Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Gulf Notebook, Part 1

From Naples pier: what spill? The beachfront's neo-conquistador lushness is soundtracked with soft jazz. Intermittent chat swells between backfloaters. Brown pelicans hover and dive. A fisherman pulls a four-foot-long bonnet shark out of the water, cuts and cleans it right there, tucking its meat in tiny sandwich bags. Dolphins surface to the delight of post-dinner strollers. Someone on a waverunner glides into the sunset.

From Saint Armands Key to Weeki Wachee, Cedar Key to Apalachiola: the same blue-green waters, the continuous white beach. Then, starting at Pensacola Beach, there is a sand change.

Balls of sand caked with oil. Most are about the size of a penny or a nickel. Several, like this one, are bigger than my hand:

These constellations continue westward, Gulf Beach to Waveland.

By Mobile Bay, rigs like these become a regular part of the landscape. Crossing Bon Secours Bay by ferry I counted two dozen on the gulf, seven in the bay.

At right about the same point, this, too, becomes a regular part of the landscape: tarballs that, when their thinly congealed membrane breaks, ooze.

This tern was on the western tip of Dauphin Island, its wings sludged in thick oil. For hours it fought to unsheen its wings in the surf, then went under.

Before long, the beaches are unpeopled, blocked off. Boom lines the shore to halt each oncoming wave. The black in this water is not shadow.

Michael Nardone lives in the Northwest Territories.
He transcribes for PennSound and Jacket.

How to do silence: a conversation with Vanessa Place

What is she reading? More than two minutes of silence, well, near silence, as Vanessa Place scans the page in front of her, one hand moving from page to body and back, occasionally looking up, making eye contact. I started our brief conversation about the performance she gave at the University of Greenwich earlier this month by asking what the title was--she didn't say prior.

VP:"Gone with the Wind by Vanessa Place"

LH: You offer no apparatus for the audience/reader to receive the work, which makes for a powerful, and somewhat uncomfortable experience. How would you describe the piece?

VP: As a "white-out," though erasure would be the technical (techne) description. All but the last line is obliterated, not read. I don't contextualize it because I don't want to direct the thought/expectation. The content of the piece is retroactively supplied (like any historical event, or memory itself)-- ie., content/interpretation is injected only after you understand the signficence (do you mean this word or significance? I like this word, just checking. I like this word too sign+magnificence) of the moment. (this is triggered by the reading of the iconic last line--maybe. Some people miss history.) Iconic last line: "After all, tomorrow is another day."

LH: Actually, it isn’t only with this piece, you never say anything before you read do you?

VP: No.

LH: Can you imagine going longer, holding the silence longer, than you did in Greenwich?

VP: Yes. At the Denver Museum of Modern Art, the piece lasted 5 mins 22 secs. One could do the whole book, which would be lovely in a kind of Abramovic way. Though perhaps better.

LH: The discomfort of silence is well-known in the world of drama, and the world of conceptual art, but not so much in the world of poetry--at least in terms of the public offering of poetry as a commodity. Is the silence the fact of the matter, or the amplification of the triangulated relationship between author/text/audience. By that I mean, in a sense your silence, your “noisy” presence, makes the audience hyper aware of textuality even when there appears to be none… I’m asking this because I’m trying to come to terms with the lack of context, which in this particular instance, seems to be such a powerful gesture, even more so than when context is withheld in other pieces…

VP: One wonders what one’s expectations are in this, or rather, where.

LH: In keeping with your excellent Factory Series, in which you are farming out your own ideas to other poets to do under your name, would you like to see this piece done, say simultaneously in several cities? Or would you prefer to have a bunch of poets approaching texts in a similar way?

VP: Yes, excellent. Either way, all ways. It would be grand to have poet-slaves doing simultaneous instantiations. Also grand to have freepoets whiting out other texts--see Yedda Morrison's excellent work on Heart of Darkness, in which all but the words related to “nature” are erased. Though I also hope to become even further estranged from the actual mode of production in the Factory.

