Saturday, July 28, 2012

Essay: An Excerpt from Lissa Wolsak

An excerpt from An Heuristic Prolusion. 


~ To respond, in making linguistic pavés, to exhilarate transformation, with an art of perceiving movement, within being, within language physiques. And question...can we dispense with our proclivity to sacrificial structures?
To subtend the map via fever-chart. To approach separation itself. An enactment of otherness. To exceed speech...language intensifies in retreat from its own nocturnal noise.
I proceed…by letting develop intuitive notions and experience of order, extending to fresh fields of trans-semiotic, a priori intimacy.

To be absorbed, and to wake. These are my methods.

There is no real production, only interdependence           —Buddha

~ Phenomenology, numinosity, discrete packets of light within words, family resemblance, synchronicity, appropriation, clinamen, imaginary acts, construction, animation, rhetoric, chance/non-chance maneuver, radical energy released at the boundaries of affinity and repulsion, at the gap between conceivable and presentable. Tribo-electricity, zizz, dispersion, anagnorosis (the critical moment of recognition or discovery, especially before peripeteia ~ sudden change or falling ~ a sudden turn of events or unexpected reversal), instinct, sound…as I found it, the culturing of surprise, leaning heavily at the mouth of my mouth, in a pointing toward that which withdraws.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kate Durbin from Anna Nicole Show


ANNA NICOLE SHOW

CNN: Prosecutors presented this video as evidence that Howard K. Stern conspired to keep Anna Nicole Smith in a drug stupor. Stern’s lawyers say Smith was acting for the cameras.

HOWARD: What do you think Anna? Is Riley going to be your new makeup artist? Is Riley going to be your new makeup artist? Have you found a new makeup artist? Cuz your baby. Your other one of your babies. Your baby down there. That one. Say that again. Say it again. Let me get a shot of the baby. Let me just get a shot of the baby. No. Yeah. Put it there. Okay. You think this is a good time to announce the sex of your baby. Okay. Talk to me Riley. Riley talk to me. Talk to me. For the baby? How do you know it’s not a real baby? How do you know the stork didn’t bring it last night? [Anna,] how come your butt’s wet? Just turned off the music, although it might be too late. Whole tape being usable. You’ll have to see. The camera—Why you taking it off?

RILEY, AGE 7: We’re gonna use these first, bunny. You can open your eyes. Close ‘em. Now close ‘em. I wish you could go on the waterslides. But you’re pregnant. If you’re pregnancy, your heart’s bad, if you have a broken bone, or a back condition. I read the signs! Yep. You can’t. Your other—your baby down here. Why aren’t you pooting, then, or does it hurt? She does. The clown needs some medicine. No, I don’t have some. It’s your baby. It’s your baby. The clown doesn’t need gas medicine, she needs baaaby medicine. Baby. Baby. That’s your baby kicking you. Watch this. She isn’t real. Look. She’s having brain trouble. Brain trouble. It’s fake. Look. It’s a battery baby. Bad. She’s fake. Howard, can I talk to you for a sec? She has major brain trouble. Get the screwdriver. Yes, take one battery out to prove that that’s not a real baby. Howard! I’ll go to the nursery and look, okay? It’s okay. Why don’t you bring it up? Anna, she’s fake. Look! It’s what I’m hearing, huh. It’s fake. Camera, camera. Oh my lord. And now, I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find it. Can I do it, Anna? I’m going to play along. I’ll go get it. I’ll go get it. I’ll go get it. Can this come off? She might get hot.

ANNA: Huh? I don’t know. Oh. You said open ‘em. With a wha—for a waterpark? I wanna go. Why not. My baby’s over there sleepin. I think I just have a little gas. I think I just I think I’m having some gas trouble. It hurts and I need some gas poot stuff so I can poot it out. Huh do you have some. I need some cuz look how big this belly’s getting cuz its gas. Nu uh. It’s gas. No it’s gas. And for sure—nu uh. Eh gu and you know how when you’re having gas and you feel it and its like owwww. No. My baby’s over there. Don’t open her skin. She might die. Can’t do that. Stop it. Hu huh. Yes. I’m your mama. Hehehe. I think she peed on me. Hold her head up! She’s crying; she needs her binkie! She needs her binkie. It’s cryin. Get a her binkie; it’s cryin. Hmm. My baby whore. I’m gonna go give her her binkie cuz she don’t know how to take care of a baby. Shhh. You’re not fake. Did you put powder in her diaper. Did you put powda. Powder right here. Right that squash. The powder is this in my—by my tub. Powder. She pee pee on herself. What? Hahaha. What? Hey say mama. Want your binkie. What. I love you! You love your mama? Get you some new clothes on. What. What. What. What you sayin. Huh. Ubegububu. Hold on. Hold on. I’m gonna put you something else to wear, okay? Okay? Hey what. Do you look cute? Hehehe.

