…but then got ran over by a bus and died. No im totally kidding! but you really did get the flu and couldn’t join me.
The talk was at Housing Works, and it included two other speakers: David Gordon and Michael Kunichika.Your expectations were unclear: talk about Russian writers who, though they left us long ago, remain potent presences for readers and writers today. From Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Vasily Grossman and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, we’ll learn about obsession, madness, realism, fables, and more, in an event with all the drama and pathos (well, at least some of the drama and pathos) of the great Russian novels themselves.
Here are all the texts I would have sent you, in chronological order and without clarifying who said what, because color-coordinating via SMS goes a step too far:
truth-seeking urgency intrinsic in russian lit
antithesis to beckett & writers who focused extensively on beauty of language
falling in love w/ english language, less plot driven urgency
dostoevsky similar to conrad in terms of truth-seeking urgency
multivocality of dostoevsky
there is no right, just different truths
dostoevsky threw the best literary parties (metaphorically speaking, as a creator)
proust s parties were too long, and maybe the guests were wearing better clothes
abstract psychological curiosity in motives, including abnormalities–>russian approach
going in depth for big questions, characters not being introverted
serialization of lengthy works, such as ‘war & peace,’ adds towards creating a broader debate. they become part of the broader debates occurring during their time
some compare the creation of microcosms of russian lit to ‘the wire’
comparing to british office, where they look at the camera at moments of despair but the viewer cannot do anything to help // to embarrasing dostoevsky characters
nabokov disliked dostoevsky for his “bad writing”
dostoevsky had a v diff approach to writing from nabokov: almost got executed literally, then was told he had another five years
that is also why dostoevsky did not pursue inanimate writing, unlike tolstoy (?)
nabokov didn t like music!
neither did dostoevsky !! (probably diff reasons)
saul bellow s ‘dean of december’–>similar urgency in truth-seeking (someone from the audience)
can reading a book be so vivid it appears like a different life?
if yes, it depends on willingness of writers to go to great lengths in creating characters who go too far, embarrass themselves/ are visceral
perhaps a key element that helps bring about the urgent truth-seeking: religion s role for the writers
religion, like their fiction, was trying to explain what goes on beyond the physical
nabokov s direct ancestor was dostoevsky s jailor. weird how he was not willing to cut him any slack, considering
dostoevsky was crowd-pleasing oriented bc he lived off writing
Short notice, but for those of you in Chicago, tomorrow night will see a plum event as the Danny’s Reading Series convenes, 7:30pm sharp at Danny’s in Bucktown (1951 W. Dickens, just off Damen). Reading will be Barry Schwabsky, Mark Yakitch, and the incomparable Virginia Konchan. As always, a DJ and dancing will follow.
today is National Dress up Your Pet Day (ok, sure, come here, doggie)
today is also National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day (yeah, I’m hungry. sure, why not)
and (sigh) today is National Poetry at Work Day (knife in stomach)
“As many of you have heard, we in Brooklyn (and its surroundings) are beginning to solidify the Brooklyn Poetry Summit, which will be taking place the weekend of April 18th of the coming year with more than 20 readers from all over the country with poetics both disparate and in close conversation with one another. We are hoping to be able to bring our readers into town without them incurring financial burden, and to help mitigate the financial stress that so often roadblocks meetings of this sort.
The summit’s goal is to provide a site for discourse, reading and listening whilst, of course, making similar provisions for partying with much vigor and refinement. As we are doing our best to stay away from any institutional support while still being able to bring all these poets to town without financial burden, we need support from everyone, especially to adjust for relative distances and financial concerns of our readers . So…donate, fast, furious, often, oftener…great “gifts,” even better future payoff…think of this as your retirement fund.
Summit Schedule (as of Jan. 6th, 2014)
Thursday, April 17:
BookThug Nation (Evening)
Friday, April 18:
Unnameable Books (Evening)
Ugly Duckling Presse HQ (Night)
Saturday April 19:
Berl’s Poetry Shop (Evening)
Location TBA (Night)
8pm & 10pm, Eastern time
When a new literary arts magazine comes along, it’s always a reason to celebrate. Jos Charles, Emerson Whitney, and Jamila Cornick have put together a critically ambivalent, aesthetically smart online magazine THEM (soon to be in print) that promotes the *trans values in us all, and it is awesome.
Stephen Michael McDowell, a writer loosely associated with the Alt Lit scene (as is Jos Charles), gives a 25-point report on Jos Charles’s new project THEM, Issue One, which was published online today (link provided below):
1. I have a very low tolerance for cold, and often cite any setting below 75 degrees Fahrenheit as potential “jacket weather”.