I did do a simultaneous reading of my SCUM intervention in March: I read the piece at the Bowery Poetry Project while "Vanessa Place" (my friend Kathleen Chapman) read it at the same chronological time at a gallery here, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. She was introduced with my bio, etc., so that the author function was properly fulfilled by the usual apparatuses. Several people told me that I gave an exceptionally good reading.

LH: Yes, the Boycott series. I enjoyed your SCUM Manifesto intervention, though while I am familiar with the original I didn’t actually recognize Solinas’ text immediately. While I was listening (at Greenwich), it seemed a much more iconic and indeed older text. Has anyone else mentioned this? And has it been published anywhere?

VP: Not yet. I’m gathering a collection of Boycott interventions, which should run from first to third wave feminism (cum masculinism), and we will see what happens to these. Andrew Rippeon of P-Queue will be publishing a deBeauvoir intervention in the not-unduly-distant future, which promises to be of interest.

LH: Your reading caused quite a stir, as you often do. At least one woman was moved (or driven) to tears after Statement of Facts. Does this happen often?

VP: Yes.

LH: I have heard you read from that text now on several occasions and find it extremely disturbing on multiple levels, as you know. In fact it feels like a feat when I can stay put through the reading. It must take some discipline to actually make it through the text yourself, even though, your role as a barrister and your specialization—working with indigent sex offenders—must offer some context for the work. The listener/reader on the other hand, has no context. He or she must simply confront the text. You talked about this, or around this, a little in the paper you gave at the conference where you suggest that interpretation, particularly in this instance, is up to the reader. The text is what the reader brings. “What will be already is,” in other words.

VP: True.

LH: And? Can’t we say that all text relies on interpretation, or presence from a reader/listener?

VP: Yes.

LH: I’m wondering too about the crafting of the Statements. I have to take a look at the larger project more closely, but the one you read at Greenwich I also heard you read in New York and Santa Cruz and this time I could hear how the pieces were knitted together—the larger narrative of the perpetrator coming clearer. These statements then are actually not as they might be found in public record, but rather are melded by you which suggests a kind of collaging rather than benign presention.

VP: That depends on you. If there is a collage, it’s yours.

LH: But I mean the texts are crafted somehow. Can you comment on the decisions around which statements you might include in a given document and why?

VP: Some are very material—length, heft, breadth. Though this is only relevant to a reading; if I use a Statement, I use it in toto. If there are multiple Statements in a work (such as in the book Statement of Facts), I might include different pieces for the same reason as anyone might include different pieces—variation, boredom. It’s not what you see that is art, art is the gap.

LH: I was intrigued by several strands in your paper at Greenwich, particularly your statements about realism, something I have been thinking a lot about lately, both in poetry and fiction (as if it would matter the genre…). You questioned, as I do, the suggestion that there is “a realism” or a “real” in any case, and further, who represents the “real.” This has always seemed problematic to me, if for no other reason than a basic classist stance (what I see is real, my experience, my sense of the world is real, yours, well, yours is a wee bit flawed). But further you ask how reproduction is realism, which intrigues. Can you talk a bit about that…or perhaps offer a snippet from your essay? What is it we sometimes swallow?

VP: There is definitely a Real. It’s the representation that’s tricky. Luckily for me, as noted in my paper, I am a mouthpiece. Thus, my representation is strictly regurgitation. What is swallowed by us is the Real, more or less undigested. To put it stupidly, we make use of the imaginary, cater to the symbolic, but what we enjoy is the excreta. Put another way, I offer no sense of the world. This may be the noisy silence previously noted.

LH: What do you mean by radically evil poetry?

VP: Poetry that has no other poetic claims other than that it is poetry. Poetry that demonstrates that meter doesn’t matter, that form doesn’t matter, that authorship doesn’t matter, that content doesn’t matter, that neither aesthetic nor ethic matters, that all that matters is that it is not not poetry.

LH: So would you describe yourself as a “Not Poet”?

