Saturday, October 31, 2009

One more from the 80s

It looks like these guys are still around:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some more Swedish 80s music from youtube

I actually kind of still like this:

It's kind of Green Day, though The Clash comes up in the referrals sections.

Some Swedish pop music form the 80s

Youtube is hilarious. I just remembered these Swedish Depeche Mode imitators from the 80s. I haven't heard these songs since oh 1986 or so:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Earshot Reading in New York

Earshot Reading

November 6 // 7:30 PM
Janaka Stucky, Johannes Goransson
Kimberly King Parsons, Kit Kalnay, Helen Rubinstein

Rose Live Music
345 Grand Street (b/w Havemeyer & Marcy)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 599-0069

Must the Hipster be Killed?

"Has the hipster killed cool in New York? Did it die the day Wes Anderson proved too precious for his own good, or was it when Chloë Sevigny fellated Vincent Gallo onscreen? Did it vanish along with Kokie’s, International Bar and Tonic? Or when McSweeney’s moved shop to San Francisco and Bright Eyes signed a lease on the Lower East Side? Was it possible to be a hipster once a band that played Northsix one night was heard the next day on NPR’s Weekend Edition? Did it hurt to have American Apparel marketing soft-porn style to young bankers? Was something lost the day Ecstasy made the cover of the Times Magazine? Or was it the day Bloomberg banned smoking in bars? And how many times an hour could one check e-mail and still have an honest, or even ironic, claim on being cool?"

Here's another take on the Hipster issue.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hipsters, Kitsch and the Specter of Mass Culture

∑ This blog entry is in part my response to the &Now Conference. It’s about Writing and the specter of kitsch, aestheticism, vulgarity and mass culture. It’s also prompted by the book Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-Garde by Joan Hawkins, Daniel Tiffany’s essay Kitsching the Cantos and Lara Glenum’s and my &Now panel on the gurlesque and kitsch. As well as some other stuff, some of which I have discussed on this blog.

∑ In his book Highbrow Lowbrow, Lawrence W. Levine argues that until late 19th century, the mingling of high and low culture was common in the US. There was little “cultural stratification.” Opera would be sung in the music halls, which might also include a soliloquy from Hamlet (often as farce) etc.

∑ In the late 19th century, culture was hierarchized – Shakespeare became high art, while popular music was lowbrow. This was largely based on economics: it was more expensive to go to the theater or the opera than the dance hall. High art came to signify status and class standing.

∑ But also: “…the drive for political order was paralleled by a drive for cultural order, and the push to organize the economic sphere was paralleled by a push to organize the cultural sphere, that the quest for social authority (“the control of action through the giving of commands”) was parallelled by a quest for cultural authority (“the construction of reality through definitions of fact and value”)…”

∑ As Joan Hawkins notes, the historical avant-garde was largely about undoing this stratification. You get Cabaret Voltaire or Futurist cabarets encouraging people to talk and badmouth the performers; you have Breton and Jacques Vache ducking in and out of movies; you get people throwing stuff at the screen during the showing of Un Chien Andalou etc. This is in line with Huyssen’s idea that the historical avant-garde was all about trying to alter the relationship between high culture and mass culture.

∑ Tiffany notes that there is always the risk of a work of high art turning into kitsch, and proves this by reading Pound’s The Cantos (usually seen as the epitome of High Modernism) for its kitsch. The kitsch in the Cantos can be found in the deathiness and the imagery (Imagism turned very easily into Amygism – feminine, kitsch, the opposite of “hard” Imagism – which ties perfectly into Ron Silliman’s macho hard vs soft distinction). And thus Totalitarian Kitsch.

∑ An interesting study: the gurlesque and totalitarianism. I like that idea. Uhm… I guess Aaron Kunin touched on this in his essay in Action, Yes. I see a connection to the Slovenian Retrogardists.

Or "You Should Be President" by Imperiet (from the 80s, Sweden):

∑ Imagism was at first conceived as an antidote to the ornamentalism of Victorian writing, but it soon became another ornament, perhaps the biggest sign of ornamentalism. Thus kitsch. Thus contemporary poetry’s use of the demeaning term “hipster.” It’s all image, not hard cold facts. It’s all art/illusion: everything is art, everything is ornament. What a crime.

∑ Adorno argues that the High Modern move towards abstraction is a move away from the kitsch of the image (“mimetic enchantment”).

∑ Steven Shaviro: “Behind all these supposedly materialist attacks on the ideological illusions built into the cinematic apparatus, should we not rather see the opposite, an idealist’s fear of the ontological instability of the image, and of the materiality of affect and sensation?”

∑ Steven Shaviro: “Images are condemned because they are bodies without souls, or forms without bodies. They are flat and insubstantial, devoid of interiority and substance, unable to express anything beyond themselves.”

∑ Shaviro: “But is it really lack that makes images so dangerous and disturbing? What these theorists fear is not the emptiness of the image, but its weird fullness; not its impotence as much as its power. Images have an excessive capacity to seduce and mislead, to affect the spectator unwarrantedly.”

∑ Shaviro: “The image is not a symptom of lack, but an uncanny, excessive residue of being that subsists when all should be lacking… Images are banally self-evident and self-contained, but their superficiality and obviousness is also a strange blankness, a resistance to the closure of definition, or to any imposition of meaning.”

