Saturday, February 28, 2009

Translation/New European Poets/CK Williams

[I left this entry on the Harriet Blog just now. It also responds to an earlier comment on this blog, where someone asked me what I thought of The New European Poets edited by Prufer and Miller. The more I come in contact with people who have read this book, not just glanced at it (like CK Williams), the better I think of it.]

[NOTE: as I sometimes do on the Internet, I misread Don's entry and got pissy with him, so I'm reformulating this entry.]

There are a number of assumptions and arguments I find objectionable in this post. Perhaps I will deal with them in more detail on my own blog later today. But for now, let me make some brief responses:

-Globalization is not some kind of benevolent "world music" factory, there is real power involved.

- Poetry is not just a collection of formal tricks.

- You may treat translation as an influx of new formal tricks to help American Poetry stave off "decadence", but that suggests foreign literature is just some kind of medicine for American Poetry, that it isn't literature in its own right.

- In fact, it is typical of a empire-like power like ours that we can treat the rest of the world as a style mart where we can go and get a little invigoration.

- When Bly, Rothenberg and others translated European and Latin American poetry in the 1960s it was precisely to get away from the Formalism of New Criticism and the poetry it had led to (Lowell etc, who still appears to be the model for Poetry Magazine). But these folks had a much more dynamic relationship with the Euros than CK Williams suggests.

- CKW suggest that foreign literature no longer offers anything new to American poetry, that we already know it all. This is a strange assertion to make based on one anthology. It suggests a whole bunch of arrogance mixed with even more ignorance.

- Part of the problem here is the nature of anthologies: By offering little snippets of poets' careers they tend to create a homogenized effect. But this is true of any anthology of American Poetry as well. Or just Modern Poetry: It all sounds the same.

- Another problem: is, as my comment above suggests, that if you lack the right framework, everything sounds the same. Thus to some, all modern poetry is the same (it all lacks rhyme or whatever); but to someone else, the difference between Pound and Eliot is enormous.

- Another problem with anthologies like New European Poets is that you have American poets making selections of foreign poetry. Many of these poets knew very little if anything about the foreign literature in question. Many of them were also older, people nostalgic for the poetry translated by Bly and Co. back in the 60s and bound to pick works that fit that mold stylistically.

- In defense of NEP, Prufer and Miller frame their anthology as a way to begin an exploration of European poetry, an incitement, and unfinished project. At first I was skeptical, thinking people would probably just read it like CK and say: OK, I've got my Euro fix now I can get back to reading American poetry. But since its publication I've received correspondence that suggests other people are indeed taking it as an incitement for further reading.

- Part of the problem with further reading is that not much else is available from these poets. In our translation-phobic American Poetry not much foreign literature is published. Thus many people are actively looking but not finding that deeper engagement with the foreign literature that Prufer and Miller call for.

- An Anecdote: Recently I was urged to submit some translations for Poetry Magazine's translation issue. I was hesitant because I find the journal entirely reactionary and lifeless, but I did submit finally some translations by Swedish poet Ann Jaderlund, arguably the most important post 1980s poet in Sweden ( she sells more copies of her poetry in Sweden than the most famous American poets sell here, in a country 30 times the size of Sweden, and her books are debated in the national newspapers etc, she even has a literary historic landmark named after her "The Ann Jaderlund Debates" that raged in the late 1980s, signifying the onset of a younger generation of women poets). While the journal had recently published the work of Hakan Sandell, a completely insignificant figure in Swedish poetry but notably well within the conservative aesthetics of Poetry Magazine, the journal rejected my Jaderlund submission.

- This to me suggests a couple of things. It shows the importance of the American Filter (in this case Poetry Magazine): The journal does not want things that are different, but want its aesthetics confirmed. No wonder we don't find out about interesting foreign writers, if our publishers and journals are unwilling to embrace their difference.

- It is also significant because Jaderlund is in fact included in Miller's and Prufer's book. The Swedish section was edited by Rika Lesser, a poet and noted translator who has a very fine understanding of the Swedish language but who objects to most Swedish poetry written after 1980. Despite this handicap she put together a very brief selection of Swedish poetry that is unquestionably more varied and dynamic than any issue of Poetry Magazine I've read over the past few years. The same is true of a number of those sections. For example, I thought the Ukraine section really good.

- I finally want to say that there is a fundamental problem with anthologies of this nature in general: They create the illusion that we can "represent" a national literature. That literatures are static etc. Americans can go out and look into a nation's poetry and take what we want. And by implications: there is an American Poetry. I prefer to read across national boundaries not out of some ethical stance but because it's the best way for me to find interesting poetry.