VP: No, not not a poet. An advocate of a poetics.

LH: Do you see your work as a kind of conceptual endgame?

VP: One can only hope.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Elizabeth Hall & Christine Wertheim

Early this spring Elizabeth Hall asked California writer and editor Christine Wertheim to answer a few questions via email about herself as a poet, feminist, and editor.

EH: Since this interview is really about hearing your story, can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up?

CW: My Literary Life - Chapter 1- in which it is revealed that the author was raised in a hovel.... No seriously, where I grew up is irrelevant....I started my post-school life as a dress-designer then moved across various visual arts to painting, which abandoned me after some years. I had developed a question I couldn't explore visually. So I belatedly went to university where I ended up studying a concoction of literature and philosophy of my own devising, focused on unpacking my question, rather than learning some already constituted discipline, and I ended up going through the full 3 degrees.

During this time, as now, my primary research tool was a kind of playing with letters that dis-covers things to me. I would then write up long discursive papers explaining what these alchemical compositions revealed. This went nowhere fast, or rather very slowly, as I continued at it for another 9 years after finishing my dissertation. I then moved to America, where at some point my colleague at CalArts, Matias Viegener, saw them and suggested I simply present them as poetry in their own right without the extraneous “explanations." .... and so I became a poet.

EH: As a young poet, what books really turned you on? What texts do you continue to revisit?

CW: I never was young as a poet. By the time I became a poet I was practically middle-aged. However, there are books that definitely influenced my work, and which I still think about alot. The three most important of these are, Genesis, Paradiso and Watt, by Samuel Beckett. Genesis showed me that words can invoke worlds. Paradiso showed me that you can push beyond the current limits of your own linguistic capacities, and Watt showed me how incredibly flexible is the English Tongue. I spent about a decade obsessed with Watt. To me it is the story of a man called Watt who goes to work for another called kNott, and the closer Watt gets to kNott, the more he finds it difficult to distinguish between Watt he is or if he's kNott, because in this book, in English, one can both be Watt one is and yet also kNott. Discovering that had a profound and very long-term effect on me. (Funnily enough when Watt is translated into other languages they keep the proper names in English as Watt and Knott, so as far as I can see, it is a book you can only read in English, at least at the moment.)

The work of Jean-Pierre Brisset, whom the French call a fou litteraire, or outsider writer, is I think the closest I have ever seen to my own project, and I love what he did. But I didn't discover him till many years into my own project, so I can't say he affected me, but it was certainly nice to discover that other people take languages as Tongues seriously.

My favorite books, to read for enlightenment, rather than to further my own project, are mainly "women's novels" like
Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice, For Love Alone, etc. I think Middlemarch is the best literary critique of capitalism I have ever read, because it shows in so many different ways how the language of affections has been colonized by the language of capital, which I think is a theme of many great women's novels. I am also incredibly taken by Beloved, which I think does an amazing job of exploring a post-slavery existential condition.

EH: language as Tongues. When did you become interested in litteral poetics?

CW: I discovered the principle of litteral poetics in 1986. I was trying to understand the idea of 0/Nothing. (This was the question that drove me to university.) For me this was somehow connected to space-time, because in physics space-time is supposed to be a pure form. All the forces and substances of the universe are somehow kinks or depressions or knots in space-time. At least this was and still is how I understand that concept in physics. Then one day it just came to me that if you reverse the word and slightly alter the graphics of the symbols you get +|’me’S-pace, which I interpreted as representing the rhythm through which a being shifts between the position of agent and the position of patient. And I saw this as the form/substance of the psychological universe, or mutli0verse, as I prefer to call it. From there, it just expanded.

EH: Can you talk a little about the editing process for Feminaissance?

