3.02.2015

Field Report with Jennifer Tamayo, Amy De'Ath and Cassandra Troyan


Sunday March 1, 2015

Yesterday afternoon Small Press Traffic and Mills College collaboratively hosted a conversation/field report with Jennifer Tamayo, Amy De'Ath and Cassandra Troyan on the subject of gender and sexual violence in the writing scenes in New York, Vancouver and the UK, and Chicago.  The Bay Area writing scene has been grappling with these issues as well.  Artists Television Access (ATA), where the event was held, was packed with people standing, sitting on the floor, and spilling on to the stairs.

Each of the three presenters spoke for 10-15 minutes, informing attendees about recent events, the work they and others are doing, and articulated their own questions, doubts, and concerns about actual and potential possibilities for action, change.  After Jennifer (who went by JT), Amy, and Cassandra spoke, the audience was invited to ask questions while Samantha Giles and Stephanie Young recorded these questions on large sheets of paper. Each speaker then addressed some of these comments and concerns, the event culminating with all present invited to offer up  ideas for action.  Below I've tried to capture some of what I heard the participants saying. There have been a number of sexual assaults and gendered violence in writing communities and various public discourses around these events, many of those under discussion in the last year or so. Some of these I was hearing about for the first time. I've done my best to reflect a small portion of the content of this urgent discussion. For more info on this event and the discussants, please see Small Press Traffic's web site.


Jennifer Tamayo (JT) told us about her experience working with Enough is Enough, a group that came together after several sexual assaults against women in New York in August of 2014.  JT expressed frustration with

·         pervasive sanctioned sexism

·         unsafe poetry events

·         misogyny

·         the promotion of poets accused of sexual assault

·         a poetics of domination that operates under the guise of aesthetic gesture

·         the valuing of reputation over accountability

·         the lack of institutional and community memory (the aggressors are forgotten)

·         and  both the lack of resources and the continual refrain of "the lack of resources" as a   rationale for an absence of response.

JT spoke of various concerns and tactics--

·         considering who maintains a safe space

·         attending other events and meetings

·         supporting the shutting down of readings with men who are sexual assaulters

·         working on developing a site to maintain institutional memory.

JT closed with a list of "15 Things I've Learned."  There was no way for me to record all of these but I found this list powerful in its ethos of critical assessment, for example, when JT asked "What is preventing me from using these resources?" Other things on the list include:

·         "Organizing poets is hard and infuriating"

·         Demand what you want and be direct

·         Writing and thinking together is empowering

·         Shaming works

 

A number of these statements were interwoven into larger points and thus do not indicate discrete items, but as I was so engaged with listening, my pen couldn't keep up.

 
JT also noted "Ways I have Failed":

·         my efforts are too sectional

·         and are focused around cis women

·         Enough is Enough hasn't reached out to older generations

 
and argued that "there needs to be more destruction before building" since the problems are systemic.

This last claim I found particularly provocative and engaging; throughout the discussion, we returned to this a number of times.

Amy De'Ath's talk began with outline of three topics: First Nations in Vancouver and here in San Francisco, class in the UK, and online organizing.  She explored how one might use gossip and conjecture as a feminist strategy. De'Ath contextualized her own position in Vancouver as a settler on unceded Coast Salish territories, reminding us of the more than 1,017 indigenous women and girls who have been murdered in Canada and how the Canadian government refuses to launch an investigation into these murders, considering them isolated criminal cases rather than sociological and racist.  Amy offered a critique of Rachel Zolf's Janey's Arcadia worrying that it risks implying catharsis, suggesting that white settlers can cathartically work through settler issues, but also noting that this might be part of the problematic that Zolf intends to present.

