America has known a lot of great vocal stylists: Patti Smith with her girlish, demure speaking voice erupting into volcanic fusillades from hell when she starts to sing; George Carlin’s loopy, hippie lilt, eventually crackling into the idiosyncratic, linguistically obsessed crank of his later years; Marilyn Monroe’s whispered “Happy Birthday” to JFK in Madison Square Garden, her only hit single, but a wonderful translation of the decidedly constructed ditzy-sage demeanor of her films; Johnny Carson’s nasally, Midwestern twang, crisp as freshly ironed slacks, punctuating jokes, good or bad, soft-balled from the guest couch; Allen Ginsberg’s mischievous Jersey Jewish channeling of Blake and Whitman in “Howl” and UCLA Alum James Franco’s equally mischievous Jersey Jewish channeling of Gisnberg in Howl; Axl Rose’s noxious screech, Kurt Cobain’s gargly drones, Bob Dylan’s messianic yawps, and Al Jolson’s Jolsonesque “Mammy” in blackface in the first talkie; Ronald Reagan’s authoritarian jocular basso profundo pouring forth casually from a throat swathed in white cravats, while William F. Buckley lisps complaints from a couch in WWOR-TV Studios in Secaucus, NJ, and Jimmy Carter retreats into the 90s; Henny Youngman and Lenny Bruce, Paul Robeson and James Earl Jones, Montgomery Clift and James Dean, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey, all pairs all connected by osmotic DNA over the reach of years (and telephones); Eddie Murphy doing Eddie Murphy receiving a phone call from Bill Cosby chastising Murphy for using dirty words on stage, Murphy then doing Murphy calling Richard Pryor and Pryor saying to Murphy: “Tell Bill next time to have a coke and a smile and shut the fuck up!

Charles Bernstein—who, by the way, is the Donald T. Regan Chair in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania; the publisher of something like 12 full-length books of poems, most recently All the Whiskey in Heaven, his selected poems published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux; the author of several collections of essays such as Content’s Dream (published right here in Los Angeles in 1986), A Poetics, which contains his oft-cited, seminal essay “Artifice of Absorption,” My Way, which contains one of my favorite essays of his, “Poetics of the Americas,” and most recently Attack of the Difficult Poems, of which no doubt today’s performance will be a substantial new salvo; editor or co-editor of countless volumes, journals, and digital archives such as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine in the 70s with Bruce Andrews, the PennSound archive at the University of Pennsylvania, and a recent edition of the poems of Louis Zukofsky for the Library of America with its distinctive light cerise/puce cover; television and movie actor in such film as Finding Forrester where he played Dr. Simon and a series of hilarious Yellow Pages commercials with Jon Lovitz (where he school Lovitz on the art of improvised comedy), or as himself articulating the literary virtues of the latest postmodern post-author literary fad, the telephone book (R.I.P.); a prolific librettist, having composed three operas with Ben Yarmolinsky and most recently an opera based on the life of Walter Benjamin called Shadowtime with British composer Brian Ferneyhough; Director and Co-founder of the Poetics Program at the SUNY Buffalo, where he taught from 1990 to 2003; father, husband and Jew, this latter apparently contested category according to a fantastic long essay in Attack; and lastly, perhaps leastly, but not insignificantly the creator of several audio works that he recorded spontaneously over the years (all of which are collected on ubu.com) such as a now infamous one in which he reads the numbers 1 to 100 in order and quite dramatically, which I invite you to check out—is a different matter entirely. But I’d rather not tell you what he sounds like, you’ll learn momentarily.

As for Charles’ importance as a poet and theorist, I can only say that writings of his have had immense importance to me as I was “growing up” to be a poet. For instance, when in high school and college, Ezra Pound was really my guide, my “master” if you will—creator of crystalline poems, writer of daring, timely and certainly confident essays that I could use to chart out Modernism and basically all that came before (I was just some kid in the Jersey suburbs, my mother raised during the Korean War, quasi-working class, certainly no one around me was going to help). Pound’s anti-semitism, the radio broadcasts, or his generally complex conservative / libertarian politics never registered as anything I had to deal with—it was all aesthetics—and when they did I was quite troubled for a time. Pound became this big roadblock historically—you had to have an answer about Pound to make sense of all that came after: his generosity to younger poets, the profound flood of new forms that proliferated in the wake of the Cantos, etc.. Anyway, it was actually an essay of Charles, “Pounding Fascism,” that appeared in Artifice of Absorption that kind of did the trick for me; if anything, the essay permitted me—poets are all about the “grand permissions”—to assimilate Pound’s contradictions (the overdetermination of his political views with what seemed like an indeterminate poetics), his unfortunate crossing over into “history” proper—poets won’t try that anytime soon!—and the fecundity of his artistic ideas.

I think many of us poets in the academy have something of Charles’ “program,” if you will, within us. There’s tremendous anxiety among poets in the academy that they’ve sold out, are living in some other universe that can have no bearing on the “world,” partly because so many of our friends—some of whom we consider better poets than ourselves!—are working day jobs, are largely unrecognized by the literary world, are working only very slowly due to insecurities and lack of critical attention, etc. I think this is another problem that Charles has helped me solve, which is that he’s turned the academy itself into a subject—he works within it, critiques it, activates it, acknowledges its place in the world and hence is able to articulate its potentialities. To quote from one Charles’ essays, the job of the teacher is to work in the “vertical of the social not the horizontal of tradition.”* I think he does that all the time—which is why he, and his poetry, are so damn difficult.

* I actually couldn’t find this quote in Attack, where I thought I had read it. Someone might have written it about him, and this might not be the exact phrasing; nonetheless, Charles approved the quote before I read the introduction, so we’ll just consider this a collaboration.

[I was recently asked to be a respondent at a small panel — two papers, one by a student and one by a professor — at UCLA. This what I wrote. It ends as a sort of polemic about the “artist” and “society” today (the language almost sounds quaint, but I was trying to write in a “public” way, which I haven’t figured out how to do) but it gets at a few points I’d like to try to elaborate on later.]

These papers both seem to strike right at the heart of certain issues of aesthetics and ethics, and a discussion of either could easily spill over into an entire meditation on the role of the artist in society, particularly as it concerns society when it has failed us: in the former case, during the AIDS crisis, a relatively unprecedented failure of US leadership to even acknowledge a decimating epidemic (though we can look at instances such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments as antecedents of government sponsored or endorsed disease inflicted on a minority population, or even before that, the ignorance or exploitation of smallpox and other diseases in the Native American population in the colonial years), and in the latter, a very specific instance of war – the Israel war in Lebanon in 1982 – but also war and “violence” (the former cannot entirely be reduced to the latter) in general.

The both share issues concerning witness – how to observe, record, convey, and memorialize incidences that most of us in our “everyday” lives never experience (one must assume that there is a “normalcy” that runs in counter to the extraordinary events of AIDS and war). They also ask how to create action, or “change,” from this witnessing – how does the elegy interact with an “ethics of activism,” how does a “war film” become an “anti-war” film and then an “anti war war film” (acknowledging, as we should, that there is a such thing as a “war film” just as there such things as “war poems,” such as the Anglo-Saxon “Battle of Brunaburh,” the epics of Homer and Virgil, and our own national anthem).

A running (not unexamined) assumption in both essays is that the artist is a participant in these events – even a “victim,” as they are not ever depicted as being in control of fate or the forces governing them – and that the artist wants to do good: the artist is aware of what a normal, full human life is – filled with love, compassion, responsibility to others, etc. – and uses this general sense of humanness as a foil for the aberrant conditions of the fatal, swift-acting processes of disease and of war. The trick or game is how to preserve the “human,” synonymous with the “good” in this relatively un-ideological formulation, as well as how to “keep alive” the events that prompted these works of art, rather than merely offer them for simple consumption.

In both papers, this leads into questions of technique. In the former instance, the question centers on how maintain the dynamic nature of very particular gay relationship – between the poet, Paul, and his late lover, Rog – and not let it fade into the “general” genre of elegy, not surrender “Rog to the past” (Aaron states it much more eloquently, but I can’t find the quote). In general, the poems become political by their very resistance of their particulars to submit to the “public mores” and their “utilitarian” nature, which (though it’s not quite stated, I think) quite obviously has failed them. There is some variation on the Galatea myth here: a poet, who knows his lover has died, nonetheless will continue to animate this body on the stage of the poem, which he is aware is entering a contested, politicized forum.

In the Israeli war films, an excellent case is made that both Waltz with Bashir and Lebanon made clean breaks with naturalistic filmmaking to such a degree that they in fact become meditations on war and cinema themselves. In the former, the spectacle of war – which is to say, the violence of battle (and not the spectacle of speeches and conferences), are kind of auto-critiqued by the very dream-like, vivid and beautiful nature of the animation, as if beauty and violence, or maybe dream and witness, were engaged in some intellectual counterpoint. In the latter, all hints of the spectacle are dropped (including non-diegetic music) in favor of the colorless boredom of life in a small tank – it’s always interesting when films refuse certain absorptive techniques, like in the films of Dogme 95 – though meditation on the mediation of cinema itself still makes its presence in the form of the cross-hairs in the gun sight (if anything, more poignant now considering our nation’s recent addiction to Predator drones).

I’m taking the long way to making my basic point, which is that in none of these cases do these artists present their works as assays – as tries, as intellectual workings-out. In the art works themselves (as opposed to the paratextual materials of interviews, postscripts, the author’s other work, or history as its been recorded, etc.) there is no thesis or grounds for argument presented, nor do there seem to be the operations of clear dialectics that would seem to actively request intellectual – as opposed to emotional, or even ethical via vicarious participation – engagement by the viewer. The artist him or herself is generally supposed to remain more or less invisible in the work, or if visible, only in nuances of style, editing choices, word choices, punctuation (or lack thereof) – the marks of the auteur – or as, importantly, character in this act of memory. Outside of that, the artist (in these cases, self-consciously responsible artists) does not, or more or less refuses to, interject what one might call editorial or intellectual content into their pieces concerning the aesthetics of depiction – the artist, as presumably the viewer or reader, are simply subject to events, just like you and I.

(I am reminded of a piece by British artist Fiona Banner, a huge book called The Nam for which she viewed six major American films about the Vietnam War – Platoon, Apocalypse Now, etc. – and conveyed what she saw as if she were there, almost thereby insisting on the centrality of an editorial vision in the apparently transparent, absorptive depiction of war.)

Maybe this is an obvious point. But it strikes me that a lot of the theory that we rely on with which to discuss the ethical implications of contemporary works of art – Benjamin, Adorno, Debord, Jameson, etc. – in fact relied on the work of certain artists who made this issue of artifice and “reality” – specifically the absorptive nature of filmic spectacle – central to their work. I am of course thinking of Bertolt Brecht, who, despite what appears to be a revival of a “pure” form of Marxism in the academy, does not seem to be suffering a revival himself – nobody calls themselves a Brechtian today. But it seems to me, for instance, that had Brecht made a movie like Waltz With Bashir, there would have been no mistaking the element of media critique in the movie itself (which I haven’t seen, I’m just assuming this critique wasn’t foregrounded enough, since so many failed to see it). Lebanon sounds like it possesses some anti-absorptive properties, though it sounds like the “sentimental” dialogue was expressly conceived to nullify any sort of cognizance on this level.

I do think some “anti-war” films, especially those of Stanley Kubrick, take into account this Brechtian possibility; though Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket often lapse into mere absurdity or outright nihilism, they are mated enough with some analysis of the machinations behind the scenes, and leave so many issues open, as to suggest this “assayistic” quality. (Bertolucci’s films about the war share some of these qualities, and I think the first minutes of Saving Private Ryan are pretty unique in being relatively free of narrative, given over entirely to conveying the physics of battle, to nearly traumatizing effect, as if a short avant-garde film were tacked on to in the first twenty-minutes of an otherwise standard Hollywood feature.)

I couldn’t help but think of Frank O’Hara’s amazing elegy for Billie Holiday when reading Aaron’s paper. It seems to me to address a lot of the issues that Monette was concerned with – how to maintain the dynamics particularity of a relationship in a monument offered up to time. I think O’Hara’s poem suggests a middle-ground between the lyric (which he seems to posit as some sincere effort at communication) and the monologue (which is implicated by its very details into an historical situation). O’Hara was always adopting voices to tell you something of himself and his time; there is an entire suite in the voice of Mayakovsky, for instance, one of which is called “A True Account of Talking to the Sun on Fire Island.” Rather than Brechtian scheme here, I see a sort of elevation of the activities of a single human to status of high artifice; there is a relative lack of a case being made for the poet as “good,” as “natural,” even as “human” – the first stanza of “The Day Lady Died” is replete with numbers and schedules, and “Having a Coke With You” is largely a catalogue of things. O’Hara simply doesn’t fit in with “public mores” as much as the latest issue of the New World Writing didn’t fit in.

