Archive for March, 2008
Poets Off Poetry
March 30, 2008
My contribution, “Fed You From The Blood of My Nose: A Medley Melodic,” appears under the heading, “In Which Nearly Every Human Knows This Desire.”
Lots of links to music you might enjoy, and I hope you do …
Dim Sum: Tonya Foster & Evie Shockley
March 30, 2008
It would be one thing if poetry were made of words alone,
but it is not–no more than words themselves are.
–Paolo Friere via James Scully (Linebreak 133)
…If essentialism means being able to name the rubrics within which we (women of color, African Americans, women, etc., etc.) may simultaneously be constrained, limited, subjugated by more powerful others and be nurtured, engaged, empowered by ourselves and our allies, then essentialism still has useful work to do in the struggle for social justice. I recognize the dangers it poses. I’ll stop identifying as an African American woman when most people in this society have stopped understanding me in terms of my proximity to those categories (and all the others that may be relevant to my subjectivity)–you first. Meanwhile, “networks of communities and…relationships” seems to be a productive model for describing my own activities in the world (of poetry). The focus on multiplicity potentially opens our eyes to connections that are predictable and unpredictable.
…This move turns on the significance to BAM “black aesthetics” of asserting a (“black”) “self” in the face of the oppressive and dismissive aesthetic standards that have been imposed upon the writing of African Americans since the era of Phillis Wheatley. An important point related to the foregoing is how critical it is for us to recognize that sexism is racism, at times, without losing the specificity of either category in our analyses.
…Whether one believes that poetry can affect or change what readers believe, can articulate ways of seeing the world that could circulate in and shape popular culture, can mobilize people for political action, etc., or not, poetry represents an economy of ideas (political, social, aesthetic, cultural) in which the currency is more valuable than it is often given credit for being.
“I have become a lot more aware over the past year or two
how often gender dynamics operate in really screwed-up ways
within a community I had complacently assumed was a lot more
progressive and enlightened than it sometimes reveals itself to be.
Just at the level, for example, of how much men outnumber women
on tables of contents, or how women’s comments are ignored in blog
conversations, or how men get threatened and aggressive when women
speak up about these things.”
–K. Silem Mohammad
…I’ll just add that the variety of forms that sexism takes is part of what gives it such reverberating impact: outright dismissals of women and women’s poetry; silence regarding the influence of women poets upon poetic traditions; lip service to the importance of poetry by women that doesn’t lead to structural change in the systems that construct and reflect what we value in poetry (the canon)–these are just a few of the forms in which sexism operates in the context of poetry. And, Tonya, of course, I deeply appreciate your extension of Spahr and Young’s observation about sexism to encompass racism and other structures of exclusion.
…If Audre Lorde is correct in saying that “poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought” (in her indispensable essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”), then it can be argued that envisioning and articulating what is desired but does not yet exist is one of the primary tasks–or, less prescriptively, primary opportunities–of the poet’s work.
…The very instance of thinking through the systemic reasons that result in or contribute to the inequitable representation of poets who are not white and/or not male will necessitate the consideration of factors that cannot be reduced to aesthetics, but have everything to do with aesthetics.
…I am arguing that avant-garde poetics need not be defined in opposition to either a discernable engagement with politics in the work or an interest in audience(s). Where did this avant-garde poetry/political poetry divide come from anyway? What motivated the surrealists? What motivated Dada? The high modernists? The Beats? The Language poets? Or should I be asking what distinguishes these politically motivated aesthetic movements from the New Negro Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, the Nuyorican arts movement? And how does the most obvious answer to this last question relate to the notion of “a more radical feminism” and the intervention it could make in the world (of poetry)?
….I love Retallack’s concept of “pragmatically hybrid poetry communities” both because it seems grounded in immediate action and because it suggests the importance of seeking and forming alliances that don’t rely upon a mandated (false) unity around every possible issue of politics and aesthetics that might be raised.
…Can we accept and act on the idea that “transform[ing] the circumstances or conditions of others” may deeply involve transforming who we are and how we occupy the world (of poetry)?
–CONTINUED in “Dim Sum: Tonya Foster & Evie Shockley — Braiding: ConVERSations: To, Against, For”
3 Responses to “Dim Sum: Tonya Foster & Evie Shockley”
Who Thought of That?