Amy used to live in London and was part of the UK poetry scene which she described as "macho and exclusionary along class lines.” De'Ath expressed frustration with the confidence and rhetoric of entitlement among the  dominant male writers and wanted to think about how this is linked to an aesthetic of “difficulty.” She discussed the posting of Elizabeth Ellen's "An Open Letter to the Internet" to the UK poetics list-serve and the fallout of that discussion. A group of feminist poets collectively left the list as a result.  There might be a piece in the Chicago Review that is forthcoming on all of this. I'm not sure.  De'Ath also discussed her participation in a group and list-serve that excluded cis males but did have one male queer feminist artist. Amy noted that she (ambivalently and hesitantly) thought that he should not be in the group, for reasons not at all to do with his personal politics – a position he later confirmed when he thoughtfully volunteered to leave. She also recounted the fact that a woman of color left the group because she did not feel welcome there. There were only two responses to this woman's email announcing her departure, and for De’Ath, this raised several serious problems in relation to issues of race and the question of what kind of content gets the most attention, and who is most comfortable speaking up in a space. At a number of points throughout the evening the conversation turned to the ongoing problems of white supremacy and racism across numerous writing scenes.
 
Last but not least, Cassandra Troyan spoke about their experience in Chicago which, because of  geographic, racial, and class segregation, doesn't quite have a central writing "community." They noted that when it comes to gendered violence, "silencing is extreme," with few women willing to name the men involved since many of them run institutions, presses, etc.  Troyan spoke of their work with the Chicago Feminist Writers and Artists (CFWA)and Feminist Action Support Network (FASN), noting that there is a cross-cultural scene there, with people coming from punk, radical, art, and music communities.  Troyan expressed interest in an accountability process, in facilitating safe spaces, in collective goals, discussing ongoing Sunday workshops on a variety of topics, from mental health to self-care, healing justice, generational violence--that have been taking place.

 

Some of the Questions/Comments Proposed by Attendees:

 How do we surface unconscious bias?

How can people support individual work?

What can we learn from what others are doing?

Someone wanted to know why JT read off the list of names of the 72 attendees at the first Enough is Enough meeting.

How do we respond in the moment? How to call shit out!

Exclusion and transformative justice and how these are related to systems of incarceration

What are the limits of gossip?

How does information move?

How to differentiate between aesthetic preference and closed communities

What is the link between aesthetic difficulty and class, gender, race?

How to dismantle white supremacy in poetry circles?

The problem of indigenous issues not being able to be made present. An attendee mentioned someone who did not come to the Sunday event because of this concern. There is simply no space to address this issue, given the community.  Another participant underscored this claim noting that race cannot be addressed precisely because the community is largely white and cis.

 
Some of the comments under A Call to Action, generated by the entire group included (The discussion was out of time as ATA needed to close for the evening. Some of these were more notational or working propositions, rather than explicit calls):

An understanding that not everyone wants to take action in the same way. How can we make this possible?

Creating individual healing for those most affected.

Safe spaces.

Establishing Support Liaisons

Organizing Rage Liaisons

How to collectively lower inhibitions around booing and hissing

Gossip

Some people suggested that writers of color do not need white people or cis men. A brief discussion about who is needed or wanted ensued.

The atmosphere was alive at this event. Stay-tuned: there may be follow-up meetings.
 

1.23.2015

Class and New Narrative Redux!


I've decided to dive into the archives of xpoetics which has now been "on air" since 2008 (can hardly believe it) to give some of the posts a second life. While I do not very often publish my own work on xpoetics, sometimes I do, and I am going to take the liberty of exhuming one of my pieces:

Out of Context: What’s Class Got to Do with It?
A Review of LIAR by Mike Amnasan
San Francisco: Ithuriel’s Spear, 2007

 
 



It is particularly fitting to begin with this piece since LIAR was published in 2007, but was actually written decades earlier.

Prior to its publication, the sole surviving copy of the manuscript was in the hands of Camille Roy who photocopied it for classes she was teaching. My review of LIAR was originally published in Crayon 5.

Enjoy!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


1.10.2015

Marianne Morris's "Mother Poems" and a Poetry of Live Address


I am so pleased to offer you a selection of work by UK poet Marianne Morris. In addition to a selection of poems, Morris has graciously shared with us a prose piece contextualizing the poems and their relation to performance and politics via live address and human interaction. Enjoy!

