CW: Well, we had the papers from the conference, which I really liked, but I wasn’t sure how to see these as more than a group, rather than a collection, which is something different. Then Juliana and Stephanie’s piece, “Numbers Trouble,” was published in the Chicago Review, and Vanessa had the idea to print a shortened version of their paper along the top and put the other pieces below, sort of the reverse of footnotes, with the other pieces exploring issues “Numbers Trouble” hadn’t dealt with. “Numbers Trouble” had generated a whole lot of debate in the literay blogs, and most of it seemed to just circle round the idea of how calling oneself a feminist was “essentialist,” and hence theoretically retrograde and old-fashioned. Not only did this misrepresent everything  Juliana and Stephanie’s paper had done, it closed down discussion of all the fascinating topics covered in the other papers. So then the book became a way of indicating and celebrating this diversity; the whole idea of women speaking as women, and how such conversations might have their own unique issues, irrespective of how one thinks gender assignations are made, and how closely people stick to the idealized images of these assignations.

To me it is politically and ideologically necessary that we find a way to get beyond this reductive dichotomy in which either all identities are seen as constructed, and hence empty, or they are given by extra-social forces like biology, and hence essential and unchanging. As I wrote in my introduction, neither of these positions takes time, that is, history into account. Identities and identifications can be constructed, but still be of such long standing that they operate as if they were eternal. This does not mean that they cannot be changed, only that they cut very deep, and that transformation may require eons of conscious hard work, not simply a wardrobe rewrite. Really, this is one way that so-called “post-modernism” has been used in a very regressive fashion, to shut down debates about differences in social formations and hence in access to all kinds of resources, including air time.

EH:  Have you always considered yourself to be a “feminist?” If so, has your definition of ‘feminism’ shifted over the years?

CW: Yes, I have always been a feminist. My mother had 6 children and no help, and was a founding member of second wave feminism in the 60s/70s in Australia, so I have always been aware that there was a need for a more equitable distribution of access, along gender, race and class lines, to social resources, including discursive space, and validation for one's contributions to life. That has always been my main definition of feminism/s. In the 90's, through my encounters with psychoanalysis I added an extra clause, that access to what the Lacanian's call "symbolic" resources is also crucial, and that if our current symbolic resources by definition exclude certain kinds of articulations, i.e., the perspectives of any specified social group, then those symbolic resources need transforming. This is one of the tasks for feminists, as it is of all social justice movements.

EH: In Dodie Bellamy’s essay The Feminist Writers Guild, which opens Feminaissance, Bellamy describes her experience with the short-lived activist group in relation to Julia Kristeva’s concept of “tiny revolts.” She writes, “Need the success of a political group be measured by its impact on a larger social order? What about the ways it transforms the lives and psyches of its members –their tiny revolts—are they not profound?” What kind of role does ‘community’ play in your conception of feminism? How important is fellowship with other women writers to your work?

CW: I love Dodie’s article. She is one of the best writers of creative non-fiction today, and I think she makes a very powerful point in her paper. As far as I can see, for many socio-political movements, the larger the impact, the more they fail. Look at Colonialism, Socialism, Capitalism; they've all been disastrous for most of the people they've impacted. On the other hand, the civil rights movement, including feminism has been quite successful, though nothing like as much as is required. And community played a hugely important role in achieving those early successes. It seems as if the current stall is related to an inability to collectivize on a large scale. I don’t understand why this is so difficult for us now. But I believe it is one of the most important contemporary questions.

However, I also think most people in the rich western world (however defined) could do with more serious self-reflection and self-transformation before they start trying to change the world, i.e, other people. Such "tiny revolts" may be small on a world scale, but they are much more difficult to achieve than developing big ideas and schemes for world-transformation, which basically anyone can do. 
Fellowship with other women is central to my life. It is my life. My writing I mainly do alone. My professional fellowships vis-a-vis writing have been mainly with my publishers T + V. Of course I have friendships and conversations around issues in writing and literature with many individuals, including Dodie and Matias. But conversations about the specific issues my own work engages are few.

EH: Currently you serve as Program Chair for the CalArts MFA Writing Program. Before joining the faculty at CalArts, you taught critical theory and studio practice at Goldsmiths College. How has your role as teacher and mentor affected your writing?

CW: As I previously said, before coming to CalArts I considered my manipulations with letters and words as a research tool, like digging for archeologists, which then generated other more discursive work. Then Matias encouraged me to just show people the diggings and forget the “explanations.” I can't do that entirely, but the overall balance has definitely changed. However, that is an effect of my relations with my peers, other teachers. I think teaching in all its forms helps me generally to think more clearly about the issues I teach, but as these are not mostly related to my own poetic-research, I'm not sure that teaching directly effects my own writing as such.

EH: What space do you think poets occupy in contemporary culture? Do you believe that writers assume certain “responsibilities”-- political, personal, intellectual, social, et cetera?

CW:  I don't know what space poets occupy in contemporary culture. It's not something I think about. I'm interested in work I find interesting, whatever its medium or form. I don't think writers have any more or less responsibilities in any field outside writing than anyone else. If a writer is especially responsible in some area, such as being politically active, or just a decent human being, then I applaud that, just as I applaud any person who is. I don't think being an artist is intrinsically linked to being ethical. Of course it depends on your definition of art. You can have a definition which defines "Art" as work that is ethical, but then, and leaving aside the need to define what ethical means, most of what is currently called art or literature wouldn't be included.

EH: In your book of poems, +|'me'S-pace, there is a real sense of playfulness. How important is play to your work?

CW: It is extremely important. Living is very hard. The only thing that makes it enjoyable is play, if that play is done well, really well.

EH: What projects are you currently working on?

CW: I have two main projects and a third little side one. The third one is a book of 100 pieces, each articulating the moment of its own conception. It’s called Exercises in Style Too: How to Conceive a Poem. I thought I could write them all, but I can’t so I am having other poets help me by writing their own versions. Like the original Exercises it’s a kind of textbook of contemporary poetic styles and procedures. (If anyone has any of their own I am happy to use them and give credit to their composers.)  The other two have been in the works for a long time, but I am hoping to finish one this summer. The first is my second book of poetics on mOthers and mOuths. It is the sequel to +|’me’S-pace. (This was supposed to be a book about my sister and I, but I’ve discovered in the writing that the mOuther book is what needs to come next.) The second is my theoretical opus magnus, the book that discursively explains all I have learned from my litteral poetic play. It’s the book I always planned, but now it will look substantially different than the original concept because the different sections were written over a 20-year period and hence have different styles. I’d always planned to redo them all in a unified style. But I’ve decided to just let them stay as they are. The argument is continuous, what does it matter if the style changes? Understanding the argument has been for me an organic process realized over a very long time period. I feel now that the book should reflect this and not pretend to a synthetic unity that denies its own history and development. Of course, I might not find a publisher, but that’s another matter.

Christine Wertheim is author of "+|'me'S-pace" (Les Figues Press). She edited "Feminaissance,” and with Matias Viegener co-edited "Séance” and "Noulipo.” She is currently an editor for the journal Tarpaulin Sky. Recent critical work is published in "X-tra," "Cabinet,” “Issues” and "The Quick and the Dead”; recent poetry in "Drunken Boat," "Tarpaulin Sky" and "Veer." Works-in-progress include a poetic suite on Mothers and an exercise in style, "How to Conceive a Poem.” She is Chair of the MFA Writing Program at Cal Arts.

Elizabeth Hall was born in Louisiana and raised in Georgia by two back-to-the-landers who got bored. She is primarily interested in 20th century women’s literature and the occasional slow-burn. Currently living in Los Angeles, she is an MFA candidate at CalArts and an associate editor for Les Figues Press.

Anyone not seen this yet?

How's that going for you--being clever?

Much better than Feminist Boot Camp.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Headache vs. Animation: Some Short Shorts

Since I've had a migraine all day today, I began searching the internets for some video to offer up curatorially instead of creating my own "content." I came upon this lovely animation by Bruce Bickford, who apparently collaborated with Frank Zappa in the early '70s. As I was partially raised on Zappa, by which I mean brought to frustrated adolescence and then left there, this struck me as an egregious vacancy in my art knowledge.

