Friday, November 28, 2008

Ceremony of Thanks

“So much good has been flowing in to me on all sides, that the mere ceremony of returning thanks has prevented me from having any practical life.”

Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guest Blogger: Supporting the Unit

“We are rolling into November with lots of activities planned. We will be discussing the continent of Europe, specifically England. Our focus will be on the Pilgrims, their reasons for choosing to leave England, preparation for their journey, the voyage, discoveries upon arrival and the many challenges they faced the first year. We will be supporting this unit with many hands on projects. This focus project deals with the perspective of the children involved in this event. We do not judge or delve into the uncomfortable historical misrepresentations we have all learned to question. We try to help the children understand the condition of life in England and on the ship, as well as the hardships the children endured building a life in a new country.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Why I Am Not A Huge Groan"

... poetry is a kind of dionysia as nozzle ...

Lanny Quarles

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Round Midnight: Bettridge, Fisher, Sand at PSU, 11/20/08

Thursday’s reading at Portland State had a kind of tragic symmetry—four poets, four audience members (4.5 if you count the 3-year-old who came in near the end. But I think she was there strictly for the cookies). The upside was that I heard new work from three of my favorite Portlanders; with a little imagination, you could pretend it was an after-hours jam, when the jazzers used to play mostly for each other, except it was 4 PM instead of AM, and with cookies and cider.

Joel Bettridge started off with a few poems from Presocratic Blues, due out with Chax Press next spring. The pieces he read marry the terse cosmological speculations of the early Greek philosopher-poets to the sexy concerns of the blues. Some of the poems took the form of jokes (so Anacharsis says to a cocktail waitress …), others borrowed lyric motifs and patterns from popular song. Thinking it over later, I wondered about the connection between the multiple variations possible within simple forms like “walked into a bar” jokes or the blues and the Presocratic sense of existence as one substance distributed across shifting forms. What if Being was like sex, multiples made one, and Becoming the many come-on lines that precede it? And which one of the two is the poetry? Maybe that’s the appeal of Heraclitus and his band—you don’t have to split one into twos until Socrates. Are the blues in the title a lament for that loss of the whole?

Tom Fisher read from the “Songs” section of his manuscript in progress. Each poem in the series is named for a pop song, with titles that range from Phil Ochs’s “No More Songs” to Rush’s “Rivendell,” Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” to The Specials’s “Ghost Town.” The relationship between the title track and the poem that followed was loose and appealingly opaque; Fisher’s language was taut and philosophical in a way that focused attention on the experience of listening, with pop music used as a kind of sonar for making a self appear. In the course of his reading, he mentioned Ochs’s record 50 Phil Ochs Fans Can’t Be Wrong, and the abbreviation that title relies on to make its point was a key technique in Fisher’s poems too, where concision and white space worked to intensify the meanings of individual words (“Fantasy abides little/precisions”). He explained one poem as a kind of reenactment of the “doubling” you used to be able to do on old cassette players, where you could sing over the original tape while the song still played behind you (“the voice passes and doubles/in the analog technology/of small selves”). The poems seemed to explore the implications of that particular understanding of “voice,” and hold it up against sound’s necessary opposite, silence: “Sing goodbye to song in songs,” “encryptions of the withdrawn,” “No More Songs.” A few of these poems are up online at Cultural Society; I’d like to hear all of them soon.

I keep meaning to blog about Kaia Sand’s powerful Rembember to Wave: A Poetry Walk in North Portland back in September, and now I’m sorry I haven’t, because her performance Thursday was a deft adaptation of the walk to the textier confines of a poetry reading. Speaking against a recording of instructions for Japanese internment in Portland in the 1940s, Sand repeated key phrases in a way that set seemingly neutral bureaucratic language into new, more sinister contexts. The material she mined from corporate ads, disaster relief manuals, legal documents, and—as part of a separate project—language from “The NAFTA” turned the vocabulary of regulation and control into a type of dissenting social lyric. If poetry is a heightened awareness of language, Sand’s poems insisted on working with language we’re not supposed to be aware of—codicils, bans, exclusions, and obscure provisos whose power depends on their ability to slip under the public record. While she read, she passed around “texts” that wove maps, words sliced from treaties, drawings, and actual stitching into the space of the writing, symbol and enactment of the labor her poems engage. Her reading complemented the approach to poetry in Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry and Public Space, where poems become a form of intervention to help reclaim an increasingly restricted “public.”

I hope there’s more public to hear it next time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

News from the Oracle at Delphi

Poetry as shurikens with Verdi operas for tips.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Seven Seconds in the Art World

Thanks to Eileen Tabios for turning me on via blog to Barry Schwabsky’s review of Seven Days in the Art World in The Nation. Especially liked this tasty locution:

“Art is the field that exists in order for there to be contention about what art is.”

