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Protest, Poems

I haven’t been reading much since the election. Other kinds of action have filled that space. The exceptions have been The Yerbamala Collective’s scalding pamphlets (which I want to slip into the back and front of every textbook). And, yesterday, a handful of poems from Sibling Rivalry Press’ If You Can Hear This: Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration (digital copy here). Some of the poems that kept me up:

from RE Katz’ quickly metamorphosing “A Controlled Fall”: “Do porn or get out alive/do porn to get out alive/do a lively porn to come out/come out alive/come out now/come out national/national come out of poor day.”

from Michael G. Federspiel’s “Here”: “Family is two wolves standing side-by-side / Each with one paw mangled–but touching.”

from Jocelyn Marshall’s “For Them”: “Do not____ this doesn’t include me when / You do not get to _____ you don’t / count, and she / does.”

This is also to say that the election has changed my relationship to poetry. I had a whole stack of books I’ve been meaning to read, and I’ve put that stack aside because those books don’t feel relevant right now. So let me know what you’re reading that meets the urgency of this moment. I’m hungry.

Also, hey why don’t you support the Buffalo #25?

Hoping to get back to semi-regular posting. We’ll see.

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Poem-A-Day & Radio Conversation

I’ve been quiet in terms of publishing individual poems as I finish up my third manuscript for Black Ocean but the Academy of American Poets sent this one out in the spring as the Poem of the Day.

More recently, I had a lively conversation with Al Abanado and Jae Newman about religion and spirituality on poetry on Al’s radio show, Flour City Yawp on WAYO 104.3 FM (Rochester, NY).  Most of all I tried to put forward the idea of devotional poetry that isn’t about transcendence, one thats embedded in the local and political. Not that my poetry does that well but thats the sort of relation I’ve been thinking seems most necessary. I also try to put forward some unexpected names as “religious” poets, from the everyday rituals of Yoko Ono to the dharma-punk aspects of C.A. Conrad’s work. And there are many more poets doing the necessary work of queering religion and spiritual practice or reconstituting it through radical feminist and decolonial lenses.

Anyway, here’s the conversation.

 

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Article Published

After several years of learning how to do scholarship, I’ve finally published an article, and this article recently became available online. It’s title: “Shared Sorrow, Shared Abundance: Water-Waste Flows In Palestinian Literature.” It extends work I did in Jim Holstun’s seminar on the literature of Israel and Palestine and combines it with work I’d also been doing on necropolitics and material studies. I’m acutely aware of the article’s limits but hope its work can contribute in a small way to more sensitive reading and continued discussion  of the works of Palestinian authors  Anton Shammas, Sahar Khalifeh, and Taha Muhammad Ali as well as the Palestinian literature that continues emerges under Israeli occupation and apartheid. Political action is necessary as well. Here in New York, for intellectual workers, protesting Cuomo’s BDS Blacklist is an urgent matter.

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Received & Reading

Got GivenI’ve been busy pouring words into a lot of different boxes so this little blog has languished but I’m hoping to get back to updating it regularly.

So I’ll start with this little pile of poetry books I’ve received in the last six months or so. Many need no introduction (Dodie Bellamy’s Feminine Hijinx, Brathwaite’s History of the Voice). Others, I’ll write about at length elsewhere (Karen Leona Anderson’s Receipt and Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s wondrous Solar Maximum). One is buried by other books Stephen Karl’s Sister, which I blurbed (and loved). One I’m too eternally startled by to say anything responsibly (Cheryl’s Nobody Dancing).

Don’t Let’s by Edric of Great Lakes & 5 Points by Patrick Reidy. The latter of these is published by the Buffalo Ochre Papers, which is part of Yellow Field, both of which are, as far as I know, efforts of Edric Mesmer. Now that I’ve been in Buffalo for five years, I fully understand what an idiosyncratic marvel Edric’s output is. Yellow Field and the Buffalo Ochre Papers keep an extremely minimal digital presence and so rely on Edric distributing the journal by mail and in person at events in Buffalo. There’s a certain generosity behind that–knowing I’m not receiving an omni-directional broadcast but a specific invitation to care about what a group of writers is up to. And in that I made one of those happy discoveries that someone else working away in the archives at Buffalo was a poet too–PR.  I love the kind of easy spill of language in Edric’s poems– “the foamy lather of palavering– / the least cooing of doves” –whose are textures fascinating in the sense that I don’t feel like I’m ever proceeding straight through his poems but asked to linger around certain nodes, tracking back and forth.

Foundlings: the first non-student lit magazine publication of a former student. I was  happy to see this, amazed at how quickly some writers jump into publishing. But it also has me thinking more and more about what to say about all of that to writers just getting a start in the 2016 media environment where there are a staggering number of avenues for publication.