∑ Saul Friedländer: “Kitsch is a debased form of myth, but nevertheless draws from the mythic substance.”

∑ For debased myth, see Jack Smith’s “Flaming Creatures” with its vampires and trannie deities; see Kenneth Anger’s “Scorpio Rising” with its debased Death and debased Jesus; see Anger’s “Invocation of my Demon Brother” (with Mick Jagger’s awesome soundtrack); see Aase Berg’s guinea pigs; see Antonin Artaud’s rampant bleeding daughters.

∑ Tiffany: Kitsch is “permeated by an atmosphere of death.”

∑ Hawkins: “The operative criterion here is affect: the ability of a film to thrill, frighten, gross out, arouse, or otherwise directly engage the spectator’s body. And it is this emphasis on affect that characterizes paracinema as a low cinematic culture. Paracinema catalogs are dominated by what [Carol] Clover terms “body genre” films, films that Linda Williams [Note: Hardcore: The Frenzy of the Visible is an interesting book about porn and the power of the image] Most of the titles are horror, porn, exploitation, horrific sci-fi, or thrillers; other non-body genre films – art films, Nixon’s infamous Checkers speech, sword-and-sandal spics, and so forth - tend to be collapsed into categories dictated by the body genres…/… Finally, the body genres directly address the spectator’s body. This last feature, Williams argues, most noticeably characterizes body genres as low cultural forms…”

∑ Paracinema; paraliteratures (Delaney); paramilitary; paraplegic; parasite. “Clement Greenberg identified kitsch as a parasite feeding upon the productions of the avant-garde” (Daniel Tiffany).

∑ Steven Shaviro: “Something has happened to the act of looking. Outbursts of violence… arouse, agitate and unsettle the spectator. Narcissistic gratification is interrupted, not through any recognition of loss or lack, but because I am drawn into a condition of excessive, undischargeable excitation. I am depositioned and dispossessed by the film’s incessant modulations of visibility, no less than by its concise articulations of action and movement.”

∑ At the &Now Conference, I talked to many Experimental Writers who all expressed a great deal of anxiety about the Internet: “The writing on the Internet is so bad,” they would say. This anxiety about standards being upheld. This anxiety is of course totally contrary from the power of the historical avant-garde, which Experimental Writing claims affinity to.

∑ At the panels at &Now, one frequent topic was how to remain experimental. The answer seemed always to be self-examination and the drive toward greater “complexity.” In one panel, one audience member pointed out that one of the characters in a story was a stereotype. The author replied that he hoped to “complicate” the character in the rest of the story.

∑ Complexity is the new Negative Capability.

∑ Negative Capability is the urge toward prestige. It’s also the urge to “transcend” ‘the body. To become complex, abstract, refined.

∑ But what happens when that prestige is totally marginalized, left without monetary support?

∑ No wonder Adorno’s simplistic “culture industry” model is so popular in experimental quarters.

Donald Revell's argument that Allen Ginsberg was locked in the cage of capitalism, while Revell is freed by his bodiless verse.

∑ I feel bad that this comes off as a criticism of the &Now Conference, which on the whole I greatly enjoyed. I loved the way the Html Giant moved like a foreign body through the proceedings. I loved talking to people. I loved Lara, Jordan’s and Joshko’s installation (“Meat Out of the Eater!). I loved the idea of ‘avatar performances” in 2nd Life (Sondheim etc).

∑ Nevertheless.

∑ So much of contemporary poetry criticism seems based on cultural prestige vs kitsch. What is Ron Silliman’s criticism but a constant charge of kitsch! Why aren’t Quietists good: they are tasteless, they are not modern, they are not “hard” and macho. Why is Surrealism is “soft” and feminine – it’s ornamental, image-based etc. As I showed in a recent entry on Jed Rasula’s critique of Bly: His charge is that Bly is kitsch. The reason why he’s kitsch? The Image (as opposed to Creeley’s infinitely more tasteful “syntactic” experiments). The best way to argue in poetry is to argue that you represent the most prestigious and to scare people that their taste is kitschy.

∑ Flarf: Like Gurlesque seems to embrace kitsch. But then there are moments like the incident when the “glittering asian gays,” when Mike McGee couldn’t handle the flarf rhetoric and had to argue that in fact what he was doing was subverting Yeats’ orientalism. Subversion = taste. Yeats = tasteless. You lost me there.

∑ One of the things that strike me when reading Levine’s description of the un-stratified world before high/low brow is that it reminds me of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, where TS Eliot and Ezra Pound mingle with Calypso singers, and Paul Revere’s horse bursts into the kitchen, and Einstein [though I wish it were Eisenstein] disguises himself as Robin Hood. Another thing it reminds me of is Godard’s Weekend, with its car-crashes and Charlotte Bronte and cannibals etc. The more I think of it, the more it reminds me of the 1960s! Surrealistic pillow!

∑ The MFA programs that took of in the 1970s came about largely as a response to the increased college population, spurred on by the GI Bill and the democratization of Higher Ed. We have to refine the rabble, in other words. And what was the pillar of MFA poetics: You have to earn the image. The image has to be controlled. Be made tasteful. Overtness is the enemy. Political statement is vulgar. Allusion to popular culture or political figures makes it impossible for your poem to be timeless, the ultimate goal. They ‘date’ the poem. These attitudes were still in place when I attended Iowa in the 90’s.

∑ It is interesting how both the MFA poetics and Language poetics are based on a rejection of the perceived “surrealist” “excesses” of the 1960s. You have Ron Silliman’s constant critique of “soft surrealism” of the 1960s; and you have Tony Hoagland’s attacks on “the excesses of the 1960s.” They are different sides of the same coin, both opposed to a sense that the 60s represents a moment of bad taste, of excess (for what is excess but an exceeding of norms of taste). A date which is dated. And everywhere, the specter of a mass culture tastelessness invading high art, ruining the standards!

Untameable, grotesque, generative bodyhood

Here's a good piece of writing about Sandy Florian's "The Tree of No":

"Florian’s novel (is that what to call it?) is the speech and psalms of a female speaker who sings like David, births nations like Eve, and self-determines, like Milton’s Satan, in sin: in the titular rejection and falling away. The novel’s revolutionary heave, sexualized energy, and sense of deep- (rather than forward-)time recall Julieta Campos’s Fear of Losing Eurydice or Alice Notley’s The Descent of Alette. Its moral quandaries— its arc from “Beastly, I fall at Adam under the shade” to “But the sin in me says I”— remind Robert Oventile of Simone Weil. However, more than these, it’s the tactile environment of Florian’s novel that was perfect to read this morning: episodic, blood-kitschy, spiritual, and charged (I could sympathize) with an untameable, grotesque, generative bodyhood."

Monday, October 19, 2009


Apparently I have to read this article Daniel Tiffany wrote about kitsch as the parasite in the body of the avant-garde. In response to my last entry on the Genius Child Orchestra, someone sent me some excerpts from that essay, including this:

'Kitsch is lodged like a foreign body in the overall system of art'... it is 'the element of evil in the value system of art... its relationship to art can be compared--and this is more than a mere metaphor-- to the relationship between the system of the Anti-Christ and the sytem of Christ'.'

[Note: I didn't understand the note sent to me. Tiffany quotes Hermann Brosch, who, typifying the high modernist view of kitsch, makes this argument, setting the stage for Greenberg &Co.]

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Genius Child Orchestra

(A text about collaboration.)

1.The Genius Child Orchestra Project includes a number of texts and performances: A fictional
blog, a spectacle called The Widow Party, a novel called HauteSurveillance, a pageant in which we all begin to intricate, and John’s and mine comics.

2. Except for the most recent effort, the comic, the figure of the Genius Child Orchestra is mostly absent from the plot of these texts. They remain an indistinct force of violence on the outskirts of the action. In The Widow Party, the entire spectacle consists of the build-up to their show, which is then not shown (or is replaced by the bank surveillance footage of Patty Hearst), followed by the violent recollections of the daughter and son who witnessed it (the daughter goes all Abu Ghraib on the Son). They are indistinct, born somehow like orphans out of the Iraq War and/or the various bodies that this war has accumulated and intertwined.

3. Following the conventions of the comic book, John’s and mine comic book does give a very graphic and very narrative account of the individual members. But this act – which in normal circumstances would be the first “genius”-granting treatment of these genius children – is undermined by the ludicrous “super hero” conventions of the comic.

4. In both the texts and the collaborative processes behind the composition of these texts, The Genius Child Orchestra operates like parasites. They infest a medium (the writer, the material) and out of this infestation comes the projects. The projects never get completed, never get proper plots or dramatic movements; The GCO creates as it exhausts. All of these texts are exhaustions.

5.The GCO makes the collaborative process and the text it produces one and the same. This parasitical force always dies into itself; the collaboration becomes the text.

6. The GCO consists of orphans and cutters, starvers and stranglers. But most of all it consists of orphans. It is an orphan-parasitical force.

7. The GCO is a patricidal force. It kills the head of the family, the head of the state, the head of the allegory. It turns artworks into crime and ornamentation.

8. I first took the name GCO from Brazilian-Swedish conceptual artist Oyvind Fahlstrom’s sonic collage (or “Blind Movie” as he called it) Heliga Torsten. In this work, the orchestra travel to china and end up murdering Lyndon Johnson by the poolside of his ranch in an elaborate happening.

9. At its coreless core, then, this project posits a translation of a dead father (Fahlstrom), who had no children and no followers. A loser. A dead-dad.

10. I was told long ago that poetry is what is lost in translation, so ever since I’ve lost and lost in order to gain poetry. The GCO is a force of loss. Like Translations, the GCO cannot be contained in an urn or a wax museum.

11. As Langston Hughes wrote, "nobody loves a genius child." As Langston Hughes wrote, “Kill him.”

12. The Genius Child Orchestra has no future.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

&Now in Buffalo

I'm just about to leave town again, this time for Buffalo, where I'm going to participate in the &Now Conference. Tomorrow morning at 8 I'm going to be at a panel discussing my American Hybrid review and an article by Ben Marcus about contemporary fiction (I just read it last night, I have much to opine about, perhaps from my hotel room tonight); then I'll talk about the Gurlesque at 10 with Lara; and then I'll talk about collaboration with John Woods and JA Tyler at 2 pm. Then early on Saturday I have a conflicting schedule of Starcherone and Action Books readings. And there's a lot of other things I will want to go to. James Pate will talk about Beckett and Minnis at 8 am on Friday for example. Also, I'm bringing some copies of Killing Kanokos.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Here's Ross's perceptive reading of The Tree of No and Maximum Gaga.