March 30, 2008
** “The tooth-in-eye technique, pioneered in Italy 40 years ago …” [Blind teen to have parts of tooth, jaw inserted in eye]
** “The procedure used on McNichol involved his son Robert, 23, donating a tooth, its root and part of the jaw.” [Blind Irishman sees with the aid of son’s tooth in his eye]
**“The surgeons then remove the iris, the lens and the jelly of the eye that lie behind the cornea.” [Tooth used to save woman’s sight]
**“Former soldier Lionel James, 72, will be seeing in the new year for the first time in more than seven years – thanks to his eye tooth.” [Miracle operation restores grandfather’s sight.]
If we are so advanced, “What makes us so mean?” Ron Padgett ventures a guess in his new book, “HOW TO BE PERFECT,” in the long political poem:
THE ABSOLUTELY HUGE AND INCREDIBLE INJUSTICE IN THE WORLD
What makes us so mean?
We are meaner than gorillas,
the ones we like to blame our genetic aggression on.
It is in our nature to hide behind what Darwin said about survival,
as if survival were the most important thing on earth.
You know–surely it has occurred to you–
that there is no way that humankind will survive
another million years. We’ll be lucky to be around
another five hundred. Why?
Because we are so mean
that we would rather kill everyone and everything on earth
than let anybody get the better of us:
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Why didn’t he just say “Grrr, let’s kill each other”?
–The first stanza, of many, continued in HOW TO BE PERFECT by Ron Padgett
Benjamin on Baudelaire
March 30, 2008
From the “INTRODUCTION” By Michael W. Jennings — THE WRITER OF MODERN LIFE: ESSAYS ON CHARLES BAUDELAIRE by Walter Benjamin:
Yes the ragpicker is also a figure for Baudelaire, for the poet who draws on the detritus of the society through which he moves, seizing that which seems useful in part because society has found it useless. And finally, the ragpicker is a figure for Baudelaire himself, for the critic who assembles his critical montage from inconspicuous images wrested forcefully from the seeming coherence of Baudelaire’s poems. Here and throughout Benjamin’s writings on Baudelaire, we find a powerful identification with the poet: with his social isolation, with the relative failure of his work, and in particular with the fathomless melancholy that suffuses every page.
Benjamin concludes this first constellation by contrasting Baudelaire with Pierre Dupont, an avowed social poet, whose work strives for a direct, indeed simple tendentious engagement with the political events of the day. In contrasting Baudelaire with Dupont, Benjamin reveals a “profound duplicity” at the heart of Baudelaire’s poetry–which, he contends, is less a statement of support for the cause of the oppressed, than a violent unveiling of their illusions. As Benjamin wrote in his notes to the essay, “It would be an almost complete waste of time to attempt to draw the position of a Baudelaire into the network of the most advanced positions in the struggle for human liberation. From the outset, it seems more promising to investigate his machinations where he was undoubtedly at home: in the enemy camp … Baudelaire was a secret agent–an agent of the secret discontent of his class with its own rule.” … By the late 1930s Benjamin was convinced that traditional historiography, with its reliance upon the kind of storytelling that suggests the inevitable process and outcome of historical change, “is meant to cover up the revolutionary moments in the occurrence of history … The places where tradition breaks off–hence its peaks and crags, which offer footing to one who would cross over them–it misses.” … Benjamin thus seeks to create a textual space in which a speculative, intuitive, and analytical intelligence can move, reading images and the relays between them in such a way that the present meaning of “what has been comes together in a flash.” This is what Benjamin calls the dialectical image.
In the central section of “Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” titled “The Flaneur,” Benjamin turns to an extended consideration of the reciprocally generative relations between certain artistic genres and societal forms. In the crowded streets of the urban metropolis, the individual is not merely absorbed into the masses: all traces of individual existence are in fact effaced. And popular literary and artistic forms such as physiologies (literary and artistic exemplifications of physiognomic types) and panoramas (representations of “typical” tableaux in Paris) arose, Benjamin argues, precisely in order to quell the deep-seated unease that characterized this situation: through their “harmlessness” they suggested a “perfect bonhomie” devoid of all resistance to the social order of the day, and in so doing contributed to the “phantasmagoria of Parisian life.”
…Physiologies are in this sense deeply complicit with phantasmagoria, in that they fraudulently suggest we are in possession of a knowledge that we do not in fact have. As Benjamin says, physiologies “assured people that everyone could — unencumbered by any factual knowledge — make out the profession, character, background, and lifestyle of passers-by.” …
If Baudelaire’s poetry is neither symptomatic of social conditions (as were the physiologies) nor capable of providing procedures for dealing with them (as did the detective story), what exactly is the relationship of that poetry to modernity? Benjamin champions Baudelaire precisely because his work claims a particular historical responsibility: in allowing itself to be marked by the ruptures and aporias of modern life, it reveals the brokenness and falseness of modern experience. At the heart of Benjamin’s reading is thus a theory of shock, developed on the basis of a now-famous reading of the poem “A une passante” (To a Passer-By). The speaker of the poem, moving through the “deafening” street amid the crowd, suddenly spies a woman walking along and “with imposing hand / Gathering up a scalloped hem.” The speaker is transfixed, his body twitches, wholly overcome by the power of the image. Yet, Benjamin argues, the spasms that run through the body are not caused by “the excitement of a man in whom an image has taken possession of every fiber of his being”; their cause is instead the powerful, isolated shock “with which an imperious desire suddenly overcomes a lonely man.”
This notion of a shock-driven poetic capability as a significant departure from the understanding of artistic creation prevalent in Benjamin’s day and in fact still powerfully present today. The poet is, in this view, not a genius who “rises above” his age and distills its essence for posterity. For Benjamin, the greatness of Baudelaire consists instead in his absolute susceptibility to the worst excrescences of modern life: Baudelaire was in possession not of genius, but of an extraordinarily “sensitive disposition” that enable him to perceive, through a painful empathy, the character of an age. And for Benjamin, the “character of the age” consisted in its thoroughgoing commodification. Baudelaire was not simply aware of the processes of commodification from which the phantasmagoria constructs itself; he in fact embodied those processes in an emphatic manner. When he takes his work to market, the poet surrenders himself as a commodity to the “intoxification of the commodity immersed in a surging stream of customers.” The poet’s role as a producer and purveyor of commodities opens him to a special “empathy with inorganic things.” And this, in turn, “was one of his sources of inspiration.” Baudelaire’s poetry is thus riven by its images o a history that is nothing less than a “permanent catastrophe.” This is the sense in which Baudelaire was the “secret agent” of the destruction of his own class.
…Baudelaire’s spleen–that is, his profound disgust at things as they were–is only the most evident emotional sign of this state of affairs.
–From the “INTRODUCTION” By Michael W. Jennings — THE WRITER OF MODERN LIFE: ESSAYS ON CHARLES BAUDELAIRE by Walter Benjamin
March 30, 2008
This blog has received regular hits for The Knife’s “Pass This On” ever since I posted it at the end of May 2007. Since then, the video was removed by Youtube or the subscriber who posted it. Today, I found it elsewhere on the site (w/ an annoying “Z” in the upper corner) and posted it above for all of those Knife groupies on the hunt. You can view more of “The Knife” videos, which are wonderful, here. The music of this brother-sister moves us – yep.
How To Frame Politics?
March 30, 2008
I’d bet my next check that this election is only going to get a whole lot dirtier than we can even imagine yet. The Bushs aren’t going to give up the Strict-Father family model of government without some hardcore down-and-dirty tactics, and I’m not so sure the Dems have the properly “dirty” arsenal to fight back. “The Left must get much better, not just at placing its issues in a compelling moral frame, but at exposing and holding the radical Right accountable for its lies and deception – without, and here is the tricky part, making those who have been manipulated feel ridiculed and put down” [Frances Moore Lappé].
–Excerpts below from “Black Man vs. White Woman” by Drake Bennett in The Boston Globe
“Gender stereotypes trump race stereotypes in every social science test,” says Alice Eagly, a psychology professor at Northwestern University…
As Clinton has discovered, gender stereotypes are stickier. Women can be seen as ambitious and capable, or they can be seen as likable, a host of studies have shown, but it’s very hard for them to be seen as both –
…When psychologists talk about bias, they use three technical categories: stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Stereotyping is cognitive bias, the tendency to ascribe people a set of traits based on the group they belong to (e.g., “black people are good at sports,” “Jews are cheap”). Prejudice is an emotional bias, disliking someone because of their group identity. And discrimination is how we act on the first two.
…”We’re finding that racial stereotyping and prejudice are extremely contextual,” says Correll. “You can see real reductions in prejudice, and sometimes it actually reverses,” crossing over into a sort of stereotypic affinity.
And this, Correll argues, works to the advantage of someone like Obama. “You look at Obama, and he represents himself incredibly well,” Correll says. “There are a whole lot of contextual cues that tell us this is someone you don’t need to worry about.”
…The researchers didn’t see a similar effect for gender. According to Tooby, “People can cease to notice ethnicity as a factor in how they conceptualize somebody in a way that they don’t seem to be able to with gender.”
…Women in these studies are typically judged to be less capable than men with identical qualifications, but it’s not impossible for them to be seen as competent. The problem is that if they’re understood to be capable, the majority of respondents also see them as less likable.
