Saturday, February 23, 2008

Craig Morgan Teicher - Brenda Is in the Room

Brenda Is in the Room
Craig Morgan Teicher

OK, so I’ve gone off the deep end over this book. And what a wonderful book to go off the deep end over: humane, warm, searching, without guile or sarcasm, it unfolds comfortably through the mental life of a person fully in the now. It references, and pays homage to, other poets without anxiety: Bin Ramke, Rosmarie Waldrop, A.R. Ammons, Sylvia Plath, William Bronk. It’s a leisurely book, but not without its difficulty:

I want to stop time, to stop

the poem from ending, to
stave off the next thing which
might not be as pleasurable,

as much as I want to hurry time
to its conclusion, to pass over

potentially painful minutes

This book was chosen by Paul Hoover for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. I recommend it with the highest recommendation: you must go out now and buy two copies. Teicher’s meditative voice unfolds strongest over his long poems, but something of his power of attention and voice can be seen in shorter works was well. Here’s one, with a playful invocation of Ezra Pound near the end:

A Thing Defined

There is no such thing as a happy
person. The hour has come

for generalizations, meaning
falsehoods winningly articulated.

Person: to stand in the way of
something happening naturally.

Happiness: the metal thing

in a car that goes in and out, making
that pshht-pshht sound.

I suppose this is also the hour

of definitions. And complaints.
Did you ever notice that if you sit still

long enough, you just get dirty?
Brenda says that most dust

is just dead skin cells. What
are the chances

that a particular flake of dead skin

will return, like a migrating animal,
to its native spot

on its former body? The hour
of speculations is at hand! Chances are

grim, my friend, very grim, and

so this is gray weather.
Friend: cacophonous; birdlike; obsessed.

Very: to clap hands, especially
in the absence

of cause for celebration.

The apparition of these raindrops outside;
flakes of dead skin resetting atop live skin.

The hour—of what—has ended.
Hour: a thing defined in terms of itself.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Later that same night

Milling about after the reading with Wayne Miller, Zachary Schomburg, Julie Cohen, and Betsy Wheeler.

So 2 Live Crew were in Lincoln, and so were Tha Poetz. And Wayne Miller added to show scale.

Zachary Schomburg. Yes, he really is that friendly.

Julie Cohen and Mathias Svalina were very generous, offering us a place to stay.

Pretty much sums it up.

Lincoln NE with Betsy Wheeler & Wayne Miller

I drove up to Lincoln NE with Wayne Miller.

Betsy Wheeler and Wayne Miller talked over the top of my bag before the reading. I've recently switched from an old brown leather bag with a rainbow row of butterfly clips to a brand new black leather bag with a rainbow row of butterfly clips. Just keeping you up to date.

Betsy Wheeler reading from her brand new chapbook, Start Here.

Wayne Miller oddly enough looking a bit like Johnny Carson for a second while reading from Only the Senses Sleep. He also read from a new collection (more on that news soon).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

AWP 08 5

Darren Defrain
Joy Katz plus one!
Zachary Schomburg and Joshua Kryah
Chad Parmenter telling John Ashbery a story.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Heart On

It's Valentines Day. Do you have a heart on?

AWP 08 4

Janet Holmes & Jennifer Militello. They don't actually know each other, they were just walking by at the same time.
Joshua Kryah
Anna Leahy
Rumit Love Pancholi & Christina Yu
Lee Hirsch & Cynthia Lowen

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

AWP 08 3

Martha Collins in a hurry.
Eduardo C. Corral has the same phone I do.
Carol Ann Davis at the elevators
Oliver De La Paz making a fist.
Chris Forhan & Alessandra Lynch are much more cool than I am.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Clean Part Reading Series February 16

Sat. Feb. 16, 2008. 7pm: John Gallaher, Wayne Miller & Betsy Wheeler

John Gallaher is the author of Gentlemen in Turbans, Ladies in Cauls (2001), The Little Book of Guesses (2007), and Radio Good Luck (forthcoming 2010). His poems appear or are forthcoming in New American Writing, Field, Colorado Review, and The Best American Poetry 2008. he lives in rural Missouri and co-edits The Laurel Review.