The “No” becomes a pseudo-synonym for the post-human “I” enacted within the text, denoting a collectivity or assemblage of humanity as flow and flux, driven and driving at breakneck speed (in parallel with the text’s analogous performance) toward destruction, absolution, or something different. This No becomes, paradoxically (and in true Nietzschian fashion) an affirmation of human animalistic passion and velocity: “But the sin in me says ‘I’”.

These poets work by drawing on overt femininity, kitsch, gratuitous ornamentation and a open, often aggressive sexuality, all tainted by a grotesque treatment. Maximum Gaga builds on the groundwork of her earlier collection, taking the use of recurrent characters, theatricality and perverted romantic quests as the basis for this books oscillation between drama and verse in a baroque grotesquerie. The verse transforms into a horrific parody of Jacobian theatrical spectacle, literalising Deluzian tropes such as the Desiring Machine and the Schizophrenic machine alongside abominations such as Trannie Mermaids, Ultraclowns and Normopaths.

Margrit Shildrick Talk at Notre Dame

[This should be good.]

Professor Margrit Shildrick will deliver a talk entitled “Critical Disability Studies: Challenging the Conventions” as part of the Disability Studies Forum Visiting Speaker Program for 2009-2010.

The event will take place Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 3-4:30 pm, at Notre Dame Room, La Fortune Center and is sponsored by the Henkels Interdisciplinary Visiting Speaker fund, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Department of Romance Languages.

Professor Shildrick is a Reader in Gender Studies at Queen’s University Belfast, and Adjunct Professor of Critical Disability Studies at York University, Toronto. Her research interests lie in postmodern feminist and cultural theory, bioethics, critical disability studies and body theory.

She is the author of Dangerous Discourses of Disability, Subjectivity and Sexuality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Embodying the Monster (Sage, 2002), and Leaky Bodies and Boundaries (Routledge, 1997), and joint editor of Ethics of the Body (MIT Press, 2005) with Roxanne Mykitiuk, Feminist Theory and the Body (Edinburgh UP, 1999) and Vital Signs (Edinburgh UP 1998) both with Janet Price. She is also the author of forty-nine articles.

Recent publications include work on Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and Deleuze in relation to disability, and her current research centers on the phenomenology of heart transplantation.

Professor Shildrick is a prominent scholar in Disability Studies, but she is also very well known for her works on feminist bioethics, women sexuality, and body theory. Her visit will, therefore, be of interests to scholars and students in diverse disciplines, such as philosophy, gender studies, English, disability studies and post-modern theories.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Subject: Absinthe 12!

Absinthe #12 is coming soon and includes work by Danilo Kiš, Stefano Benni, Dan Turèll, Linor Goralik, Vasyl Makhno, Dan Sociu, Rose Alice Branco, Andrey Gritsman, Jesús Fernandez Palacios, and a portfolio by Swedish artist Mia Makila. Order at our website:

Until then, enjoy the interview with Italian writer Gianrico Carofiglio conducted for Absinthe by Stefania Rega, posted at our website and blog:

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I'm very busy writing some things for the &Now conference in Buffalo next weekend, but I will soon do a more comprehensive entry about the role of actual teaching in the MFA system. In the meantime, check out the new Typo:

TYPO 13 is live:

Featuring poems from:


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Minneapolis/Ito Hiromi

Wanted to tell everyone in Minneapolis to go to the Twin Cities Book Festival in MCC in downtown Mpls today.

Joyelle will discuss "the future of poetry" with Stephen Burt, Matvei Y and some others at 10:30.

And the bookfair is the only place where you'll be able to score the brand new Action Books book, Killing Kanoko by Hiromi Ito(translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles) before it goes on sale (in a couple of months).

"Killing Kanoko is a powerful, long-overdue collection (in fine translation) of potery from the radical Japanese feminist poet, Ito Hiromi. Her poems reverberate with sexual candor, the exigencies and delights of the paradoxically restless/rooted female body, and the visceral imagery of childbirth. They leap off the page as perfomrative modal structures - fierce, witty, and vibrant. Ito is a true sister of the Beats." - Anne Waldman

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Kate Bernheimer Interview

[These were some of the questions about The Complete Tales of Merry Gold my fiction students came up with.]

1. Why is Merry so sadistic? She seems more like the villain of a fairy tale than the main character (who tends to be innocent)?

Merry doesn’t like people and she isn’t very nice to people. But Merry herself warns the reader that “why” is the wrong question to ask, generally speaking, of life. She gets that dictum from fairy tales. She’s a Merry Know-Not. A Merry Know-Nothing. Why, for her, is an insane kind of question. I think of my grandmother; conversations with her had the most marvelous progressions of why: “Why is the food at this restaurant so bad? And why such small portions? Why did our waiter never come back? Oh, Kathy! Why do we live and then die?” So why is too troubling and partial. So then, what? What is cruelty? I am saddened and astonished by the sheer cruelty humans calmly dole out to each other, other living things, and to the earth on a daily basis. The disgusting selfishness of that! It does not interest me at all, and thus it was destined to become an obsession of mine.

And meanness is a very important trope in many of the fairy tales that fascinate me. It’s true that while American popular culture has canonized female fairy-tale characters with hearts of gold, in fact the “main characters” of fairy tales are extremely varied: as many stupid, clumsy, boring, mean, ugly, plain, deficient, weird, pathetic, and sad characters as there are “good” ones. So actually, the “main characters” of many fairy tales are cruel. One example, easy to find on the shelves, is Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Girl Who Trod on A Loaf” where the young hero’s hobby is to pull wings off of flies. She suffers in the end, but she is still the story’s beautiful, troubled cold center. She is the bright star in a terrifying and sublime drama. Countless examples of mean girls at the center of story exist in fairy tales from around the world, just as they do in the junior high classroom or [fill in the blank], but in fairy tales they are a lot more interesting to know. I would entreat readers to look at the many, many available translated collections of tales from around the world, to see the existential variety in them.

2. Why switch from first to third person?

I felt I just had no choice in this matter. The novel is put together (by Merry herself) in the tradition of the edited fairy-tale volume, where there might be a translator, a writer, an illustrator, an editor, a printer, a binder, involved. Merry is all of these things to the novel, which is an homage to fairy-tale collections, to serial books. (Her sisters Ketzia and Lucy have their own volumes in the set too like a mad family project.) In part, the book is an homage to childhood and to growing up in books—to the experience of becoming through reading. And to the serial novel as a form itself. Serial reading—it is a form of psychosis. The only way the book could evoke what Merry feels about living in (being in) a collection of books in a box, like a coffin, was to use first and third for different parts of the story. Certainly the memories of her molestation had to be distant (third); but I’ll leave that to the psychoanalysts to discuss. Basically the book has to contain every possible variation on self that Merry encounters in books. Also, obviously, the the book is in part a critique of our culture’s worship of “self,” a construct that has been our ruin. Self is overrated, so this book doesn’t have one, it has many, they are stapled together like the little mice that Merry might staple onto a dress.

3. How did you select the images for the illustrations?

Well . . . Merry selected them. They were put there, tucked in, like a note someone wrote to herself that you find in a library book and it makes you sad (“Buy eggs”—did she remember to buy them? What were they for? Is she yet dead?) I adored novels with illustrations when I was a child (and still do) so I wanted to recreate that experience, of course, but because Merry is mad . . . she can’t get them quite right, nor can her sisters. I spend years gathering the images for each of my novels, carefully researching and selecting or creating them for each book. It’s sad I don’t have room for more, but I use so few words.

4. What inspired you most about the particular fairy tales you used?

A lot of the fairy tales I like to write from are unfamiliar to popular culture. So they seem modest to me. Hobbled. Poignant that way. I easily fall in love with the unknown, the unsung. Also I spend many hours reading and reading, looking for the precise sequence of tales to use in each novel—some of this is by motif (“I need a fairy tale where someone is slapped”) and some of it is what some people call intuition.

5. Can reality or realism be a fairy tale?

Can reality be a fairy tale. That is a great question! I think it can be, except it is not flat enough, which makes it not a fairy tale and is the whole problem. I think I will write an essay about this, so I must give it more thought. Can realism be a fairy tale: I have written about this a lot and am writing about it still. I think realism, to function at all well with its particular artifice, absolutely must “employ” fairy tales and does employ fairy tales—and speaking broadly, realism is a “subset” of fairy tale. My essays speak to this. I know it’s not popular to speak this way.

6. Why the fascination with clothes?

Where in the world, apart from in a fashion show, can you walk around wearing a monocle? In a novel. In a Truman Capote novel. For each of the three sisters, I created a uniform: Merry wore a lot of dead things of course. Ketzia wore high boots, mini skirts. Lucy, the main character in the novel I just finished, wore white blouses, pencil skirts and black pumps. Part of it for me is the attraction to the words—in part, I am sure, Lucy wears pencil skirts because pencil skirts remind me of pencils. The fascination with clothes is the fascination with language, actual language—I don’t mean this metaphorically.

7. What do you think about modern day portrayals of fairy tales (ie Disney)?

I think a lot about them, all sorts of things—some positive and some negative. I live and breathe this work, all of it. I love all of it insofar as it gives me more to think about this amazing and misunderstood kind of writing. But to plug what is at risk in the tradition: more people should read the older, translated fairy tales (Maria Tatar’s CLASSIC FAIRY TALES: A NORTON CRITICAL EDITION is a great place to start, or Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales. There are new collections published each year; Jack Zipes’ translations of a Dadaist fairy-tale writer, Kurt Schwitters, was just published by Princeton University Press, as an example. For serial readers out there, there is nothing better than a 500-page collection of fairy tales from a particular culture—and then finding the “other” translation from the same place, 500 more pages of the very same stories but in totally different sentences. It’s amazing, it is very Dada in fact.

8. Are you interested in shocking your readers?

The fairy-tale scholar Max Luthi, whose work deeply informs this trio of novels—the existential three-way mirror that that they comprise—puts forth in his volumes the idea of what he calls “the beauty shock” of fairy tales. The consolation a fairy tale can provide: it is shocking. It takes a peculiar form. Stops you right there. There are other kinds of shock in the novels—electro-shock, shocks of violence, aftershock, shock of hair, etc. Yes, I am interested in shock. I’m not sure I am interested in actually shocking my readers, or anyone, though—not directly, though sometimes I like to imagine shocking people. A sort of parlor game of the mind.