MECHANICAL BABY: Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama.

DISTANT MUSIC: “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Originals






The second of two posts featuring Kate Durbin. “Anna Nicole Show” was first published in E Entertainment (Insert Press). The piece won an &Now Innovative Writing Award, and will be re-printed in the Diamond Edition of E! Entertainment, forthcoming from Insert/Blanc Press. 
  
Kate Durbin is a Los Angeles-based writer and transmedia artist. She is author of The Ravenous Audience (Akashic Books), E! Entertainment (Blanc Press Diamond Edition, forthcoming), and the post-conceptual fashion magazine The Fashion Issue (Wonder, forthcoming). She has also written five chapbooks, including FASHIONWHORE (Legacy Pictures) and Kept Women (Insert Press, forthcoming). Her projects have been featured in Spex, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Specs, Salon.com, AOL, Poets and Writers, TMobile's Your Digital Daily, Poets.org, VLAK, Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion, Black Warrior Review, Joyland, berfrois, SUPERMACHINE, Drunken Boat, NPR, Bookslut, 1913, LIT, Fanzine, and The American Scholar, among others. She is founding editor of Gaga Stigmata, an online arts and criticism journal about Lady Gaga, which will be published as a book from Zg Press in 2012.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kate Durbin: from Ravenous Audience


MARILYN: LEFTOVERS

The Clothes

a black embroidered handbag     a pearlescent Bakelite clutch     a jewel-encrusted evening bag with a chain strap     a Lucite handbag     a clear bejeweled handbag with an embellished closure      the same bag filled with matching accessories     a red patent-leather handbag with a gold closer     an arrangement of 13 of Monroe’s bags     a wool hat with two ostrich feathers     a white wool hat with a large satin bow     two lacquered fans      a white fox-fur collar     a sable collar     a black broadtail jacket with a brown mink collar shown with a brown leather handbag     a three-quarter-length black mink coat     a three-quarter-length cheetah-print coat     a cream-colored cardigan with a two-toned mink collar and a diamenté closure     a 1954 appraisal slip valuing a black mink coat at $10,000

The Jewels

a collection of necklaces bracelets earrings and brooches   a gold necklace possibly by Paul Flato from the early 1960s the long chain is hung with stylized “lily” drops     a necklace with a diamond center stone      a jade beaded necklace     a link necklace with a square clasp      a jade beaded necklace with a gold flower clasp     a diamond necklace with a diamond and ruby pendant     a pearl necklace with a pearl and diamond pendant     a pearl necklace        a diamond Art-Deco style necklace     a pearl necklace with a flower clasp     a Blancpain diamond watch     a Marvin diamond and gold watch     gold ear clips     pearl and gold cluster earrings     pearl drop earrings     diamond and pearl cluster earrings     pearl and gold pineapple earrings     diamond and gold starburst brooches     a pearl and gold brooch     a pearl brooch     a pearl and gold pineapple brooch     a diamond and gold brooch        a diamond and gold link bracelet     a four-strand pearl bracelet with a gold clasp      a diamond and ruby bracelet     a jade and gold bracelet

The Keepsakes

an army-issue sewing kit likely given to Monroe in Korea in 1954     a typewriter belonging to Monroe with a letter to Arthur Miller’s father     the bottle of Chanel No. 5 that Melson found on Monroe’s nightstand after her death    a cookbook of Mexican and Spanish recipes along with recipes of Monroe’s     a tin box filled with stamps     three of Monroe’s cookbooks     six coins found with Monroe’s belongings     an Autobridge set     a Blockhead! game set     a hairbrush comb and mirror set     two silver candelabras      a sequined brown and tan case     a porcelain parakeet figurine     a pair of green dice     a silver tea set   a recording of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs song “Some Day My Prince Will Come”     a black leather stamp case     a floral china set with gold trim        a holiday calendar     a folder marked “Photographs/Stills on ‘Something’s Got to Give’”        the back of Monroe’s favorite photograph of herself which shows her standing in a jeep taken by a soldier in Korea during her U.S.O. trip there           a 1958 report card for Robert (Bobby) Miller Arthur’s son    