Marianne Morris started Bad Press in 2003, which has since published over ten, mostly female, authors, in the UK and North America.  She has written over ten chapbooks; her first full collection, The On All Said Things Moratorium, was published in 2013 by Enitharmon Press.  She holds a PhD in performance writing from University College Falmouth, and a BA in English from Cambridge University; St. John’s College awarded her the Harper-Wood Studentship for Creative Writing in 2008. She is currently studying Oriental Medicine and herbalism in California.


MOTHER POEMS
by Marianne Morris

 
The sequence called ‘Mother Poems’ is the result of a long process of my efforts to develop a poetry of live address: it evolved out of editing original drafts of a poem variously called ‘The Great Sublimation’, ‘The Unsublimation’, and ‘Greek With Me’. These titles evolved in the aftermath and anticipation of ten separate public readings over two years.[1]


The act of public reading provided assistance in the composition and editing of these poems because it focused my attention on the idea that the poems were being heard, and therefore belonging in the realm of human interactions. After reading an early draft in New York, for example, I significantly cut a long section referring to Hegel’s writings, hearing or understanding in their live echo as I read, a disconnection between the obscure references and the audience’s immediate ability to grasp their origins.


 
‘The Great Sublimation’, the first in the series, relies on a framework of references to Ancient Greece to maintain its focus, but is also marked by the extensive use of quotations from Hannah Arendt, G.W.F. Hegel, John Keats, Jacques Lacan, J.H. Prynne, and Harvey Yunis. This focus on quoted material links back to Plato’s conception of writing as unable to articulate its needs for itself, always need[ing] its father to help it’, and its implied need for legitimacy.[2] Reference has also been associated with male tendencies in conversational speech, which ‘men tend to orientate to its referential function’:


 Men’s reasons for talking often focus on the content of the talk or its outcome, rather than on how it affects the feelings of others. It is women who rather emphasise this aspect of talk.[3]


 I employed reference material in ‘Mother Poems’ in order to subject it to poetic language. I cut the quotes up, changed them, and added my own words. They are intended to function in these poems more as raw materials than as indicators of outside knowledge. In addition to the quotes already mentioned, in the final poem, I also included fragments of the initial notes that I made during composition. The earliest drafts of ‘The Great Sublimation’ were heavily footnoted, and part of the editing process involved amalgamating the text of the poem with the text of these notes. This helped to resolve the conflicts implied by the two different registers of discourse, and also to contain and streamline the poem, reasoning that the presence of footnotes would not only interrupt the flow of poetic discourse, but also to imply that there was thinking about the poem’s content that needed to be done separately in order for it to convey its full meaning.



The word feminism has a medical root. In 1875, it denoted ‘[t]he appearance of female secondary sexual characteristics in a male individual; feminization’ (OED). This root is particularly interesting with regard to the semi-permeable boundaries of polis and oikos, because in the early medical sense, feminisation was the appearance of female characteristics in places where they were not expected. In accordance with a feminist poetics, then, I wanted to write a poem through the idea of the fixed, male, despotic space of polis being confronted by some of the female qualities of oikos – permission, fulfillment, intimacy. I wanted to see what would happen if Ancient Greek polis had a mother.


I came to this conclusion through various public readings of drafts of poems that ended up as ‘Mother Poems’. I started off introducing the early drafts at readings by explaining that I had some grievances with Ancient Greece. In a January 2012 reading in New York, I described the drafts as the result of my thinking about Ancient Greece and ‘trying to fight with it in my poetry’.[4] This description was a modification of my earlier attempt to describe the poems in the introduction to a December 2011 reading in Berkeley, CA. I discussed this earlier introduction in an interview with the California-based poet, David Brazil:


DB: In your reading in Berkeley in 2011 you said, “Fuck the ancient Greeks.”  Were you thinking of any ancient Greeks in particular?  Would you rather root for the Persians?  How about the modern Greeks?  How about petrol bombs against astunomoi, February 2012?


