Banter


I wrote a short email to my seminar class called “Game, Chance and Narrative” about how to create a nice blog for their final presentations. They still have to write final papers, but I have them create blogs as well. My hope is that they can use the act of writing for the blog as a way to look again at their prose.

Here are the notes I sent out. Nothing earth shattering here, but I think the points are very basic, good ones.

Here are some points I thought of about your blogs:

Chunkify — even if the paragraphs in your paper are long, break them up into shorter paragraphs for the blog. It just makes the visual impact better — nobody likes to read long paragraphs on the screen.

Make sections — even if your paper just works as one long section, break your blog up into separate points. You can even number them. Make them separate posts.

Use multimedia — even if you don’t need a video or image to make your point clearer, you can still include a few extra things just to keep it lively. Don’t put in totally irrelevant stuff, but you have space so use it.

Link key phrases and words — blogs and other websites just seem livelier if you link phrases and words to relevant articles. You can even be witty this way — link to strange things that help you make your point.

Use your blog writing to help you revise your paper — often I find that something I wrote in a Word doc seems unnecessarily wordy when I put it on a blog. Use the blog as a new way to look at your prose for your paper.

Use the blog formatting features — especially for long quotes from essays, use the block quote tags in the blog. Generally, if a quote from a text is longer than 4 lines (on paper) it should be offset as a block quote — otherwise, just use regular quotes and leave them in the paragaph.

You can have much more text on your blog than in your paper, but I want you to stick to the paper length for what you hand in on the page. Your paper shouldn’t read like a bunch of blog posts, but like a sophisticaed research paper. Don’t include screencaps or anything like that in your paper, just refer to your blog.

Your presentations should be about 7-10 minutes. We have to race through all of them in 3 hours, so time it well. If you have time, practice! During your presentation, feel free to ask the class if they have additional ideas about a section or two, or other examples — this can be a workshop for your final paper.

Dear ¡Sataristas!, Tim Robbins and the Actors Gang,

Thank you so much for the performance yesterday (February 2nd, 2001), and I think it’s a generous thing you and the Actors Group are doing by having a free performance once month in such a nice theater, with an inexpensive bar, and inspired by socially progressive themes.

I think I’m pretty aware of what the tenor of your project last night was – to somehow confront the history of racism in the United States, a history which persists to today, with over-the-top absurdist humor that bordered on tasteless, kind of a South Park-meets-lefty-rally-of-the-60s – but I’m afraid you missed the mark.

I didn’t particularly mind the singer songwriter – I only got to see two of his numbers, the one about how spelling out the N-word is ok for white people, and the one about stereotypes about race and penis size. The only real problem there was how incredibly unoriginal the material was. I couldn’t see this being of any use to an audience outside of the largely white, upper middle-class folks that attended the event last night. It was coterie humor disguised as progressive, transgressive humor, taken from the trash bin of a mediocre cable channel. But the two songs were brief, and you could take it or leave it.

The opening act, a mime in white-face performing a greatest-hits list of African American history, was very skillfully done, and certainly made for one of the most gripping examples of old school mime I’ve ever seen. But again, it seemed particularly dated, and the politics of the history presented incoherent and troubling. The mime started with a scene of Africans in Africa (using spears), who are then shackled and led into slavery. It then moves through a series of canonical vignettes – slaves picking cotton in the fields, the origins of the blues, the origins of Rock and Roll, Rosa Parks taking a seat on a bus, Civil Rights marches, something about basketball players, Rodney King, the OJ Simpson trial (with grisly depiction of the murders), Michael Jackson’s stardom, finally ending in the election of Barak Obama as President. Most of these vignettes were punctuated by the image of the protagonist being hand-cuffed or shackled and being led away, usually to knowing laughter from the audience.

I missed several of the allusions, but it strikes me that, for the most part, the depictions were of slaves, criminals, athletes and musicians, with the only figures of social agency being those of the anonymous civil rights protesters and Rosa Parks. I didn’t see any intellectual figures, or any political or cultural figures of ethical complexity who weren’t saintly, iconic African Americans – no Richard Pryors, Malcolm Xs, Toni Morrisons, Spike Lees or Tupac Shakurs. I didn’t see anything in the range of impersonations that could have possibly suggested that Barak Obama could be president today – it depicted him as merely arising out of the rabble of partying, sports and/or social discord. The final crowning moment of Obama’s presidency seemed quite ludicrous coming directly after the Jackson dance routine and the Simpson murder. Of course, this is a mime – I’m giving it greater attention than it probably deserves – but it was one that presented a complex history all in the service of a therapeutic (for white people) laughter. What does it mean to laugh at the O.J. Simpson trial in this context? What does it mean for a white mime to own and convey black history for a white audience? In Culver City, no less?

The comic strip artist, Kevin Knight, was very entertaining, and might have been the one thing in the evening that didn’t strike me as completely wrong. I’ll pass him up for now, as you can see his work on the web. I’d like to move quickly to what really inspired this letter.

I really got uncomfortable during the group shout-along, during which were projected slides and short video clips, along with the narrator (Paul Provenza?) asking the audience: “Is this racist?” The content of the slides was mostly images of signs and icons – “Blacks for Sale,” “Heebs Grocery,” and a bookshelf in the shape of a swastika hung at IKEA, an African American newsman showing a police sketch of a rapist that looks just like him, some commercial cartoon that depicted Mexicans with thick accents, etc. – that were probably created innocently, but which somehow conveyed a racist message. I suppose the goal in presenting them was to promote discussion, and to give a lot of people suffering from “white guilt” – the MC had expressly stated that the evening’s show was addressing black history month and was an outlet for white guilt – to demonstrate their lack of racism, or at least project through laughter their sense of the absurdity of racism, or at least their insider’s knowledge about how the sign systems of the world are encoded with racism, etc.

That’s all fine, but it should be noted that this form of conscience-cleansing is strictly a project of a particular class of people, and of a particular color, and even, I might add, of a particular geography. I’m new to Los Angeles, so I’m still acclimating myself to how the general populace here relate to each other in terms of race and class, but I was struck at how insulated most of the audience seemed to be from the people, not to mention the culture, of the non-white upper middle class (even as it appears on television!), and how the events of the evening reflected a particular anxiety about having no physical or cultural interaction outside of their (admittedly large and powerful) coterie.

The most distressing moment was when a video was projected of tiny gray monkeys having sex on tree branches, with some racist “black” voices dubbed over it, dramatizing the sex drive of the lead, horniest monkey, all to huge laughter from the audience. (I feel like heard the nefarious laughter that Dave Chappelle heard that fateful day, which drove him out of show business for a months.) After the clip, the URL of the creator of the movie was projected (I don’t remember who it was, but I didn’t recognize it), I assume to point out that this was the creation of a particular individual deserving of group enmity, rather than an accidental find on the internet. I didn’t quite see the distinction, though.