He goes on to argue that despite academic theories, waves of Dada-like anti-art gestures rolling through the century, the “umbilical cord of gold” that threatens to turn artworks into commodities pure and simple, and savage doubts about the social role of the museum along with objects it contains, collectors themselves keep coming back for old romantic goodies like uniqueness, originality, visionary struggle—“the revelation of creative selfhood through the manipulation of impersonal materials.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading at Portland State this Thursday: Bettridge, Fisher, Koeneke & Sand

I’m reading with three of my favorite poets & Pacific Northwesterners—Joel Bettridge, Tom Fisher & Kaia Sand—this Thursday, 4 PM at Portland State University. What you do is, you make your way to Portland (see map at left), find Cramer Hall 117 (the University Studies Office) and ask the bookworm/bon vivant at the front desk where to turn. May you somehow find us.
University Studies Teaching & Research Series presents:

JOEL BETTRIDGE, TOM FISHER, RODNEY KOENEKE & KAIA SAND Portland State University, Cramer Hall 117

JOEL BETTRIDGE is the author of That Abrupt Here and co-editor of Ronald Johnson: Life and Works, a collection of essays on the increasingly influential poet. He teaches in the English Department and University Studies Program at PSU.

TOM FISHER is a poet and scholar of silence, whose research focuses on 20th-century poets who stopped writing. He teaches courses on literary modernism, popular culture, and American studies in the English Department and University Studies Program at PSU.

is author of the poetry books Musee Mechanique and Rouge State. A new collection, Rules for Drinking Forties, appears as a Cy Press chapbook this fall.

is the author of Interval, selected as a Small Press Traffic Book of the Year, and co-author with Jules Boykoff of Landscapes of Dissent: Guerilla Poetry and Public Space. She is co-founder of The Tangent Press and reading series in Portland.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tottered or Staggered?

It was Damion Searls (not pictured at left) who tipped me off to the new translation of Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge while I was in San Francisco. This is one of those books I’ve beaten my head against many times, started and stopped, bought then resold then re-bought in a rainbow of different editions, turned upside-down and shaken on some instinctive but otherwise unfounded hunch there’s bound to be something to fall out of it for me. But the right vacation always meets the wrong translation, or catches me in an inter-Brigge period where I can’t track down the copy I’m sure I had.

Burton Pike, who along with Sophie Wilkins stirred Musil to life in English, may be the magic key. Here he is up against Stephen “StephenMitchellBooks” Mitchell in the first few lines:
September 11, rue Toullier

So, this is where people come in order to live, I would have rather thought: to die. I have been out. I have seen: hospitals. I saw a man who tottered and collapsed. People gathered around him, that spared me the rest. I saw a pregnant woman. She was pushing herself with difficulty along a high warm wall, which she sometimes reached out to touch as if to convince herself that it was still there. Yes, it was still there. And behind it? I looked on my map: Maison d’Accouchement. Good. They will deliver her—they can do that.

trans. Burton Pike
September 11th, rue Toullier

So this is where people come to live; I would have thought it is a city to die in. I have been out. I saw: hospitals. I saw a man who staggered and fell. A crowd formed around him and I was spared the rest. I saw a pregnant woman. She was dragging herself heavily along a high, warm wall, and now and then reached out to touch it as if to convince herself that it was still there. Yes, it was still there. And behind it? I looked on my map: maison d’accouchement. Good. They will deliver her—they can do that.

trans. Stephen Mitchell

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dept. of Monday: History Edition

May the stutter be part of the record.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tangent Reading Saturday: Dinh, Koeneke & Hardacker

Dear Friends,

Please join us for the first Tangent reading of the new hope era on SATURDAY, NOV. 15 @ 7 PM. Feel free to come to the Clinton Corner Café early and have dinner, or join the party afterward.
Tangent presents
Clinton Corner Café, 2633 SE 21st Avenue (@ Clinton) Portland, OR

LINH DINH is the author of two collections of stories, Fake House and Blood and Soap, and four books of poems, including most recently Borderless Bodies and Jam Alerts. Blood and Soap was chosen by the Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His work has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007 and Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, among other places.

Dinh is also the editor of the anthologies Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam and Three Vietnamese Poets, and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao. His poems and stories have been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and he has been invited to read his works all over the US, London, Cambridge, Paris, Berlin and Reykjavik. He has also published widely in Vietnamese.

is author of the poetry collections
Musee Mechanique and Rouge State. A new chapbook, Rules for Drinking Forties, is due out this fall from Cy Press. A poem has been translated into Icelandic. He writes frequently about poetry and Portland at his blog, at ... well, here.

is an experimental filmmaker and educator. She has been making films and videos for over 13 years and her work has screened widely in festivals across the U.S. Currently she teaches film/video studies and production at Pacific University in Oregon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

News from the Oracle at Delphi

Experiment begins in ressentiment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

CAMELS!, Barf!, Unincorporated Territory!, Ferment!, Try!: Works Received in San Francisco, 10/31/08

Brandon Brown CAMELS! (Taxt, 2008)
Brandon Brown is up there with Alli Warren and Dana Ward on my list of Poets From Whom I’d Most Like to See A Book-Length Collection. But Brown’s used the chapbook to such good effect since 2005’s My Life as a Lover that I’ve come to see their sequence as a form unto itself, a kind of delayed serial poem that leaves itself time to grow and distill between installments. CAMELS! amplifies Brown’s thinking about translation as an index of our relationship to the (usually Middle Eastern) other, and the other as a product of our looting crusades from Agamemnon through George W. (“the bomb that’s never stopped being dropped.”) The hip hop flow bangs up against a recurring stutter on the “k” sounds—“kah … cuh” “cuh ... coh”—that stands in negative relation (peasant abjectness? subaltern resistance?) to the repeating figure of the Kaiser, or “misprision of interests the Kaiser represents,” along with the camel that’s broken to serve him. Brown wears his deep sense of the past lightly and naturally, like people once wore suits in the ‘30s, and the erudition is never arcane, but works to clarify some of the uglier vectors of the present: “In direct speech: the fable’s not/so fabulous. Indirect speech:/war cries are never, um, worn out.”

Dodie Bellamy Barf Manifesto (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008)
Barf Manifesto makes a totally compelling case for the virtues of the personal, messy, digressive, and awkward against the chic distance always ready to sing experimental writing into the rocks. In the course of working out what it is that makes Eileen Myles’s “Everyday Barf” tick, Bellamy ranges from her mother’s death to the “snooty pockets” of the MLA to the embarrassment of clogging Eileens toilet in a diptych of academic “talks” whose panels mirror back on themselves and set up affinities of contrast like an Op Art study of Bridget Riley’s (who also figures in the piece.) The paradox of Bellamy’s manifesto is that in putting so much of herself in, barf and all, she gains a kind of heroic authority to undo the spell that turns writers into pure and odorless literature machines: “Sophistication is conformist, deadening. Let’s get rid of it.”

C.S. Perez from Unincorporated Territory (Tinfish, 2008)
With Unincorporated Territory, C.S. Perez works to repair the fallen bridges between poetry and collective memory. Part history primer, part Olsonesque exploration of place, part sermon on the U.S. denial of its own imperial involvements, this first of twelve installments worries the gap between orality and literacy, documentary transcription and a commitment to poetry as an act of resistance to collective erasure. Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda suggest some of the moral coordinates of Perez’s project, with the tight, economical maneuvers of the Objectivists as part of its formal armature. If poetry still has meaning for a people rather than an agglomeration of persons, here’s a good instance of how it might sound when it speaks.

David Petrelli Ferment (Try!, 2008)
Ferment is an impassioned diapason to the liberations made possible through black sound, especially the stretch of it that runs from free jazz to hip hop. To his litany of preterite heroes and famous pathbreakers Petrelli brings a deep awareness of the music’s social roots, so that changes in musical form serve to track patterns of social oppression, with Amadou Diallo and Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell worked into the same oscillation between injustice and artistic breakthrough, “the relationships between music and social movements [made] clear and limpid.” If Ferment has anything as simple as a thesis, it’s that “it is unlikely that a cultural current can grow or even survive if the social ferments that feed it are repressed or ,,, annihilated”—as good a gauge as any for measuring our stumbles and occasional triumphs in “creat[ing] a collective consciousness rooted in freedom and peace.”

Try! Magazine, 23 October 2008, edited by Sara M. Larsen & David Brazil
Try! is a twice-monthly assemblage of fonts, scrawls, maps, cartoons, inscriptions, legal documents, hand-colored DVD sleeves, homemade movies, graphs, charts, polyglot abecedaria, graffiti, musical notation, movie stills, zigzag quotations, handwritten lists and murky photographs that pull the poems embedded inside into the larger syntax of each issue, so that every number becomes a giant poem spoken across media, like one of Pound’s cantos souped up and with the politics right.

The poets included reflect the readings and afterparties of the Bay Area, but also the network of affinities that feed and flow from the happenings there, so that Try! is less a record of a particular scene or school than a real-time transcription of emerging sensibilities in the post-Bush era. Try! comes closer than any magazine I can think of to capturing how the poets I know really talk. Marx and Benjamin are inescapable spirits; community is a problem but also a given; film eclipses jazz or painting as the “second art” of choice; and the sense of the past is deep, sly, and politicized, putting the present at the lip of a process that began with the Ugaritic “A.”

The labor that goes into each issue marks itself with off-kilter cuts and freestyle kerning, so that you’re always aware of the scissors and paste behind the brainwork, behind all work and the bodies assembled to accomplish it. I think what Try! is trying is to offer a counter-assembly, new ways of making meaning out more genuine connections between persons. In direct speech: change. Indirect speech: Love.


Friday, November 07, 2008

News That Stays News In the News

Kudos (and thanks) to Sean Patrick Hill for reviewing a poetry reading—that’s right, a poetry reading—in the Willamette Week. Let the trend begin.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Reasons to Love San Francisco

Coonskin cap series conceived and executed by Alli Warren. Chapeau (for all) provided by Lindsey Boldt. Makeup (for all with red eyes) by Sara M. Larsen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dept. of Monday

Today I am a Harvard of the entire Northern lights.