2. Despite widespread public knowledge of racially polar male and female authors and poets [something about me not being able to think of any openly queer or racially unspecific authors and poets, especially given] my experience.
3. Something about how modern dress does not preclude a person from being a person but can prevent a person from being informed of different genitals which can prevent a person being aware that different genitals exist.
4. Focusing on queer or trans* identity as a central theme in literature vs. focusing on economics as a central theme in literature vs. focusing on writing about writing as a central theme in literature vs. focusing on nothing in general as a central theme in literature.
5. In THEM Issue One the assigned gender of each contributor in this journal is shrouded in a way that, regardless of the piece’s overall focus, seems to render every character, voice, feeling, and basis for confusion “human” in a way that I like.
6. I developed pneumonia the week my junior high school P.E. class started practicing lacrosse. I was relieved I wouldn’t have to compete against people in lacrosse, but practiced at home in my bedroom because I liked the mechanics of the instruments that were used in the game. I felt profound disappointment when I got back two weeks later and they had moved on to volleyball.
7. In a climate where terms like “Experimental” and “Standard Procedure” seem wildly vague and frequently interchangeable it seems like enthusiasm and maybe “Recognizably Subversive” work are what readers’ readers are looking for to share with there friends. In this search, almost as if by accident, the still peripheral outpourings of the disenfranchised but not unfamiliar seem to easily go overlooked. I don’t know why this is, maybe something about quality, maybe something about affect and guilt, but this collection touches on a lot of subjects without intentionally straying from the easy-to-parse, which I think may give this publication a chance in the realm of alternative/internet literature at least.
8. I feel rigidly aware I’m writing in a mode I’m uncomfortable with because it seems like people are more receptive when I write this way.
9. This is a large collection (~100 pages of text). If I were approached and asked by a friend which pieces of this they should read, I would reluctantly point out one co-authored by a writer I’ve published, maybe three or four more besides, but the experience of reading this collection dans complètement left me on the brink of tears in a sort of dizzying empathy. So maybe just read all of it.
““Trans*” is an umbrella term meant to include not just transgender identities, but any person who does not exclusively identify as the gender assigned at their birth. This often includes genderqueer, bigender, agender, genderfuck, and other gender-variant identities. Like with any umbrella term, the only way to know if “trans*” applies to someone is if they apply it to themselves.
THEM uses the word “trans*” in an attempt to make room in the old, reconcile, carve, and begin from where we can. That is to say “trans*” is not perfect and without limits; THEM adopts it as a strategy—contingently and consciously. If a more suitable term, less grounded in binarist western identity-politics emerges, THEM will be happy to abandon “trans*” and utilize another.
THEM is not the gender police. Authors and artists herein may not identify with “trans*” as a term, i.e. folks with cultural gender identities who reject its use. Likewise not all writing herein may be considered “trans* writing.” THEM is willingly confused by what does or doesn’t pass as trans* writing. THEM is critically ambivalent. THEM is happy to present conflicting manifestos.”
11. In my immediate family there is a constant struggle to reconcile racial and gender identity. One of my siblings has been in a long-term relationship with someone outside our family’s designated race and has seemed openly conscious of and tormented by this, despite the degree to which they seem compatible. Another sibling is in a “homosexual relationship” and hasn’t told our extended family, though they never attend family events without their partner. After nearly a decade of engaging exclusively in relationships with people of one racial designation, I recently started seeing people in other races and with non-conforming gender identities and have felt less confused by my impulses and more aware of what other people consider when looking for partners, and have felt the experience to be constantly epiphanic. Reading this journal has enhanced that feeling of epiphany for me, I feel.
12. Something I thought upon initially embarking on reading “THEM” was that the formatting and layout seemed lit-journal-typical in a way that made me uncomfortable. The discomfort, I realized, was grounded in my own tendency to try to design things contrary to how culturally normative magazines and journals have appeared in my experience. After thinking more about this, I realized the editors may have been trying to make the journal seem attractive to a wider audience than people who, in my mind, stereotypically fit into a “punk” aesthetic, due to that subculture appearing more welcoming to openly trans* people. I’m not sure what it is that I intuitively generalized but I don’t like it and think #10 renders it in a much higher resolution than my brain is willing to parse.