MM: Oh dear, how rude. I am so not punk. I am actually pretty fond of a number of Ancient Greeks, Plato and Sappho among them. I think maybe it’s just that the Ancient Greek ideal city-state of polis would benefit from a mother. I have been working on a poem for a couple of years now that attempts to address the faulty elitism of polis, the city space which excludes everyone except the male heads of households, but which nonetheless still retains important ideas for contemporary thinking about political engagement (for example, in its conceiving of speaking and acting as equally valuable). And I’m about to contradict myself, but I also get frustrated when I see so much Ancient Greek thought sneaking into modern theory—Jacques Rancière I am looking at you—at least partly because one of Plato’s best ideas in the Phaedrus is that writing is just a little kid who needs its daddy to hold its hand because it is immutable and doesn’t know how to speak to anyone, and the reiteration of Ancient Greek thought in the present time seems like a perfect metaphor for this hand-holding. I have many imaginings about a poetry of live address that can and does know how to speak and who to speak to.[5]


These comments are tied to Plato’s description of writing in the Phaedrus, where he tries to discredit it as being immutable, confined to a rigid space, unable to speak to anyone. The paragraph that particularly bothered me was this:


The offspring of painting stand there as if they are alive, but if anyone asks them anything, they remain most solemnly silent. The same is true of written words. You’d think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it continues to signify just that very same thing forever. When it has once been written down, every discourse roams about everywhere, reaching indiscriminately those with understanding no less than those who have no business with it, and it doesn’t know to whom it should speak and to whom it should not. And when it is faulted and attacked unfairly, it always needs its father’s support; alone, it can neither defend itself nor come to its own support.[6]


This seems to me the crux of the contradictions inherent in the notion of a ‘political’ writing, or perhaps simply the anachronism of it. Political space is, etymologically, womanless, and when it translates into contemporary time, it carries that inherently masculine structure with it, in patriarchal traditions of thought. Plato prescribes here for writing a patrilineal doom: it is doomed not only because the written word amounts to a helpless babbling Echo, but that its only hope is in its being helped along by its masculine elder, who provides through his very presence a form of legitimacy. Jacques Rancière’s recycling of this idea serves only to reinforce this perception of the written word, both as helpless, and requiring the help of its father. Rancière is speaking generally from ‘the Platonic point of view’ when he paraphrases this idea, without directly acknowledging its source:


 
By stealing away to wander aimlessly without knowing who to speak to or who not to speak to, writing destroys every legitimate foundation for the circulation of words, for the relationship between the effects of language and the positions of bodies in shared space.[7]


Rancière recycles the root of the idea and builds on it, crucially altering the clause about illegitimacy to posit writing itself as the root destroyer of ‘every legitimate foundation’ for its own circulation. Most peculiarly, he also brings in ‘the position of bodies in shared space’ to support his argument: surely bodies in space are the correct setting for reclaiming the legitimacy of language, where ideas remain possible, unfixed, and subject to dialogue. Rancière’s manoeuvre here in fact reinforces the anti-political aspect of the written word that Plato finds so oppressive, first by attempting to re-posit a stale idea, and secondly by sourcing this idea from the archive of a fatherly figure, whose very presence ‘protects’ it, and gives it legitimacy. Its legitimacy comes from the safety of repetition; it is (literally) unimaginative, and thereby the antithesis of progressive politics.


For Rancière, therefore, it is no surprise that ‘[p]olitics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it’ (13) – essentially prescribing a permanent re-positing of what is already in existence, a championing of the status quo. His politics consists of the interpretation of events, sealed in by existing actualities, rather than the imagining of the future possible, in which the idea of change is rooted.


Politics here is submitted to a reading of itself as relating to fixed categories of what is visible, what can be quantified, and what does not change. The comments made in the interview with Brazil quoted above aim to challenge this notion. What I particularly like about the exchange is the way that, in re-positing my original aggression back to me and challenging it through confrontation, the aggression necessarily deflates and submits to more careful and articulate examination: a somewhat crude example, perhaps, but therefore perhaps a striking metaphor about the importance of poetry’s having an audience, or of being thought of as having an audience. Not, perhaps, to the extent that a poet is writing for ‘a reader’, but that, particularly in the context of a poetry that is read in public, it is part of a social interaction, an exchange, and will encounter people in different contexts on its way. I do not mean to invoke the category of ‘the reader’ as the building blocks of a market, a mutable category exhibiting a particular taste. This is not ‘the reader’ discussed by Barry and Hampson (paraphrasing Donald Davie):


the general poetry reader will tolerate a degree of surface difficulty, but only so long as the subject matter remains essentially familiar.[8]


 Nor is it the reader Don Paterson describes as seen by ‘the Mainstream’ as ‘equal collaborator in the creation of the poem’, contrasting this with the reader in Postmodern poetry, who ‘is alone’.[9] These allusions to the reader are tied to the idea of poetry as a product, and the idea of the public as its patrons, who in turn expect a particular kind of service. I have come to conceive of the idea of an audience in the sense discussed by Nicholas Bourriaud as ‘relational aesthetics’, which produces



[…] an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space[.][10]


 

we the massive majority in our bodies are few


as am I from my seat upstairs alone being with you


being with you


 


The reader, who does not exist, becomes anyone; it becomes the category of people listening, which is unfixed and uncertain. It is predicated on the only things that a person can assume to have in common with any other person, the abstractions that fall under the watch of the category of compassion, and under the motherly qualities of care lacked by ancient polis.


IF YR A FEMINISTʼS


YR A MOTHER


YR YR A FEMINIST


YR A MOTHER


 
Some of ‘Mother Poems’ became a weird pop opera, which I performed in London at POLYply 11 (June 2011) to a backing track of reggaeton and synth voices.  Some of it went into the final manuscript for DSK, a chapbook printed by Tipped Press in Tokyo in 2012.


 I read the final version of this poem in June 2012 at a reading to mark the launch of the fourth issue of The Paper Nautilus, a magazine devoted to women’s poetry and poetry criticism. I read with four other female poets, all my age or younger than me. In terms of thinking about the relevance of ‘Mother Poems’ to the current sociopoetic landscape, this reading seemed an exemplary event in that the other readers were all young women. In addition, each poet was asked to read the work of another poet in addition to something of their own, which opened up the reading to new voices and new poetries, broadening the dialogue, expanding the sphere of knowledge, and posing a generous model for sharing work.

 




[1] I first read ‘The Great Sublimation’ in Cambridge, May 6, 2011, and then read subsequent drafts at nine separate poetry readings: POLYply11 and Intercapillary Places in London (June 2011), Hi Zero in Brighton (November 2011), a house reading at Woolsey Heights in Berkeley, CA (December 2011), Segue in New York (January 2012), Lyric & Polis in Falmouth, Cornwall (February 2012), Poets Against Dominque Strauss-Kahn in Cambridge (March 2012), Stichting Perdu in Amsterdam (March 2012), the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol (April 2012), and the Poetry & Revolution conference in London (May 2012).
[2] Plato (1973) Phaedrus & Letters VII and VIII. Translated by W. Hamilton. Middlesex: Penguin, p.56
[3] Holmes, J. (1995) Women, Men and Politeness. London: Longman, p.2
[4] MARIANNE MORRIS, SEGUE READING SERIES, BOWERY POETRY CLUB, JANUARY 7TH, 2012’ [audio] [online] Available at: < http://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/authors/Morris-Marianne/Morris-Marianne_Segue-BPC_1-7-12.mp3> [Accessed September 19, 2012].
[5] Marianne Morris, Iran Documents (Tennessee: Trafficker Press, 2012), pp.44-5.
[6] C.D.C. Reeve, Plato on Love: Lysis, Symposium, Phaedrus, Alcibiades with selections from Republic, Laws. (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2006), p.275.
[7] Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. Translated by G. Rockhill, 2006 (2000). London: Continuum, p.13.
[8] Barry, P & R. Hampson. New British Poetries: The Scope of the Possible. Manchester: MUP, 1993), p.4.
[9] Don Paterson & Simic, C., New British Poetry (Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2004) p.xxix.
[10] Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Paris: Les presses du reel, 2002), p.14.




 

12.21.2014

Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric








In October Emily Abendroth and I were at a Bard meeting and we shared a room at a YMCA camp in the Catskills when the trees around us had reached their zenith of flame and color. Emily had brought along a copy of Claudia Rankine's book Citizen: An American Lyric. Its opening immediately engages:








When you are alone and too tired even to turn on any of your devices, you let yourself linger in a past stacked among your pillows. Usually you are nestled under blankets and the house is empty. Sometimes the moon is missing and beyond the windows the low, gray ceiling seems approachable. Its dark light dims in degrees depending on the density of clouds and you fall back into that which gets reconstructed as metaphor (5).




Hailing the reader with its deployment of the second person, the writing subtly and fairly rapidly shifts away from what might first appear to be a luxurious, even narcissistic meditation--"you let yourself linger"--to a series of traumatic anecdotes, conversations, and experiences. For example:



At the end of a brief phone conversation, you tell the manager you are speaking with that you will come by his office to sign the form. When you arrive and announce yourself, he blurts out, I didn't know you were black!


I didn't mean to say that, he then says.


Aloud, you say.


What? he asks.


You didn't mean to say that aloud.


Your transaction goes swiftly after that (44).




The rain this morning pours from the gutters and everywhere else it is lost in the trees. You need your glasses to single out what you know is there because doubt is inexorable; you put on your glasses. The trees, their bark, their leaves, even the dead ones, are more vibrant wet. Yes, and its raining. Each moment is like this--before it can be known, categorized as similar to another thing and dismissed, it has to be experienced, it has to be seen. What did he just say? Did she really just say that? Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth? The moment stinks. Still you want to stop looking at the trees. You want to walk out and stand among them. And as light as the rain seems, it still rains down on you (9).




A friend argues that Americans battle between the "historical self" and the "self self." By this she means you mostly interact as friends with mutual interest and, for the most part, compatible personalities; however, sometimes your historical selves, her white self and your black self, or your white self and her black self, arrive with the full force of your American positioning. Then you are standing face-to-face in seconds that wipe the affable smiles right from your mouths. What did you say? Instantaneously your attachment seems fragile, tenuous, subject to any transgression of your historical self. And though your joined personal histories are supposed to save you from the misunderstandings, they usually cause you to understand all too well what is meant (14).




While the poetry sometimes makes use of the third and on occasion first person "I" narration, Rankine's writing powerfully employs the second person to convey discrete, individual experiences that are also all too frighteningly frequent, and therefore common, in common, shared by many. While the particulars of an encounter revealing racism at work may vary in their specific details, the shape of these encounters, what they reveal is markedly the same--namely,what it is like to live in a thoroughly racialized and racist society.

At the close of her book, Rankine thanks a large number of people who "generously shared their stories" (169), suggesting that her research and writing process included consulting friends and colleagues and incorporating their experiences into the text. The second person renders these stories in such a way that the reader is interpellated and implicated; emphatically the you of the text is at once discretely singular and plural.



from "Stop-and-Frisk"
a script for Situation video created in collaboration with John Lucas:



I knew whatever was in front of me was happening and then the police vehicle came to a screeching halt in front of me like they were setting up a blockade. Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding and a stretched-out roar. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.


And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description  (105).


The subtitle of Rankine's book is "An American Lyric." 

