4.16.2017

Catching Up! Simone White's Holloway Reading and Ariel Goldberg's The Estrangement Principle at Alley Cat Books




The World is Too Much....

sometimes for staying on top of everything, including poetry. So, I'm tardy reporting on these two thrilling Bay Area readings/talks.

First, on February 15th, Simone White, recent Whiting Award winner, gave a talk as part of the UC Berkeley Holloway Reading Series which I missed since it was in the afternoon (sadly the recording is not available!), though I did make the reading later that night. Tonya Foster and I barted over to Berkeley from Bernal Heights arriving just in time for Simone's reading. What can I say? I've always loved Simone's work and it just keeps getting better and better, dazzling in its opacity, its warp and woof of linguistic registers, beauty, and surprise. Every time I read or hear her work, it makes me want to write.

Simone read not from her recent amazing book Of Being Dispersed, but rather from new work, work written since the birth of her son, Isaac. These poems include lines like this which I recorded in my notebook: "the great shock of suck" and "grammatical properties of the pronoun motherfucker."  Simone read from an amazing piece entitled "MESSENGER." I can't wait to see it in print. 



photo from Harper's Magazine

Here's an excerpt from it that appeared In Harper's Magazine, February 2017:












ευάγγελος addresses the mother with no mate the mother who panics the mother who watches with dread and wonder the careless pleasure of other mothers in the presence of their children the hours spent in fear the isolation of motherhood the metempsychotic deprivation of sleep nothing you have is yours not even deposits of fat you are the nothing toward which the man nods in acknowledgment of your motherhood which is grand which is prostration which is the deactivation of all known powers which is the evacuation of power your share in the speechless condition of your baby speech rushes you freeze in the weakness of joint potentiality you cannot share yet you share you have no faith yet you must have faith this is a test this is not a test everything that was has been evacuated in your arms someone has fainted someone's got a mote in her eye someone is pricked by ευάγγελος, hunter (Harper's, February 2017 36)

Another difficult and lyrical piece can be found here at the Boston Review. This is a poem called "Stingray," a must read.




Photo from SFSU's The Poetry Center

Then in March, on the 11th, Ariel Goldberg returned to the Bay to read from their new book: The Estrangement Principle. Again, Tonya and I headed out for another special event. Ariel read at Alley Cat Books, at an event organized by Kevin Killian. Ariel read from two sections of the book: "To Project Presence and Risk Absence" about New Narrative and "Full Umph," a playful thinking and writing through Kay Ryan whose work contains few if any traces of her lesbian life.  Goldberg writes:









Kay Ryan interrupted her poem at the 92nd Street Y o say something like, 'These lines have been engraved in the Central Park Zoo.' The audience mustered a collective ooh and ahh that registered on my back like an itchy blanket. Laryssa and I were in the front row, as close to Ryan as possible for my character study. I kept turning around to watch how the teenagers were reacting. Each 92nd Street Y reader also visits a public school English class and the students receive free books by the author. Ryan interrupted another poem, "that one was just published in The New Yorker.' Ugh, I thought. I waited in the Barnes & Noble-sponsored book signing line without a book to sign. When it was my turn, I gave Ryan the pamphlet loosely containing the first two chapters of this book. I write about your work in this, I said. 'Are you a student?' 'No, I'm an artist.' I didn't know how to explain to Ryan that I constructed, with the help of Jess, an alter ego named May Lion to satiate my hunger for traces of lesbian life in Ryan's poetry.

May Lion gave her premier reading to a crowd of fifteen or so friends and friends of friends at the now shuttered Uncanny Valley in Long Island City in spring 2012. May went on after the cellist Meaner Pencil, as seen on the NYC subway. The poems 'Are My Sneakers Frumpy,' 'I Got a Butt Plug and Neti Pot for My Birthday,' 'Cheese Puff Dust Under Your Nails,' 'Tattoos Remind me of My Relationship to the Holocaust,' and 'The Height of Floss,' had their first airing. I used that gel with air bubbles to slick my hair back into the shape of a bike helmet. After May's reading, I was greeted by a lengthy manologue from an audience member about how he edited his high school literary magazine (and therefore has a special relationship to poetry). This confession was just his icebreaker before divulging that May's poem about hand sanitizer, potato chips, and latex gloves had expanded his idea of what sexual intercourse even is (186-187).

Ariel responded to audience questions from respondents organized by Kevin Killian--Syd Staiti, Evan Kennedy,Matt Sussman, Zoe Tuck, and yours truly--and others. More readings should proceed like this I think. Conversation proves so engaging and powerful.

Ariel's book is an exploration of "queer art," a thinking-through of naming, categorizing and the work it does and doesn't do, the legibility it provides or obscures. This work strikes me as a form of New Narrative criticism, an ethical criticism that engages the location of the writer writing, a writing that names names, takes risks, reflects and attempts to narrate the text and its emergence. Exciting stuff!

2.20.2017

Celebratory Reading: Bob Glück and Aaron Shurin



What now feels like waaaay back in December, on the 17th--

[strange and disturbing how the election and all that has ensued since has changed my sense of time-- a terrible nightmare simultaneously on slo-mo and fast-forward happening right now]



--I had the pleasure of attending the Small Press Traffic event celebrating the 70th birthdays and recent essay collections of two of the Bay Area's creative anchors-Bob Glück and Aaron Shurin. Bob's Communal Nude: Collected Essays is recently out from Semiotext(e) and Aaron's The Skin of Meaning: Collected Literary Essays and Talks from the University of Michigan Press.




Bob & Aaron, photo courtesy of Kevin Killian


So, here is to the critical, creative, capacious thinking that might sustain us, provide pleasure, enable us to be, as Norma Cole put it when I saw her at Mary Burger and Truong Tran's art show some weeks ago--tenacious.


The first piece is from one of Bob's current projects:


excerpt from I Boombox

Note: this is an excerpt from a long poem, I Boombox.  The poem is assembled from my misreading’s.  In that sense, it’s an autobiography in which I dream on the page. It’s my version of the modernist long poem, published in sections and only interrupted by the author’s death.


My car likes to
Sleep on my favorite
Chair, the ominous
And elevated
Streetcar.  Important
Cheeses, it goes
Right through my Vino. 
Masked and distinguished,
Groaning with
Indignation,
Escaping to the
Shades below, composer’s
Love transforms as
A dramatic
Theme, the first to
Flatter a paper
Flower behind
Her ear.  The corruption
Here is for buyers. 

Orphan nation,
Groaning with
Indigestion,
Escaping to
The shades below
To make skeletons
Of the physically
Unfit.  Pre-emptive
Word on Cher, who
Can be happy
Only when she’s
Abstract. What I
Have been Waiting
For, something
Torn from a photograph
Ben saw brazenly,
Lending his attraction
To the boys across
The street and pressured
Them into his
Book.  Eclipsed cultivar
Of genius departing
For religions
Unknown.  Said he
Had been undercut
On a red-eye. 
Destructive logic
And inspired guess-
Work, the official
Interrupted sky. 

I had just praised
His bowels!  The first
Known in something
Like its eternity
From Sicily
To Somber.  I
Flashed an impressive
Smile at pouty
Four-inch heels.  One

Day neglecting
The next, the writing
Banged out the
Complexity. 
Born to a
Preposterous
Family, she
Stood on her head
Cocked to one side.
Beef encounter,
Her face lived in
Concentration
To unrape me.

The water has
Taken seven
Lives from me yet
We moor on your
Shoes because contagion
Is not easy.
A dreamer bests
Himself again
And break the back
Of paper. He
Had been spreading
Humans onto
Pita.  In less
Than a mouth he’d
Be totally
Gone, a miserable
Grocery bag. 
Bronze frog that sits
On a throne Lillypad,
Called bride because
It squeaked with the
Slightest move. 
Christianity
Is a vice.