The question was, of course, then asked by the host: “Is this racist”? Of course it was racist – that was probably the only thing that was racist that was projected that evening (the majority of the images being of double-entendres and accidents of juxtaposition) – and it elicited some pretty excited laughter. It being a video, this laughter went on for some time before we got the “reveal” – the name of the creator. I have no idea why the video was shown, as it didn’t share several of the features of the other “accidental” racist imagery and text. What was most racist, however, was the laughter of the audience – they laughed exactly when they were supposed to, at the cue of the creator – or at least it convinced me (rightly or not) that most of the people in the room were, indeed, racists. I don’t believe that, but the event and context created this impression.

What I’m most confused by is the point of the entire exercise. Was the “Is this racist?” shout-along intended to shame all of the participants to fall in line with some particular view of what racist imagery is? Was it to project, as I suggest above, the group’s sense of themselves as confirmed non-racists? Was it a chance for white people to sit in the same room with a few black and Asian people (invited attendees and performers – I didn’t see any black or Asian people in the audience, and if there were, they were in very small numbers) and share some moments of mutual, therapeutic discomfort?

Whatever the answer is, I’d like to stress that, for the most part, I can’t complain. It’s hardly my position to judge what a group of people do in a room together to help them deal with the conflicts of the world, or their own interpersonal difficulties, or their difficulties with dealing with their prejudices. This was clearly an event of some importance to a particular group of white people in a particular part of the world, and not the event of universal relevance that it was billed to be (I do think it’s a common mistake among “enlightened,” well-intentioned white liberals to think that their perspective is universal and unbiased, rather than culturally specific like everybody’s else’s is).

It probably should not have been an open event, though, as I stumbled into it quite innocently, hoping to see some socially searing comedy. The event reflected an incredibly unsubtle, dated, and largely oblivious view of race relations in our culture, which, while largely imperfect, has been rendered so much more complex by artists, politicians, cultural events and, most importantly, comedians over the past decades that it can’t be reduced to antique folk songs and slide shows – especially not hour long slide show with abrasive shout-alongs! This type of humor might have been news to Archie Bunker (maybe even Meathead), but not to those of us who actually walk the streets of this, or any, city.

When I and my friend got up to leave – she had to use restroom, and we were both very hungry – a member of the audience shouted to us, knowingly I guess, “Oh, we’ve offended the Asians!” (Or, “The Asians are offended,” I can’t remember which.) I haven’t been referred to as “the Asian” in a long time, and because, in fact, I am only half-Asian, I am often in the position of telling other Asians that, indeed, I am Asian in some way. But to this fellow I was “the Asian,” largely contextualized, even over-determined, by some of the imagery that was being projected on the screen (we actually waited until the Asian section of the images passed before getting up, in fear of drawing attention to ourselves).

I can’t say that I was offended by this man or felt any danger, but it was quite presumptuous of him to think that I was engaged in this group lynch-mob mentality – lynch the racists! – even so much as to need to reject it. I found the event, at best, silly and unfortunate, and would just have liked to have been left with my thoughts, which were more complex than could have been shouted out into this room. He could simply not imagine how wrong I thought the whole event was — the negation of an “Asian” seemed not within his imagination.

Maybe I was expecting too much by thinking I’d see at this event social humor on the caliber of Richard Pryor or Lenny Bruce or even Chelsea Handler (who I think is brilliant) – gritty stuff that walks the fine line between tasteless and illuminating, but which every step of the way seems somehow in touch with “on the ground” realities as they are played out every day by people living, dying, falling in love, having babies, liking or disliking each other, sleeping with each other, and indeed laughing at each other. Maybe the ¡Sataristas! – a highly pretentious name, in my opinion – just aren’t funny, or knew what to aim at but just didn’t get there. I guess I’m concerned that the approach and viewpoints expressed there are the status quo among the white (and non-white) middle class here in Los Angeles, and that kind of frightens me. I don’t know what it would take to bring about a cultural upgrade, but given your visibility and relative power to stage your views, please try!

Sincerely,

My latest proposal for the Public School, Los Angeles chapter.

This course is geared toward writers and performers who want to workshop experimental theater texts, including already published and premiered plays.

There is no set definition for what “experimental” means. I tend to favor a lot of the writing coming from Mac Wellman and the group of younger writers who engage in his brand of “pataphysical theater,” including Young Jean Lee, with whom he edited the excellent anthology New Downtown Now, published by University of Minnesota Press. I’m also a big fan of the Wooster Group, but most of the best work I’ve seen is by very small troupes in NYC, like The Theater of a Two-Headed Calf and The National Theater of the United States of America. Basically, a reading list could be based on anything that is happening in theater today that is not expressly commercial or realist in the common senses of the word. We could also look at Youtube videos and assemble some sort of library of videos of groups and writers we are interested in.

I’d also like to look at some British playwrights like Edward Bond and Caryl Churchill, and especially like to figure out what experimental theater exists in Los Angeles (you can see my blog, Free Space Comix, for my attempts to collect links about this).

The definition of “theater” itself can be rather open, especially in LA, which has such a strong tradition of performance art. My sense is that theater should, at its very base, tell a story, or appear to do so, rather than present something in a purely sculptural or phenomenal way. That is, performance art is about historical events — singular, not-to-be-repeated happenings — whereas theater seems to rely on artifice, stagecraft, the creation of ritual or narrative — perhaps “memory” — spaces, that are valuable because of their very repeatability. The writer/performer distinction seems to rarely exist in performance art, whereas it’s central to the interesting dynamic of theater, even if the writer does indeed direct or perform. But there’s no reason to essentialize.

In any case, I’d like to create a workshop in which we can do exercises in creating new interesting things for actors and directors to do. We can have readings, and play around with each others’ texts. Ultimately, I’d like to see a staging of these works.

I certainly don’t have, or want, to be “workshop leader” every week — anyone who has interesting ideas for exercises, or has some special knowledge about contemporary theater, and wants to lead a workshop should do it.

frontcover.jpg

I’ve been working on a project based on my courses on electronic literature. I’ve been teaching it for over five years now, and am getting a sense of the texts that I use. However, I always feel like I’m building the class from the ground up every time, so I thought it would be cool to collect my materials into some sort of “anthology” to have on hand.

I also wanted to create a user-friendly, brief introduction to the field for people not in school, or who have no access to such a class. There are numerous places to find criticism and writing related to electronic literature, but they often contain such a huge amount of text that the newbie would not know where to start. Consequently, they are often very academic in discourse level, which is alienating to someone unfamiliar with the jargon.

This collection is intended to be for students, not my fellow artists and academics, but I hope there is something interesting to find in here for you as well. I’m sure we all have different approaches — for instance, I assign exercises in Scratch and Wix, which won’t be reflected in this list, and I tend to stay away from historical readings or computer science — but I’ve prowled several of your syllabi and websites in the creation of this list. So this can be seen as a continuing conversation.