See also some really special chapbooks from Buffalonians Shayna Israel, Marie Elia, and Alison Fraser. These books gave me a lot of joy.

 

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Small Notes #4

Small Notes: A Curriculum for the Soul/Matter//Anarch

 

I picked up an armful of  70s A Curriculum for The Soul chapbooks at the archive table at the Buffalo Small Book Fair.

It turns out that the Curriculum series, put out by no other than THE INSTITUE FOR FURTHER STUDIES, were commissioned after Olson died, the titles from a page of Olson’s notes titled “An Outline for a Curriculum of the Soul.” [citation] A course which I guess he never got to teach at UB. Probably funding limitations. The curriculum is eclectic and cryptic—“Alchemy,” “organs & / function – activity / of the soul / or psyche or / Heaven or God” – and relies upon categories which by modern standards are entirely objectionable in totalizing complex cultures into tiny fractions of “knowledge” (“the Arabs”). Others just seem awesome: “dance as individual / body-power.”

The individual chapbooks were supposed to in a sense announce a new wave of poets just coming into their own in the 70s, taking up and innovating Olson’s poetics, his yoking of history, science, armchair anthropology, the lyric, and constant roving. This didn’t happen.

And some peoples here in Buffalo I love groaned when I told them I was reading a few of these over. Instead, with a few exceptions, they seem like a cul-de-sac, an exhaustion of what his method could do, repeating the trope of the mini-voyage, revealing the lasting power of Romantic ideals of the environment and celebration of transcendent contact with virgin (i.e. depopulated) biomes that lead implicitly to boring and now useless ecological platitudes about the necessity of preserving wilderness and the repetition of human/nature binaries. What about cities? Cosmopolitanism?

Things look dim for poetics springing from Olson.

On the other hand, there’s Duncan and John Thorpe’s Matter. I’ve always found Olson intriguing in the ranginess of his ideas, the surprising juxtapositions and swerves; however, it never did anything on the level of language to make any of it stick. As a poet, he’s more interesting in theory than in practice. Reading Duncan’s contribution to this series, particularly the joyous “Go, My Songs, Even As You Came to Me,” underscored this fact. But Duncan was familiar enough already, and there were not surprises in his entry. These came in John Thorpe’s Matter.

If Pound was obsessed with economics and Olson in excavating (and inventing) indigeneity. Thorpe’s Matter treats science and technology as inescapably shaping the economics and praxis of his present, mediating both the “environment” and relations through production. Instead of sweeping away modernizing forces in favor of a literary or indigenous prime, he dramatizes them at work in perpetually reshaping the present—coffee plantations littered with old structures and new building, various types of labor, etc.

These lines get at the best and worst of what I’m talking about:

There is a primary drive, say, displaced.

The earth fractured prime. Oh did they

only want it to divide, in dense interactions

to trade it for something of greater

value? Niels Bohr, Edward Teller,

can those men know what pain

is? (Ed: GROAN!!!)…

….

…35% of the earth’s energy

consumed, the United States

dynamo cooking away like a

story that ends at the top

(the sewer pumped up to

the penthouse)…

They’re followed by a long prose passage—

By now we have started pruning. I checked out a pick leaning up against the shed by the water tank, stopped for a mouth of water & under the tank’s spigot I noticed slugs crawling around the chunks of drain rock. The water tank is huge, a landmark. We’re clearing coffee, cutting trees & small growths—more tiny snips & cuts than a man could do in his whole life, just on these few mountain acres.

Which takes a Gary Snyder sort of alertness to the labor and technologies which shape landscapes/ecologies and brings it into resonance with scientific and economic discourses. Thorpe’s constant return to the scene of physical labor, which is in this sequence distinctly masculine, and dismissal of atomic physicists because they’re not tough enough, limits this to what Edgar Garcia (check) referred to, in a killer talk of De Angula, a strictly heteronormative environmentalist discourse.

Still, being intrigued by lost causes and cultural losers, I was almost excited to find out that I couldn’t find out anything about John Thorpe. Which means he is almost anyone I want him to be.

Anarch by Frances Richards

One of the most intriguing books I’ve read in awhile, so much so that I thought to write a review proper then realized it was published in 2012, (and I’m not sure I have the lexicon anyway). They say that the tail of a book of poems is about 2 years (they work slow), like you can still write a review in that window. Which makes a magazine that only reviews books of poems 2-3 years after they’ve been published one of the many enterprises I’ll never get around to founding.

Anyway,

“if you turn to

if you go to

if you click

a dizzying trip. Rest

in hesitation. Something like totally

counterteleological collage–

sloppy thinking as good, as a messy come-on. In structural polyvocality, epic

pointing down between the spores, less a tiny

than a near unspace. Compassion

is the hardest human thing.”