I guess I’m making an argument for unnaturalism in art – not “acting,” but also no pretending to merely “be.” Or maybe if the artist is to “be,” that the artist not be human – our trusted friend, “authentic” – but powerful, in full awareness of its seduction – to stand against, or perhaps in place of, those awful forces (of fate, of politics) to which we are all supposed to be unified in being victims of. If we’re going to subject artists to such readings as involve the politicized uses of emotional valences – “protest mourning” as Aaron terms it, or the staging of trauma as a public catharsis in Gil’s description of Waltz with Bashir – the artist might as well get in on the game! I guess I wonder why (and here I’m really getting polemical), for all the hundreds of poets and film directors we have in this country and elsewhere, in what is arguably one of the most liberal periods of expression, and with film production getting cheaper and cheaper, and with film and pop cultural criticism getting more and more sophisticated (though that, indeed, might be at the heart of the problem, too) and the academy willing to engage with pop culture, there are fewer assayists – Voltaire types, people that offer their works specifically as contributions, even discursive contributions, to the public sphere, rather than merely as fodder for other people’s works – than ever. (Lars von Trier, Oliver Stone, Peter Handke and Claire Denis might be filmmakers who clearly critique the artifice of film in their feature-length fictions.)

I might summarize my point here by suggesting that artists who offer their works to a critique involving the judgments of human behavior – who offer their works with a sense of a transcendent justice – that placing the artist central to the vision presented, not as invisible auteur but persuasive author, is merely the honest thing to do, since the artist him or herself, who would co-opt history and transform the realities of others, is nearly always doing the work of politics, and is never simply “innocent.” The scales of justice are only truly activated (one assumes these artists wanted these “scales” regarded) when the artist is frank in offering him or herself to be judged.

I’d like to quote from a song by Morrissey – never one to avert trouble, he recently attacked the Queen again – which is not a comment on these works themselves so much as the problems facing the artist in society today:

No it’s just more lock jawed pop stars
Thicker than pig shit, nothing to convey
They’re so scared to show intelligence
It might smear their lovely career

What keeps them from doing so? I can’t speculate – perhaps it’s our culture of high surveillance, perhaps it’s just money – but it’s a bad time when “intelligence” and careers seem to run completely counter to each other, in entertainment as elsewhere.

Description

This course will examine punk/post-punk bands in the Los Angeles area, ranging from the years 1977-1983. We’ll start by looking briefly at the UK and NYC versions of punk/D.I.Y. culture, both in music and politics, then move to SoCal’s unique contribution. Bands include likely candidates such as The Germs, X, The Adolescents, The Screamers, The Weirdos and The Plugz, then move on to relatively obscure acts such as Suburban Lawns, The Fibonaccis, The Urinals, Monitor, Savage Republic, Outer Circle and Christian Death. We’ll brush on famous New Wave (Oingo Boingo, The Go-Go’s) and hardcore (Black Flag, Agent Orange) acts, but the focus will be on bands that seem to have disappeared from the narrative of post-punk U.S. culture. We’ll also consider the relationship of punk to the poetry scene in LA, specifically as centered on Dennis Cooper’s short-lived magazine Little Caesar. Finally, in the last sessions of the class, students will work on their own D.I.Y. compositions (no musical ability required!) and record them with “lo-tech” equipment, i.e. laptops and phones.

Reading List
Greil Marcus: Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century
Simon Reynolds: Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984
Mark Spitz & Brenda Mullen: We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk

Brian Kim Stefans teaches new media and poetry in the English department. His research focuses on new media poetics (in terms of graphic design, programming, the history of the book, theories of narrative, politics/society, etc.). His secondary research project focuses on the “experimental” arts in Los Angeles, specifically poetry, music and theater.

I made this over the summer at a sign making event at LACE. Note the creepy background hands in both, but particularly the second, photo.

Just watched a ton of these on YouTube. These are some of the classics. Couldn’t embed It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Psycho, and Casino (which I can’t find online but part of which is in the short doc below), but those are all great.

Walk on the Wild Side is recommended for cat lovers. Seconds is probably my favorite, but I can’t imagine half the audience not walking out of the theater during the titles.

Vertigo is somewhere between Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema and the time warp sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Are those computer generated swirlies? I wonder if he was hanging out with John Whitney?

