I am very pleased to post here the Call for Papers for the joint UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz conference~~Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today, to be held Friday October 13 to Sunday October 15, 2017.
The conference is convened by: Lyn Hejinian, Chris Chen, Daniel Benjamin and Eric Sneathen.
Details are available below!
For some years now, I've tried to make it to The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archive's George Oppen Memorial Lecture. Often they are thrilling, intellectually rigorous, surprising, provocative. This is certainly true for Frances Richard's talk "The Mind's Own Place and Feminine Technologies: George Oppen and Possibilities of the Political" delivered on December 17, 2016.
Frances has generously shared her inspiring talk with us. It was accompanied by a series of images of the Oppens, various publications, and art work. You can also listen to and watch recordings of her talk from The Poetry Center here. I highly recommend it!
Here is one of the images from Frances's talk, William Blake's "Satan Exulting over Eve" from 1794.
|Blake's "Satan Exulting over Eve" 1794|
Quick! Before 2016 is over--there are several noteworthy Bay Area events that occurred in the last half of December. Here is one:
On Tuesday December 16th, after a long hiatus from readings, I ventured out to the Green Arcade, a San Francisco gem, one of our community-oriented bookstores which hosts numerous literary readings and events, to hear Beverly Dahlen, Lauren Shufran, and Susan Gevirtz. What a good choice I made. In the midst of so much shock and horror and the struggle to figure out what one should be doing in the face of our current and ongoing post-election crisis, there was something powerful about being in a room with others committed to the thoughtful, exploratory, nuanced engagement with language, with thinking, with making.
Beverly read from some new work which struck me as painterly, sculptural, lyrical. I love it. Here is one of these new pieces, "The Thrushes of Egypt."
Lauren Shufran then read three recent poems all of which are part of a project that writes in tension with Whitman's Leaves of Grass through contemporary politics, a trip to India, references to Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, the Bhagavad Gita, Richard Spencer's National Policy Institute speech in DC, and more. This work was mesmerizing and I hope we'll see it out in the world here or elsewhere soon!
Lastly, Susan Gevirtz read from her new book, Hotel abc, just out from Nightboat Books.
Gevirtz closed her reading with this lovely poem, "The Birdhandlers." And thus here on the blog page, we have a bird theme, though the evening included a variety of themes, references, topics.
It is with sadness that I learned today of the death of Francesca Rosa, writer, activist, and publisher. I met Francesca in Bob Glück's Saturday house writing workshop in the mid-1990s where she worked tirelessly on her book The Divine Comedy of Carlo Tresca, a book she finished and published with Ithuriel's Spear in 2012. Francesca was instrumental in bringing my book Dear Reader into the world.
In honor of Francesca, I am reprising an interview I did with her in January of 2009--how swiftly time escapes us.
Francesca Rosa: From The Angels of Light to New Narrative and Labor Activism
Back in mid-May I read in the Local Poets Series at the San Francisco Public Library in the Civic Center with Barbara Jane Reyes and Eleni Stecopoulos.
A portion of the event was recorded. Eleni elected not to be recorded, but here is an an excerpt of Barbara reading and one from me.
Hosted by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado at Denver
Organized by Julie Carr and Sarah Tyson March 9-12, 2016
What a pleasure it was to be part of this conference bringing together scholars and writers from the worlds of philosophy, poetry, feminist theory, and literature. The conference offered a rich set of readings, talks, panels, workshops and a closing dance party.
S P A C E/
S P A C I A L
S P A C E S O F D I S C O M F O R T
|Public Lynching |
August 30, 1930.
From the Hulton Archives.
Courtesy Getty Images (Image alteration with permission: John Lucas)from Citizen: An American Lyric
On not just any Sunday, but yesterday, the 6th of December, California College of the Art's Timken Hall was filled beyond capacity. Oversold.
After being introduced by CCA MFA student Rachel Kass, Karen Green, whose recent book Bough Down has garnered many accolades, including winner of The Believer Poetry Award 2013, sat cross-legged on a plastic chair on stage and read, beginning with this:
The doctor wears his pink shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I see his flaws clearly before he gives me the shot which will put me to sleep until after the holidays. He is making a mercy call, and the needle is part of my invention. Pink is a new color I am seeing.
The Googled pills are all different colors.
I don’t know how not to imagine submission, even after all this. Someone says I need to be contained but I think he means constrained. I let him take away my sight and my hearing while he applies pressure in another language. He is very kind about assessing my needs, but there is a strident protestor type inside who recoils and starts assembling contempt and mirrors.
What dreams the support guys have:
Their sensible shoes wear out, they have the code blues, patients eat their own fingers down to the first knuckle; there are contraptions to keep hands down, mouths shut. They dream of consequences. They have their McSanctuaries to dream in, and yet. Faux-science is replaced with newer, quieter faux-science. The machines chirp like fledglings, they don’t beep. Some souls are so lost they make their own privacy, they don’t need walls. The support guys are trained to say, Why do you ask? They are trained to know when to train a patient to say, Why do you ask. In their dreams they forget how to treat people, they forget how to work the machinery, how to deflect, manipulate and regurgitate accidents, they kiss their patients on the gurney while it rolls away, they run in slow motion to catch up, there is nudity under the lab coat, they beg for forgiveness in tongues. They remove the wrong eye, the one that sees.
The movers say it is fire season, they’re used to it. Acres are burning and the concierge comments on the beauty of the sunset, the eye shadow palette of the apocalypse. I took ashes to the hotel in a hatbox. I left the murder of crows rotating from the studio ceiling, I left too many holes in the wall. The support guys have replaced the cells in my brother. I’m coming, wait for me. I’m sorry I missed your call. I have to make a stop to drop off paperwork. I cut my hand and the papers are bloody. I tell the life insurance guy, It’s not what you think.
Green's text is punctuated by her collages like the one above. She didn't include images of these at the reading, but I wish she would have, particularly since both Green and Rankine's books--though in different fashions--are engaged with text and images. You can see more of Green's poem here at BOMB magazine. About Green's book in the Los Angeles Review of Books Maggie Nelson has written:
Karen Green’s new — and incredibly, her first — book Bough Down, from Siglio Press, is an astonishment. It is one of the most moving, strange, original, harrowing, and beautiful documents of grief and reckoning I’ve read. The book consists of a series of prose poems, or individuated chunks of poetic prose, interspersed with postage-stamp-sized collages made by Green, who is also a visual artist. Collectively the text bears witness to the 2008 suicide of her husband . . . and its harrowing aftermath for Green. The book feels like an instant classic, but without any of the aggrandizement that can attend such a thing. Instead it is suffused throughout with the dissonant, private richness of the minor, while also managing to be a major achievement.
I am looking forward to reading more of Karen's book.
|"In the Hood"|
After Karen, CCA MFA student Melissa Josephine Ramos introduced Claudia Rankine. On-screen, Rankine projected images from her book Citizen: An American Lyric, beginning with David Hammons' "In the Hood," made in 1993 after the LAPD beating of Rodney King; this image graces the cover of Citizen.
She also showed us a photograph of Hammons in New York City as he sold snowballs, which you cold hold and then "feel whiteness melt in your hands."
Opening her reading with the statement that "Citizen came to me through community," Rankine explained how she asked numerous friends to recount an experience when each was doing something ordinary and suddenly something was said that reduced the person to his/her/their race, and racism entered the discourse.
Reading from the first part of Citizen, comprised of some 12 separate sections and anecdotes, Rankine began with: