Oh, hello there. Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to folks who want to talk to me about stuff they want to talk about.
Recently, I corresponded with Andrea Lambert. Lambert wrote Jet Set Desolate (Future Fiction London: 2009), Lorazepam & the Valley of Skin: Extrapolations on Los Angeles (valeveil: 2009) and the chapbook G(u)ilt (Lost Angelene, 2011). Her writing appears in 3:AM Magazine, Fanzine, Entropy, Angel’s Flight Literary West, HTMLGiant, Queer Mental Health and elsewhere. Her work is anthologized in Haunting Muses, Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, The L.A. Telephone Book Vol. 1, 2011-2012, Off the Rocks Volume #16: An Anthology of GLBT Writing and elsewhere. Lambert paints in figurative mixed media oils critically referenced as “kitchy maximalism.” Her artwork features in Angel’s Flight Literary West, Entropy, Hinchas de Poesias, Queer Mental Health and Anodyne Magazine. CalArts MFA. Website: andreaklambert.com. Twitter: @AndreaLamber.
In the comment to my last post, “Deadgod” raised some good issues about “canons” and canonical thinking. When I disparage canonical thinking, I am disparaging the kind of stable lists and established readings that aims to contain poetry’s volatility. But I’m not opposed to people having favorite poets, or even of people promoting certain poets as great.
In his blurb to Anna Deeny Morales’s new selection of Raúl Zurita’s work, Sky Below: Selected Works, Forrest Gander writes: “There isn’t a more important contemporary writer than Raúl Zurita.”
I think this statement could be more than a blurb, I think it can model a very insightful mental exercise: Instead of assuming that a US poet – Ashbery, Bishop etc – is “the most important post-war poet” (as tends to be the assumption in US discussions about poetry), imagine an alternative reality (not all that alternative, if you happen to live not in the US but in Chile or any other part of the Spanish-speaking world) that Raúl Zurita is the most important contemporary poet.
How would that change all kinds of assumptions about poetry?
For example, in Zurita’s work lyrical poetry and politics are not opposed, as in so much US thinking about poetry. The lyrical is political; the lyric also has the capacity to embrace the public, the visionary, dreams, the abject; the lyrical can be excessive and overwhelming, not a call to be moderate/”incremental” and “write what you know”; the avant-garde is not to be obscure or elite, but to be dramatically populist (as it was for example for the Dadaist poster-makers in Germany, 1930s). I think especially in times such as this, Zurita’s fierce work – embracing performance work as well as lyrics – is a great source of inspiration for me.
“All that I came to do in those years, like the art actions with the CADA, was because I felt that pain and death should be responded to with a poetry and an art that was as vast and strong as the violence that was exercised over us. To place in opposition the limitless violence of crime and the limitless violence of beauty, the extreme violence of power and the extreme violence of art, the violence of terror and the even stronger violence of all our poems. I never knew how to throw stones, but that was not our intifada. You can’t defeat a dictatorship with poetry, but without poetry, and this is no metaphor, humanity disappears, literally, in the next five minutes.”
However, I think calling attention to the greatness of Zurita is only good if we do away with the common treatment whereby foreign writers are “allowed” to write about political calamity but that conditions are different for US poets (as in many discussions about “the poetry of witness” etc). Or that Zurita stands for a kind of separate, quarantined, foreign canonicity. That’s stabilizing canonicity.
No, I think we should insist – with Gander – that Zurita is someone for US poets to take to heart as much as they take to heart US poets, or even more than they take to heart US poets. This is one of the threats and promises of translation’s “transgressive circulation”: that a foreign poet can be “canonical” and utterly challenge our assumptions about poetry.
In an increasingly untenable situation in this country, I am inspired by Zurita’s call for a poetry that is “as vast and strong” as the forces of injustice, a call for an “extreme” poetry that invokes and engages with “the limitless violence of beauty.”
A browser window of playful digital innovation has closed. Like a light wind that dies after sunset. We see the cursor move, a soft click, the tab vanishes.
Something like a literature of the web was born and then almost immediately died, along with the most ambitious social lives traversing our generation – the last generation to experience the world before pervasive digital media. Blogs (Gawker, Hipster Runoff, HTMLGIANT(?)) were like… this thing that happened and then became either institutional, irrelevant, or crushed by political detractors. Comments sections became essential and then as quickly: perverse, violent. At some point, Pitchfork became Pitchfork. Reification. Continue reading “Literature of the Final Interaction”
RIP Mark Baumer. We will miss you, dear friend.
Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to people who want to talk to me about stuff they want to talk about.
Recently, I e-mailed back and forth with Moss Angel Witchmonstr. Moss Angel Witchmonstr is author of four books, most recently Sea-Witch v.1 (2fast2house, 2017). She is a scorpio & a transsexual & lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on patreon at http://patreon.com/monstr.
In response to a question posed to him by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, concerning which historical era he believes would best suit his rhetorical style, Barack Obama stated the following: “There is a big part of me that has a writer’s sensibility. And so that’s how I think. That’s how I pursue truth. That’s how I hope to communicate truth to people.”
I’ve read these four sentences many times since they were spoken by the president; not long after Goodwin’s Vanity Fair interview appeared online, in September, I copy-pasted the quote into Adobe Illustrator and printed out a letter-sized inspirational poster, which I hung on my office wall at the spot on which my eyes tend to focus whenever I’m having trouble keeping the writerly juices flowing. While intended to be a goad, my poster has, so far, been a reliable distraction. Continue reading “Barack Obama, Writer”
There’s a lot of exciting stuff headed our way in 2017 from independent publishers. Here are some of the books I’m looking forward to getting my hands and eyes on this year.
(What books are you looking forward to in 2017? List them in the comments section below!)