Jennifer Karmin

"I want to start with the milestone today of 4,000 dead in Iraq. Americans. And just what effect do you think it has on the country?"
-- Martha Raddatz, ABC News' White House correspondent to Dick Cheney

Jennifer Karmin has been collecting 4000 WORDS for the 4000 DEAD Americans in Iraq. All words are being used to create a public poem. During street performances, she gives away these words to passing pedestrians. Submissions are ongoing as the Iraq War continues and the number of dead grows. Send 1-10 words with subject 4000 WORDS to

Participants include:
Emily Abendroth, Harold Abramowitz, Amanda Ackerman, Manan Ahmed, Charles Alexander, mIEKAL aND, David Baratier, Michael Basinski, Cara Benson, Charles Bernstein, Anselm Berrigan, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Laynie Browne, Lee Ann Brown, Amina Cain, Teresa Carmody, Maxine Chernoff, Catherine Daly, Patrick Durgin, Annie Finch, Daniel Godston, Arielle Greenberg, Kate Greenstreet, Roberto Harrison, Carla Harryman, David Hernandez, Jen Hofer, Lisa Janssen, Pierre Joris, John Keene, Matthew Klane, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Joyelle McSweeney, Miranda Mellis, Philip Metres, Vanessa Place, Kristin Prevallet, Lisa Samuels, Susan Schultz, Laura Sims, Juliana Spahr, Christopher Stackhouse, Chuck Stebelton, Stacy Szymaszek, Tony Trigilio, Eric Unger, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Andrew Zawacki, and many more.

4000 WORDS 4000 DEAD
street performance

Saturday, October 10th

in front of the Epiphany Church
201 S. Ashland Avenue
Chicago, IL

Sponsored by:
the 4th annual Chicago Calling Festival,
& Chicago Artists Month 2009,

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New Tinfish

Subject: Tinfish 19: The Highly Intensive Labor Issue is out!!!

Aloha Tinfish friends--

I am writing to announce publication of our 19th issue of the annual journal, which is beautifully designed, covered by hand-made stuffs, and full of wonderful work. Please support our efforts to publish experimental poetry from the Pacific.

_Tinfish 19_ includes parodies of Wallace Stevens by Jill Yamasawa and Gizelle Gajelonia; a letter to the editor in
verse by Ryan Oishi; poems from Daniel Tiffany's forthcoming Tinfish volume, _Dandelion Clock_; landlord poems
by Oscar Bermeo and Deborah Woodard; interventions in Maoist indigestion by Kenny Tanemura and Guantanamo by
Rachel Loden; as well as poems by such luminaries as Barbara Jane Reyes, Jody Arthur, Jennifer Reimer, Janna Plant,
Brandon Shimoda, Mandy Luo, Dennis Phillips, Emelihter Kihleng, Paul Naylor and others. Graphic design by Chae Ho Lee,
covers and centerfold by Maya Portner, editorial assistance from Jade Sunouchi, art direction from Gaye Chan, and
editorial diligence by Susan M. Schultz. The covers were handmade, the books handbound. $10.

We are charging $12 through; (go to;, click on "purchase," go to the bottom of the 2checkout page and order that way) because we no longer get our postage from UH. You can also order at 47-728 Hui Kelu Street #9, Kane`ohe, HI 96744, the home office.

For more, please read the Editor's Blog here. Includes photographs of our making the covers by hand, and of very cute children (if I may say so myself!).;

aloha, Susan M. Schultz

Monday, October 05, 2009

A New Quarantine Will Take Your Place

Only 5 copies left, so go over to SPD and buy one for your mother and your son and that special someone with a rifle in the backseat.

Kate Bernheimer and more hipsterisms

Read Kate Bernheimer's book The Complete Tales of Merry Gold. It's really excellent.

Kate's fascinated by fairytales and I love the way she uses a kind of tale idiom in a very alive way. Ie it's not Angela Carter. It's in large part working within the idiom of the tales - the use of color, the startling images, the austere syntax - to create something that at the same time never feels like pastiche or archaic. Or maybe it feels archaic in a way that I really appreciate.

Merry Gold is a mean girl who grows up to work as a clothes designer, and then in a sewing factory. She's fascinated by patterns and textures. In this way it locates the story as a commentary on art and gender roles; it's a style that foregrounds the surface patterns.

This ties back in with my previous discussion about "realism vs the hipster." The hipster being that unreal person of dubious lack of masculinity who traffics in clothing and "fashion" rather than the "real stuff of life" - the grief of a father dying, fishing etc.

Also, I am thinking about the relationship of the "hipster" discussion to the conventional split between metaphor and symbol, or metaphor and allegory. The threat is that the symbol/allegory is short-circuited, the tenor is put in doubt and the language multiplies out from that moment like patterns of a fabric.

That fabric has many names, but certainly one would be the Gothic tale, another genre (if fashion could be considered a genre) traditionally viewed as feminine, prostitutive.

(I love the patterns and textiles in Poe. Even when it's part of the human body.)

The contradictory impulses there are of course that in one instance the hipster opposes Realism, in the other instance it opposes a religious vision. Perhaps the connection is the word "epiphany," which has frequently made claims to 'realism' incomprehensible to me.

Large parts of the book reads as beautifully precise, clothing-like poetry that also happens to be part of a story about a girl. Here's a piece from the story "Ice Girl" about the girl who studies with Merry's piano teacher before her (and who is one of Merry's doubles):

Although I was supposed to be learning piano, often Danilo would play piano himself, and have me dance around the room. After a while I never did play. I suppose I played very badly and he got tired of me. Also, when I would try to play I would get so nervous I'd hold my breath and pass out and fall off the bench to the floor.

"Dance like a butterfly," he would say. "Dance like a bird." Because the songs were so creepy, the dances I did were creepy too.

When I was done, Danilo would have me sit on the bench and lean my head on his shoulder until our time together was over.

I remember being exhausted. I remember seeing my face stare back at me from the black window. I remember the shiver of cold on my spine. Sometimes snow would blow into the room and cover our bodies.

Christian Peet on Aase Berg

[As part of the Delerious Hem forum on male writes writing about feminism, Christian Peet wrote the following interesting analysis of Aase Berg's poetry (The interview is rather long and it has other interesting analyses, but I'll just post this part). This is one of the most interesting uses of eco-poetics I've read:]

resently my feminist icons tend to be living, are not always icons for other folks, and often include my friends. The following are but a few, off the top of my head (yet, strangely, alphabetized!): Dodie Bellamy, Aase Berg, Lisa Birman, Ana Bozicevic, Catherine Breillat, Jenny Boully, Rebecca Brown, Jan Clausen, Margaret Cho, Traci O Connor, Angela Davis, Ani DiFranco, Katherine Dunn, Danielle Dutton, kari edwards, Eve Ensler, Sandy Florian, Elena Georgiou, Renee Gladman, Kim Hyesoon, Brenda Iijima, Shelly Jackson, Elfriede Jelinek, Miranda July, Bhanu Kapil, Amy King, Joan Larkin, Joanna Lumley, Joyelle McSweeney, Harryette Mullen, Dolly Parton, Joanna Ruocco, Selah Saterstrom, Kim Gek Lin Short, Juliana Spahr, Annie Sprinkle, Heidi Lynn Staples, Shelly Taylor, Rosmarie Waldrop, Wendy S. Walters, Amanda Jo Williams.

Over the last few years, the work that I've studied the most, and that has had the most profound impact on me, has been work by women. The list is too long, so I'll stick to the living, focus on the most recent reads, exclude Rebecca Brown (whose latest book I just blogged, here), exclude TSky Press authors, exclude also my girlfriend, and from the remaining pick only a few: Aase Berg, Bhanu Kapil, and Selah Saterstrom.

I'm presently rereading Swedish poet Aase Berg's selected poems, Remainland (translated by Johannes Göransson, Action Books, 2005), and for months now I've been walking around with her first book, With Deer [Hos rådjur] (Black Ocean, 2008, also translated by Göransson). Berg's is a feminism of the dark and surreal variety. Think Artaud, Breton, Ernst, as performed by Nico, post-Velvet Underground, making public her spectacular decay. Berg's feminism also springs from images of "the natural world"--but in the case of With Deer, think: watching The Nature Channel on a bad tab of acid. Or even The Weather Channel: today and tonight, nightmares; tomorrow, nightmares with occasional clouds. Think When Animals Attack, think demonic, human-flesh-eating guinea pigs. Think bedtime fables to keep you from ever having children.

Berg's feminism is an ecopoetics, and her ecopoetics not only collapses distinctions between the "human world" and the Other, but also makes room for--how should we say it?--the less savory elements of the natural world. The first line of my notes for an unwritten review of With Deer: "Look up "putrefaction.'"

In Berg's feminist ecopoetics, there is no separation between disease in bodies and disease in cities, social structures, civilizations. No separation of blood and oil. Everywhere fucking and misery. Everywhere miscarriage and cancer. Everywhere, "The Gristle Day":

Black blood is coming. Out of that hole. Thick blood is coming. It looks like oil. And the squirrel screams in the tree.

Black blood is coming. Not very much blood, but undeniably out of that hole in the middle of the white. The hole has walls, swollen and flaccid, and doesn't dare bear down and push out. That's why the blood screams.

The hole doesn't dare open and push itself out of the hole. Black blood is coming. Out of that hole. Mechanisms have stopped, the flesh hangs pale on the hook and has ceased resisting. The squirrel screams all alone as the tumor plug drops into the hole. The blood screams in the tree; the blood screams black in the white.

We are born in the sewers, out of the horrifying dough beyond good and evil. It smells like ghosts, it smells of slop flesh, it smells of placenta and uranium. Black blood is coming. Marsh gas and diarrheas bubble. Out of the hole that screams and screams as gristle encloses the embryo like an eggshell and a jail, and the little squirrel in my little hand has broken all the small bones of its whole skeleton. It lies still and its eye is the hole; the hole spread open and tired. Blood is probably still coming out of the black intestine on the bottom of the flesh.

Black blood is coming. Out of that black old ole. Marsh blood and sludge blood and creamy gunk blood. It looks like oil. And when the squirrel screams one last time in the tree, a moan slowly rises out of the hole.

Berg's feminism collapses distinctions as it explores symbiotic relationships, explores the dynamics of dualities rather than the stasis of antipodes. Excerpted from "In the Horrifying Land of Clay":

There was an evil horse that galloped along the evil river in the horrifying land of clay. There was an evil horse that galloped with me on its back. Beneath the hair-strap his muscles moved and chafed against the muscles of my taut inner thighs which clamped down around his body. . . . There was an evil horse that galloped through the horrifying land, an evil and dark horse with manhood and musculature, and I was thrilled to have him as my enemy.

In Daniel Sjölin’s excellent introduction to Remainland, discussing With Deer, he could just as well be describing the work of Bhanu Kapil: "a bold style, in which water and earth--sorrow-death and the body--mix to form blood, clay, and tar. She detourns the theme of 'the girl in the woods' [a dangerous formula . . .]." As if speaking directly about Kapil's most recent book, Humanimal: A Project for Future Children (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), Sjölin describes "a hybrid between woman, language, and animal: a decomposition process at the same time as a creation process."

Go here for the full thing.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Program Era/Translation

I'm reading Mark McGurl's "The Program Era," which traces the historical development of fiction writing program (and by association poetry writing programs). It's a very well-researched book and a much needed one if we're going to have an at all useful discussion about "the academy."

Seems like most discussions about the role of the academization of literature in America takes one of two routes: 1) It's bad, all academy is evil etc (often ignoring the fact that the person making this argument, including at times me, has been educated in literature and is thus part of the academization of poetry) or 2) it has no effect, I'm just a poet who happens to teach for a dayjob. Both of those attitudes are totally insufficient and simplistic.

But what I was of course thinking about when I was reading the book was translation. In an early section, McGurl notes that "creative writing" was an invention of progressive education, based on the idea of "self-expression" and helping the student find themselves. In this it was explicitly opposed to former methods, such as reading aloud and *translating*. The Creative Writing Program was conceived as the opposite of translation.

I tend to blame the New Critics and their autonomous, perfect urn for America's discomfort with/dislike of/indifference to translated texts, but reading this book makes me think a lot of it comes from the ideology of the creative writing workshop.

There's something about "the voice" as the metaphor for creative writing in the 1960s that is relevant but the more I think about it the more this seems like a complex issue.

There's also an interesting and relevant chapter in which the regionalism of the New Critics and its authors (for example Flannery O'Connor) came up against Iowa Writers Workshop leader Paul Engle, who establish the International Writers Workshop (where I'm going to read/talk this December, it's still going) with a globalist/peace-y/cold war notion of internationalism.

This book actually gives good insights into a whole host of issues that are discussed in the blogosphere. I'll try to write some more at a later date.

Lucas Moodysson's Poetry

Someone over at Html giant wondered about Moodysson's poetry (as I noted here some time ago he started out as a teenage poet wonder/terrible child). I'm doing some really tedious translation/editing of theory article so instead I will post a little excerpt from Moodysson's long poem "What Am I Doing Here":

my face is corroded by cancer
tony blair smiles and kisses anna lindh's cheeks
there's an ocean of distrust between me and that kiss
the world is upside down
the police in göteborg are forced to suspend
the schengen agreement in order to stop
those who are coming to sweden to protest
against among other things precisely the schengen agreement
julius plays with the pirate ship
emil screams ouch in the corridor
you fall down
i see the red hole in your thin body
i wish that i was there
i wish i could lift you up
and carry you away from there
i wish i could talk to you
i would tell you that it's not possible
to change the world with hate
one can only change the world with love
but i don't know
i'm not so sure any more
i walk along the street
i get an overdose of life and reality
the street stones rain over me
i have to shut my eyes
my eyelids are so thin
i tie emil's pokeman shirt
like a bind over my eyes
i dont' feel at home
i feel foreign
it feels like i'm 15 years old again
i wake up and the store is
gone and there is a new world
the tv lies
the newspapers lie
i'm at a party
i'm totally alone
the telephone is quiet
nobody is calling

Friday, October 02, 2009

Cannibal's Feast

[From Janaka. This sounds like a good time if you live in Boston.]

Good Friday Friends,

Tomorrow is the 9th Feast of Flesh and this is the last reminder you’ll receive from me. The zombies were up late last night stuffing goodie bags; the costume prizes are locked in the prize crypt; the brains are stewing in your heads. Tomorrow night will rain horrible magic down upon all who enter the Coolidge at midnight until everyone is consumed by laughter and screams!

We got write-ups this week in the Dig, the Boston Phoenix and today’s Metro! Could three papers be wrong? We’ve streamlined our production to open the doors to the theatre at 11:45 this time so show up early for a good place in line! Tickets on sale at the Coolidge box office and online at;

We’ll see you bloody wonders tomorrow!


Thursday, October 01, 2009


Kent has posted some kind of story about his experiences with McSweeney's magazine.

People who have read this blog longer knows that I have a somewhat negative view of that journal because it used the identity of Joyelle's uncle (Timothy McSweeney), who has lived a pretty troubled life, for its name and then proceeded to invent various fantastic life stories for him (his own life was rather desperate).

It is interesting how this issue overlaps with Kent's usurping of Kenny Goldsmith's authorship, something I have no trouble with. Perhaps hypocritically.


This morning I for some reason remember the whole "greatness" discussion from a while back. How David Orr or some such poet though there were not "great" poets and then many people responded variously. Mostly I think what he eulogized was the loss of a centralized canonical system that gave rise to the Robert Lowell phenomenon of the 1960s.

However, today I was thinking, how absurd this claim is when Alice Notley has been writing and publishing something akin to one incredibly ambitious continuous work since Descent of Alette in the early 90s. I mean if "Alma" isn't a "great" work, then what is? It fits most ideas about "greatness" - long, ambitious, political, visionary, daring.

That it's also great without quotation marks is perhaps however in the end more important.