This is a “freeware” anthology in that I only limited myself to works that were already available on the web. In a few cases, this might be in the form of bootlegs — sometimes it’s hard to tell what has been approved, since not everyone uses a Creative Commons license — but I limited myself to pieces that don’t require special privileges or subscription costs. (In one case, the essay works on my iPad but not laptop; in another, I thought it was freely available but it was not, but I’ve kept it in anyway since the author’s a friend of mine.)

I hope to edit a book to sell on Lulu for cost that will include primarily excerpts from the works, along with editorial glosses. The model is the “Documents in Contemporary Art” series, which are readable in a few days, as opposed to the often mammoth books on digital culture published by MIT (much as I like them).

The website that I am creating for this anthology will contain the essays in .pdf form (reset, since many of these pages are nearly illegible), a .pdf of the edited book with my editorial commentary, a page of videos I often use when teaching, a “ten week course” that is a series of essays, links and assignments based on my course, and other materials such as a bibliography, via Amazon’s “listmania” feature, of electronic literature books.

This is not a complete overview of the state of the field, or an attempt to create a “canon.” If the image here is skewed or flawed, it’s only because it’s meant to be a launching pad for an independent investigation of the genre, either as a scholar or artist. The fact of the matter is, there isn’t a whole lot of great writing on the works themselves — more of the e-lit writing is about its theory and potential — so I tried to include what I could. If you know of better deep readings of a particular e-literature piece, please let me know.

Inspired by the New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, this selection is a mixture of theoretical texts, creative works, manifestos, critical readings, interviews, Wikipedia articles, encyclopedia entries, lists, blog posts, and other miscellany. It only includes work that can be included in a book (or a .pdf). Any feedback you have is welcome!

Foundations

  1. F. T. Marinetti, “Words in Freedom” (1913), “Geometric and Mechanical Splendor and the Numerical Sensibility” (1917?)
  2. Wassily Kandinsky, “Concerning the Spiritual In Art” (1913)
  3. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936)
  4. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941), “The Library of Babel” (1941) and “Pierre Menard, Author of Quixote” (1941)
  5. Eugen Gomringer, “From Line to Constellation” (1954); “The Poem as Functional Object” (1968)
  6. Noigandres (Augusto de Campos, Decio Pignatari and Haroldo de Campos), “Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry” (1958)
  7. Susan Sontag, “Happenings: an art of radical juxtaposition” (1966)
  8. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The Turing Test” (2008)
  9. Larry Hauser, “Chinese Room Argument” (2001)
  10. Güven Güzeldere and Stefano Franchi, “Dialogues With Colorful Personalities of Early AI” (1995)
  11. Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: : Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” (1991)
  12. N. Katherine Hayles, “Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers” (1993)
  13. Espen Aarseth, “Ergodic Literature” (1997)
  14. Lev Manovich, “Database as Symbolic Form” (1999)
  15. John Cage, album notes to “Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music” (1959)
  16. Jackson MacLow, “The Twin Plays” (1966)
  17. Sol Lewitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967), “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969)
  18. Hakim Bey, “The Temporary Autonomous Zone” (1991)
  19. Charles Bernstein, “Poetics of the Americas” (1996)
  20. Ted Nelson and Tim Berners-Lee, “The Best Summary of My Work” (1999)

Writing Making Stealing

  1. Douglas Englebert, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” (1962)
  2. William S. Burroughs, “The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin” (1978)
  3. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “A Thousand Plateaus” (1987)
  4. Shelley Jackson, “Stitch Bitch” (1997); Mark Amerika, “Stitch-Bitch: An Interview with Shelley Jackson” (1998)
  5. Aram Saroyan, “Pages” (1969)
  6. mez, “_The Art of M[ez]ang.elle.ing: Constructing Polysemic & Neology Fic/Factions Online_
  7. Rita Raley, “Interferences: [Net.Writing] and the Practice of Codework” (2002)
  8. John Cayley, “Writing on Complex Surfaces” (2005)
  9. Cox, Geoff, Alex McLean and Adrian Ward, “The Aesthetics of Generative Code” (2006)
  10. Marjorie Perloff, “Conceptualisms Old and New” (2007)
  11. Charles Bernstein, “Experiments” (1996-2010)
  12. Darren Wershler, “The Tapeworm Foundry, andor, the dangerous prevalence of imagination” (2000)
  13. Nick Montfort and William Gillespie, “2002: A Palindrome Story” (2002)
  14. Toadex Hobogrammathon, “Name: A Novel” (1995?)
  15. Bill Seaman, “Approaches to Interactive Text and Recombinant Poetics” (2004)
  16. Encyclopedia Britannica, “The Influence of Erwin Piscator” (2010)
  17. Edward Tufte, “PowerPoint Does Rocket Science–and Better Techniques for Technical Reports” (2005)
  18. Lawrence Lessig, “What Orrin Understands” (2001); Wikipedia, “Creative Commons Licenses” (2010)
  19. Kenneth Goldsmith, “A Week of Posts to The Poetry Foundation Blog” (2007)
  20. Mike Magee, Kasey Mohammed and Gary Sullivan, “The Flarf Files” (2003); Dan Hoy, “The Virtual Dependency of the Post-Avant and the Problematics of Flarf: What Happens when Poets Spend Too Much Time Fucking Around on the Internet” (2006)

Text Image Sound

  1. Situationist International, “Detournement as Negation and Prelude” (1959)
  2. Alice Becker-Ho, “The Language of Those in the Know” (1995)
  3. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The Bakhtin Circle” (2010)
  4. Keith Obadike, “Blackness for Sale” (2001)
  5. Giselle Beiguelman, “Hacktivism? I didn’t know the term existed before I did it: An Interview with Brian Kim Stefans” (2003)
  6. Josh On, “From They Rule to We Rule: Art and Activism” (2002)
  7. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, “Regime Change & News Reader” (2004)
  8. Paul Chan, “The text you write must desire me: fonts as the penultimate interactive artform, second only to sex” (2001)
  9. John Cage, “Experimental Music” (1957)
  10. Brian Eno, “Generative Music” (1996)
  11. John Oswald, “Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative” (1985)
  12. Charles Bernstein, “Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word” (1998)
  13. Kurt Schwitters, “Ursonate,” score (1922-32)
  14. John Cayley, “Bass Resonance” (2005)
  15. Johanna Drucker, “The Art of the Written Image” (1998)
  16. Elaine Equi, “The Poetry of Ed Ruscha” (2004)
  17. Marjorie Perloff, “Screening the Page / Paging the Screen” (2006)
  18. Thom Swiss, “An Interview With Young Hae-Chang Heavy Industries” (1922); Jessica Pressman, “Reading the Code between the Words: The Role of Translation in Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries’s Nippon” (2007)
  19. Josh Spear, “Interview with Jason Nelson” (2010)
  20. Brian Kim Stefans, “An Interview with William Poundstone” (2002)