Beatnik Poet

I found Bruce Bickford via Kiarra Albina's blog on the NFB Hothouse project. She is a Montreal based artist whose name was familiar to me because -- I think -- she drew the graphic for my brother's band's t-shirt. There are indeed 6 degrees of separation in Canada.

I am interested in what Albina is doing with the gesture in this video.

I would also like to see her film Pierogi Pinch, for my own heritage fetishization reasons.

And please note that there is plenty of room within my ideology for pretty pretty.


Nikki Reimer is the author of [sic] (Frontenac House, 2010). She lives in Vancouver, volunteers for the Kootenay School of Writing collective, and chronicles the East Van Cats.

Feminist Boot Camp #99.1

It's been fun but, there will be no more boot camps. Or camp closed. Or make your own camp. Adieu.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It Came from the Basement

Wordsworth said that poetry is, “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Well, around here it’s mostly been the cascading overflow of random closets and not very much tranquility. As a result, much of my reading has been restricted to horrifying internet articles about terrible moving companies, and trolling kijiji for apartments. However, while cleaning up we have uncovered some odd and poetic things that were squirreled away in the basement. One of the things I’ll miss about no longer living in my childhood home are finds like these… no more poking through stacks of old postcards and photographs, no more typewriters and reel-to-reels, no more basement full of emotionally charged clutter. So before I enter the brave new world of apartment living, here are the books I found in my basement.

Oh, and if you can recommend a good, cheap moving company that won’t destroy these books when I move, please let me know.

Helen Hajnoczky is considering minimalism. Her first book, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Poetrybirds (it's clear the poetry movement is far from stagnant)

The following is a minimally-edited version of an editorial that appeared in Warbird Digest #30, a periodical about fighter planes, aka "warbirds," and the people who love them. While leafing through magazines at a friend's place, I came upon Warbird Digest and was struck by the similarities between the sentiments expressed in this editorial on the economic feasibility of warbird shows, and, as Louis Cabri calls it, POETRYWOLD (i.e., the poetry world.)

Through projects discussed in the Poetry Blogs, and new poems we’re following, it’s clear the poetry movement is far from stagnant. The costs associated with writing any rare, high performance poem is staggering by any quantification, but the cost of transforming a heap of words into an award winning poem can only be justified by the heart. In a recent newsletter of the Heritage Poem Museum of Vancouver, British Columbia, executive director Ken Mirkieri lists cost of living as one variable in the sustainability of the poet. The other variable of course is revenue. The challenge he poses to every member is to win the “monthly gap” war. He amusingly recalls the old adage “...we are in one of those businesses where you can make a small fortune, IF you start with a large one.”

Sustainability is the biggest question facing poetry writers today. Some poets give little thought to the negative cash flow of their poetry operations. To those deep-pocketed poets we applaud their generosity to an endeavor with great public benefit. To the rest, who struggle to cover operational costs, we owe even greater thanks as they persevere in an increasingly difficult area.

The 2010 literary season is upon us. As we look forward to seeing our friends and enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of our beloved poems, we must consider the viability question. While promoting my hometown reading series I was confronted by a coworker who questioned the show’s $5 admission fee. “Why should I spend $5 so some writer who wants to play with his hobby can get paid to do it?” I was appalled by his ignorance, but it offered insight into a common public opinion. The response I mustered was “Thank God for the successful people who spend their money funding these rare poets, otherwise the only place to see a contemporary poet would be in a museum.”

A long time acquaintance and poet shared his belief with his writing buddies that they should not expect to make a profit at writing. In his words “Why do we do this? We don’t do it to make money—we do it for the fun of it. If you want to make money than you shouldn’t write poetry.” I realized his opinion held much merit, but was quite the opposite from many poets. Certainly it doesn’t fall within the framework of literary magazines trying to make their operations pay the monthly bills.