The Prescriptions

receipts for medications purchased by Monroe and Arthur Miller including Seconal a barbiturate and Noludar a sedative     prescription receipts from Schwab’s Pharmacy     a collage of prescription receipts     a Schwab’s receipt from May 1960     another Schwab’s receipt     more prescription receipts from Schwab’s      receipts from Fairfax Drug Company in Los Angeles      more receipts from Fairfax Drug Company and one from the Prescription Center in Beverly Hills     receipts from the Prescription Center and one from the Westside Hospital Pharmacy     a file folder with pharmacy information

The Legal Documents

a document certifying Monroe’s divorce from James Dougherty dated September 1946     a 1947 letter from Monroe to Twentieth Century-Fox     a 1949 William Morris Agency contract     another page of the contract     a telegram from Twentieth Century-Fox assistant secretary Frank Ferguson     a 1954 letter from Frank Ferguson     an unsigned contract with Ben Hecht from 1954     a contract signed by Hecht and Monroe on March 18, 1954        a 1954 letter from RCA     a 1954 letter to Jacques Chambrun        a telegram from Frank Ferguson     a 1960 sag-Theatrical Agency contract between Monroe and MCA Artists       a 1961 memo from Aaron R. Frosch     page 2 of the memo     page 3 of the memo     page 4 of the memo     page 5 of the memo     page 6 of the memo     Monroe’s birth certificate and other documents     an envelope containing the birth certificate and other materials

The first of two posts featuring Kate Durbin. *“Marilyn: Leftovers” is excerpted from The Ravenous Audience, selected by Chris Abani for the Black Goat Imprint of Akashic Books. Purchase the book on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.com.
  

Bio: Kate Durbin is a Los Angeles-based writer and transmedia artist. She is author of The Ravenous Audience (Akashic Books), E! Entertainment (Blanc Press Diamond Edition, forthcoming), and the post-conceptual fashion magazine The Fashion Issue (Wonder, forthcoming). She has also written five chapbooks, including FASHIONWHORE (Legacy Pictures) and Kept Women (Insert Press, forthcoming). Her projects have been featured in Spex, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Specs, Salon.com, AOL, Poets and Writers, TMobile's Your Digital Daily, Poets.org, VLAK, Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion, Black Warrior Review, Joyland, berfrois, SUPERMACHINE, Drunken Boat, NPR, Bookslut, 1913, LIT, Fanzine, and The American Scholar, among others. She is founding editor of Gaga Stigmata, an online arts and criticism journal about Lady Gaga, which will be published as a book from Zg Press in 2012.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Natalie Walschots on Reviewing

LH: What do you think the purpose of a review is? If you also write about books on a blog, why? What does blogging let you do differently?

NZW: The purpose of a review, be it a book review or an album review, is to communicate with that text's potential audience, to place the text in its cultural context, and to engage with both the writer and the potential readers about the text's success.

I see two potential purposes that a review may have, and an individual review can embody one or both of these traits. First, to work as a piece of cultural criticism. This involves situating the text within it's cultural context, examining how is upholds or disrupts the status quo within that context, and analysing the cultural work that the text is doing. This can involve categorizing the text within a genre or genres, looking at the text's form and content, identifying moments of innovation and change, and otherwise providing a detailed look at how and where the text operates in the cultural landscape.

Another potential purpose of a review is to match a text with a potential audience.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two Poems from Helen Guri


SUBJECTS ON WHICH MY LOVE DOLL COULD

CONCEIVABLY HAVE OPINIONS

Being secret, like a leg brace from childhood.

Not having anything, to eat or worry about.

A bus transfer sailing through seven seas of air. The resting places
of lost raisins.

The lobster, boiling. Surgical procedures to revive the senses of
those born blind and deaf.

Common senselessness, the dripping sponge of it.

Emotions duned like ash from the work week’s smokestacks on a
little side table.

A sudden wind from the patio, its fairy tale.

The cryptic luck of numbers. The ulterior motives of all the objects
in a room.

My little walnut of sadness through clothing. My close-bitten peach
pit of glee. The texture of the legs on all the spiders in the room.

The bath of my senses like several tides around her, the shoal of it.

Certain gadgets reserved like Egyptian artifacts for later.

The island of plastic bottles in the Pacific that is a secret the size
of America.

The wine stain deep in the turning lane of my Pentax-squat.

Why my better half looks so steamed in all the pictures.




STILL LIFE WITH LOVE DOLL AND POTATO

Two whatsits cheek by jowl in a kitchen.
She slumped over the bunion of the tuber.

As if the snow globe of the world shook
and they collided, an unlikely set –
Barbie and her jowly pug, heroine and sidekick,
kid at Christmas cradling her rare
albino coal, Madonna and infant
of an irradiated cosmos, shiny as ash.

But it was getting on supper hour.
I cooked romantically – you can guess who lost out.
I cleaned a dozen gleaming sockets
with my peeler’s plover end,
 
an eye, an eye, an eye.
In time a broom swept through, filtering
the little glints of sight from the tile.
Who knows what anyone sees in anything?


___________
Helen Guri graduated from the University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program, and has taught writing at Humber College. Her work has appeared in many Canadian journals, including Arc, Descant, Event, Fiddlehead andGrain. The above poems are from Match, her first collection, shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. She lives in Toronto. You can read an interview with Guri here and here

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Allen Ginsberg Project: Mind, Mouth and Page (Gertrude Stein)

AG: Yeah, I think we were talking about that at the end of the last sitting here, when somebody asked me - since Williams, what was done, since Williams, what has been accomplished in poetics? - or, what new thing has been added? - and I was talking about the practice of some poets working out of Gertrude Stein, for whom words were objects, and so it was like the building of little sculptures of words, or symphonic forms, or musical forms, or abstract forms, made out of words. Were you here for that at all?
The Allen Ginsberg Project: Mind, Mouth and Page - 28 (Gertrude Stein): [Gertrude Stein (1874-1946] Student: ["No ideas but in things" (William Carlos Williams) ] - Can you observe words that way? Like, can wor...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On Lisa Robertson’s Nilling

BY SINA QUEYRAS
When I said in an earlier last post that I go to poetry to thinkLisa Robertson was the first poet that came to mind. Hers is a poetry that embraces doubt; that is content to extend rather than conclude, yet never drifts in the sense that Barthes describes in The Pleasure of the Text. “In the pleasant displacement of identity,” she writes, “another time keeps shaping what I will be” (16).
Nilling, Robertson’s latest, is just out from BookThug. It’s a collection of prose essays “On Noise, Pornography, The Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities, and Related Aporias.” It’s dense, and lush. Scan the pages and your vocabulary puffs up with delight.  You realize how pale poetry can be. You realize you are starved. You remember too that to create you need to be inspired. You need to have ideas. You need to tap in to the thrum of intellectual desires as much as experience the physical, note the bodily sensations. All work begins in the archive, Robertson has said, and you feel the archive here. That, and the Wordworthian contemplation before the spilling of corseted, buttressed, emotion. Only after weeks of reading does Robertson begin to write. Reflection is what we are starved for. Reaction we have in abundance.
The importance of reading. The community of books. The distinction between the ideas one is reading, and one’s response to them. This is an essential, and contentious point in contemporary poetry.

Adrienne Rich on "Easy Poetry"

Career-minded poets, expending thought and energy on producing a "publishable manuscript," on marketing their wares and their reputations, as young poets are now urged (and even trained) to do, may have little time left over for thinking about the art itself, ancient and contemporary, and why it matters -- the state of the art itself as distinct from their own poems and vitas. This shallowness of perspective shows up in reams of self-absorbed, complacent poems appearing in literary magazines, poems that begin, "In the sepia wash of the old photograph..."; poems containing far too many words (computer-driven? anyway, verbally incontinent); poems without music; poems without dissonance; brittle poems of eternal boyishness; poems oozing male or female self-hatred; poems that belabor a pattern until it becomes numbing; poems with epigraphs that unfortunately say it all; poems that depend on brand names; others that depend on literary name-dropping ("I have often thought of Rilke here...").
Adrienne Rich on editing "Best American Poetry"