Reading Looking Doing

  1. Braulio Taveres, “Raymond Queneau” (1999); Raymond Queneau, “Yours for the Telling” (1967)
  2. Guy Debord, “Theory of the Derive” (1958)
  3. Roland Barthes, from “S/Z” (1973)
  4. Catherine Burgass, “A Brief Story of Postmodern Plot” (2000)
  5. Harry Mathews, “Histoire” (1988)
  6. Jill Walker, “Piecing Together and Tearing Apart: Finding the Story in afternoon” (1999)
  7. Shayna Ingram, “Reconsidering the Walls of Literature through Hypertext” (2008)
  8. Mikhail Epstein, “Hyper-Authorship: The Case of Araki Yasusada” (2000)
  9. Wikipedia, “mouchette.org” (2010)
  10. Nick Montfort, “Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction” (2003)
  11. Roberto Simanowski, “‘Reading “Text Rain’” (2005)
  12. Stuart Moulthrop, “Pax, Writing and Change” (2008)
  13. David Rokeby, “The Computer as a Prosthetic Organ of Philosophy” (2003)
  14. Jesper Juul, “Games Telling Stories” (2001)
  15. Henry Jenkins, “Game Design as Narrative Architecture” (1999)
  16. Alex Galloway, “Social Realism in Gaming” (2004)
  17. David Young, “Interview with Erik Loyer” (2010)
  18. Alexandra Saemmer, “Ephemeral passages—La Série des U and Passage by Philippe Bootz: a close reading” (2009)
  19. Marjorie Perloff, “The Music of Verbal Space: John Cage’s ‘What You Say’” (2004)
  20. Peter Lunenfeld, “Towards Visual Intellectuality: The Mediawork Pamphlet Series” (2010)

Genre Jams

  1. Ulisses Carrion, “The New Art of Making Books” (1975)
  2. Robert Coover, “The Babysitter” (1969); “The End of Books” (1992)
  3. Bruce Andrews, “Electronic Poetics” (2002)
  4. Stephanie Strickland, “Born Digital” (2009)
  5. Christian Bök, “The Piecemeal Bard Is Deconstructed: Notes Towards a Robopoetics” (2001)
  6. Daniel C. Howe, “The RiTa Library” (2007?)
  7. Noah Wardip-Fruin, “Playable Media and Textual Instruments” (2005)
  8. Lev Manovich, “Understanding Hybrid Media” (2007)
  9. Michael Mateas, “A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games” (2005)
  10. Nicholas Bourriaud, “Relational Form” (1998)
  11. Kanarinka, “Interview with Giselle Bieguelman” (2003)
  12. Jill Walker, “Distributed Narratives: Telling Stories Across Networks” (2004)
  13. Danny Snelson, “Heath: prelude to tracing the actor as network” (2007)
  14. Andrew Lawless, “Identity correction – Yes Men style. Interview with Andy Bichlbaum.” (2005)
  15. Anonymous, “Rules of the Internet” (2010); Julian Dibbell, “The Assclown Offensive: How to Enrage the Church of Scientology” (2009)
  16. Paul Virilio, “The Information Bomb” (2000)
  17. Matthew Fuller, “Software Studies: A Lexicon” (2008)
  18. Nick Montfort, “ppg256 (Perl Poetry Generator in 256 characters)” (2008)
  19. Eduardo Kac, “Biopoetry” (2003)
  20. Steven Voyce, “The Xenotext Experiment: An Interview With Christian Bök” (2007); Christian Bök, “The Xenotext Experiment” (2008)

And who said conference poetry wasn’t sexy? You say MLA. We say MLAwesome.

Zero-sum speed-sport pachinko-style poetasty. Everything poetry is not supposed to be –– for four-and-a-half hours!

This is the shadow convention. Screw the well-lit spaces. Guidebook for conventioneers ahead.

Doors open at 7:00, the reading will start at 7:30.

Poets will read for 3 minutes (or less); we place violators on the subway to the sea, MTA-guaranteed, by which we mean they shall never arrive. We have to be out of the venue by midnight, so windbags will be haters. If it sounds like a puptent happening, get this: it is a proper theater, so at least there are no chairs to fold!

There is a parking lot, and during the event there will be an inexpensive cash bar, but we have no other details on the space. It looks really great in the photos.

Did we mention there’s a grand piano?

Artshare
http://artsharela.org
801 East 4th Pl.
Los Angeles, CA

Here is a Google map that shows how to get there from the convention center. It’s not a short walk, and there a few streets you might want to avoid.
View Map

For instance, I would probably take Hope or possibly Grand from 11th to 7th, and then Spring from 7th to 2nd. I’ll have more details on the best way to travel from the convention center to the location. Of course, there will be cabs available from your hotels.

Another option is to take the Metro, which costs $1.50 and leaves right from the convention center and lands in Little Tokyo. It stops running at midnight, however.
View Map

And then there is the bus, which despite what you might have heard, runs very well in Los Angeles. I take it to work every day. You’ll get a pretty good tour of downtown LA as well. It costs a $1.50 exact change, but takes bills of course. There are several optional routes.
View Map

The website taxicabsla.org has a complete list of phone numbers for taxis that serve the area. The area that includes downtown is C. Taxis can be pricey but the distance is so short and there will be no traffic at that hour downtown. There are also taxi stands at the various hotels downtown, though I don’t know much more about this as I never take taxis. Here are the relevant numbers from the site:

United Independent Taxi
(213) 483-7660 or
(310) 821-1000 or
(800) 411-0303

Yellow Cab
(310 or 213) 808-1000 or
(800) 200-1085

Bell Cab
(888) 235-5222 or
(800) 666-6664

Beverly Hills Cab Company
(310 or 800) 273-6611

Checker Cab
(310 or 800) 300-5007

City Cab
(818) 252-1600 or
(800) 750-4400

Independent Taxi
(323) 666-0050 or
(800) 521-8294

Near the site of the reading are a lot of neat restaurants and bars. Traction Ave. is kind of the new hip area of downtown. Down 3rd street is SCI-ARCH, a great school with a fascinating lecture series. The Google map below shows you some (but not all — click on the unnamed dots) of the restaurants in the area. Did I mention it’s near Little Tokyo?
View Map

Andrew Maxwell offers the following recommendations for restaurants in the neighborhood:

Under $15:

Daikokuya: Still some of the best ramen in LA, with excellent cloudy pork bone broth. It’ll be a wait, but if it’s cold, it’s very worth the wait.

Senor Fish: Local mom’n’pop Mexican chain, but well above the mean for cheap eats. Get the fish taco special if your cash is low, and just want a decent, tasty lunch.