- So while I have some reservations about Miller/Prufer's anthology I think we should treat it like the beginning not an end. Don and CK treat it like an end, and they're worse off for it.

- Finally I want to call attention to your strange statements about "translatese." This has long, as Lawrence Venuti notes in his books, been the code word for what is wrong about foreign lit in translation: it sounds "off." Of course it is also to some extent the desired effect according to various German Romantics (and later Benjamin) who called for translation not to move the foreign text to the target language, but to allow the foreign text to deform the target language. However, you suggest that there is a static effect called "translatese," and that sounds like nothing so much as an attempt to denude the very dynamic process involved in translation. There is no one "translatese" just as there is no one English language. Part of the threat of translation to powerful and conservative institutions such as your own is the way it undoes the illusion of a static English language, a static Literature.

- The other great importance of translation is of course not at all as formalist as that notion: the ideas of the foreign enters our own literature. For an example of this, see Lara Glenum's article about Swedish poet Aase Berg in our most recent issue of Here is an American poet who takes a foreign writer seriously, not just as a trinket shop. And it's one of the best essays written about Berg (as Berg told me in an email). Or look at Jen Hofer's work with Mexican women poets.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

e-chapboo by RK

Justin Marks sent a message to the members of Kitchen Press.

Subject: Ringing, by Rauan Klassnik: The first ever Kitchen Press eChap

Dear All,

I'm very pleased to announce Kitchen Press' first ever venture into online publishing, Ringing, by Rauan Klassnik:

Click on the above link for a downloadable pdf of Ringing, as well as a flash version illustrated Rauan himself. There is also a section for comments. We encourage you to not only comment and discuss the poems and collection as a whole, but the site itself--everything from thoughts on the experience of reading the chap in the format it's in to more technical concerns about the functionality of the site, problems viewing it, navigability, etc.

From the book:

Like ships leaning together licking each other’s shoulders, we fall down and dig at the earth. Fervently. Like jackals. Fire’s leaping from hill to hill, and my nerves are swaying like seaweed. I have learned to die. And not to. My veins are filled with milk.

All Best,
Justin Marks


There is one point I forgot to make that I think are pretty important (though some were made in the comment field below):

"E-literature is the mode of literature most appropriate to new social conditions."

Appropriate in what way? It seems e-literature trains us to be better (read: smoother) participants in the new era. It's good for us. Teaches us to be good. It's Progress.

Just say no to Edification in art.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Katherine Hayles/e-literature etc

I suppose I shouldn't have brought Hayles in without remembering much from her books, but here is Chris's entry from below:

"Distributed cognition" is something that I got from Hayles' "How We Became Posthuman" (1999...I know, I know, how "quaint" :) ). I'm away from my library at the moment, but I don't think she necessarily means anything more complicated than when I have google calendar send me a text message reminding me of the address of my next appointment or having firefox search a web-page for a sequence of letters, except that she wants us to embody those technologies rather than think of them as other or outside. Maybe it's also similar to when we're talking on a cell-phone (or just to a passenger) while driving: our attention is finite and so we automate some processes in order to attend to other processes. Simply stated, I guess this amounts to a theory of a posthuman subject that is sort of a shifty hybrid of automation and deliberation (So, not just an information pattern nor the rational, sovereign subject of the Enlightenment). Like I said in my previous comment, this isn't exactly groundbreaking or anything. It's not like we were pure automatons until we were human, at which point we became pure deliberation, until the Internet came along and we became all admixturey and posthuman.

A lot of the time, if you ask me, Hayles is just substituting one network of metaphors for another. One man's cave is another man's matrix. But one thing she wrote that I found interesting was that between narrative and system, two distinct ways of presenting information, "narrative is a more embodied form of discourse." Now, I hadn't really heard of Flarf before I came to your site, so I'm still not exactly sure what to make of it, but it seems to me that the google experiments at least stage a sort of confrontation between deliberative narration and automatic system. Together, I guess, poets and google become both more-and-less human as they are both embodied in the poem. I don't know. I fully expect to be challenged on this.

What you say about "The Atrocity Exhibition" sounds pretty interesting. There was a lot I didn't like about Joseph Frank's "Spatial Form in the Modern Novel," but the basic idea of works of art that resist their medium, like poems that try to be paintings and paintings that try to be stories, stuck with me. So a narrative that tries to be an exhibition sounds right up my alley.

And finally, I'll look forward to the new translation. I had also never read Aase Berg before visiting here, but I really liked the Cave of the Guinea Pigs sequence.



Mark Wallace has summed up a lot of my feelings about "hybrid" - the good and the bad.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Here's an article by Stephanie Strickland.

I'm interested in what the rest of you think about it.

