2/27/2009 10:36:35 AM
Is poetry still relevant? You be the judge. For a sampling of thoughts on the current state of poetry by poets, check out this month’s Poetry, which contains eight manifestos to commemorate the centennial of Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto. The following are quotes from D.A. Powell’s manifesto “Annie Get Your Gun”:
“I don’t know that artists and poets join schools for quite the same reason that sardines do. Sometimes there’s a true innovator in the bunch, sometimes they really do share some common misunderstandings about aesthetics, sometimes it just so happens that a bunch of really interesting people all shop at the same hat shop and they start to hang out and resemble one another and make little sandwiches. It can seem quite seductive to be associated with a school.”
“I think sometimes that artists, like other lower forms of intelligence, want to “belong.” Or rather, that they want to not belong in some similar ways. They want to belong to the outside, and yet to be recognized by the inside.”
“Maybe it’s peculiar to our time, in which actual schools (academies) proliferate and spawn, that we’re seeing so much centrism. What we need is more eccentrism. Who isn’t tired of the contemporary qua contemporary? Who isn’t bored by innovation for innovation’s sake? It has, sadly, become the mode du jour. Not even a school.”
2/24/2009 7:03:39 PM
The March 2009 issue of Alberta Views arrived today, and what gem should I find in its pages but this: A two-for-one review of Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese’s latest books—a novel titled Ragged Company and a collection of essays called One Native Life—courtesy of AV’s longtime books columnist Alex Rettie.
Now, Alberta Views is one of my favorite magazines in the Utne Reader library. I’ve never even been to Alberta—and yet there’s something undeniably engrossing about the smart, political-cultural mélange that AV serves up. My favorite regular feature: Eye on Alberta, a department filled with “dispatches”—reprinted excerpts of articles, letters, speeches, advertisements, scholarly papers, and more—from across the province. When I read Eye on Alberta, I feel submerged in the politics and culture of another place, and I emerge with refreshed perspective on my own political fixations.
But this isn’t a post about Alberta Views: It’s a post about finding Richard Wagamese’s books reviewed in Alberta Views, and the great happiness that ensued—because Richard Wagamese equally holds down our affections here at Utne Reader. (And encountering the two of them together was not unlike like discovering two old friends of yours have known one another all along.)
We first had the honor of reprinting Richard Wagamese’s writing in our Sept.-Oct. 2007 issue, when we excerpted a column of his from Canadian Dimension about meeting his biological, Ojibway grandfather for the first time at age 25. In “Becoming Indian,” Wagamese writes:
I’d been taken away in the Sixties Sweep when the Canadian government hauled off Indian kids and dumped them into families far away from their traditional territories, and I hadn't seen my family for more than 20 years. I’d never known I had a grandfather, just as I’d never known I had a history or a culture vibrant, compelling, and alive. But both were there for me if I would have them.
Then, in our July-August 2008 issue, we couldn’t resist reprinting another column: “Moan Those Particular Blues,” about the music’s resonance with Native people, also from the very fine Canadian Dimension.
Richard is a heck of a writer, and I’m excited to know that his columns and essays are now collected in a book. As Alex Rettie writes in Alberta Views: “Wagamese walks his territory in One Native Life, and it’s an honour to walk with him.”
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Sources: Alberta Views, Ragged Company, One Native Life, Canadian Dimension
2/20/2009 11:49:09 AM
Publishing books is easy, says writer Stona Fitch. Making them profitable is not. But Fitch had a solution to this common conundrum in mind when he started his own publishing house: Give books away for free.
It may sound crazy, but there’s an inspiring method to Fitch’s financial madness. “The idea was to produce beautiful, interesting new books and give them away,” Fitch told the Independent, “then ask people to give money to charity instead of paying for them.”
And so the Concord Free Press was born. They’ve published one book so far, Fitch’s novel, Give and Take, and according to their website, it’s generated $30,000 in charitable donations (many of which are individually listed on the site).
(Thanks, Book Ninja.)
Sources: The Independent, Concord Free Press, Book Ninja
2/18/2009 11:36:58 AM
“People are literally fleeing this place, to date leaving 3000 cars stranded at the airport with keys still in the ignition.”
—David Galbraith, “Goodbye Dubai” from Smashing Telly
“The greatest liberal of our time, I mean Barack Obama, is colluding in one of the worst sins against the liberal order in America, which is the slow death of the American newspaper.”