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If a poem costs nothing to write I don't want to read it

MR: Oh, sure. By my early thirties, I think I'd stopped believing I was going to succeed as a poet. It'd been years since I'd had a poem accepted anywhere, and I could tell that what I'd written up to that point was no good. It was indifferent, middling work. I knew that I didn't really know what to do as a poet. I could write semi-competent poems in a couple of different period styles, but they were exercises, nothing more. I continued to write for myself, but I was concentrating on becoming a critic — I'd entered the doctoral program at the University of Chicago and started reviewing poetry for Chicago Review, where I eventually served for a time as contributing editor. It was really because of two people — Srikanth Reddy and Oren Izenberg, both then at the University of Chicago — that I decided to knuckle down and try to be a poet again, for real this time. I showed them some of my middling attempts, and they were both honest and supportive. I remember the first poem I wrote that I thought was good. It's called "Self-titled.” I was 35 years old, had written hundreds of poems, and was only now beginning to feel like I knew what I was doing. More important, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew the sorts of poems I wanted to write and how to write them.
Tweeted the following earlier today: If a poem costs nothing to write I don't want to read it. This interview with Michael Robbins at LARB gets at what that means for me to say. Nothing, not even flarf, or conceptual poetry, or erasures, is good if it's too easy. The world is already full of empty gestures.


Also, further to my earlier posts about mentoring and supporting, contrary to popular belief, Robbins' poems were not pulled out of the New Yorker slush pile. 
Well, that's not the whole story. Briefly, I'd written to him {Muldoon} to ask a question about one of his poems, he wrote back, I asked if he'd look at some of my poems, he said they were smart, and asked to see more. This was all before he was named poetry editor of The New Yorker, but when he was, I thought there was a chance he'd notice my submissions. So it's bit misleading to say I was just plucked from the slush pile. 
Not to say they aren't worth pulling out of a slush pile, but they weren't....
He rejected the first batch I sent in. "Alien vs. Predator" was in the second batch. Then he took "Lust for Life" from the third. Since then, by the way, he's rejected everything I've submitted, like ten rejections in a row. He always writes a nice note with the rejections, and I certainly don't mind: no one's promised atThe New Yorker, and anyway, who cares. 
But that was validation in spades, yeah. Getting a poem in The New Yorker, seeing it in that font, dealing with the fact-checkers ... it's a trip, I won't deny it. I don't see any point in playing it cool, you know? I was tickled as punch. I told everyone I've ever met. I cried. And then to get a second one accepted almost immediately? No fucking way am I playing it cool.
There are people who think publishing in The New Yorker is selling out (but not when Rae Armantrout does it; love Rae, by the way); there are people who think I'm a narcissist for refusing to affect false modesty. Fuck 'em.
Indeed. I do disagree with one point though. The following:
I had been half-heartedly playing with such fragments, sort of post-Language-poetry lyric-hybrid things. I could name a hundred exemplars, but who needs the grief? Those poems are easy to write: they're easy to write badly, and they're easy to write well. 
Yes, they're easy to write badly, but not so easy to write well, though I guess it would be a matter of going through a list of many and putting them on one side or the other--not so interesting. Can one write off the entire "lyric-hybrid" thing in one swipe? I don't think so, though I agree, there are way, way, way, way, way too many easy poems out there. We're drowning in easy poetry.

Stage Door - Lucille Ball's Story 1/2


One of the greats...these are the Lucille Ball clips...

Friday, July 06, 2012

We Want Reviews: Introducing Laura Broadbent & Call For Work

"The great review is one that approaches the corpus curiously and dissectively, determining if it works and what makes it tick.” -Vanessa Place

Who wants a dull review? A good reviewer is a skilled host: ensure your guests’ enjoyment, present the fare slowly, artfully, and with flourish so it speaks for itself. Make your guests want more. Make us want more.

If Poetry is thinking made visible, reviewing is thinking about the thinking in the poetry made visible. A reader wants a review to make her think.

Look for the larger questions the book may pose. An endorsement is not a review. A review gives analysis, not an impressionistic response. Articulate the larger project of a book, rather than simply synopsize.

What are the text’s particular struggles? What is at work, and how is it working? Are there central questions? Is the work original? Important? How is the book read in its historical, political, and commercial contexts? What is its significance in its field?

Ask intelligent and hard questions while always being respectful to the text. There is a difference between respectful and hard questions and a vitriolic attack. As for the latter, the reader gets a sense of the reviewer’s beef as opposed to the meat of the text in question.

You are familiar with the text, you have read it twice, thrice or you have at least performed a close reading of a couple of poems, or you have considered the work in terms of the author’s oeuvre, or the canon within which it speaks, or you address the dialogue it begs of other canons, if applicable. Check out the list of interviews On Reviewing, also over at Constant Critic,  Poetry and Believer. We are looking for diversity, not sameness. Take downs if they can walk the talk, are welcome, as well as straight up enjoyment of the text and whatever in between you can do with style.

Like or don't like isn't the point. If you can do this in under 1500 words we want you. Queries and samples to Laura at reviewslemonhound (@) gmail.com. Comments on Lemon Hound closed while we're in transition. Merci. Watch out for more, and various calls.
“I argue with the work. I take it on face value and see if it stands scrutiny and thumps on the skull. Is it a fine thing among fine things of its kind? Is it a terrible thing, or is it the kind of second-rate thing that Eliot commended as that lesser version of fine from which we may learn or crib something for ourselves.” -Vanessa Place
_________________________________________________________________
Laura Broadbent is a writer, reader, and illustrator from Montreal. Her book OH THERE YOU ARE I CAN'T SEE YOU IS IT RAINING? won the 2012 Robert Kroetsch award and will be coming out with Snare Books in the fall. She is reviews editor at Lemon Hound.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

On Misdirected Energy

The lobbing back and forth of insults between Michael Lista and Jan Zwicky is a depressing thing to watch. I admit I was happy to see Zwicky lob back because let's face it, we rarely see a woman taking on an aggressive young critic the way that Zwicky did. Exhilarating because we see too few women wrestling with public space on this scale. Kudos. Mr. Lista's piece was meant to provoke. That it did. Mr. Lista doesn't seem to have any trouble taking up that space, or hurling insults (oh at ideas, yes, yes, only at ideas), but he doesn't much like it in return. Ad homenim, he will argue, with his book of rhetoric in the air, and fair enough. 

I have not enjoyed either day. Excitement on Twitter or not. They will say, you see, this is why negative is good, but it isn't about negative, it's about mean. 


To be fair, it seems to me that at the core of Mr. Lista's original piece there was a good question: why is Zwicky suggesting silence to women at a time, and in a space, set up to encourage women to speak? This point comes up, but it seems to me that ultimately it's used as a shield to bring up, once again, an old argument taken up by a coterie of poets over the years; an argument I find a diversion and unhelpful, the argument for the negative review. Why? Because who on earth doesn't want to see truth in reviewing? Who on earth doesn't want the best for our literature? Who on earth wants a review culture of gloss and back patting? Of lies? Who wants nice and empty? Being nice serves no one. My back gets up when Mr. Lista and others make similar arguments because they want to link the truth with negative as if that is the only other choice. It's just not so. I don't buy the either or. 


Nor do I agree with Zwicky's position on the whole, but I am glad that she took it. I would like to see more women take such positions even if I don't agree with what they say. I think that the practice of choosing to publish only reviews that want to engage with a given text can be a useful one, particularly, as it seems to have been used by Zwicky in a smaller literary journal. There are all kinds of choices one can make in terms of the kind of reviewing one wants to foster. I certainly don't think it should be mandated. But I don't think any review style should be mandated...other than one of actually working with the book under review.

As for extremes, I want neither.

The problem isn't whether or not a review is positive or negative, the problem is whether or not there is a basic level of respect for the book and the author under review. Swagger isn't truth. It's the terms of the argument that ultimately turn me off. It reduces a very complicated and necessary discussion to false opposites. 