I'm really exhausted and thus unable to go into great detail about my feelings, but it seems to me that her idea of e-literature is precisely not the e-literature that I have in mind when I say that the Internet is changing literature.

Seems to me that in her urge to find a kind of medium purity of e-literature (even as she claims to be for "intermedia"), she is not at the forefront of literature (as Poetry Magazine sees fit to call her), but on the reactionary side, backfront, rearguard etc.

Echoing the Katherine Hayles book I criticized a while back, she wants to locate the electronic in the "code" of these programs. This to me seems quaintly Modernist (language as "code") and quaintly Academic in view of the proliferation of amazing linkages and communities that are forming on the Internet (international, intermedia etc).

The real change brought by the Internet is precisely in the new social formations brought on by these e-chapbooks and e-zines etc (what she wants to clean out of "e-literature").

The proliferation of these sites and communities has totally altered literature so that the Poetry Foundation can only pretend that there is a unified "forefront" (the very concept is an antithetical).

Tao Lin with his blog seems far more radical than Stephanie Strickland, not because of his programming skills but because of the rhizomatic community formations in cyberspace he has helped generate, his conception of the blog as a kind of source of a grandiose conceptual art work (on going, complete with interns and internet hoaxes), and perhaps most importantly in the way he does not use code but instead plays around with the "interfaces" of the Internet and the new media world.

The same is true of Flarf's internet existence I suppose. Etc.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

JG Ballard

So I don't know where to find the rest of Cynthia Sailer's book, so I picked up JG Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition and began to read it.

Here's a really great little chapter:

The Atrocity Exhibition. Entering the exhibition, Travis sees the atrocities of Vietnam and the Congo mimetized in the 'alternate" death of Elizabeth Taylor; he tends the dying film star, eroticizing her punctured bronchus in the over-ventilated verandas of the London Hilton; he dreams of Max Ernst, the superior of the birds; 'Europe after the Rain'; the human race - Caliban asleep across a mirror smeared with vomit.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One more thing...

I'm reading all these journals that I picked up at the AWP - Abe Lincoln, Mrs Maybe, Forklift (with bullet holes)and other - and they seem to be so much more profoundly "hybrid" (not as a moderation, but as in coming up with interesting new art) and fun than the discussions about camps and such (including my own yammering). I especially like Cynthia Sailer's "Environment of Illness," which reminds me a bit of Atrocity Exhibition, JG Ballard's great book from the 70s, and Anne Boyer's Kathy Acker-ish story in abraham lincoln. Maybe the 1970s wasn't so bad afterall. Maybe prose wasn't so bad afterall.


The thing that continues to irritate me about the whole discussion about "camps" is that it is always language poetry and the likes that are accused of being "campish". Meanwhile the Quietist establishment continues to publish the most conservative books and hire the least threatening people for jobs.

This is to say that the problem with the whole "hybrid" notion of two camps coming together is that there are not two or three camps; there is one fundamentally conservative establishment which resists any kind of new ideas or foreign influences, and which perpetuates an "elevated" notion of art.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cal Bedient

Does anybody know if Cal Bedient's neo-wellwrought-urn talk from the AWP is online anywhere?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Joyelle on Obama Blog

Joyelle's poem as part of the Poems for Obama Blog is up and it's amazing:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Angela gets the Gurlesque.

I tend to agree with her in that I don't quite understand Arielle's formulation of it. Though I am in favor of "creeping out" people.

I don't know the pop culture references from the 70s, but I tend to think more of Kara Walker than Charlie's Angels.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Third Way Poetics"

Michael Theune's critique of "third way poetics" on Mark's blog:

AY (again)

[I just made up "the official announcement" for the new actio, yes so I thought I'd post it again:]


We have a new issue of Action, Yes up at

It includes a whole bunch of texts, poems, installations, performance documentations, translations, postcards etc.

It includes a special feature on "the Gurlesque", with texts by Aaron Kunin (on Cathy Wagner and Brenda Coultas), Dodie Bellamy ("Girl Body") and Lara Glenum (on Swedish poet Aase Berg and "the cuteness of the avant-garde").

It includes the first English-language translations of Swedish poet/performer/novelist Sara Tuss Efrik's "automanias."

It includes James Pate's essay/re-evaluation of poet-translator Clayton Eshleman's work.

Johannes, Joyelle, Emily and John

We have had an erratic relationship to our readers over the years due to a shortage of time and treacherous email program. We have now decided to open up the journal to submissions this April. If you have some texts you think would be good for the journal, please send them to us in April (this also includes people who may not have heard back from previous submissions).

Monday, February 16, 2009

awp/american hybrid/manageability etc

Here are some other random observations:

I went to the American Hybrid panel and it offered an interesting contrast of views. Forrest Gander suggested that the hybrid is in fact a radical, excessive dynamic, using as his example a Renaissance text written in mongrel-Latin. Another presenter - I didn't catch his name - made a similar argument for the hybrid as a mongrel of different cultures. I quite liked these two talks, but they seemed to break with the general argument that has formed around the anthology.

In difference to Forrest and the other guy, Cal Bedient argued the hybrid was a mixture of avant-gardist and quietist poetry, which in this mixture tempered the excessive and utopian aspirations of avant-gardism. He used Adorno. He praised these poets for their "uncertainty" (negative capability?) of these poets. Along the same line, Brenda Hillman said she wanted to foreground the "materiality of the text" "without sacrificing emotion." Here hybrid is a kind of compromise - as opposed to "sacrifice".

I should mention that Norton has already sent me a review copy of the book (Thanks!) and I like a lot of the writers included (Haryette Mullen, Alice Notley etc etc). What I am less in love with is the rhetoric surrounding it: This idea that poetry should be about compromise and moderation; the idea that this is somehow a moral position (Bedient); and perhaps most importantly, that there is an overarching commonality between these very different poets.

While a lot of the poetry is groundbreaking and exciting, a lot of the rhetoric suggests the same old rhetoric that has defined American institutional poetry since the 1970s: moderation over excess, the morality of temperance, the politics of quietism, ann almost purely formalist notion of art (style).

[Again: How is Alice Notley in any way a compromise or an in-between?? The idea is outrageous!]

I would say that this move to encapsulate these poetries in this formalist-moderation-rhetoric is in fact, more than any stylistic devices or author names, the nature of "Quietism." Quietism as a mode of reading, of making canons, of *teaching*.

Lynn Hejinian can be Quietist in other words, if framed the right (wrong) way.

In a strange way, this rhetoric is in sharp contrast with a lot of the poets included. So perhaps this anthology should be read as an attempt to domesticate, make "manageable" a moment of great proliferation in poetry. Perhaps someone could even write an essay about the conflict between Cole Swensen the poet/translator and Cole the critic and anthologist.

And there is of course also the importance of the "American" in the title: performing nationhood. This seems inherently opposed to hybridity as I understand it, but it certainly counters the excess of translation and international engagement (not to mention cross-genre work etc). There's a need to remove international connections in order to make the poetry manageable.

Obviously we need frameworks for reading texts: but not such formalist, reductive frameworks. Not the reiteration of the same old formalism. It's not enough to say something is a formal compromise. What does it do? Not frameworks that make the texts stable and impotent, but frameworks that make the texts more interesting, that pushes up to come up with new ideas.

My main problem is that an anthology and rhetoric like this is that it erases differences (just as the too-static notions of avant-garde and "quietism" does). Lets have discussions about poetry, lets develop different framework for reading in interesting new ways instead of just enforcing norms and canonicity. Canonicity depends on thoughtless acceptance of authority.

In its formalist focus it also isolated American Poetry from 1) the rest of the world 2) social changes 3)other arts. We're back in the American Poetry Wax Museum.


was pretty fun and a great success in many ways. We had several great readings and we sold a shocking amount of books.

I was deeply impressed by the Empty Bottle reading on Thursday: the place was great (it is meant for music shows) and it was packed with an attentive audience and the other readers were very interesting as well.

Afterwards I got a ride back to the hotel from a strange group of young, wild and inter-gender women who rocked out to hip-hop and the Indigo Girls. They went to a dance and I went to a bar when a guy tried to convince me that I was gay (it's something about the way you pronounce words) and should help him pick up some girls.

Black Ocean sold over a 100 copies of the new Aase Berg, With Deer. Whenever I looked over to their table they were selling copies. And because the covers are bright orange, I could see the presence all across the bookfair.

It was a great honor when Tomaz Salamun came over to have me sign his copy and told me that it was apparently "the book of awp."

That is of course a very strange idea: a base, Bataille- and horror-movie-inspired book full of dead mammals as the representative book of the awp, but it does suggest something about the poetry world. While the room full of big booths was largely empty and while the dull panels mostly discussed "american hybrids" and other ultra-canonical, very US-centered stuff, the youngsters were busy reading Swedish grotesqueries from a very small press table run by a former undertaker.

I bought two books: three Japanese poets and Danielle Collobert's diaries (trans. Norma Cole), both from Litmus Press.

Since I'm on a selling-line-of-thought: We're all out of Port Trakl and Apostrophe is all out of my book A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, so the only ones left are the ones on SPD. If you want to get these items, scurry over there and buy the last few copies.

I'll have more things to say about this strange event. Needless to say I went to the American Hybrid panel where Cal Bedient argued for the moral and political high ground of modesty, compromise, temperance and indecision.

Having re-read the post I realize I come off as perhaps a bit braggy. I am just very happy that so many people seemed to be interested in "With Deer." More after school.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

reading today

Poetry in Translation
Start Time: Thursday, February 12 at 6:30pm
End Time: Thursday, February 12 at 8:30pm
Where: SAIC Ballroom
112 S. Michigan Avenue.

The reading schedule:
Forrest Gander
Jen Hofer and Laura Solórzano
Donald Revell
Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover
Cole Swensen
Johannes Göransson

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Action, Yes

is up.

It is very big. Some figures and frameworks will be familiar (but hopefully not too familiar) to readers of this blog.

It includes two "automanias" by Swedish poet/performer/novelist Sara Tuss Efrik.

It includes several pieces addressing "the gurlesque", including texts by Lara Glenum, Dodie Bellamy and Aaron Kunin.

It includes work by Tina Darragh and P.Inman, whose work Mark and I have talked about on this blog.

It includes poems by James Pate as well as his essay on Clayton Eshleman.

It includes two poems by Clayton Eshleman, including one dedicated to Laura Solorzano (who is about to give a reading here on the Notre Dame campus).

And a whole bunch more,including work by such participants of this blog as Angela Genusa, Christian Peet, Ron Klassnik and Evan Willner.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Rae Armantrout

Back in Jed Rasula's class a few years ago when I was that most reviled thing, "The Graduate Student" (as opposed to that much glorified thing, "The Blog Writer"), we read a really great autobiographical piece by Rae Armantrout where she talks about doing acid and how the psychadelic experience was key to her development as a poet. Does anybody know that piece?

Also, preferably tell me sooner rather than later because I'm teaching her next week.


Just a note: clearly I'm offering an interpretation of Zizek's quote that he would not subscribe to. He would call my position post-modern, covering up class politics and such. I don't know why I feel the need to say that since he's pretty wild in his interpretation of say Freud.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

American Hybrids (2)

One obvious point I missed in my previous post: How absurd is it to see someone like Alice Notley as a hybrid of language poetry and quietist lyrics? Utterly absurd.

Not only does her work precede both of those "camps," it also has very very little to do with either. What this model does is make ahistorical two historical tendencies (both appearing in the 1970s).

There's also something unfortunate about seeing certain language poets as "compromised" and others as "uncompromised."

Further, why is compromise so important? Why is it important to see Notley etc as compromises of these two camps?

Friday, February 06, 2009

American Hybrids

So Cole Swensen and David St John have amassed a new anthology called "American Hybrid." You can find Cole's introduction here.

Apart from the apparently necessary "American" in the title I thought this would be some kind of interesting inter-media, inter-lingual, inter-genre business, but it turns out that the hybrid in question is hybrid between two "camps" of writing - basically language poetry and Iowa Lyric (almost all recent Iowa Faculty are in the book - Robert Hass, Jorie Graham, Mark Levine, Jim Galvin, Dean Young, Claudia Keelan, Donald Revell, Claudia Rankine,Brenda Hillman, Susan Wheeler etc - wow they are all in there except Marvin Bell! It's almost like the purpose of the book is to read Iowa faculty together with language poets).

Its purpose may be a bit like Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr's anthology from a few years ago about women poets. I don't get this need to try to erase differences.

It is interesting that this book reads like the official list of the "contemporary canon" promulgated by U of Iowa. Hybrid can mean a number of things, have a number of effects. One negative effect is when it becomes an attempt to stop or cover up antagonisms and conflicts, to create what Swensen in her introduction calls "mainstream verse" (a stream that she notes is constantly changing, absorbing oppositions etc). To make an official canon which is very liberal and tolerant, with no threatening outside. (of course it's precisely enterprises like this that creates outsides.). In some sense, the very word "hybrid" makes static, freezes antagonisms into a kind of compromise.

This is what the intro says: "... fifteen years later, American poetry finds itself at a moment when idiosyncrasy rules to such a degree and differences are so numerous that distinct factions are hard, even impossible, to pin down. Instead, we find a thriving center of alterity, of writings and writers that have inherited and adapted traits developed by everyone from the Romantics through the Modernists to the various avant-gardes, the Confessionalists, Allen’s margins, and finally to Language poetry and the New Formalists. The product of contradictory traditions, today’s writers often take aspects from two or more to create poetry that is truly postmodern in that it’s an unpredictable and unprecedented mix."

[Can you really have a center of alterity? Is the center ever "thriving"? What does even "thriving" mean? In some sense the center always "thrives" I suppose because they're in charge of things.]

One of my major problems with the rhetoric of the introduction is the liberal ideology as aesthetics: These poets are superior to more extremist poets, poets who stick to their agenda, because by reading across camp-lines these poets have more "tools" at their disposal. And more is better. More formal tools, fewer considerations for politics. Or as Cole writes: "hybrid poets access a wealth of tools." They're rich with poetic tools.

Swensen makes a good point that sometimes the language poetry's formal concerns brings them in line with New Criticism. This is of course the intersection that has been much discussed on this blog: Marjorie Perloff's canonization of language poets as high modernists.

One might expect that this "Iowa-language-poetry" should intersect with the formal language poetry of Perloff. But it is interesting that this langpo and that langpo has very very little in common. This is true not only of the proper language poets included (no Silliman, no Barret Watten, Bernstein etc) but also of their descendents (Spahr over Kenny G for example). The mildly interesting thing about this is that the view of langpo presented here is that it reallly is a kind of cliche Iowa/personal narrative version of language poetry - language poetry that can be brought more easily into line with the Iowa-style "lyrical I" (of course that's a really annoying and simplistic paradigm - Ron is obsessed with his I - just take note of all his autobiography).

Perhaps the elephant in the room is politics: These poets believe that poetry has a "social obligation" and that is to use language that "avoid[s] echoing the canned speech that has become so prevalent in this age in which fewer and fewer people control more and more of the media. While political issues may or may not be the ostensible subject of hybrid work, the political is always there, inherent in the commitment to use language in new ways that yet remain audible and comprehensible to the population at large."

This is a very strange quote where Cole tries to create a tent big enough to include everyone, but ends up recreating a kind of pat Quietist politics (derives largely from New Criticism): the mass culture and politics is dirty; we critique it by being poetic, by offering a different kind of language. This is maybe the definition of the Iowa lyrical I: opposed to the unrefined language of mass culture, the lyric creates a space for contemplation. "Avant-gardism" is just another way of countering the shallow language of mass media (a claim that absolutely runs counter to the work of the historical avant-garde with their ad posters, megaphone poems, movie manifestos). When I argue against "indeterminacy" I think this is on the whole what I'm arguing against: how it becomes another justification for "negative capability".

I guess I'll have to read it before I say anything of real value here. I mean I like a lot of the poets here, but I am doubtful about the enterprise.

One more thing: One of the reasons why I've always disliked Ron's idea of a "third way" - a notion this anthology echoes more or less exactly (strange that Ron's ideas about poetry should be so prevalent in the intro and yet his poetry is not in the anthology) - is that it sees only language poetry and the personal lyric and a compromise of the two. That leaves out a lot of folks (most importantly, the REST OF THE WORLD!!!)

Addition: Perhaps it would be interesting to see this anthology not as a unified group but as an anthology that want to bring together a group with a lot of tension. Ie perhaps Swensen's introduction is too persuasive and I'm overlooking the fact that this group is very motley. For example, the idea of Jim Galvin in the same anthology with Lyn Hejinian is quite unusual.

Zizek on translation (1)

"Today's liberal tolerance towards others, the respect of otherness and openness towards it, is counterpointed by an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the Other is just fine, but only insofar as his presence is not intrusive, insofar as this Other is not really other... In a strict homology with the paradoxical structure of the previous chapter's chocolate laxative, tolerance coincides with its opposite. My duty to be tolerant toward the Other effectively means that I should not get too close to him, intrude on his space, In other words, I should respect his intolerance of my over-proximity. What increasingly emerges as the central human right in late-capitalist society is the right not to be harassed which is the right to remain at a safe distance from others."

This seems me to be the general attitude towards foreign lit these days. Nobody would say: I hate works in translation. But the moment someone like Engdahl harasses American literature for what he sees as its insularity, people act like he has committed some kind of terrible crime. The Other that actually starts to interact is hard to deal with.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

AWP Reading Schedule


6:30 PM
Congress Lounge, Auditorium Building
Roosevelt University
430 S. Michigan Avenue

Reading Schedule:
Don Mee Choi and Kim Hyesoon (Action Books)
Daniel Borzutzky and Jennifer Scappettone (Circumference)
and others

Poetry in Translation
Start Time: Thursday, February 12 at 6:30pm
End Time: Thursday, February 12 at 8:30pm
Where: SAIC Ballroom
112 S. Michigan Avenue.

The reading schedule:
Forrest Gander
Jen Hofer and Laura Solórzano
Donald Revell
Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover
Cole Swensen
Johannes Göransson

Red Rover Reading Series
8:00pm - 11:00pm
Links Hall
956 Newport Street

Kim Hyesoon, Don Mee Choi and Lara Glenum will read in a line-up that will also feature representatives from these fine presses: Switchback Books, Flood Editions, Futurepoem Books, Les Figues Press, Ugly Duckling Press and more.