Wayne Miller is the author of a collection of poems, Only the Senses Sleep (New Issues, 2006), and a chapbook, What Night Says to the Empty Boat (Greentower, 2005). He's also translator of I Don't Believe in Ghosts (BOA, 2007), by Albanian poet Moikom Zeqo, and co-editor of the forthcoming anthology New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008). Wayne lives in Kansas City and teaches at the University of Central Missouri, where he edits Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing.
Originally from the Upper Mississippi River Valley, Betsy Wheeler studied poetry and the art of the book at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse where she was a Maple House Fellow for Sutton Hoo Press. She received her MFA in poetry from The Ohio State University in 2005, then lived, worked, and wrote as the Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University's Stadler Center for Poetry from 2005-2007. Her poems have recently appeared in Bat City Review, MiPoesias, Pebble Lake Review, Forklift Ohio, Ping Pong, and Absent. Her chapbook, Start Here, is available from Small Anchor Press. Co-editor of Pilot and Pilot Books, she lives in Northampton, Massachusetts where she works for Wondertime magazine.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Post-Name Name Game

Some guys playing chess, withdrawn from their historical context

A very interesting post from Reginald Shepherd as he works to define “post-avant,” which many poets are called, with a fascinating aftermath:

Here’s a paragraph from Shepherd’s brief essay:


"Post-avant" (as in, "post-avant-garde"—insider groups love shorthand) poets can be described as writers who, at their best, have imbibed the lessons of the modernists and their successors in what might be called the experimental or avant-garde stream of American poets, including the Objectivists (especially Oppen and Zukofsky), what have been called the New American Poetries (from Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan to John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara), particularly the Projectivist/Black Mountain School and the New York School(s), and the Language poets (including such poets and polemicists as Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman), without feeling the need (as so many other poetic formations have) to pledge allegiance to a particular group identity (the poetry world is full of fence-building and turf wars) or a particular mode of proceeding artistically. As poet and editor Rebecca Wolff writes of her journal Fence, a home of the post-avant, such writing “intentionally blurs the distinction between 'difficulty' and 'accessibility,' preferring instead to address a continuum of utterance.” Though many of these poets have projects and even systems, there aren’t a lot of programs. There’s much prose writing and thinking about poetry, and many, many blogs (this is a very wired “generation”), but not many manifestoes.


What a nice paragraph, naming off many of my favorite poets, and what an interesting series of reactions his post has received. Go there and read it for yourself. It’ll take some time, though. When I printed it off it went on for something like 24 pages…

I will add this: there does seem to be a different sensibility, a different idea of what makes for a poem’s unity, in some poets writing now, versus most of the poetry previously written. That’s purely descriptive, not evaluative. Think what you want of the poetry itself, it is different.

Shepherd writes:

“Some of these writers have been called Elliptical poets by Steve Burt […] Some of them have been called ‘third way’ writers by Ron Silliman. Some of their work has been called ‘lyrical investigations’ by me . . . “

That “third way” bit was difficult for a lot of readers to deal with. Here’s what Silliman writes about the Third Way:

“…what I see as the promise of a Graham Foust is that I think he works from any perspective. If you’re a fan of Wendell Berry, you will like Foust. If you’re a fan of Billy Collins, you will like Foust. If you like C.D. Wright, or Charles Bernstein or Lynne Dreyer, you will like Graham Foust. In this sense, he is one of the younger poets who strikes me as having moved toward a post-militant American poetics, neither post-avant nor Quietist. Which in a way is what Third Way poets, from Bob Hass to Forrest Gander to Ann Lauterbach to Jorie Graham have been advocating for years now. But the Third Way has always struck me as predicated upon the existence of the other two. Younger poets today I think have more of an opportunity of learning from all worlds without having to sign up & pick sides. And that in turn will itself impact how writing gets done, going forward.”

So for Silliman, Third Way is not post-avant. Post-avant is a more deeply experimental mode, which is placed (I think?) in opposition to what he names (rather pejoratively, I feel) Quietist.

Is it all a shell game of lists of one’s favorite poets? Well, perhaps. But even if that is the case, it’s still valuable. As anthologies (realized, or just held in a list of names as Shepherd does here) are always interesting, and helpful.

Are the poets Reginald Shepherd lists at the end of his short essay emblematic of a 3rd way? A second and a half way? Do they owe more to Sylvia Plath or Gertrude Stein? Or Wallace Stevens? John Ashbery? The names for this group of poets changes, as well as the names of poets listed under the heading, but that doesn’t change the fact that something is up, and many of these poets keep getting named as the center of the something that is up. (Disclosure: my name appears on this list, and, well, I’ve never been named as near the center of anything, except in the formulation of “self-centered.”)