—Leon Wieseltier, “Washington Diarist” from The New Republic
“In a new place, everything from car horns to doorknobs is fascinating. The shape of public restroom urinals is something I always notice. Every place has urinals, but no place has urinals that look alike.”
—Tom Bissell, “An Interview with Tom Bissell” from Make (not available online)
“It pisses me off when I see people from South America, Australia, Florida, or the Middle East trying to pretend they’re Vikings. I respect Norse mythology—I’m a cosmopolitan person. But you also have a rich culture. Try to celebrate that.
—Ashmedi, “Rocking the Cradle of Civilization” from Bidoun (not available online)
The New Republic
2/18/2009 10:22:54 AM
J.R. Carpenter has assembled a charming canine lexicon for the Winter issue of Geist. Carpenter’s “Words Dogs Know” are on the sophisticated side: phenomenology, conquest, corruption; they’re probably pretty representative of the average Geist-reading dog’s vocabulary. My favorite:
When they say: "We’ll be right back," they may not come right back, but they always do come back eventually. When they say: "It’s all right," it may not be all right yet, but it will be soon. When they say: "Stay," for no apparent reason, it’s best to just do it. Who knows, maybe there’s a car coming.
Image by rgdaniel, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/18/2009 10:12:19 AM
The annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) blew through Chicago this past weekend. It’s impossible to sum up this four-day gathering, which includes hundreds of panels, readings, and parties, not to mention the sprawling bookfair of publishers, literary journals, and writing programs. By conference end, you can spot an attendee by the dark circles under her eyes, which speak of too little sleep, too much caffeine, an overly stimulated intellect, and if she’s lucky, an event or two that blew her mind.
1) A literary rock & roll concert that re-imagined what a reading could be, sponsored by Columbia College Chicago and featuring authors ZZ Packer, Dorothy Allison, and Joe Meno, as well as the “circus punk” marching band, Mucca Puzza.
2) A moving tribute to poet Jane Cooper by friends and colleagues, featuring Kazim Ali, Marie Howe, and Tony Hoagland. Cooper was the State Poet of New York in 1995 and taught at Sarah Lawrence College, where she inspired future poets for decades. The panelists converted me to this under-appreciated writer whose work is defined by a fierce attention and lyric grace.
3) A reading from the new anthology American Hybrid, which erases delineations between traditional lyric and experimental poetry. What emerge are exciting new hybrids that invite readers in while attending to the possibilities of language. Poets Rae Armantrout, Mary Jo Bang, and Ralph Angel were among those who lit up the crowd and helped American Hybrid sell out at the bookfair on the first day.
But one person can only witness so much. Thus, here's what other attendees thought of AWP:
2/13/2009 2:00:59 PM
“I was never an avid reader until I was 11 or 12,” writes Alastair Harper on the Guardian Books Blog. "Before I started reading," he remembers, "I was a rather subservient, slow little boy who never really did anything wrong, but never did much right either. Books inspired me to be very naughty indeed; and, with the simple moral logic of youth, I perceived them to be on my side, not authority's, which was what made me want to read them.
Harper is responding to a flurry of public projects aimed at getting more kids to read. These initiatives tend to assume that reading is edifying, producing well-behaved, wholesome citizens, a logic Harper doesn’t really understand.
"Perhaps a little bit of literature does make you well-mannered," he concedes sarcasticly. "A sprinkling of Austen will probably be fine. But the government should point out that an excess of reading can be very dangerous indeed. Acknowledge that many books are far more horrifying, perverse and immoral than anything in Grand Theft Auto. Perhaps print warning labels on dust jackets. Now, if that happened, a real children's reading revolution would begin!"
Image by Pedro Simões, licensed under Creative Commons.
The Guardian Books Blog
2/12/2009 4:21:50 PM
"Remember, too, the story of novelist Pierre Jourde, author of Pays Perdu. A year or so after his novel reached the shelves of French bookstores, he returned on holiday to the tiny rural hamlet where his family had lived for generations. His novel was a comic account of life in that very village, and though he fictionalized his account, the inhabitants were nonetheless insulted. According to court records, six or seven of his former neighbors began kicking Jourde, pelting his car with 'stones the size of sugar,' and insulting his wife and three children. Jorde has filed charges of attempted murder."
—Dinty W. Moore, "Forty-Four Reasons Why You Absolutely, Positively Should Never Write That Book" from The Normal School (Issue #1)
“I write sonnets and I embalm, and I’m happy to take questions on any subject in between those two.”
—Thomas Lynch to Mandy Iverson, “A Conversation with Thomas Lynch,” from Willow Springs (#63
“Don’t worry hon. When I come back I’ll take you with me. I am the bride of both Jesus Christ and Charles Manson. When all of it’s over we’ll rule the world. There’ll be peace and harmony and everybody can be married to as many people as they want and the only music will be rock and roll.”
—C.T. Lawrence, “Wish You Were Here,” from Event (V.37 #3)
2/11/2009 1:14:04 PM
Simply put, there’s an outstanding interview with Thomas Lynch in the new issue of Willow Springs. Lynch is a poet and an essayist—with half a dozen books of poetry and nonfiction writing to his credit. He’s also a funeral director in Milford, Michigan. “I write sonnets and I embalm,” he told Willow Springs, “and I’m happy to take questions on any subject in between those two.”
As it turns out, the space in between poetry and embalming is expansive, studded with crackling-fresh observations and gloriously shrewd remarks. I urge you to take a spin through the entire interview. Here’s a little taste of what’s to come:
On everyday life: I think most people drive around all day being vexed by images of mortality and vitality. All they’re wondering about is how they’re going to die and who they’re going to sleep with, or variations on that theme. . . .
On Roe v. Wade: Twenty-five years after Roe v. Wade we’re still carping about it—thirty years now. You have to say it’s not a great law if we’re still carping about it. Settle law when it’s settled, you know. Whatever the outcome, the way they got there was not right. Didn’t work. Hasn’t worked.
On faith: I was on a panel a couple of weeks ago at a synagogue, called, “The Same but Different.” . . . There were hospice people and social workers and clergy, and I was to give the keynote speech about funeral customs and bereavement and how we respond to death—that type of thing. The lunchtime panel was a rabbi, a priest, a pastor, and an imam. And one of the questions from the audience was, “Does religion ever get in the way of people?”
They all gave predictable answers until the imam said, “There is no trouble with Islam. Muslims, however, are troublesome.”
And I thought, Isn’t it just so? I haven’t any trouble with Catholicism or Christianity, but Catholics, myself included—and particularly the reverend clergy—can really put me through spasms of doubt and wonder. And here’s the difference: I have come to think of them as articles of faith, as something that the life of faith requires us to doubt and wonder and ask and mistrust and think it over and ask again.
On what makes us human: When anthropologists are trying to figure out the place at which that walking anthropoid crossed the human barrier, it is when the anthropoid began to notice its mortality. I mean, that is the signature event—that we do something about mortality. Other living, breathing, sexy things don’t. Cocker spaniels, rhododendrons—they don’t bother with that stuff. They don’t seem to care about others of their kind dying. We do.
Source: Willow Springs
2/11/2009 10:53:59 AM
There are many ways to divide and limit creative possibilities, but precious few opportunities for artists to collaborate. Cinematheque Press, an independent literary imprint out of Chicago, is providing welcome space for cross-disciplinary exploration. Each project features some combination of text and visual, audio, or cinematic art. Their growing catalog is impressive and includes work by Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Peter Markus, Philip Jenks, and Simone Muench. Cinematheque has also recently introduced a gorgeous online magazine, Dear Camera, whose second issue features text and film by Zachary Schomburg. Schomburg’s “1977-2050” is both haunting and whimsical, and it’s all available with the click of a mouse.
; Dear Camera
2/9/2009 11:24:23 AM
Emily Pullen says she began Corpus Libris during a shift at the indie bookstore where she works. It must’ve been a slow night. The photo essay, which melds bodies with book covers, seems born of a whole lot of time to kill. I mean that in a good way, though. The photos are sweet, silly odes.
Sources: Corpus Libris, Magers and Quinn
2/6/2009 10:43:41 AM
High school field trips can be nightmarish under normal circumstances, but when your student secretly doses you with LSD, the outing isn’t likely to be fun. Luckily (or highly problematically, depending on how you look at it) John Moss had 10 years of following the Grateful Dead to train him for the experience. Writing for Bohemian.com, Moss recounts how he tried to keep his hallucinations under wraps, and keep the field trip from becoming a tragedy. Here’s a key quote: “Hallucinations were rare in my previous LSD experience, but I already had dancing trees, bouncy sidewalks and exploding flowers. Dangerous signs this early in the trip.”