Corporate poetry
Month forms a kind
Of obstacle
Discourse. The system
Eats the continent
Until all that’s
Left is the system.
Their politeness
Is asking for
A castration,
Mein hand stroking
Flint shattered by
An art teacher,
the broken porn
Night.  Redevelop
The linebreak.  I
Revise only
In the cemetery
But the reflections
Of my voice mouths
Of pre-trial
Dentation to
The Kidney Korner,
Mission and
Indigestible. 
A grin woman
With a world view,
She tolerates
Little devotion
And also a
Campy Impresario.
His immature
Camaro was
Used in ritual
Dreams.  I enjoyed
The Eucharist.
They planted grapes
In better suites.
The building lava-
Lamp parsley
Prefers stale
Over substance. 
Wattlewood trees
Came up with, “Hi.”
I would have killed
To spend my life
With him.  I’m a
Deathalete.  The
Rage of European
Minimalism,
The scared geometry,
An iconic bridge
And its pedophile,
Or a block of
French lightning laughing
As it destroys
The dirt with a
Crest and back like
An old brick wall.
Sensory Hall
In Tokyo.
Drowning vipers
Go side to side,
Plastic Fantastic
Foreskin formed a
Celebrated
Parsnip with Mikhail
Baryshnikov 
In which he repeats
Jeanette’s diary:
If Time Seems Personal. 
Defenestration
Moon, the great loss
They troll Bloomingdale’s. 
The affected
Elegant tilt
Of their voices.
Matriarch, Inc.
Shooting up at
The beach after
The artists, dealers,
Critics, and hedge-
Fund guys jerked off
Last weekend.  “Neo
Raunch’s next move
Would feel it tugging
At its chin, protesting
With nervous
Tremendousness. 
My force slips and
Goes funny.


                             --Robert Glück

And here's an excerpt from Aaron's essay "Prosody Now." As soon as I heard about Aaron's prosody class at USF, I wish I might have been a student there and could have taken it! The essay is as close as I will get.

from "Prosody Now"

This is a talk with four beginnings.

For the first we are deep in moonlight, though it is purely textual light, since we are indoors, in the hallway of a Spanish-style house in Los Angeles circa 1965. In that verbal shimmer and glow I've flung myself across the carpeted floor to perform for my mother and brother the soliloquy that will be my tryout piece for A Midsummer Night's Dream, our high school senior play. I am deliriously inside the spell of the spell-casting sonorities, as Oberon prepares Puck to begin his mission of mischief. "I know a bank..." he instructs and I declaimed, drunk on iambs and perfume, "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk roses and with eglantine. There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, lulled in these flowers with dances and delight..."The hallway carpet was a bed of flowers in which I too lay down in moonlight and drowsed...In the end, you may have read elsewhere, I was chosen to play not Oberon but Puck---nu, look at this face, who else?--but having voiced and memorized and rehearsed the Oberon lines, I held them close inside me--shall I call this somatic prosody?--for over thirty years, cherished and foundational...right up to the point that I began to teach a course in Prosody for the graduate writing program at the University of San Francisco.

The week's topic was "The Line" and in particular the metrical line, with further inflections to come via Pound, Williams, and Projective Verse. By luck or magic I happened to be walking through Golden Gate Park--that flower-strewn bank--and chanced upon the Shakespeare Garden, which I'd passed many times before but never yet entered. There I found, among the living representative plants, the textual flora as Shakespeare had named them, engraved as quotations on a stone wall. And there--of course I immediately searched--I found the coordinates of my beloved forest glade, where Oberon avowed, I read, "I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows..." Excuse me? Whereon? That's a mistake! Should be, as I'd memorized long ago, "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows," not "whereon the wild thyme blows." Did I have it wrong all these years, was that possible, did I have a somatic prosody malady? I ran home to Google--perhaps then it was Alta Vista--and found there was some scholarly contention as to whether the line should have scanned as perfect iambs--meaning some scribe had dropped the on  in whereon--a position adhered to by a number of conservative noodle-heads, including our Golden Gate protectors of the regularity in verse--or whether Shakespeare had intended the broken foot, enacting a small caesura inside the imabic swoon. This is my first beginning. What is prosody? It is not just the difference between noodle-headed regulators and actual poets; it's the study of, or the attention paid to, the shifts of meaning in the balance in the tiny pause of a syllable suspended as a breeze blows or a petal falls. It is the possibility of "where" against the probability of "whereon."

For the second beginning let me take you to my apartment in San Francisco circa 1981, where a group of poets and enthusiasts have gathered together to form the now somewhat-famous Homer Club--an informal spinoff from the Poetics Program at New College of California--with the lunatic aim of acquiring ancient Greek and reading the whole of the Iliad in the original simultaneously. Many of us knew not a word of Greek, but we had passion for poetic study, and, not incidentally, the ferocious appetite of group captain Robert Duncan to motivate us. And so, foolishly, doggedly, triumphantly, I clopped my way through dictionaries and the crib of multiple translations--aided, I'll say, by a Motown-inflected natural ear for rhythm--to mark the rise and fall and rise of the Homeric hexameters as they roused the troops and swung the sails and heaved the bloody spears on the fields before Troy. We chanted together to hear the aural imprint of the oral epic, in our California accents and tone-deaf attempts at pitch, and we felt the beat of the mythical poets's staff as it, tapped out the points of the six flexible feet. Menin aiede thea, peleiados achilleos...Dum-de-de dum-de-de- dum dum-de-de dum-de-de dum dum. I would learn to call these units dactyls and spondees, but before that I would like awake for hours with the sonic hoofprints of the beat galloping through my head...not the Greek words, which I'd instantly memorized and recited, but the pure hexameters, before language, before the poem. What is prosody? It is the performance of humility before the great powers of form-in-language. It is the name of the galloping horse tearing through the fields of a restless dawn on its essential mission to gather poetic meaning. It is, as The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics has it, "meaning-given figured and textured shape" (37-39).


To read about Aaron's other beginnings, check out his book!

1.29.2017

Looking for a reason for hope? Check out Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today!



Dear All--

I am very pleased to post here the Call for Papers for the joint UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz conference~~Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today, to be held Friday October 13 to Sunday October 15, 2017.

The conference is convened by: Lyn Hejinian, Chris Chen, Daniel Benjamin  and Eric Sneathen.

Details are available below!


1.15.2017

Frances Richard's George Oppen Memorial Lecture


For some years now, I've tried to make it to The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archive's George Oppen Memorial Lecture. Often they are thrilling, intellectually rigorous, surprising, provocative. This is certainly true for Frances Richard's talk "The Mind's Own Place and Feminine Technologies: George Oppen and Possibilities of the Political" delivered on December 17, 2016.

Frances has generously shared her inspiring talk with us. It was accompanied by a series of images of the Oppens, various publications, and art work. You can also listen to and watch recordings of her talk from The Poetry Center here. I highly recommend it!

Here is one of the images from Frances's talk, William Blake's "Satan Exulting over Eve" from 1794.

Blake's "Satan Exulting over Eve" 1794























Frances Richard



Frances Richard is the author of Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012), The Phonemes (Les Figues Press, 2012) and See Through (Four Way Books, 2003), as well as the chapbooks Shaved Code (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2008) and Anarch. (Woodland Editions, 2008). She writes frequently about contemporary art and is co-author, with Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi, of Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” (Cabinet Books, 2005). Her writing on visual art has appeared in Artforum, The Nation, BOMB and exhibition catalogs from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum and Independent Curators International, among others. She teaches at California College of the Arts and San Francisco Art Institute.