While any subject, any "I," is a subject of shattering, and the lyric itself is predicated on this split subjectivity--the "I" of any poem always a discursive construction--Rankine's writing in Citizen marks the myriad spoken and unspoken, overt and covert constructed ways race and racism traverse, shape, and undergird our relations.  Her careful deployment of pronouns reveals the emptiness of the "I" who cannot see others, or the discrepant fissure in social relations in which a black American "I" is read by others as a you, nameless, less than human, an indistinguishable object. At the same time, the collective you marks the communal--in all of its potential beauty and many horrors. I guess what I mean to say is Claudia Rankine elaborates the plenitude and the abyss every pronoun marks, demonstrating the ways race is a force of "undoing" and "doing" in a thoroughly racialized society, a democracy founded and foundering on its historically problematic construction of citizenship.


When a man says "I can't breathe," who does not hear the "I," see the human being struggling to breathe? What is it that some people see when they look at a black man or woman? Darren Wilson described Michael Brown as “look[ing] like a demon” or "Hulk Hogan" (McCoy).

Claudia Rankine's book Citizen exposes the ugly truth at the heart of the histories of citizens and citizenship.

For every citizen there is a non-citizen, an other that makes possible the category of "citizen." From The Oxford English Dictionary:

Citizen:
  •  An inhabitant of a city or town; esp. one possessing civic rights and privileges, a burgess or freeman of a city
  •  A legally recognized subject or national of a state, commonwealth, or other polity, either native or naturalized, having certain rights, privileges, or duties.



The writing throughout Citizen moves with a quiet, deliberative pace, one that is adept at suddenly turning a corner and revealing the precipice, one that the reader realizes is never suddenly there, but rather always present, if sometimes, less conspicuous.



Sometimes "I" is supposed to hold what is not there until it is. Then what is comes apart the closer you are to it.


This makes the first person a symbol for something.


The pronoun barely holding the person together  (71).



I couldn't put this book down. I want to hold this book up in the air.



McCoy, Terrence. "Darren Wilson Explains Why He killed Michael Brown."  The Washington Post, 25 November 2014.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2014.






12.09.2014

Celebrating Brandon Brown!





A Hearty Congratulations to the Bay Area's own Brandon Brown who recently received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship!














Brandon Brown is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Top 40 (Roof) and the forthcoming Shadow Lanka (Big Lucks).  His poetry and prose have appeared recently or will appear soon in Open Space, Art Practical, Maggy, Elderly, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Where Eagles Dare.  He is an editor at Krupskaya, occasionally publishes small press materials under the imprint OMG!, and helps curate the Heart’s Desire reading series at the Bay Area Public School.


I have always admired the way Brandon's writing moves across multiple linguistic registers from pop culture to the classics. It does so with wit and linguistic and rhetorical flair. It is capable of bragging and being humble simultaneously. In its crossing and ability to register feeling, capaciously and often with a punch, his writing reminds me of Frank O'Hara's. 


You believe the writing when it claims: "Dunno, but I do feel these feelings and feel torn apart" (The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus 156).


Here is section 50 from Brandon's poem "Sparrow" in The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus from Krupskaya:


Dear God, it's me, Catullus, except this time I'm talking to you as a virgin, in stanzas of three glyconics followed by a pherecratean, a metrical system found in the work of Anacreon (6th century BCE). Each stanza observes synaphaea, or 'fastening together,' and each glyconic ends with a syllable that is long. Halfway through the poem I start to talk about your name, and how powerful you are, and how you're the moon and the vegetables I eat and are really old, and sui generis, so spritely, so gentle.


And section 29:


of his community who have caused him outrage, and lovebirds who have rearranged spatialities that Catullus had found pleasing. I have belabored this because it gives me an opportunity to talk about the process of translation in this book called The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus. Translation as I understand it involves a preceding writing, a proceeding writing--in between is the body that translates. The preceding writing is absorbed by the body of the translator in the act of reading. And when the translator writes something down which proceeds from the act of reading and the preceding writing, that is called "translation." However, far from idealizing repetition, this translation

So many sections of this poem hang in medias res, inviting the reader to turn the page. Get the book to find out where the next section takes you.


Brandon has kindly shared with us the poem he submitted to the NEA Committee. Enjoy!




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