“The deal is that women generally fall into two alternatives: they are either seen as nice but stupid or smart but mean,” says Susan Fiske, a psychology professor at Princeton who specializes in stereotyping.
And unlike racial bias, there’s little evidence that these attitudes are softening.
According to Eagly of Northwestern, the problem isn’t that women aren’t traditionally understood as smart, but that they traditionally aren’t understood to be “assertive, competitive, take-charge” types. More than intelligence, she argues, this “agentic” quality is what we look for in leaders, and, as both surveys and experimental studies have shown, we find it deeply discomfiting in women.
“That’s what Hillary Clinton is up against,” argues Eagly. “She’s had to show her toughness, then people turn around and say she’s too cold.”
I Dig It
March 30, 2008
JOHN, ONCE AGAIN I FALL INTO THE REALM OF UTTER PERIL
The body has its own form of chaos, a solar system
through which it moves. When you touch me you
become a smaller part of this balance and it is
unclear whether it is skin or the idea of skin you are
reaching for. When I shake I can feel your temptation
to wound me, to tack me down like a saved, dead
insect. If my spine were not a question mark. If my
hands were not flutters.
FROM A PARIS HOTEL ROOM
It was the spring after my sister died that I began to notice
the moths. They would follow me from room to room beating
against the window shades or showing themselves in the one
tiny patch of light as I dressed for the day. Some days, some
hours, I would count as many as twenty and still they held no
significance for me. I saw them as many see the trees that line
the highway, just passing objects.
If you thirst for the rest, you’ll have to go here and do a little dance!
Best Second Book
March 30, 2008
BEST SECOND BOOK
(One time the singer Seal said something about how you have your whole life to write your first album, so people shouldn’t expect greatness out of a second attempt. These five say “go back in the water, Seal.”)
OTHER CATEGORIES COVERED at COLDFRONT:
Best Book of New Poetry Published in 2007 ** Best First Book ** Best Second Book ** Best All-New Collection by a Canonical Figure ** Best Selected/Collected ** Best Poem in a New Collection ** Best Author Photo ** Best Book Title ** Best Book Cover ** Best Long Poem ** Best Book-Length Poem ** Best Opener ** Best Closer ** Best First Lines ** Best Closing Lines ** Technical Awards ** Best “Thirteenth Poem” ** Best Response to Coldfront **
FIND OUT THE “WHO’S” BY STOPPING BY COLDFRONT TODAY!
Dusie, Dusie, Dusie CHAPS!
March 29, 2008
a bodyfeel lexicon. (gordon/bozek) dimestore operetta say. (bowen) developing poetic ideas. (chirot)
time space repetition. (armentrout) vie et pli. (giovenale) afar buzzing stars. (scappettone)
props of henwifery. (sprague) digress into residency. (berridge)
laced with forethought. (murphy) postcard of the. (tate) I posit no. (fieled)
erratogenic paraparasitic postpoem. (goodland) erotic false consciousness. (ward) first swifts come. (shaeppi)
will be waxing. (art) &lipstick&moss&bodice. (carignan) flamenco pierced her. (tabios)
a citizen I. (snyder) engirth, discorrupt, linger. (workman) correspondence, obscure, reveal. (fletcher)
enhanced ego-interference patterning. (orange) fairly clear the. (boyer) telephone as intermediary. (hunter)
vista of verdancy. (stengel) pale blue twilight. (phipps) (an historical site) magi.
little decisions thrumming. (boykoff) writing records eden. (farr) production of hormones. (marcacci)
our crops far-flung. (sand) going not gone. (hofer) informed by light. (compton)
my embroidery she (abulhassan) ruby large enow. (gardner) composition as process. (hayes) like you tiger-shock. (smith)
distance presence print. (pusateri) certain fields escape. (muench/allegrezza) fragile engines flashing. (detorie)
the great desire. (nakayasu) behold a glimmering. (quimba) splendid drifts of. (kunz)
salt, line, obedience. (cox/cox-farr) eyes glass hands. (lamoureux)
template, some vicissitude. (mauro) little red song-book. (newman) imagistic kinetic dizzy. (stamatakis)
a need for. (behm-steinberg) gaga futurism pales. (cooper) a lavish spectacle. (deming)
him, wings adjacent. (heide) hands half face. (king) presently be said. (stempleman) known as “we”. (nelligan)
underground I go. (graham) adorn honour bright. (mangold) paced awning graces. (klinger)
courting in earnest. (spahr) grew inside we. (madison) a running plotline. (janssen)