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)

Vertigo (1958)

North by Northwest (1959)

West Side Story (1961)

Walk on the Wild Side (1962)

Seconds (1966)

Cape Fear (1991)

Saul Bass: Title Champ (short documentary)

@ the Poetic Research Bureau

Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 7:30pm

The PRB @ The Public School
951 Chung King Rd.
Los Angeles, CA

Doors open at 7:00pm
Reading starts at 7:30pm

$5 donation requested

Brent Cunningham is a writer, publisher and visual artist currently living in Oakland with his wife and daughter. He has worked for Small Press Distribution in Berkeley since 1999. His first book of poetry, Bird & Forest, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2005, and his second, Journey to the Sun, is forthcoming in 2011 from Atelos. He and Neil Alger founded and run Hooke Press, a chapbook press dedicated to publishing short runs of poetry, criticism, theory, writing and ephemera.

Born and raised on Maui, Brandy Nālani McDougall is of Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiʻi, Maui, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi lineages), Chinese, and Scottish descent. She is the author of a poetry collection, The Salt-Wind, Ka Makani Paʻakai (2008), and a chapbook, “Return to the Kula House,” featured in Effigies: An Anthology of New Indigenous Writing, edited by Allison Hedge Coke (2009). She currently teaches Hawaiian and Pacific literatures at the Kamehameha Schools, but will serve as assistant professor of indigenous studies in the American studies department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in fall 2011.

Craig Santos Perez, a Chamoru originally from Guahan (Guam), is the author of two poetry books: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008) and from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010). This fall, he will begin his quest for tenure as an assistant professor of creative writing in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Dear Melts, Digital Humanists, and others,

So, in preparation for my presentation on Friday — for which I had planned on assembling an annotated bibliography of books that fell within my understanding of the field of “digital humanities” (and/or “digital literature”), I decided to assemble the books as Amazon “lists” via the site’s “listmania” feature — seductive capitalist trap that it is! I got a little manic.

What appears below are five lists of 40 books each (that’s the max per list) that more or less circumscribe, for the moment, my understanding of the field of new media studies as it relates to literature. The titles of each of the lists are provisional — certainly any number of the books could end up on another of the lists — but in general I think it gives a pretty good idea of how I approach things, and I hope, if you have several hundred dollars to spare, that you decide to pick a few of these up. I’m going to petition the library to purchase copies of these if they don’t have them already.

If you have additional books to recommend to me for a more formal list for English graduate students, then send them my way! Most likely they won’t end up on the Amazon lists unless I can swap them out easily, given the limitations, but I’d like to have some lists on hand for future part 1s.

The good news is that I won’t blab on for hours on Friday about 100 books from my library, but I will describe my reasoning behind each of these lists and point out a few of the more unusual inclusions. It’s a very idiosyncratic assemblage (Lipstick Traces anyone?).

Best,
Brian

PS. BTW, several of the more adventurous publishers are offering their books online as downloadable PDFs. I’ve found a few of the titles below (such as Harman’s book on Latour, Prince of Networks, and Marcus Boon’s book In Praise of Copying), for free. This is kind of the companion post to my earlier Freeware Guide, Introduction to Electronic Literature.

1. Foundations and Surveys

2. Graphic Design and Visuality

3. Ludology and Narrative Theory

4. Poetry and Poetics

5. Politics and Philosophy

I just wrote this about a paper I will be presenting in Pomona in November for the PAMLA conference:

Zine Days: Rimbaud, Punk and the New York School in the Poetry of Little Caesar Magazine (1976–1982)

Dennis Cooper’s magazine, Little Caesar, marked a revival in “transgressive” poetry stemming out of the Beyond Baroque literature organization in Venice. Poets and musicians including Cooper, Amy Gerstler, Bob Flanagan, David Trinidad, Jack Skelly (poet and editor of Barney) and the punk band X’s Exene Cervenka and John Doe (among many others) were part of a short-lived scene that is still largely under-recognized nationally, even locally. This talk provides a brief overview of the history of the magazine and attempts to outline the distinctive elements of its coterie aesthetics.

Digital Humanities “Jam”: A Workshop Seminar

Friday, April 15th, 10-2
CDH “Laptop Room,” Room B01
LuValle Café (enter down stairs from south side)

Light refreshments will be provided; please RSVP.