As for the critical? Bring it on, bring it on. With intelligence and humour I hope. You can write a scathing review of a book and be entirely respectful of--not only it but the entire literary undertaking. Witness Michael Robbins "takedown" of Robert Hass. If this is the guy to be emulated, please do. I have no problem with his frankness. And while we don't always agree, I always feel with Robbins that there is an emotionally intelligent person driving the review. That and humour. I don't have to agree, I have to be able to understand the reviewer's position. And it's very clear: 
Like Mary OliverBilly Collins, and Sharon Olds—in their different ways—Hass has made a career out of flattering middlebrow sensibilities with cheap mystery. Unlike those poets, Hass has real talent. The Apple Trees at Olema is a frustrating blend of banality and brilliance. The second volume, Praise, now reads as a primer in late-seventies period style, the kind of laid-back beach koans that led people to believe Galway Kinnell’s “The Bear” was a good poem. There are more berries, more naming of flowers, more embarrassingly tin-eared warbling in the demotic:
It is different in kind from a man and the pale woman
he fucks in the ass underneath the stars
because it is summer and they are full of longing
and sick of birth. They burn coolly
like phosphorous, and the thing need be done
only once.
     —From “Against Botticelli”
Does ass fucking really require such a high-minded justification? Upon being told someone is fucking someone else in the ass, has anyone ever responded, “What! Why?” I regret to inform the reader that Hass goes on to compare this sex act to the sacking of Troy.
I don't find Robbins' review negative. It's smart. Elegant, funny, and smart. 

I would rather read a wildly entertaining take down, a la Robbins, than pretty much any review I've read in Canada over the past year. 

As for the question of choosing silence, it would be interesting to hear a discussion about what that means for Zwicky, and for the women who are going to CWILA, who are part of the surge to ensure more voices are heard. But sadly, all the energy is being taken up once again by the false question of the negative.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Ongoing Notes to My Interview for CWILA


Hi Natalee,
I'm not sure what Flarf has to do with anything here...nor am I sure what model you are referring to. 
Good points. This brief interview can't speak for all women. Nor for all experiences. Nor should it. If it's harsh, if it's blunt, it's because I think that we really need to think about the issue of mentorship and promotion and why great pools of women go unnoticed, their work unengaged with. And because speaking in public is met with the blunt and harsh: that's reality. Hence my call for a boot camp: get used to it, speaking in public is uncomfortable. 
So, if you're squeamish, don't poke the beach rubble, or you can't cover every angle in every response. Further, if we're going to ask questions about difficult topics such as women, power and representation don't expect to like all the answers we get. It's not a simple matter of being supportive. The more I think and witness and watch, the more complicated I realize it is.  
It's simplistic to say it's simply a matter of these books not being reviewed. Who will review them? What context, what discourse? What forum? To what audience? And why are women not writing more reviews? What conversations are they content to have? What conversations do they want to have? How are domestic situations and financial arrangements and "mentorship," playing into those decisions? How do they play into the work? There are larger questions that haven't yet been touched on here: hopefully the conversations will spill out, but in what forum? 
Hopefully we will find ourselves with essays  that appear in the Walrus, or the G&M, or National Post, or Geist, or Maisonneuve--and that we'll see collections of essays from women about poetry and cultural matters that are discussed, not in these comment streams, or not only...
My frustration, clear in my interview, is that speaking out about these issues is costly It attracts a lot of emotional friction and quite frankly, as I say above, it's time better spent pushing each other to write better, longer, go further. What forum do we need for that? That's where I want to go. Maybe this is it. I hope so (yay, Gillian Jerome et al).
And yes, my post above is about poets--but also female public voices. I don't think women in other genres/disciplines are quite as critically underrepresented as poetry. Here. Now. It's a particular problem. 
How can we make women more comfortable speaking in public? There are many voices out there that I respect, that I would like to hear more from--I mention Karen Solie and Ken Babstock because every poet knows who they are, but there are more--Sue Goyette, Katia Grubisic, Kate Eichhorn, Angela Carr, Kaz, Sonnet L'abbe, and young ones such as Nikki Reimer and Natalie Zed, Gillian Wigmore, and so many in Vancouver that I have met briefly, but was very excited by, and now my students coming up--Emma Healey, Laura Broadbent, Lise Gaston, Ben Hynes...new voices that are creating their own forums. Here is Emma Healey's sophomore project: 
So sure, there is a lot to celebrate--there are some great young critics, Karis Shearer, Erin Wunker, and yourself. Still, there is also, I hope, a way to work smarter, and I for one am tired of waves of women's work disappearing (and that's another complicated issue....). 
Call me blunt, but I'm going for national a six pack of Susan Sontags and a woman on every masthead. What will it take to get us there?  
Cheers,