Suehiro Cafe: Solid bento box and noodles place. Japanese comfort food. Solid, if not transcendent, easy to get in, open until 3am.

$15-25:

Izayoi: Japanese Izakoya joint (small plates). Big with locals and the kids. Can be inconsistent, but also cheaper than some other options, and has its on nights.

Shabu Shabu House: Popular shabu joint, steamy hot broth, excellent sauces — folks swear by it, but can be a bit of a wait at times.

Wurstküche: Craftsman beers and homemade brats. Gastropub in a German beer hall, often packed, long tables, family style. Good stuff, but can be 20 min wait to order and get food.

$25 and above:

Sushi Gen: One of the better sushi joints in LA. Definitely will want to call ahead. Not so cheap, but definitely very solid sushi.

Lazy Ox Canteen: Bistro/gastropub, a little more upscale, one of the better young chefs in LA. Can usually get in for lunch, but is more of a reservations place on evenings and weekends.

In terms of bars and cafes, Mathew Timmons offers the following:

Villains Tavern – great for before or after reading – a kinda steampunk nowheresville, somewhere old west parisian feel – beautifully designed space – with outdoor patio and lots and lots of heat lamps – like 30 beers on tap – half of them belgians – paired with shots for $8 and old school fancy cocktails – nice balcony – Cherry Bacon Marmalade Burger –  grilled cheese with cave-aged cheddar and tamarind chili – they also have veggie options though I’m not sure about vegan

Urth Caffe – a great place to go before the reading – they aren’t open late – but they have really amazing coffee and tea and great sandwiches and food – very down to earth stuff – not cheap but not really expensive either

Church & State – only open until 11pm – good for before the reading – somewhat expensive but great cocktails – great coffee – very good food

(This escapade is sponsored, organized, and hosted by Brian Kim Stefans, Matt Timmons, and PRB Directors Andrew Maxwell, Joseph Mosconi, and Ara Shirinyan. If you see ’em, give ’em a shake or a drink.)

Just got this email today… congratulations for breaking the impasse!

The Poetic Research Bureau has a new home.

As Messrs Fagen & Becker had it in 1974, any minor world that breaks apart falls together again, and so it has.

The Messrs of the Poetic Research Bureau –– after six months of whim, errancy and reconstruction –– return to rearrange the chairs and podia, reopening their forum to peers and public alike. And should you read further, Public it is.

After two and a half years in southwest Glendale, where like Lou Reed in an imagined 1974 Berlin, they have constantly watched the bluebird fly over their shoulders (to Rally Burger, no doubt), the Messrs draw the curtains on a new prospect, this the one into which Robert Towne placed a hapless Jake Gittes in 1974 to do “as little as possible” while the world convulsed about him.

It’s Chinatown: 951 Chung King Rd to be exact. New digs –– okay and huzzah! –– but old habits all the same.

You may recognize the address, home to the visible college of the open program: The Public School, a school with no curriculum save for that which, like Australopithecus afarensis dug up from the slate in 1974, has somehow been there all along. The Messrs promise not to call their discoveries Lucy — they have no idea who that is. But the PRB nonetheless joins the Public School as active cohort, in deference to any collaborative future that shakes the pelvic girdle from its earthly Depression.

Believe in their enterprise. It’s not quite like that of Donald Barthelme’s protagonist in his tale of central planning gone awry, “I Bought a Little City,” published in mid-November 1974. The Messrs have not purchased Galveston, and they’d never shoot a dog. But like the interstellar radio message deployed from the Arecibo Observatory toward the M13 Great Globular Cluster in 1974, their aspirational reach is no less great and their career no less patient.

And you don’t have to wait until year 27000 to receive the message. It arrives in December, when irregular programming recommences with readings by Grace Krilanovich and Messrs Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch, on the evening of the 14th. Check the calendar to the upper right for future noise. Of the rest, they’ll remain silent, like the Indian Smiling Buddha that swallowed the mushroom cloud in 1974. Unlike him, however, they promise the tension will be creative.

Consider this the relaunch of yet another minor world, or yet another green world, perhaps (though that LP would not be released until 1975, why quibble with promise?). When you want to visit, give these old Messrs a write.

***

Calendar of Occasions:

• Dec 14 7pm: Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch (Ten Walks/Two Talks)
• Jan 2 2011: Nada Gordon
• Feb 20 2011: Brandon Brown & Alli Warren
• April 14 2011: Philippe Beck
• May 2011 (provisional): John Keene & Christopher Stackhouse

I have fled as Niagara, I’ve fled as a fishtail.
I have fled as a magpie sporting only a necktie.
I have fled omnivorously, on a chafing dish.
I have fled as a scent from the Orient.
I have fled as a crystal. I have fled as a wiz.
I have fled as a quail, to no avail.
I have fled as a squint that sorely hides.
I have fled as a fossil, as a riptide.
I have fled as a bulimic, starving bitterly
As will she who dines with me.
I have fled with my nose in a book.

[This poem appears, in a slightly different version, in his book New Depths of Deadpan, 2009. This is what the poem sounded like when he read it at Segue in 2004, with me as co-reader. Charles Borkhuis said we fit together “like a foot in a mouth.” I just know I loved him and will continue to do so.]

Proper name active verb preposition indefinite article noun conjunction active verb indefinite article noun. Nominative masculine pronoun active verb definite article adjective indefinite article noun. Definite article noun active verb double quote proper name exclamation point double quote

I’ve had a small handful of radio and live appearances (that have been boobtubed) appear happen over the past year. Here they are:

***

The iotaWeekly
February 16-21, 2010

Clip of the Week: “January 2010 iotaSalon Q&A with Brian Kim Stefans”
by iotaCenter
Site of the Week: The Rio Carnival 2010 Guide
Artist of the Week: Audri Phillips

More info at The Iota Center

***

Free Verse: Digital Poetry with Oni Buchanan and Brian Kim Stefans
Walker Art Center
Hosted by Eric Lorber
November 11, 2009

More info at The Walker Art Center

***

Macramé (Mexico City)
In Spanish and English
Hosted by Jorge Betanzos
Introduction by Román Luján

http://www.codigoradio.cultura.df.gob.mx/index.php/programas/45-programas-2/1171-macrame-sept-oct

Septiembre 7 – Tenemos la primera sesión netamente internacional en Macramé. Nos acompaña el poeta estadounidense Brian Kim Stefans, quien ha publicado varios libros de poemas, como Free Space Comix (Roof Books, 1998), Gulf (Object Editions, 1998, descargable a través de ubu.com) y Angry Penguins (Harry Tankoos, 2000), entre varios más. Su más reciente título publicado es What Does It Matter? fue editado en Barque Press. Es el editor de /ubu (”diagonal invertida ubu”), una serie de libros en www.ubu.com/ubu y es creador de arras.net, sitio dedicado a la poesía y la poética de nuevos medios. Su arte en internet y sus poemas digitales, como el caso de The Truth Interview (with Kim Rosenfield) y Flash Polaroids aparecieron en Ubu, Rhizome, How2, Jacket and Turbulence. Como podemos apreciar, la carrera de Brian Kim Stefans cuenta con una basta producción y es reputado en Estados Unidos como uno de los poetas de nuevas generaciones con mayor propuesta en el nuevo panorama de la poesía. No te pierdas esta charla, la primera bilingüe en Macramé.