Also Friday:
6:00pm - 9:00pm
The Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Ave.

Johannes Göransson will read some translations from the new book, With Deer (Black Ocean, 2009) by Aase Berg, along with Dean Young, Joshua Harmon and other representatives from Black Ocean, Forklift Ohio, Octopus Books, Rope-a-dope Press, and Cannibal Books


I've never made a secret of the fact that I've stolen everything from Jean Genet. And when I say "stolen" I mean that. About 10 years ago I read some of his books and filled an entire notebook of quotes which I then pretty mucy used to write "Dear Ra" (published just this year by Starcherone Books), changing the specifics of course. That exercise really routed my brain, so that when I wrote the poems that went into A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, I did it without thinking about it. Anyway, I'm trying to reload after many months of work work work by re-reading and reading a lot of Genet.

[Actually now that I think about perhaps just as influential was the time in 8th or 9th grade when my brother and I went to the Guthrie's absolutely brilliant performance of The Screens, complete with big-shoed colonial soldiers and a main character who convulses/sutters through the entire performance.]

Here is a great quote from the beginning of Funeral Rites:

"I still love him. Love for a woman or girl is not to be compared to a man's love for an adolescent boy. The delicacy of his face and the elegance of his body have crept over me like Leprosy. Here is a description of him...."

Here's one from the beginning of Our Lady of Flowers:

"These murderers, now dead, have nevertheless reached me, and whenever one of these luminaries of affliction falls into my cell, my heart beats fast, my heart beats a loud tattoo, if the tattoo is the drum-call announcing the capitulation of a city."

[Translator: Bernard Frechtman]

Translation Reading on Thursday next week

Paul says, "If you'll be at AWP in Chicago next week, drop by our poet-translation event on Thursday, Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m., 112 S. Michigan Avenue. Sponsored by The Poetry Center of Chicago.".

Event: Poetry in Translation
"Off-Site Reading at AWP"
What: Performance
Host: Poetry Center of Chicago, SAIC
Start Time: Thursday, February 12 at 6:30pm
End Time: Thursday, February 12 at 8:30pm
Where: SAIC Ballroom

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:

The reading schedule:
Forrest Gander
Jen Hofer and Laura Solórzano
Donald Revell
Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover
Cole Swensen
Johannes Goransson

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I'll see how this works. In order to keep this blog from bogging down in personal attacks and such, I've set it up for "moderation." So, if I did this correctly, I'll have to OK the comments before they go up. That way perhaps we can get back to having discussions.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

International Women Writers at Notre Dame

Global Women Writers Now
Notre Dame Women Writer's Festival 2009
Featuring Kim Hyesoon, Laura Solórzano, and translators Don Mee Choi and Jen Hofer

Detailed Schedule
Monday, Feb 9: 4-5:30 PM, Auditorium, Hesburgh Center
Panel, “Women in International Literary Cultures: Korea and Mexico”
Gender Studies’s Managing Gender at Work lecture series
5:30-7 PM Opening Reception, Great Hall, Hesburgh Center

Tuesday, Feb 10: 5 PM, Auditorium, Hesburgh Center
Trilingual reading (Spanish, Korean, English)

Wednesday, Feb 11: 10:30 AM, Room C103, Hesburgh Center
Translation: Politics and Practice, a roundtable for translators, students, and faculty

Kim Hyesoon is one of the most important South Korean contemporary poets. She has a Ph.D. in modern Korean literature and teaches creative writing at Seoul Institute of the Arts. Kim has played an important role in the development of feminist literary criticism as a member of Another Culture, an organization that emerged in the 1980s and has played a critical role in feminist literary research and publication. Her book of essays, To Write as a Woman, is a groundbreaking work of feminist literary criticism. Action Books published the English translation of her selected poems, Mommy Must be a Fountain of Feathers, in 2008.

Don Mee Choi is the recent recipient of a grant from KLTI to translate the works of Kim Hyesoon. Her works of Korean translation include Anxiety of Words: Contemporary Poetry by Korean Women (Zephyr Press, 2006), When the Plug Gets Unplugged (Tinfish, 2005) and Mommy Must Be a Fountain of Feathers (Action Books, 2008).

Laura Solórzano is the author of Boca perdida (bonobos, 2005), lobo de labio (Cuadernos de filodecaballos, 2001) and Semilla de Ficus (Ediciones Rimbaud, 1999). She is on the editorial board of the literary arts magazine Tragaluz, and currently teaches writing at the Centro de Arte Audiovisual in Guadalajara. Her book lip wolf was published by Action Books in 2007.