Oppen, Stevens, and Stein do seem to be a Holy Trinity of sorts hovering over many poets writing today, just as The New York School (again disparate and unified only in the “herd-of-cats” sense) seems to have worked out much of its territory, but with a different tone. And the poets on Shepherd’s list are, by and large, different from each other, though it can be said that they collectively don’t owe much if anything to Robert Frost . . .

Maybe attempting to describe such a group (which isn’t really a group so much as Shepherd [and others] noticing that some poets have a loose similarity of approach to composition) is doomed, but that doesn’t negate the fact that’s helpful and important to try. Descriptions are as necessary as they are problematic.

Why this should be so controversial is beyond me. OK, maybe I’m a bit disingenuous here. I see why it could be controversial, as any list of names, or name of a group or tendency, any act of naming, is an act of calling forth. We can’t talk about something without naming it, and naming it allows it, gives it, some amount of power. There are many people who don’t like these poets, who rather like the poetry that this group is said to swerve from, while robbing from. People with an investment in the history of how and why styles of poetry have emerged and have continued might not be very happy with a new group of poets who say, “hey, interesting compositional strategy, I think I’ll try that, mixed with a little of this,” when that this is a tendency from a rival poetic tendency. The question is this: does one need to take a prior poet’s background stance (political views, historical circumstance, etc) into consideration in order to take what they write as an influence? The answer, I believe, is “no.” That’s a big NO to some people.

There are many poets out there right now, scribbling away, and there are many circles of affiliation (political, aesthetic, friendship), though, of course, no poet worth much is wholly like another. To take, to research, and believe my way into what each poet thinks (or thought) would be a bewildering mess. Why a poet has done what that poet has done with words is much less interesting than what the poet has done with words. Suffice it to say, in Reginald Shepherd’s list of names, he’s listed pretty closely (with only a few poet’s I’d exclude, and a few I’d add) my favorite poets.

I’m mildly disappointed that we’ve stopped using the term “postmodern.” I thought it held, and still holds, quite a bit of descriptive power for the contemporary situation. Our present situation sits better with the definitions of the postmodern than did those of the 70s and 80s. There was a wonderful list of Modern and Postmodern tendencies in a book by Ihab Hassan I read once that I thought was great fun. Most of the poets in Shepherd’s group would fit well on that list.

One of the respondents to Shepherd’s essay, Henry Gould, writes, “Neither the current "post-avantists" nor their supposed "third-way" relatives have much in common anymore with that earlier era, which was marked by open cultural conflicts between Establishment and Resistance. Nowadays, supposedly radical culture-crit, poetry school, and organic vegetables are hip market commodities.”

This position makes it obvious to me that there is, indeed, a real and open cultural conflict here. For whatever that’s worth. The tone and stance against these poets and the act of attempting to name their poetic tendencies reveals the value in attempting to define this way of being in language these poets (or most of them—or some similar formulation of names) exemplify.

Or something like that.

Friday, February 08, 2008

AWP 08 2

The Laurel Review co-editor Rebecca Aronson and contributing editor Reginald Shepherd

Mary Jo Bang!

Erin Belieu and [someone please remind me of his name!]

Dan Chaon
Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover

I wish that I had one of those cameras that you wear around your neck that takes a picture every three seconds. As it is, I have to remember to take pictures, which I’m not good at. Actually, I’m not good at remembering things in general, which I’ve now decided is a gift.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

AWP 08 1

The Barn Owl Review - editor Mary Biddinger (with the first issue!) and contributor Joshua Weber
The Journal - editor Kathy Fagan (playing horned-bunny) and author Mark Svenvold
Pleiades - Editors Kevin Prufer (playing phone tag) and Wayne Miller (looking like he just heard some good news - I wonder what that could be?)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

AWP 08 is dead. Long live AWP 09!

So anyway, I traveled to New York last week, as did a zillion people. I saw some of them. I got pictures of a few. I missed so many I was hoping to see again (G.C. Waldrep, Michael Dumanis, Cate Marvin, Greg Wrenn, and on and on), and many I was hoping to meet (Sarah Vap, Mark Bibbins, and on and on and…).

Really too many to count. Numbered and numberless.

And what about the panels and readings? Edson! Tate! Armantrout! Strand! The three-level bookfair? “Excuse me, do you know where table 490 is?”

It was all too much, really. I wish this thing were half the size, and twice a year, or something. Or something something something.

Some pictures of some people on the way...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Soup or Tuesday?

All politicians are local.

Or something like that.