The poem speaks, like many of Anne Waldman’s, from chaos, the space of creation which it encompasses, from the point of view of that, as death, constantly proposing, but as the poem itself notes, “counter teleological”-ly. That is, there are many poems which simulate a kind of chaos via a disordering of normative syntax, floating phrases, and so on, but these can often simply replicate a cinematic effect, a forward narrative simulating motion by fast forwarding many still images. There’s much more resistance in Anarch’s relation to its subjects as it swings from the macro, to the micro, the thing or a relation and a possible ontology animating it.

I remember a line Amanda read in St. Catherine’s that came off as metapoetic, like a an exhaustion of the use of “fire” and “milk” in poems. Then I came across Sprat’s observation on the poets of his day and those proceeding it: “They had tir’d out the Sun, and Moon, and Stars with their Similitudes.” This gloss by editors: “New discoveries can supply new images ‘which may relieve their fellow-creatures, that have long born the burden alone, and have long bin vex’d by the imaginations of Poets.’”

Which is why lines like this kill me:

“An experienced fire scholar

observes we hold a species monopoly

over fire, fire

is a profoundly interactive technology…

….

And out of the wilderburbs

we reinstated fire to remedy a longtime

fire famine. An expected major wind event

took place. Light ‘em or fight ‘em

and shoving biomass around, hazards

of reintroduction of the lost species of

fire resulted quickly

in a 14,000-acre black-and-silverscape

to anneal our eyes

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Received

Photo on 5-18-15 at 8.43 PM Mike Maggio’s Garden of Rain.Photo on 5-18-15 at 8.41 PM Dreamboat #13 . Photo on 5-18-15 at 8.42 PM #2No Infinite Vol. 3

Garden of Rain by Mike Maggio

Mike has always been a political poet (past collections: Oranges From Palestine, deMOCKcracy). This is a change: a more reflective, directly lyrical collection. Finding their quiet intensity even more so given the (necessary) fury of his past work.

Dreamboat #13 (January 2015 / Oakland, Calif.)

Poems by Sean Bonney, Judith Goldman, Jacqueline Waters, D. Scot Miller.

Sean Bonney: “not so long ago I tried to convince you that plague is the only solidarity we might have left, as if that plague might lead to some kind of new force of collectivity, on both molecular and social levels, wherein a new utopia might open up before our eyes, a rose-garden of strange harmony, new forms of human and inhuman love. Perhaps I got it wrong. I mean, I’ve been ill for quite a while now, and if I feel solidarity with anything at all, its simply with the forces of namelessness and invisibility”…then it continues to be heavy and political in a charmingly bracing way.

No Infinite Vol. 3, Spring 2015

Smoldering southern freak outs that a voice in me feels intense kinship w/. The poise of Sara Nicholson. The pungency of Justin Katko.. Justin Katko drops a ton of bricks on handwringing over poetry’s non-revolutionary illegitimacy and the po’ could every be cheap as free until its free and you can eat it too. On critics asking poetry to uncomplicate itself for an illusory working class audience so it can be comprehended: “The main problem with this fantasy is that it is upside-down: because it is intellectual poets who largely fail to comprehend the complicated forms and ideas made by the working classes. Universities will always be on the back foot in their provision for these forms. Possibly our work will increase in correct complication as we audience the poets whom the upside-down fantasy thinks should be audiencing us” (49).

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Americans / An Anti-Poem / It Chose Me / Reading Notes

Photo on 4-8-15 at 9.02 PM 12:10 Long week & I have 4 hours to give this (Joshua’s book) to Juliette Reading about more land expropriation, more theft from somewhere that’s not here–Arizona to Modi’ India. Am not nostalgic for small production, I’m nostalgic for meaningful struggle against trans-national mega capital, thefts of agency and self- & communal-determination, as it intersects w/other work and struggle: a future. Here we are–JW’s dedication to force of rejection, that put the book in this informal circulation which I think is a good home. The sprit of this book is non-disclosure so I won’t try to chop it into an argument or quote, just register how we tangle: Beef-mandala & something about rendering. Animal-headed consumer emblems. cf Helen Adams’ collages / cf Duncan’s grand collage? Tho more despair here, the play w/scale as both exuberant and vertiginous and so much food, meat. I’d been thinking what are the recent poems not about consumer culture (something like Sprawl) but about actual consumption, the process of rendering. Here’s one. & whenever I think of beef, AR’s Cow pops up. “Lake Effect” / tho Josh moved to Denver, I’m thrilled w/any Rust-Lake belt call back.There’s a manifesto here RE: dada and surrealism where “surrealism” becomes a mantra and a fugue-y repetition between slice and circle.  Will leave it to you to find out. This ten minutes was better than any AWP. 12:24 PM