Jen Hofer is the translator and editor of Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women (University of Pittsburgh Press and Ediciones Sin Nombre, 2003) and the translator of sexoPurosexoVELOZ by Delores Dorantes (Kenning Editions, 2008). She is also a poet and the author of one (Palm Press, forthcoming) and slide rule (subpress, 2002), as well as multiple small press publications.

These folks will also give readings and talks in Chicago during AWP.

Poetry Magazine

Seems to have a very overt agenda: continue to support very well-wrough-urn-ish, well-behaved poetry while making symbolic overtures to poetries that might challenge its poetics.

So, they have a special little quarantined section of "visual poetry" and a special translation issue and poems by famous language poets, and even - in its most recent issue - a special "manifesto" section dedicated to the 100-year-anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto.

Only most of the manifestos are not manifestos.

Only Poetry Magazine's poetry tends to be the kind of poetry that doesn't acknowledge that Futurism or the historical avant-garde ever existed. Just as the poetry is not on the whole at all influenced or in conversation with foreign poetry or language poetry or visual poetry etc.

In poetry magazine, the manifesto seem to be doing the opposite job from what the manifesto of the historical avant-garde did: they are here to diffuse antagonism and to render art apolitical, to put it in The American Poetry Wax Museum where it cannot offer a point of view.

It's like Republicans appointing an African American guy to be its party secretary while keeping all its racist policies in tact.

It's curious to see Josh Clover and Juliana Spahr denouncing poetry magazine with their manifesto and then Poetry Magazine being really pleased about this denunciation so they put a blurb from it on the back: look we are so open-minded, we are open to everyone! We are even open to people who hate us!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Exhaustion and Hollywood

This is what we're doing in my class today:

and this:

It goes without saying that we're discussing Claudia Rankine's book Don't Let Me Be Lonely.

In that book Rankine describes The Wild Bunch shootout as an "orgasm," but I think that's note entirely correct - if by orgasm you mean an erotically satisfactory experience.

It's not satisfying or climactic. It's more like an exhaustion. But it also shows how exhaustion is a result of plotlessness, of a form that just keeps going and going, something beyond the human beings and psychology. It's more like the jouissance of repetition.

Claudia notes that these characters have "nowehere to get to... Theirs is not the Old Testament - no journey to take... For them life and death are simultaneously equal and present."

However, if the orgasm suggests something of the erotics of death (or "erotism" as Bataille's book has it), then perhaps it's like an orgasm.

And: "Once the orgasm is over we can just lie back, close our eyes and relax, though we are neither liberated nor fulfilled. They are dead, finished, no American fantasy can help them now."

If we're discussing exhaustion then we must invoke Bataille's notion of "expenditure" (see post below).

"You can never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough." (William Blake)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Exhaustion and Gothic Art

This from Wilhelm Worringer's 1908 "Form in Gothic" (originally in German):

"Our organically tempered sense of vitality recoils before this senseless rage of express as from a debauch. When, however, finally yielding to compulsion, its energies flood these lifeless lines, it feels itself carried away in a strange and wonderful manner and raised to an ecstasy of movement, far outstripping any possibilities of organic movement. The pathos of movement which lies in this vitalized geometry - a prelude to the vitalized mathematics of Gothic architecture - forces our sensibility to an effort unnatural to it. When once the natural barriers of organic movement have been overthrown, there is no more holding back: again and again the line is broken, again and again checked in the natural direction of its movement, again and again it is forcibly prevented from peacefully ending its course, again and again diverted into fresh complications of expression, so that, tempered bby all these restraints, it exerts its energy of expression to the uttermost unti lat last, bereft of all possibilities of natural pacification, it ends in confused, spasmodic movements, breaks off unappeased into the void or flows senselessly back upon itself."

My Favorite Literary Form

is the exhaustion.

See Flet by Joyelle McSweeney, Cunt-Ups by Dodie Bellamy, The Cow by Ariana Reines, Mörk Materia by Aase Berg.

It's a kind of parasitic form, which invades another form and drives it into exhaustion.


When Bataille analyzes the activities of society, he divides it into two parts: the productive part, and then ‘the second part, represented by so-called unproductive expenditures: luxury, mourning, war, cults, the construction of sumptuary monuments, games, spectacles, arts, perverse sexual activity [...] all these represent the activties which, at least in primitive circumstances, have no end beyond themselves.

This is what I mean when I say that I don't believe poetry should be "productive."

Also, I agree with Robert Frost that poetry is what is *lost* in translation. Which is why I keep translating and translating, losing and losing.