Introduction

The goal of this seminar is to consider ways in which graduate students in English and other departments of the humanities can integrate Digital Humanities into their research and scholarship. The structure of the seminar is as follows: early in the semester we will meet for a “jam session” on the digital humanities, during which students will be introduced to the concepts, technologies, and projects that are associated with the field. Students will be given an overview of work specific to UCLA, both by faculty and students, as well as in other universities when they speak of “digital humanities.” Students will then begin to consider how they can create projects that are integrated into their present research while taking advantage of digital technology, or at least the insight provided by theorists in the field.

Some Useful Links

UCLA Center for Digital Humanities
Where you can find all information about related faculty, the Graduate Certificate, research projects, etc.
http://www.cdh.ucla.edu

UCLA Digital Humanities Reading Group (sign up)
Listserv for DH lectures, workshops, job opportunities, etc.
http://lists.ucla.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/digitalhumanities

United States Digital Humanities Academic Programs
Set of links to other major DH programs
http://www.cdh.ucla.edu/resources/us-dh-academic-programs.html

UCLA HyperCities
One of the several major UCLA DH projects, especially valuable to literary studies
http://hypercities.com

UCLA The Institute for Digital Research and Education (research projects)
Overview of IDRE-HASIS research projects at UCLA
http://idre.ucla.edu/hasis/research

UCLA Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts
Mathew Fisher’s huge online links archive of medieval manuscripts from around the world
http://manuscripts.cmrs.ucla.edu

UCLA Game Lab
Exciting new research and design/programming lab at Design/Media Arts with fab website
http://games.ucla.edu

Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Collections of Electronic Literature, the first co-edited by N. Katherine Hayles, the co-edited second by myself
http://collection.eliterature.org/1/
http://collection.eliterature.org/2/

I grabbed this list of punk and post-punk bands from the website (the name of which I can’t remember… seem to have lost the link), dropped it into an Excel spreadsheet, did a lot of search and replace, and voila!

Part of my on-going side project to create an anthology of obscure, and not so obscure, punk, post-punk and early hip hop singles by L.A. musicians. A Google search turned up yet another amazing photo of Su Tissue of Suburban Lawns.

(more…)

Thursday, April 14: Philippe Beck & Guy Bennett, 7:30pm

The PRB @ The Public School
951 Chung King Rd.
Los Angeles, CA

French poet Philippe Beck‘s first collection, Garde-manche hypocrite, came out in 1996, and since then he has published thirteen more books, including Garde-manche Deux, Élégie Hé, Chants populaires, as well as an intellectual biography, Beck l¹impersonnage, and a prose work, Un Journal. He has collaborated with Gérard Pesson and Philippe Mion in the composition of several operatic and choral pieces, and teaches both at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland and the Centre Atlantique de Philosophie at the University of Nantes. In 1990 Philippe Beck was a founding editor of Alter, a journal of phenomenology, and in 2000 he founded and became editor-in-chief of the poetry journal Quaderno.

Guy Bennett is the author of several works of poetry, non-poetry, and numerous translations. Recent publications include the chapbooks 32 Snapshots of Marseilles and the big e, a translation of Ernst Jandl’s monovocalic poem das große e, and a new collection of poetry, Self-Evident Poems. His writing has been featured in magazines and anthologies in the United States and abroad, and presented in poetry and arts festivals internationally. Publisher of Mindmade Books (formerly Seeing Eye Books) and co-editor of Otis Books / Seismicity Editions, he lives in Los Angeles and teaches at Otis College of Art and Design.

Forthcoming This Quarter

April 19th, Alice Henton (UCLA, English), “Playing with Archive: Game and Narrative in Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins”

May 3rd, Evan Kindley (Princeton, English), “Empson’s Forms of Talk”

Just discovered this amazing review on Sustainable Aircraft of my polemic, Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Assessment. It manages to say some poignant, provocative things about the state of “avant-garde” literature in the US and Canada.

I did actually put it back up on Lulu (free download), but took down the WordPress site since it seemed redundant. Bank of America changed their fee policies soon after I posted this, but certainly not because of me. I’m pretty sure that my assessment of their website still stands, though, but I’ve moved my account to Wells Fargo, which has a much more helpful, unadorned site.

Thanks, Marie, this very thoughtful and, in many ways, encouraging.

Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Evaluation
Brian Kim Stefans
Citoyen Press: Los Angeles, 2010
Review by Marie Buck

Last January, the poet Brian Kim Stefans released a pamphlet entitled “Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Evaluation” as a series of posts on his blog Free Space Comix, on a WordPress site, and as a downloadable file or purchaseable print copy on Lulu. (The WordPress site and Lulu page seem to have been removed, but the pamphlet is currently available as blog posts here. As Stefans writes in the press release, the pamphlet “argues that the great portion of the bank’s revenue accrued through overdraft fees is often the result of the deceptive and confusing nature of the online banking site.” Over the course of an introduction and ten brief chapters, Stefans demonstrates that several specific aspects of the website—which Stefans notes is in fact a software program which ought to be compared to other handier and better-designed software programs—are arranged to give misleading information, to advertise the ease of the site to customers (who are, in fact, already using the site) rather than warn them of potential hazards, and to obfuscate information that might help customers avoid overdraft fees. Stefans also crunches some numbers and suggests that the average person making less than $100,000 a year incurs $145 in overdraft fees each year.

Over the course of the pamphlet, Stefans implies that in continually insisting upon its own ease, the Bank of America website not only likely garners millions in overdraft fees, but also suppresses customer conversation and outrage about the fees. The site—containing such cutsey and condescending phrases as “[w]e’re all guilty of overspending from time to time, even though we know we shouldn’t”—is designed to make customers feel guilt, even shame, about overdrafts incurred when the site itself actively obscures information that anyone with a small balance needs in order to ensure s/he does not overdraft. The only ways to have all the information you need to make sure you don’t overdraft are to keep an old-school checkbook (when one function of the site seems to be precisely to replace such a checkbook) or to make sure you never let your balance get low—basically, to have a decent chunk of money in there at all times, to compensate for holds on your account and the like. In other words, to be wealthier.

Clear and well-researched, the pamphlet is recommendable for the information it provides about online banking and about the rhetoric of software and web design. However, it is also recommendable to read the pamphlet as an intervention into the contemporary poetry community of which Stefans is a part. The pamphlet begins with a Frank O’Hara quotation—“I go on to the bank / and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) / doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life…,” suggesting that Stefans might have poets in mind. And given the pamphlet’s avenues of distribution, it’s safe to assume many of the people who have read it are poets. (I, for one, started reading it thinking I was beginning some sort of conceptual poem.)

(more…)

Forthcoming in Spring 2011

April 5th, Jeremy Schmidt (UCLA, English), “Imaging Labor: Ezra Pound’s Contemporania

April 19th, Alice Henton (UCLA, English), “Playing with Archive: Game and Narrative in Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins”

May 3rd, Evan Kindley (Princeton, English), “Empson’s Forms of Talk”

If you are interested in the emerging edge of language-informed arts practice, whether as a poet, writer, artist, media innovator, scholar, teacher, performer, or in any other disciplines, E-Poetry offers a context for practice and analysis that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. For its tenth anniversary, E-Poetry has been brought back to Buffalo, a central and accessible location for its activities. It will provide a mix of practices, with the emphasis on emerging practices in multiple disciplines that find themselves embedded or even just on the edge of the digital. It will convene a celebratory (in the triumphant spirit of preceding historic poetry festivals) and thought-filled gathering of 150 artists, writers, and scholars from 40 countries — a diversity and culturally rich offering that won’t be found elsewhere. Please attend:

E-POETRY 2011 International Digital Language | Arts Festival
TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY FESTIVALMay 18-21, 2011
University at Buffalo
Specially-priced advance registration offered during March 2011 only!

E-Poetry is the definitive innovative digital language arts festival in the world. With its emphasis on poetics, performance, engaged arts, experimentation, and scholarly and artistic conversation, and with previous events in West Virginia, London, Paris, and Barcelona, it has defined international digital literature poetics today.

The tenth anniversary festival of E-Poetry 2011 is set to launch a new epoch in digital literature. E-Poetry, at its inception, was the first to map this field. E-Poetry has been here since the beginning and continues even stronger today. It has set out to organize the 2011 festival as a culmination of the first ten years as well as a model for future years – advancing the conversation of the digital into the engaged scene of creative and scholarly activity that the field promises.

With its sponsoring organization, the Electronic Poetry Center, often recognized as the world’s first and preeminent Web-based poetry resource, E-Poetry will define the arts as emerging practice in an interdisciplinary, aesthetically complex, and materially delightful manner never before seen. We invite you to be there.

The Festival will take place from Weds. May, 18th to Saturday May 21st, 2011, with special conference events on Tues, May 17 and its Wednesday “Scientific Committee” panels. Please come for as long as you can. The cost of visiting Buffalo is quite reasonable. We will be glad to help with suggestions for your travel and accommodation. E-Poetry offers the chance for a prolonged immersion into considerations of the workings and practices of digital poets, scholars, and artists. Buffalo is a location, fervent with the great powers of the Niagara rushing through the tranquil, flat, maple forested countryside of Western New York, where we can come together, apart from the hustle of a devouring city, to meet as artists and thinkers. It is a location that offers celebration and contemplation. It is a quiet place but a location within New York State’s largest university, its programs direct descendants of Black Mountain College, Language Poetry, various iterations of the Poetics Program, Media Study at Buffalo, and the Electronic Poetry Center. Buffalo is a prime leader in the U.S. in the innovative digital, visual, sound, and language arts.

Information is available via the EPC, where you will always find the latest information on E-Poetry 2011. (#epf11)

We look forward to seeing you at E-Poetry 2011!

Dr. Loss Pequeño Glazier
E-Poetry President & Artistic Director

Dr. Sandy Baldwin
E-Poetry 2011 Festival Curator & Co-Director

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.

A READING OF SORTS

Sunday, March 13, 2011,
3pm – 5pm at Lounge at REDCAT

with:
Amanda Ackerman
Anthony Seidman
Brian Kim Stefans
Jared Woodland
Sophie Sills

Lounge at REDCAT
631 W. 2nd Street
(Downtown) Los Angeles, CA 90012

Free

AMANDA ACKERMAN lives in Los Angeles where she writes and teaches. She is co-editor of the press eohippus labs. She is also a member of UNFO (The Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization) and writes as part of SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS. Her publications include three chapbooks: Sin is to Celebration (co-author, House Press), the recently-released The Seasons Cemented (Hex Presse), and the forthcoming I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck (Insert Press). Her work can also be found in the current edition of Little Red Leaves and The Encyclopedia Project: Volume F-K.

ANTHONY SEIDMAN is the author of the On Carbon-Dating Hunger (2000) and Where Thirsts Intersect (2006), both published by The Bitter Oleander Press. A selection of his work was included in the second volume of Corresponding Voices in 2005, by Syracuse University Press and Point of Contact, as well as in the anthology Barco A Vapor Transatlántico, published by Fondo de Cultura Económica and the Unversidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He has published translations of American poetry in La Jornada, Mexico City’s major newspaper, Castálida, Reverso, Luvina and Revista Solar, among others. His poetry has been published in such journals and newspapers as The Bloomsbury Review, Hunger, Ur-Vox, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Beyond Baroque, Skidrow Penthouse, Milk, Nimrod, Parteaguas (Aguascalientes, Mexico), La Prensa (Managua, Nicaragua), La Reforma (Mexico) and Steau (Romania).

BRIAN KIM STEFANS‘ recent books include Kluge: A Meditation, and other works (Roof, 2007), What is Said to the Poet Concerning Flowers (Factory School, 2006), and Before Starting Over: Essays and Interviews (Salt Publishing, 2007). His digital works such as “The Dreamlife of Letters” and “Star Wars, One Letter at a Time” have been shown in gallery settings worldwide; many of these can be found at his website, www.arras.net. He is an Assistant Professor of English at UCLA, specializing in poetry and electronic writing.

A graduate of the CalArts MFA Writing program, JARED WOODLAND lives and punctuates calamities in Los Angeles.

SOPHIE SILLS‘ book of poetry Elemental Perceptions: A Panorama was recently released by BlazeVOX books. Her poetry has appeared in the Cricket Online Review, BlazeVOX, and Elimae. She works for a Jewish non-profit and at National University. She lives in Los Angeles and she is happy.

BRANDON BROWN & ALLI WARREN

Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 7:30pm

The PRB @ The Public School
951 Chung King Rd.
Los Angeles, CA

Doors open at 7:00pm
Reading starts at 7:30pm

$5 donation requested

Brandon Brown is from Kansas City, Missouri. He has two forthcoming books: The Persians By Aeschylus (Displaced Press) and The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (Krupskaya). Poems and prose have recently appeared in Peacock, Try, and Art Practical. He is currently blogging for the San Francisco MOMA, organizing literary and art events in the Bay Area, publishing small press book under the imprint OMG!, and translating Baudelaire.

Alli Warren was born & raised in California. Recent chapbooks include: Acting Out, Well-Meaning White Girl, and Cousins. From 2008-2010, she co-curated The (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand. She lives in Oakland.

« Previous PageNext Page »