13. I’ve never had gay sex, whatever that means. Maybe I have. Whoa.
14. I didn’t know there was a trans flag. Now I do. http://castrobiscuit.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/trans-pride-flag.gif
15. Having a very difficult time coming up with 25 points. Earnestly considering flaking on all y’all tbqh.
16. Thought “LGTBQH” and kind of twisted my spine in an attempt to express a seemingly nondescript, possibly never before previously experienced emotion I could attempt to convey as “weakly entertained in a self-loathing humorous manner while very aware of growing feeling of hunger and mild pain in the testicles.”
17. I feel aversion, generally to political activism. To some degree, I embarked on a career in literature because novels and poems have the ability to transcend—or, more accurately, in my view, diverge from—approaching politically controversial topics and unite people. It seems sweet to me that there are authors and poets spending their time writing from politically aware standpoints, but with less an “agenda” than to express and explore, in a way that’s non-standard with regard to what, in my view, is typically viewed as “literature”
18. “Satyricon (or Satyrica) is a Latin work of fiction in a mixture of prose and poetry (prosimetrum). It is believed to have been written by Gaius Petronius, though the manuscript tradition identifies the author as a certain Titus Petronius. As with the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, classical scholars often describe it as a “Roman novel”, without necessarily implying continuity with the modern literary form.
“The surviving portions of the text detail the misadventures of the narrator, Encolpius, and his lover, a handsome sixteen-year-old boy named Giton. Throughout the novel, Encolpius has a hard time keeping his lover faithful to him as he is constantly being enticed away by others. Encolpius’s friend Ascyltus (who seems to have previously been in a relationship with Encolpius) is another major character.
“It is one of the two most extensive witnesses to the Roman novel, the only other being fully extant Metamorphoses of Apuleius, which is quite different in style and plot. Satyricon is also extremely important evidence for the reconstruction of what everyday life must have been like for the lower classes during the early Roman Empire.”
I found this article about three years ago when google searching “first novel”. [Something about it having been published in the first century A.D.] [Something about 2,000 years passing since its first publication] [Something about high-profile LGBTQ public figures gaining mainstream popularity on television and the internet]
19. I have a friend who dated a trans woman and stayed friends with her after they broke up. My friend told me that her friend began a long-term relationship with a man and still hasn’t told him she was once designated a boy because it just never came up in conversation.
21. Have, over the course of writing this, returned to the idea of “us vs. them” but haven’t yet come to any conclusions about it.
22. I’ve felt consistently averse to the idea of trying to “sell” this journal. I was asked to write this and am writing it because I was asked to and felt interested in writing something that would appear on HTMLGiant and would promote a more diverse range of potential for writing, in general.
23. I feel shitty for making this “meta” instead of feeling as though I was capable of coherently summarizing my thoughts, strictly, on the journal itself.
24. I think viewing this collection not as “queer/trans* literature” but as “literature” will be the most beneficial way of perceiving it, if the reader is capable of dissociating from the intention of the publication.
25. Thank you for reading this.
You may read THEM, Issue One, free and online here: http://issuu.com/themlit/docs/them_draft_1.docx
December 13th, 2013 / 8:00 pm
1) When Sachin Tendulkar, famous cricketer, walked back off the Wankhede field in Mumbai after having accumulated nearly 16,000 Test Runs in exactly 24 years at the highest international level (a career surpassed in excellence only, perhaps, by Sir Donald Bradman) he proclaimed “I am ready to die a violent death.”
Yes, it seems the world’s most famous cricketer (a virtual God in India and the rest of the subcontinent) is headed for new glories, laurels and great, foaming spikes of URL fame in the crazy, wide-open world of Alt Lit.
2) “Yes,” Sachin continued, “I plan on running amuck in the woods muttering glorious Carpe Diem extravagances”— whereupon Steve Roggenbuck leaped out of the Wankhede stands and hoisted Sachin up on to his shoulders and started chanting “Boost! Boost! Boost!” and the whole crowd, 40,000 strong, joined in immediately, voraciously chanting “Boost, Sachin, Boost” and Eternal Lief seemed all-too possible. Beautiful. Exquisite. Here. Now. Now.
3) “Will you be going to Brooklyn?” READ MORE >
World Series baseball is quite comely. The competition is carried out outside in the fall, so leaves are dying and falling off trees, it’s cold, and you get to start sporting layers, like multiple hoodies over a meaningful sweater over a button-down.
Moreover, baseball is slow, like an elderly person, and it’s quiet, like a deaf-mute. Both the elderly and deaf-mute are meritorious. The elderly are grumpy and crabby (as one should be), and deaf-mutes don’t talk and don’t hear, which is optimal, as there is very little that can be conveyed through talking and listening that can’t be conveyed much more marvelously through a poem, a story, or a Tumblr post
In “[The crowd at the ball game],” New Jersey boy William Carlos Williams compares the baseball setting to a totalitarian society, and that’s sensational.
This World Series is especially estimable because the St. Louis Cardinals are participating, and they feature many cute boys, like the hard-throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal, and the tough as a truck catcher, Yadi.
Presently, the Cardinals and the meat-head East Coast liberals that some refer to as the Boston Red Sox have each won two games. If you haven’t been keeping up with all of the excitement then read Baby Marie-Antoinette’s recap of the first four games:
Last nighttime the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox in game 2 of the World Series, and their triumph made Baby Marie-Antoinette less woeful than she was on Wednesday night when the Cardinals lost (which they’re not supposed to do).
As with Baby Marie-Antoinette, I think the St. Louis Cardinals should win the World Series, and I also would be fine if their commendable closer, Trevor Rosenthal, wanted to be my boyfriend.
But this post right here sort of tackles another topic.
Before the bottom of the 7th inning, the Boston Red Sox commemorated all of the people who were blown up in the Boston Marathon.
They came out onto the field, and James Taylor sang a song.
This instance illustrated a theme from one of my favorite books, Frames of War by Judith Butler.
In this book, Judith distinguishes between greivable lives, like the people on the Boston Red Sox’s field, and ungrievable lives, like the Muslim creatures who continue to be blown to bits.
Being a boy, I like violence. But I don’t like phoniness, and it seemed to me to be really phony for all of these Boston Red Sox people to portray themselves as empathetic and moral-loaded and whatever other terms they might throw out, when, really, they’re only empathetic and moral-loaded to those who subscribe to America’s depiction of a grievable life.
Erin Lyndal Martin’s Response to the Anonymous Letter Addressed to Sandra Simonds in Response to Her Open Letter to The Poetry Foundation
Dear Buzz Poet,
One basic fact missing from your letter is that you seem to forget that poetry is work: “The difference between poets and the general public is that some of us, like you, Sandra, are fortunate enough to have an audience and a platform to reach them. In today’s rocky economic climate, one governed by debt and political deficit, I do not think it is in the best interest of your audience or the poetry community to model such irresponsible behavior in asking for a financial handout from the Poetry Foundation to support the poets you hold in such romanticized esteem.” Simonds has an audience and platform, mostly from within the literary community, because she has worked hard to build those connections through her work and social networking. Much of the work associated with poetry is thankless and unpaid; Simonds’ audience includes many of her peers who face her same financial reality. They may put in hours editing literary magazines that don’t make a profit, or they may write countless unpaid book reviews in an attempt to garner support and audiences for other poets. They publicize and promote poetry. Is it, indeed, a “handout” when one is asking to receive support from a foundation for forwarding the same work as that foundation? The Poetry Foundation’s website says that they are “committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.” Is Simonds, who writes, teaches, and reviews contemporary poetry not furthering the same agenda?
One question that lingers for many poets who founder without the support of the Poetry Foundation or similar arts organizations is what those organizations do with their money if not support poets. In President John Barr’s 2011 Year-in-Review letter posted on the foundation’s website (no similar letter for 2012 seems to be available), Barr is directly evasive: “Not all of the ‘hard metal’ that nurtures and contains the poetic energy at the Foundation is visible to the naked eye. The strategic plan, the annual forty-page operating budget, managing the endowment.” So why not make it visible to the naked eye? Why not publish the budget or the strategic plan? And why is the latest Audited Financial Statement READ MORE >
The Malt Whitman literature, beer, and camping festival is happening this weekend in Southeast Ohio. More info — including schedule, directions, and contact info — here.
The forthcoming, and 10th, issue of “Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics” will be the last. Yes, of course, just like people are born and die, journals come and go:
And yet— And yet—
Sentence is where I discovered poems and poets that changed the way I wrote: poems and poets (dead and alive, American and otherwise) that changed the way I thought about Poetry and its possibilities. Furthermore, Brian Clements, one of the founders and long-time editor of Sentence, was my first and best mentor when I began writing again (and for real) in Dallas in the late 1990’s.
So, to follow is a little Q & A that I just did with Brian which, among other things, looks back a bit over Sentence’s excellent 10 year run :
(note: back issues, except 1 and 2, are still available)
And yet— And yet—
Rauan: The Prose Poem seems to be in a much better place than it was when you started Sentence in 2003? I mean that now it seems Prose Poems are welcome and present just about anywhere. Is this part of the reason you’ve decided to stop?
Brian: I don’t know if the prose poem is in a better place; it’s in a different place READ MORE >
“Here, the obsolete game-as-medium lights its fires with the levity of camp. Its “new aesthetic” texture makes a tragicomic figure for contemporary poetry: an anachronistic genre of gaming while Rome burns—or dreaming Rome might burn, while in fact the empire goes on using stuff up outside as usual, pleasant or painful, awful but cheerful, the deflector shield quite operational when your friends arrive.” — David Gorin at the Boston Review considers the perverse negativity of those crud-ducks over at Claudius App, whose reading this Saturday 9/21 @ 9PM @ Reena Spaulings with Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Ariana Reines, and Keston Sutherland
you should definitely avoid, because just look at this animated GIF below they made for it that links directly to the Facebook event, which supposedly 118 people are going to, and look, I’ve been to Brooklyn, 118 people don’t even live in that pie shop, so, yeah, sure, keep murdering your brother, Claudius, it’s not like we don’t all know he’s the real king, and it’s not like we’re not going to keep putting slippers on your hands so you rub your eyes with your slippers when you wake up:
Sign up for $30 and get three sweet books in the mail over three months. Seattle folks: you can talk about the books with other attractive brains at the Frye Art Museum Cafe every month. You have to RSVP, so that’s important. The first book is our own Matthew Simmons’s excellent Happy Rock, and the meeting in Seattle is October 6th at 2PM.
On the day when al-Qaeda toppled the Twin Towers with commercial airplanes I was very upset, not because thousands of Americans had just died, but because the snack that my mommy always had in the car when she picked me up form school — a yummy, delicious, chocolaty, nutty, and creamy Snickers — had melted.
A lot of people seem to be very perturbed by 9/11, and these types are, according to me, phony, stupid, or both. What turns 9/11 into a tragedy isn’t that tons of humans beings die. Tons of humans beings die all of the time. Right now around 5,000 Syrians are dying per month, and only a tiny percentage of Americans seem to care enough to do anything. 9/11, though, is different because, as Noam Chomsky says, “For the first time, the guns have been directed the other way. That is a dramatic change.” Normally, America’s the country who gets to be grandly violent, like when Bill Clinton sundered a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, decimating their medicine supplies, causing thousands to die from treatable diseases. But on 9/11 the opposite occurred. The country whose interests, according to Woodrow Wilson, “must march forward” got gashed. People — white people, Capitalist people, Western people — who weren’t supposed to die, died.
The controversial French boy, Jean Baudrillard, says that 9/11 made our “fantasies real.” All of those terrific and terrifying disaster movies — Independence Day, the Transformers, Schindler’s List — had tumbled into America’s tangible territory. The acts actually annihilated USA bodies. But just because Jean used the word “real” doesn’t make it so. For Jean, “reality only exists to the extent that we can intervene in it. But when something emerges that we cannot change in any way, even with the imagination, something that escapes all representation, then it simply expels us.” Just as I can’t kiss that cute Nazi boy in Schindler’s List, nobody was able to cease the Twin Towers’ collapse.
I want, genuinely, to be hopeful and optimistic about the future of Egypt even though I am, sadly, an inveterate pessimist and doomsayer—but in order to instill a kind of complicated hope in me I am going to begin this post by talking a bit about South Africa, the country in which I was born some 45 distant years ago (I moved to Dallas, TX with my family in 1980).
South Africa is a great success story. A miracle. A miracle that she was able to emerge from Apartheid with, at the end, such a minimal amount of bloodshed and economic damage (so many, within and without, had predicted total calamity: a bloodbath accompanied by economic ruin). READ MORE >
Today is the day a stork (supposedly one who was wearing a Miu Miu baby doll dress and a demure dark bow in her hair) delivered Carina Finn — poetess, visual artist, baker, and girl — to her mommy. Everyone should buy her a present. Here’s some suggestions.
* A cupcake with lemon frosting.
* A cupcake with mint frosting.
* This Belle Ensemble.
* A cupcake with strawberry icing and sprinkles.
* A pair of sunnies or maybe even a pair of specs, like the kind Marilyn Monroe wears in How To Marry a Millionaire.
* This Belle Fairytale Journal.
* A chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing (if there are sprinkles on it then don’t bother).
* And obviously this Belle Tiara because all admirable girls should absolutely be attired in a Belle Tiara.
You can read about some of the gossip concerning the birthday of Baby Carina (who’s not interchangeable with Carina Finn, ok) on Bambi Muse right here.