As a literary promoter who considers many poets as friends, the question I’ve struggled with is “What’s the appropriate fee to pay a person to perform at our reading series?” What I’ve found in the poetry industry is a floating scale, which results in poets being paid the minimum to gain their services. Those poets who will attend for fuel and hospitality get that. Those who want $400 are often enticed to appear for $250 plus the normal hospitality. Then there are those who stick to their guns and refuse to bargain, either out of necessity or principle. The organizer digs through his bag of options and decides who to invite based on his limited budget and the cost/benefit he perceives for each poet.

I’ve agreed to accept the floating standard because it’s the only way I can, without guilt, pay two poets different amounts for the same reading offering the same service. I believe all performers deserve to be compensated, because after all they are providing a service that is being marketed and charged for. However, most literary organizations are at best making a modest profit. So, the question of viability is as much a struggle for poetry promoters as it is for poets. The cancellation of much 2009 and 2010 arts funding is ample evidence of funders opting to refrain from increased risk during this economic downturn. As many of you know, there are fewer readings to attend, and fewer opportunities to read.

Poetry doesn’t fit neatly into the traditional economist’s supply/demand curve. It neglects the emotional component, which in the literary world is more the rule than exception. If you’re a poet you must ask yourself “Why do I write?” If you garner intangible benefits from sharing your historically significant talent, and you can afford it as a gift to yourself and society—great. If you kick and scratch to survive, knowing you need $500 to cover your rent, then stick to your guns. Writing poems benefits many people beyond the computer screen, but the question of viability is paramount.


Source text: Editorial by Greg Morehead in Warbird Digest #30 May/June 2010.


Nikki Reimer (Ken Mirkieri?) is the author of [sic] (Frontenac House, 2010). She/he/it lives in Vancouver, volunteers for the Kootenay School of Writing collective, and chronicles the East Van Cats.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Innovative Women's Poetry at Greenwich

Having made some noise of late about not seeing quite enough women's poetry and poetics in the general mix of literary dialogs, it was with pleasure that I spent much of yesterday out at the University of Greenwich listening to women, or a group thusly formed as women, or interested in and/or reflecting in part women's poetry and poetics. Gender aside, the poetry was excellent. North Americans Vanessa Place, David Buuck, Jean Day ( a poet newly introduced and with vigor), and Lisa Robertson were all fabulous. Robertson showed a video made with Allyson Clay in which she reads her work against a back drop of what seemed to be security video. Place read from SOF, and Dies among other pieces and the mix was, as usual, devastatingly powerful. Her erasure piece--consisting of two minutes of silence as she reads, in her head, from Gone With the Wind, wonderfully strange. Her paper on genre is one I'll have to read again. Buuck read as Juliana Spahr which was odd and logical. He read from their joint autobiographical project which is quite fascinating in the way it uses several basic autobiographical tropes, but more as lists than the conventional--or more deliberately. The lists of ailments, for example, which is quite funny as well as disturbing as they accumulate. There is also the tease of narrative, linearity like a fin surfacing now and again. Looking forward to more.

New poets to me: France Kruk, Emily Critchley and Carol Watts: amazing. Definitely on the look out for more from those three. Watts' piece was particularly beautiful. Dense accumulations that she read as a security video looped behind her, the figures blurred. Ekphrastic in nature.

Met several new poets who weren't performing--Jeff Hilson, Michael J. Weller (he read on Tuesday and wow). More to come on all this. Just to say that it IS very powerful to see a line up of strong women--there were more, Caroline Bergvall, Frances Presley, Susanna Gardiner, Lisa Jarnot (not well, alas), Rachel Blau Duplessis, and others, I just missed their performances.

I'll try to embed links at some point...but back to work now.
Frances Kruk
David Buuck
Vanessa Place & Panelists Holly, Elizabeth...names to come.
 Jeff Hilson--finally I have his anthology of sonnets in my hand. More on that as well.