***

Ceptuetics Radio
Hosted by Karreen Estefan
June 18, 2008
http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Ceptuetics.html

I’ve created a new (free) WordPress blog for the contents of Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Evaluation. I’ll keep it on Free Space Comix, but I wanted to free up the home page to start being able to post other things. Here’s a screen cap of the new blog.

If you are going to link to this online essay, please link to the other site.

I’d seen this amazing film shot from a streetcar on Market Street one year before the fire (you can download it at archive.org), but it seems even more hypnotic (not surprisingly) with the Air soundtrack.

No traffic lights, stop signs, or traffic cops… and lots of lucky cars and pedestrians. Probably smelled pretty bad, too.

Here’s the text that accompanies it on Youtube:

The first track from Airs’ Moon Safari album, accompanied by scenes from a video shot from a streetcar traveling down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905.

Before the earthquake/fire of 1906 destroyed the area. Remarkable footage of the turn of the century lifestyles
in California.

Made by cleaverb! The video is CC no rights reserved.

You can download video from the www.archive.org . Search for ” trip down 1905 ” without quotes. I used the big 330MB(145MB mpeg) version,but you can download other formats.

My question is: is every piece of motion picture created, regardless of the media it was shot on, going to be called “video” in the future? Will we be referring to Buster Keaton’s “short videos,” or to the “videos Edison shot in the Black Maria”?

Avatar is commonly referred to as a “film,” so is it ridiculous to say of the above that it was a “video shot in 1905”?

Tangentially, will every instance of trickery, special effect or just sheer bravado — these crazy scenes from Intolerance, Harold Lloyd’s hanging from a clock at the top of a building — eventually be understood by all as attributable to CGI?

Oh well. I guess I’m pretty incapable of appreciating the Raft of the Medusa as a the miracle of technology. I just don’t know why he didn’t just take a picture.

Has anyone ever charted the phenomenon of things being more expensive on eBay?

We’ve always known that Abe gets a few things wrong:

Rate My Professors seems to be dead, so I figure it’s about time I publish on my blog the collected comments about me from former students in New Jersey. It gets pretty good at the end (what does “Nop” mean?):

This professor is a really laid back kind of guy. He gives a few papers here and there but the work is not that difficult. If you pay attention and speak up in class I’m sure you’ll do good (grade-wise)

Great guy and a great teacher. If you do the work and put in the effort, you’ll be just fine. He knows his stuff and is more than happy to talk to or help you about anything. The class discussions can go a little off-track sometimes, but if you’re remotely awake, it shouldn’t matter. Definitely would take him again.

Great professor – very friendly and communicates well – will answer all questions quickly if you e-mail him. Gets frustrated with students who don’t try or who try to just skate by. As long as you do your work and participate,you will do well. Very fair with grades; learned a lot and thought the course was fun.

Probably the worst teacher I’ve ever had. Maybe the second worst. This is a LITERATURE class. What are we doing? Listening to horrible “plunderphonics” on the internet. The class has nothing to do with literature. I thought it was going to able about people publishing their writings on the internet…hence “Internet Writing and Society”. Nop

I wrote this in Philadelphia when I was in a heavy Morrissey phase. I never got around to recording it, but if you’d like to, please do! Send me the royalties.

Notice the way “grease cannoli” echoes the “grease tea” in “Everyday is Like Sunday”? Ok, I’m a nerd. Actually, I just couldn’t think of anything better, and didn’t want the extra syllable–“greasy”–in there. Sister, I’m a poet.

Here’s the original video for the song for those of you not lucky enough to have heard and been obsessed by it. Morrissey, unlike the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, understands the importance of Youtube to maintaining a career.

“You Have Killed Me”

The panini is green
The gnocchi obscene
I entered this place
And something entered me
That I claim is diseased
And you did your best but

As I try to breathe
You have killed me, you have killed me
Though I’m off the ground somehow
You have killed me, you have killed me

That pasta I bore
I taste it once more

The cappucino was cheap
But my Euros you’ll never see
I entered healthy
But now I’ve number three
When you came with a tray
Of your grease cannoli

Though I try to leave
You will bill me, you will bill me
With my credit card somehow
You have killed me, you have killed me

Where am I to find
Something to eat

As I try to breathe
You have killed me, you have killed me
And I didn’t see a skull
Or Surgeon General on the menu

There is no point saying this again
Because you’re not American
But I will sue you, I will sue you
Oh, I will pursue you

So there I am, checking out a possible new apartment building in Google Maps, and I think I see some exploding rays of white light — you know, like a UFO — emerging from the second floor.

I move a few clicks down the street to get a better angle, and notice the rays of light have not changed their position relative to my own change of position… because, in fact, the rays are bird poop.

I guess it’s not as interesting as catching a drug deal or seeing your mom on Google maps, but it does in its way reveal the machinations behind these absorptive, seemingly omniscient technologies.

If you want to visit the poop, type in “hyde park apartments los angeles” in the search field at Google Maps. When you get there, go to street view, click left to get on Lexington Ave, then click forward to move down Lexington (actually, backwards works, too). Swing the camera up and to the right — UFO! (Poop.)

Today was one of those fugged up days when you sit around and go through your Abe.com and Amazon.com shopping carts, prune them (“save for later”), go back and forth between the sites looking for the best prices, and buy a shite load of stuff, some of which costs all of $0.01 (shipping: $3.99). That’s what it’s like to be a poet–and a poet researching the writing of Los Angeles is bound to get some good deals!