(Thanks, The Rumpus.)
Adapted from image by
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2/6/2009 10:35:19 AM
In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Frank Rich contended that Obama’s notably austere inaugural address signaled a necessary shift away from poetic posturing to a direct call for action. Given the current state of the nation, according to Rich, this is no time for poetry.
Chicago-based poet, blogger, and small press founder B.J. Love is making a case for poetry in a troubled world. His Further Adventures Chapbooks and Pamphlets, a small press dedicated to breaking new poets and publishing new work by established poets, takes the innovative approach of marrying work by an established writer and an emerging writer within a single entity. For each chapbook Love selects two writers whose work he “deems compatible/coordinating/collaborative in some way,” thereby allowing their writing to riff off each other. Each poet contributes a mini-chapbook which is bound together with the other’s, allowing for a poetic conversation in concrete form.
So, is this a good time for poetry? “People may think art is a waste of time because it’s not ‘goods’ that can be bought, sold and taxed, but down the road art is all we got,” Love says. “The only historical documents I've read from the 1860s are the Gettysburg address, a poetic speech, and Leaves of Grass and THAT is how I understand those times, and I think years from now, poetry will still be how we understand times, these time included.”
Image by chillihead, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/5/2009 5:32:16 PM
When’s the last time you used the word adimpleate? Or obstrigillate? How about kexy? They’ve never exited my mouth, and I’m fairly certain I’ve never heard them uttered, either. Apparently, this neglect leaves them vulnerable: Every year, dictionaries drop words that have fallen into disuse. The website Save the Words works to save them from such a fate.
You can begin by browsing their store of endangered terms. For the truly committed, there are word-a-day emails and the option to adopt favorites—I’ve chosen vicambulate (to walk about in the streets), for instance. If your adopted word doesn’t roll off the tongue, Save the Words offers advice on getting them back into circulation, including:
I Love Mum. Done. Anchor. Done. Celtic Symbols. Done....Tremefy? Never done!
How about spending your lunch hour spreading the good word? That soggy salad and stale sandwich can wait while you educate the community on such insightful words as ‘scaevity’, ‘prescited’, ‘ulvose’, ‘ergote’.
Dictionaries say they trash old words to clear space for more relevant ones. Take a look at the OED’s list of their newest additions, which includes terms—like frenemy and MILF—that make me even more excited to fight for vicambulate.
Image by Adam Smith, licensed under Creative Commmons.
2/4/2009 3:24:36 PM
Everyone makes lists: to-do lists, shopping lists, work lists. A writer at Smith puts all of my lists to shame with a list she compiled of all her lists. The results are illuminating about her and list-makers in general. My favorite section is the one labled “Neurotic?”:
Things I haven’t seen through
Number of days w/out smoking
Number of days w/out calling you know who
Number of days of exercising since resolved to exercise every single day
Things that make me sneeze
Diseases I think I might have
Other places I want to live
Other professions I might want to have
Things I wish I did more of
Things I’ve missed, skipped, cancelled, escheduled...
2/3/2009 5:35:53 PM
“In the run-up to the war in Iraq, liberal hawks were so close to neoconservative hawks that only an expert political ornithologist could distinguish between the species.”
—Alan Wolfe, “Empty Nest: The Demise of a Species” from World Affairs (Winter 2009)
“So what’s the difference between Beatles and Stones fans? ‘Stones fans party a little more. They’re hung over every day.’ He thinks a moment. ‘Stones fans also don’t want to hear anything about the Beatles.’”
—Jack Boulware, “Now They’re Sixty-Four” from Fray (#2)
“There are few things as unattractive as the rich talking about the joys of saving money.”
—Alex Renton, “Matters of Taste” from Prospect (January 2009)
“I was in Cairo, trying desperately to interview the aging pop star Ahmed Adaweya, whose penis, depending on whom you talk to, was or was not cut off by Saudi royalty.”
—Anand Balakrishnan, “Naguib Mahfouz’s White Linen Suit” from Bidoun (#14)
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