Monday, November 16, 2009

Beverly Dahlen

Robin Tremblay-McGaw’s posting a detailed interview with Bev Dahlen in installments over at X Poetics. Dahlen, who gave a terrific “homecoming” reading this spring with David Abel for Portland’s Spare Room series, offers, among other things, a fellow traveler’s perspective on the formative “Language” years in San Francisco in the late ‘70s, a moment that’s undergone a lot of reassessment lately, from the serial Grand Piano volumes to research like Rob Halpern’s, Kaplan Harris’s, and Robin’s own on the fraught intersection of New Narrative and Language poetics.

Here’s Dahlen on Language poetry and psychology, an issue that’s come up in the past on Silliman’s blog:
BD: In the late 70’s the language poetsstar was rising. I was sharing a flat on Connecticut St. with Kathleen Frumkin and Erica Hunt—two persons who were at the time very involved with the LP movement. Barrett Watten lived right across the street. It was a very exciting time. I went to the lectures, to the readings, and sat up many nights talking about ‘language theory.’ I subscribed to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and read Saussure. But I was never quite convinced, because my bias ran toward psychology and, on the whole, there wasn’t a great deal of interest in that. I don’t know if ‘the unconscious is structured like a language’ as Lacan claims. But I was pretty certain that theories of language that left out psychology were too limited for me. But of course I read their work—I liked Lyn’s work, and Ron’s and I argued with it in my own writing. I liked a number of the poets who had associated themselves with the movement—Kit Robinson and Alan Bernheimer come to mind. They were all very intelligent and witty poets, given to punning and irony and non sequiturs—really amusing stuff, like the 18th century. But I’m not a language poet. In these days I’m reading The Grand Piano, I check Silliman’s blog, but I don’t read language poetry more than (maybe less than) other kinds of poetry, or other kinds of writing.

I should add that it isn’t quite accurate to say no one in the movement was very interested in psychology. Steve Benson has become a therapist and I believe Nick Piombino is either a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst. There may be others I don’t know about.”

—Beverly Dahlen, interview with Robin Tremblay-McGaw, October 2009
There’s also a great anecdote about group-reciting of Silliman’s Tjanting over the roar of the trains at the Church Street MUNI station, which is all kinds of allegorical.

1 comment:

rodney k said...

Apparently Bev's a dab hand with Emily Dickinson's war poetry, too. Here's Ben Friedlander on BD & the Battle of Ball's Bluff: