what I feared when I tried it); tastes like tropical fruits (papaya? mango? something). I think I’d get sick of this flavor if I drank it every day but it’s a nice variation.
5. Pomegranate-Cherry. Pretty fizzy, but you have to drink it quickly before the fizz wears off. Summery flavor; kids would probably love this.
Worst Emergen-C Flavors:
1. Raspberry. Some people I know like this one, so if you’re on the fence, try it out before you buy the whole box. I don’t find it fizzy enough.
2. Orange. Most disappointing Emergen-C flavor. Tastes like Metamucil; orangey but very chalky. Get Tangerine instead.
3. Mixed Berry. Also chalky, but since this one is a calcium supplement it kinda makes sense that it’s chalky?
If you get a box of Emergen-C you don’t like, try mixing packs with flavors you do like. Lemonade and Lemon-Lime mix well with other flavors, making them taste less chalky.
1. Acai Berry (not a fan of Acai, so pretty sure I won’t like this)
5. Any of the new Kids’ flavors
6. Black Cherry
8. The new “shots” (which seem pretty dumb to me from a consumer standpoint– who doesn’t carry a water bottle or have access to a cup?)
As you can tell from my “about the author” blog page, different media have different ideal bios. I certainly wouldn’t send that whole thing to a magazine, and under normal situations I would not send it to a curator of a reading series either. A good straightforward bio has a few essential components, and it’s basically formulaic. You need: your name (obviously), your location, your most recent most major publications, and if you would like to add a personal detail or your day job that is fine too. URLs are important to include if you have one.
So, some bios I might write would look like this:
(super short) Jessica Smith lives in Buffalo, where she edits Outside Voices Press. She is the author of Organic Furniture Cellar (2006).
(short) Jessica Smith lives in Buffalo, where she teaches writing at SUNY Buffalo and edits Outside Voices Press and Foursquare magazine. Recent publications include Organic Furniture Cellar (OV 2006) and What The Fortune-Teller Said (a+bend/dusie, 2009). View her work online at looktouch.com.
In almost no situation do you need to include the following: grants, scholarships, or other awards (save it for the c.v.); your full job title and description (again, it’s not a c.v. or resume, it’s a bio); your entire life history (where you grew up, where you live now, a passing comment about your family or pets may be fine); your recent magazine publications (no one gives a crap about what obscure magazine recently accepted your work– stick to chapbooks and full-length books unless you’ve never published one).
Don’t be intimidated by the bio. Just crack one out according to the formula. Even with the formula, everyone’s is going to be different! Of course, fictionalized and creative bios are always fun too, but it’s not necessary to do that.
Since I am currently out of work, I am working on a few much-delayed issues of Foursquare and I am reminded that although Foursquare is not a unique project in the world of poetry magazines, it is still a sometimes controversial thing to publish a magazine that only accepts work from women. I think this is a fruitful way to run a magazine, but inevitably there are people who say “what if I ran a magazine that only accepted work from men?” and of course those people are men, and usually very ignorant men who put feminism back a hundred years every time they open their mouths (in other words, I don’t think this question is worthy of an answer). Anyway, although Foursquare aims to provide a safe and productive meeting place for creative female minds, I do still have problems getting work out of female poets and artists, who despite their obvious talents and needs to express themselves are still caught up in a society that tells them to erase themselves and their work, or deliver it with a kind of rhetorical curtsy. The most difficult part of the editorial process is getting bios out of people. Many people, regardless of gender, hate writing bios. I will give you a little guide to writing bios in a separate post, but first I want to say something more about female poets writing today. Continue reading
I can’t believe I didn’t tell you about this. Shows how preoccupied I’ve been. Jeannie Hoag, who earned her MFA at UMass Amherst, and I collaborated this semester to make a digital archive of Foursquare for our “Introduction to Information Technology” class (which is a requirement in the MLS program) (Reminder: I am sometimes blogging about the MLS program over here). These pages compile front and back images of each issue for the first two years of issues (Vols. 1-2); since Volume 3 is both still in progress and still for sale, it is not yet available for free online, and indeed it may be a long time before it is, as poetry, though enjoyable, must take a backseat as a “hobby” for me as long as my financial situation remains what it is. The Foursquare pages currently reside on Jeannie’s server but will soon be migrated to looktouch.com; regardless of migration status you can always reach the archive through looktouch.com/press.
Jessica Smith feels pangs of guilt for being on FB instead of reading a good book and thus contributing to a post-literate society. But FB does require literacy– it’s like reading a constantly updated, never-ending book that you can’t reread & that changes based on who/how many write it. & though simultaneity and succession bond all reading at a basic level, FB’s constant stream and dependence on memory (since rereading is limited) makes it more of a successive art like music.
Where am I? I am here. In Buffalo. It has finally started snowing.
I am almost done with classes. I’ve finished three of the five of them and received my grade in one, an A (I think I will end up with 3 A’s, an A- and a B of some flavor). I have quit my PT job at the BPO but still have another week of work left from the 2 week resignation date. The classes that I teach are over but there’s still grading to do.
I have two, almost three issues of Foursquare ready to print/fold/mail, which I’m hoping to do with my parents’ help (hi Mom and Dad) over winter break, when I will be visiting them for two weeks.
That’s all. The semester of working 20-30 hrs/wk, teaching two courses and taking 5 graduate courses is over. Next semester I hope to be working 20 hrs/wk, taking 4 classes and doing a 8-hr practicum (internship)… so about 20 hrs/wk less work. This semester has taken a toll: I spent half a day at the chiropractor last week trying to ease the tension out of my back.
I’m doing a few of my LIS projects on artists’ books, and I’m currently doing one on contemporary poetic objects by women, incorporating works from Hex Press, Dusie, recombinant dna press, Big Game Books, dos press, ellectrique press, and a few others. I came to the world-famous poetry library today to do some research and try to find some materials that I know are in here.
Libraries like this one raise the question of whether it is more important to catalog things excessively well or to have very good librarians who know the collection. Ideally, you’d have both. The curator of the collection isn’t here today, so I can’t get him to bring me the uncataloged materials that I know are here. There is, for instance, a certain box of tissue paper, feathers and sequins (no words) by Amelia Etlinger that I can’t get because it’s not cataloged. I need the curator to be able to find this strange thing. But I also need it to be cataloged so I can ask someone else to find it (in the closed stacks) if the curator isn’t here.
Other problems include: where do you put art objects when a library is designed for books that fit on shelves in neat square-like ways? How do you catalog objects that don’t have copyright pages or colophons? Part of the responsibility lies with the publisher/artist– I have materials from my personal collection that I only know the publication data of because I know the artist personally and either know how the object came about or know how to contact the artist for the publication data. How do you catalog asemic/post-literate objects (that is, books without words)?
It’s a little infuriating as a researcher and as a poet, because I can’t find what I need and that experience makes me realize that if researchers can’t find these works, they can’t do research on them. That’s basically an entire subgenre that relies on relationships/viral marketing/etc. to “be known” (the same is true of little magazines, but these are easier to catalog/store most of the time). This “oral tradition” underlying the textual is certainly interesting, but it also makes things unnecessarily difficult.
To wit: if you donate objects/materials to a library or if the library buys your work, please include as much data about the object as possible on a separate sheet of paper so that future researchers know what’s going on and can write about your work. Please put your name on your paper before you hand it in.
I drove to Lowell, MA last weekend, where I met the Bootstrap boys, Derek Fenner and Ryan Gallagher, for the first time. Bootstrap is the mother-press of which Outside Voices is an imprint, but we had never met in real life. The chemistry was instantly great, though, and we set up for my reading in the huge Lowell H.S. auditorium. I was able to project poems from Organic Furniture Cellar on a screen (as I did for the L.A. reading last October) and read along. When I do this, I don’t try to read the whole poems. I trace one path through the poem and don’t focus on completion. A couple of people I spoke to afterwards about the reading were surprised by this. Reading OFC is almost a performed erasure, and when I’m really “on” I devise a theme by which to erase the text and then read through it, creating a new text. In this way OFC is endlessly renewable, and just as its nonlinear plastic form is like the cloudspace of memory, its forgetting/erasure and replenishment/renewal (“make it anew”) is like the (re)newness of memory. Continue reading