So this is what I bought today, just FYI (content for this blog rarely comes from deep insights from the author, but from the capriciousness of his actions):

L.A. Exile: A Guide To Los Angeles Writing 1932-1998
Evan Calbi, Paul Vangelisti, editors

Place as Purpose: Poetry from the Western States
Martha Ronk, Paul Vangelisti, editors

Last Words
Guy Bennett

Alphabets: 1986-1996
Paul Vangelisti

Lee Sr. Falls to the Floor
Leland Hickman

Fine Printing: The Los Angeles Tradition
Ward Ritchie

Mavericks: Nine Independent Publishers
Richard Peabody

Geographies
Robert Crosson

Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond
Peter Selz

Abandoned Latitudes: New Writing by Three Los Angeles Poets
John Thomas, Robert Crosson, Paul Vangelisti

Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology
Charles Harper Webb

La Medusa
Vanessa Place

Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880-1940
Kenneth Marcus

Grand Passion: The Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond
Charles Harper Webb

North America Book Of Verse, Volume Three
C. F. MacIntyre

The Garden Prospect: Selected Poems
Peter Yates

Specimen 73 : a catalog of poets for the season 1973-74
Paul Vangelisti

Footnotes & Headlines: a Play-Pray Book
Sister Corita

Nevertheless
John Thomas

Remote Control: Power, Cultures, and the World of Appearances
Barbara Kruger

Invocation L.A.: Urban Multicultural Poetry
Michelle T. Clinton, Sesshu Foster, Naomi Quinonez

Bohemian Los Angeles: and the Making of Modern Politics
Daniel Hurewitz

Selected Fiction/ Collected Later Poems/ Selected Criticism and Essays
James Boyer May

This last one, a boxed set, is far and away the most expensive, but the books are really beautiful, and I don’t think more than 100 copies were created. I’ll have to write some serious criticism about May to bring the price up!

Most of these are books that 1) I couldn’t get in the UCLA library, 2) were so cheap that, even if I could find copies, I just wanted one, 3) were selling for a lot less than it appeared they were worth based on competing prices, or 4) in my twisted mind were just so cool I wanted one for myself.

obey_andre_the_giant_has_a_posse_001

This has been on the billboard for the past several months. I knew I’d find an image of it on Google. Better than having Zac Efron staring at me in my jammies.

A sequel to my last offering of terrible poetry jokes, which was itself a response to a series of terrible poetry jokes written by Peter LaVelle for the McSweeney’s site.

This might be a bit more in-jokey for the casual reader, but… so there.

***

Charles Bernstein walks into a bar, but with this difference: to bring him to his senses.

Kurt Schwitters, Jaap Blonk and Christian Bok walk into a kwiiee kwiiee. (They each order a “rinnzekete bee bee nnz krr müü!”)

Vito Acconci follows a person he doesn’t know for two hours to a bar. Acconci doesn’t enter the bar. He enters the basement, where he proceeds to masturbate for eight hours.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar walks into a “Whites only” bar and has a few drinks. Then he goes to a “Blacks only” bar and has a few drinks.

***

K. Silem Mohammed walks into a Flarf bar and has sex with a plastic donut — covered in vomit!

Anselm and Eddie Berrigan walk into a Mom and Pop Bar.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge finds in his Hershey’s kiss a “lifetime supply of opium” gift certificate for the new opium bar, “Sicilian Leaves,” that recently opened down the street, so he throws a few things into an overnight bag, combs his eyebrows, drops a bag of Meow Mix into the bowl, and runs down to the bar to begin claiming his prize. He enters, sits down, rubs his hands together, howls “Whoop-eee!,” picks up the opium pipe, and just as he is about to take his first massive toke… there is a knock at the door. He wakes up.

Ted Hughes walks into a crow bar.

***

Marianne Moore walks into a bar and has sex with a mollusk.

Morrissey walks into a bar and has sex with nobody, actually. (He’s too shy.)

Joshua Clover walks into a bar and has sex with Guy Debord.

***

Raymond Roussel walks into a bar. He is immediately arrested for not paying his tab. His sentence: to take over for the head chef, Fung Lee, who has run off with all of the Chinese cookware. Luckily, the San Diego State Marching Band is in the bar, celebrating a recent victory over UCLA, and are imperiously drunk. Raymond Roussel woks in a tuba.

***

Brian Kim Stefans walks into a bar in Los Angeles and orders a Manhattan.

I’ve been recently going to town on Facebook with a slew of oh-so-clever terrible poetry jokes. The whole thing was inspired by a page on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency of terrible poetry jokes, which I’m hoping you’ll read before reading my own contributions, so you get a sense of the, uh, genre. Thanks to Lysette Simmons for turning me on to this. Feel free to add to the list.

They are broken into sets, for whatever reason (because I’m a poet)?

***

Arthur Rimbaud and Thomas Chatterton walk into a bar. They are carded.

***

Sylvia Plath walks into a bar. The bartender says,”What’s cookin’, good lookin'”?

Alfred Tennyson crosses a bar. He is never seen again.

Gertrude Stein walks into a bar, thinking it was a bar. But it was a bar.

***

James Wright walks into a bar. Suddenly, he gets gin blossoms.

Frank O’Hara walks into a bar at 6:27, three day after Columbus Day. (Fifteen years later, Ted Berrigan walks into the same bar, on the same day, at the same time. He orders a Pepsi.)

Sappho walks into a Lesbian bar. Meanwhile, Edward Kamau Brathwaite walks into a Caribbean bar.

***

Allen Ginsberg walks into a bar after the kitchen’s closed. He says, “I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by starving.” He then goes nuts and strips.

***

Robert Creeley walks into a bar and punches out Willem De Kooning. Then he gets side-swiped by Willem De Kooning.

Carl Sandburg walks into a bar. He stays for a few hours, then leaves. He is immediately forgotten.

Ezra Pound walks into a bar and tries to start a tab with his credit card, but the card is declined: “CONTRA NATURAM.”

D.H. Lawrence walks into a bar and has sex with his mother.

***

Robert Frost walks into a bar. He says: “Fuck this motherfucking place!” The bartender asks: “What’s got into you?” Frost says: “Something that doesn’t love a bar.”

***

Edgar Allen Poe walks into a bar. He orders a vodka tonic. The bartender asks: “What kind of vodka?” The raven on Poe’s shoulder says: “Stoli.”

Because the bar would not stop for Emily Dickinson, they stopped serving her. (Turns out, she’d never left her bedroom.)

William Blake walks into a bar and has sex with Eternity.

***

William Butler Yeats walks into a bar that is advertising a happy hour with 100% off on all drinks. He orders a vodka tonic. The bartender says: “That will be two dollars.” Yeats says: “Innisfree”?

***

Jim Morrison walks into a bar. The bartender says: “You’re not a poet!?”

Kenneth Goldsmith walks into a bar. He orders a menu.

Ron Silliman walks into a bar. Shadow of palm tree on fading Exxon sign (employees standing under it). We park the car: the carp of parse. Capitalism.

***

John Ashbery walks into a bar. The bartender says: “What’ll you have?” Ashbery says: “Some drinks.”

William Carlos Williams and T.S. Eliot walk into a bar. Williams says: “I’ll have a Red Wheelbarrow!” Eliot says: “Jew!”

e.e. cummings walks into a bar. l(one) line (s)(s).

*

Gwendolyn Brooks walks into a bar, because black women poets are under-represented on this list.

More Terrible Poetry Jokes from this blog.

I’m sure this will be greeted with some consternation by some! But, alas, what can I do. Here is a draft of my course description for an undgraduate class called “American Poetry Since 1945.” It’s one of the standard “on the books” classes here at UCLA, and has been taught in the past, in very different ways, by Cal Bedient, Harryette Mullen, Stephen Yenser and Kenneth Lincoln. (And others, I’m sure.)

I’m really glad they’ve let me take a stab at it. Clearly I’m trying to hit as many bases as I can — it’s a bit overstuffed (none of my predecessors assigned two books a week), but even so, misses a lot of points. Hence the final paragraph, which invites the interested student to pursue their own independent course of study within the context of the class.

One or two “contemporary” poets (whose names I’ll omit) I might have listed had I had any idea at all how to teach them. This isn’t to say that I’ve only included very “teachable” poetry, just that I felt compelled to omit one or two who I don’t think I understand enough to feel qualified to impart any knowledge about, or insight into, how to write about them (since, in the end, the students will be writing papers about one or a group of these poets). I also tended toward poets I thought would be appealing to the young.

I thought it was important to include a section of Los Angeles poets, since I don’t think (as I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog) anyone has any idea of the depth (not to mention strangeness) of the work that is being done, and has been done, out here. UCLA (the campus) feels quite far away from what one could call “Los Angeles” proper (you know, the dirty, urban parts), and of course I would want to encourage any of my young students, especially if they are writers, to think of this city as a place where writing can be done.

So, this is a draft. Many of my adjectives are a little funky (where’s Michael Scharf when you need him?), and there might be some switch-outs of names or titles in the next week or so. But I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and so I think it’s quite solid. I wanted to assign Donald Allen’s anthology along with the Norton but that seemed overkill and they duplicate a lot of material. The “Vintage” anthology is the one edited by J. D. McClatchy.

I’ll probably make a better go of this one than I did “American Poetry Before 1900,” which I taught last year, given my long acquaintance with a lot of these poets, not to mention personal interactions and friendships with many of them. I mean, I did pee next to John Greenleaf Whittier once at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project (1845 or so), but it didn’t help me understand his poetry.

American Poetry Since 1945

The Modernist Period in American poetry was marked by an incredible number of advances in poetics: the polyglot, metrically intricate work of Ezra Pound, the “Cubist,” nearly abstract work of Gertrude Stein, the word-centered “variable foot” of William Carlos Williams, the philosophically nuanced, European-inflected work of Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot, the typographical experiments of E.E. Cummings, the complex syllabic stanzas of Marianne Moore and the collective efforts of Harlem Renaissance writers such as Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer and Countee Cullen (along with prose writers such as Zora Neal Hurston) to create a distinctly African American voice in literature. More formally conservative, but no less vital, poets, such as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost and the Southern Agrarians (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate), were equally active during these years.

This course attempts to provide a map to the large number of important, engaging American poets who started their careers in the period following World War II, during which time many of the above writers were still very active and being accepted into the mainstream, and continues to consider several poets who are at present in mid-career.

The course starts with a consideration of the first major generation of poets to follow the Modernists, usually classed under the title of “Confessional” poets due to their tendency to reveal in their writing aspects of their personal lives that would not have been considered suitable material for poetry mere decades earlier: Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and John Berryman. Other important poets writing around this time – most notably Elizabeth Bishop – rarely were so candid in their work, but maintained strong ties with this group. A slightly younger group of writers, such as A.R Ammons, James Merrill and James Wright, will also be considered in these sessions.

The course will then move on to various other groupings of poets – such as the “New York School” (Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler), Beat Poetry (Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso), Projective Verse (Charles Olson , Robert Creeley) and poets associated with the “San Francisco Renaissance” (Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer) – all of whom first reached a wider audience through publication in Donald Allen’s seminal anthology “The New American Poetry” in 1960. These poets generally challenged not only the ways that poetry could be written, but also the types of content – openly non-conformist, sexually “liberated,” anti-academic, at times vulgar and often very funny – that could be included in poetry, setting the stage for what would become the widespread cultural revolution of the Sixties.

The course then moves on to poets in the spirit (though often actively contradicting the tenets) of the New Americans, such as the Language School – writers who sought to synthesize the most recalcitrant strands of Modernism with a Leftist critique of capitalist culture (Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews, Lyn Hejinian, etc.) – and poets of color who, inspired both by the Harlem Renaissance and various more revolutionary strands in American culture, sought to create a poetry that disturbed the normality of poetic discourse by including all sorts of elements in the language to signify their (and language’s) “otherness” (Amirki Baraka and other poets of the Black Art Movement, Victor Hernandex Cruz, Jessica Hagedorn, etc.). These poets could, collectively, be called poets of the “Americas,” not acknowledging that there is something called a “standard English” that poetry has to be written in but several different “Americas” existing in (and troubling) the whole.

It is, of course, nearly impossible to give a complete picture of the wilds of American poetry as it is developing today. With this in mind, the last 4 weeks of the course are devoted to 8 younger poets who are in mid-career.

One week will be spent reading two important Canadian poets who have made a huge impact on American poetry in the past decade and a half, the experimental, craftsman-like Christian Bok and the prolific classicist Ann Carson. We will then move to on to look at how lyric poetry is being employed in the philosophically nuanced sonnets of Ben Lerner and the hilarious, subversive serial poetry of CA Conrad. Next, we will look at “conceptual” poetry (poetry of process) as it is practiced, to very different ends, by politically-engaged poet/critic Juliana Spahr and the New York impresario avant-gardist Kenneth Goldsmith. Last , we will read two books by poets from East L.A., the imagistic, often satirical prose poems of Japanese American Sesshu Foster and the visionary surrealist work of the increasingly-esteemed Black poet Will Alexander.

This course is designed so that students – using the two large anthologies that they will be purchasing along with books they can purchase on their own – can trace their own thematic, formal, even geographical lineages, traditions and trajectories through the period covered and to write a final paper on them. Such alternative groupings include feminist poets, gay poets, California poets, visual poets, formal poets, etc. To this end, several “alternative” suggested readings will be provided, though, of course, each student is required to do all of the assigned reading and secondary assignments as well.

00. Introduction: A review of Modernism
01. Vintage Contemporary Poetry – Robert Lowell & “Confessional” Poetry
02. Vintage Contemporary Poetry – Bishop/Ammons/Merrill, etc.
03. Postmodern American Poetry –The Beats & the San Francisco Renaissance
04. Postmodern American Poetry – The New York School & Projective Verse
05. Postmodern American Poetry – Language Poetry
06. Postmodern American Poetry – The “Poetics of the Americas”
07. Two Canadians: Christian Bok & Anne Carson
08. Versions of the Lyric: Ben Lerner & CA Conrad
09. Conceptual Poets: Juliana Spahr & Kenneth Goldsmith
10. Los Angeles Poetry: Sesshu Foster & Will Alexander

« Previous PageNext Page »