Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The line break is dead

Or is it? What makes a contemporary poet engage with the line break? In preparing for another stint blogging at Harriet I've been glancing over old posts (Strangely enough I want to redo many of them for I haven't quite said the thing, but never mind...) and I found this conversation with Ken Babstock that I quite forgot I had. It's a bit defensive, not propulsive, which may be a reflection of my style, or his, or the limitations of the interview, I don't know. But as usual, just when I think I have to come to terms with something (line breaks bad, for example) another perspective arrives and the argument falters, as it does when confronted with Babstock's poems. 
...There’s a paradox here, insofar as line break is the one technical aspect of composition that’s always come naturally. Fluidly. It’s certainly related to stresses, to rhythm, but also to image and sense. There’s a reliance on intuition, but I will say I’ve tried to get some of the same charged silence that occurs in the blank space after any successful poem’s conclusion to also appear in lesser sparks out past the line’s end. It’s something like calibrating just how much your line can reasonably bear, and then getting out with some dignity intact. I do want to get out (from inside the line) before the shame arrives, or at least before it accumulates.
The last book, Air Stream, was fine. I wrote about it for the G&M, very positively. I wouldn't have always written about Babstock's poems so positively, or so uniformly positively, but that book, it seems to me, illustrated what is exciting about this work. And in that book the poet goes out on a limb, lets meaning lapse here and there. It was difficult, early on, to separate the poetry from the hype where Babstock is concerned, but he has proven his worth in this book. 

And yes, the typo in the interview! Forever, when blogging, one is up against the problem of proofreading one's own work. Very difficult. If you're perusing Harriet next month and see a typo, do let me know. Contact details are on this blog.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

1 Second a Day

1 Second Everyday - Age 30 from Cesar Kuriyama on Vimeo.

Fabulous. I love this video.When I teach introduction to poetry I assign my students the task of writing one couplet a day. It sounds easy. It isn't. They want to write poems. They want to write a complete thing. A couplet, I argue, is a complete thing. A couplet, closed, open, epic, rhyming...is a unit of poetry in itself. And as a beginners assignment the couplet is fairly generous. Sometimes I just assign word pairs. Or word trios.

The point is partly about the daily practice of writing, yes. Creating an intellectual space over time is essential. Like meditation, where once you have the breath you don't always have to be sitting to tune in, you can tap in wherever you are, writing one couplet a day leads to great things.

The assignment also instills discipline, patience, and illustrates the benefit of accumulation and fragmentation. When students try to pass off seven couplets written at one go as seven couplets written over the week, everyone can quickly see the difference.

Accumulation. Mindfulness. Dailiness. Attention to the small things. One word. Two words. One second. Two....

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012

Brief notes: Vanessa Place, Constant Critic Panel, AWP

I'm a fan of Consant Critic. I was surprised to realize it's been 10 years now. I think Fence is also 10 years (I'm also a fan of that). I became aware of the site via Jordan Davis, whom I met after he reviewed Lemon Hound  way back, and I've kept reading. Mostly because, as Rebecca Wolff points out, there is such a diversity of vision and style here and you know, I don't want to know what a reviewer is going to think about a book before I start reading a review....though I do want to know that there will be a consistent kind of looking, or an integrity of vision even if I don't agree with the reviewer, and that, she said, was her objective: consistent reviews.

Timely as well. Wolff points out that most people don't understand the need for poetry books to be reviewed in a timely manner--hence the pre-publication sweep that happens in the fiction world. Not having a book reviewed delivers a critical death blow.

As for the panel, good points from all, Sueyen's dedication to reviewing books that are under-reviewed, or poets that are under-known, her position then as creating audience for work she loves. With that in mind, her response to work she doesn't love? Silence. This fact arose from a quick discussion of the negative review. I still don't think we understand what negative is...

Vanessa responded to this question by noting the problem of the receiver: You get the review you deserve, she suggests. It isn't up to a reviewer to give glowing reviews. It's up to a review to engage with a text. So, the reviewer is always right, even if the reviewer has grossly misread your text. That's the problem of the author though, the author and "Misplaced expectation and its plump twin, disappointment…"

Karla Kelsey, reviewers editor, offered a meander through the ten years, offering some of the "key moments" from each year. I wish I had taken more notes because her examples were really great and made it clear that the review is a chance for a writer to really strut another kind of thinking/writing and if a review isn't as well crafted as one's own writing it's disappointing.  Two points that stood out:
Jordan Davis 2009 on the problem of the one big poem and “nothing getting through” and “not caring” which yes, I get and now will have to go back and read... and then Vanessa Place “the connective moment of the delivery…”.

Here's a snippet of Vanessa Place's paper, "How To Get Reviewed by Vanessa Place",  for the Constant Critic panel at AWP. It was great to hear everyone--Karla Kelsey, Rebecca Wolf and Sueyeun Juliette Lee--but even greater to hear Vanessa's piece because she was so well prepared. She made me laugh. She had great points, and she delivered it with clarity and forcefulness. How to get reviewed by VP?
1. Write a good book.
2. Write a good book.
3. Write a good book....
Wish I had taped it all, but as I said, here's a tease:

Finally, just to note that I loved the fact that the panel was all women. Sorry, but we need to have more panels that happen to be all women but not about women. Course, then we need to have the dudes attend those panels. It was, from my quick scan of the audience, more women than men for an all-woman panel. But we know that right? You either have to be a dude or have received enough dude nods to really have the critical cojones to pack an audience. If a dude is not on a panel does it rate a mention over a beer?

You have to, as Vanessa Place suggests, be a master and make the dudes want to bite your scorching little toe nails...

Here's Karla Kelsey on Lisa Robertson's R's BoatVanessa on Sawako Nakayasu , Ray McDaniel on Evie Shockley,  and Sueyen on Cara Benson but you can find your own favourite on the site.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Kristin Prevallet reads Lisa Robertson & Stacy Doris

This was one of the most moving and dynamic readings. Like Julie Patton, Prevallet used the whole room, up into the balcony and down and around the room, shouting out the Robertson and Doris' poem "The Feast," which begins "All honour to the anal cavity" and ends "Oh, and thank you for your virginity..." and makes glorious reference to turds and shit and perfume... "Roll on in shit, traverse this absurd age..."

Giovanni Singleton

Caged Bird

Dodie Bellamy reads Kathy Acker

Friday, March 02, 2012

Highlights from Les Figues I'll Drown My Book

Julie Patton does Marcella Durand's Pastoral.

leaf and leaf and leaf and leaf and leaf and branch and leaf and leaf and leaf and leaf and leaf and postcard of greenish sunset and leaf and leaf and leaf and bag and twig and leaf and bee and leaf and leaf and branch and leaf and branch and leaf and leaf and cloud and leaf and leaf and leaf and pot and bee and leaf and receipt and leaf and leaf and leaf and large bee and bottle of shampoo and leaf and leaf and water jug and leaf and leaf and plum and leaf and leaf and knife and leaf and leaf and leaf and lighter fluid and leaf and leaf and thin cloud and leaf and leaf and leaf and unidentified bug and leaf and leaf and leaf and leaf and pile of papers and leaf and leaf and leaf and sand and leaf and leaf and chairs and leaf and bananas and leaf and leaf and murder mystery and leaf and newspaper and leaf and leaf and pen and leaf and leaf and twig and branch and leaf and leaf and web and leaf and hair and leaf and tea and leaf and leaf and yogurt and leaf and leaf and sky and leaf and jacket and leaf and socks and leaf and leaf and branch and leaf and gnat and leaf and large bee and leaf and leaf and leaf and cell phone and leaf and leaf and leaf and branch and thick cloud and leaf and leaf and sun and leaf and potato chips and purplish conglomerate rock and leaf and dune and leaf and table and leaf and leaf and leaf and berries and leaf and shriveled blossom and leaf and leaf and parking lot and recycling station and leaf and leaf and leaf and shells and leaf and leaf and twig and leaf and and small pale rock and leaf and leaf and glass of juice and leaf and leaf and sunglasses and hat and leaf and leaf and spider and leaf and leaf and leaf ranch-flavor dressing and leaf and leaf and leaf and bone and leaf and leaf and leaf and green and brown and leaf and blue and leaf and white and green

more from Marcella Durand here.