Hey, look. the Chronicle of Higher Education is saying the thing I’ve been saying for years now. From “The New Math of Poetry.”
The notion that writing and performing “poetry” is the easiest way to satisfy the American itch for 15 minutes of fame has spilled out of our campuses and into the wider culture. You can’t pick up a violin or oboe for the first time on Monday morning and expect to play at Lincoln Center that weekend, but you can write your first poem in May and appear at an open mike in June waving a “chapbook” for sale. The new math of poetry is driven not by reader demand for great or even good poetry but by the demand of myriads of aspiring poets to experience the thrill of “publication.”
Here’s another: “Were a conscientious anthologist of this year’s poetry to spend just 10 minutes evaluating each published poem, he or she would need to work 16,666 hours, which means it would take eight years to assess the eligible poetry for a 2010 anthology.” That’s a fascinating/terrifying thought. But then, in the great tradition of Chronicle articles, there’s a long dead patch in the middle where Alpaugh gets incensed-by-numbers about how much nepotism is/n’t involved in BAP, Poetry Daily, and a few other premiere journals. Is there anyone left in the poetry world for whom these “allegations”/”revelations” (take your pick, depending on whether your own jury is still out on “the case”) are anything like a surprise, or remotely of interest?
If you stick around, the article eventually emerges–sort of–from this funk. “Marginalizing independent poets and the diversity of life experience they bring to poetry may help bolster M.F.A.-teaching careers; but how healthy is it for the art? Almost all of the world’s great poetry has been written by independents, and most of the poets writing today (myself included) remain unaffiliated with any institution.” By any metric, this is a salient point, and I think if it had appeared in the thesis instead of the conclusion, the article would have sounded a lot less like sour grapes. Then there’s a few lines about how if “Howl”/”The Road not Taken”/”Daddy” were published today, they’d all be relegated to niche journals and wouldn’t make BAP, to which I can only re-iterate my earlier sentiment: YAWN. Because the premise of the question is bullshit- if “Howl” was published today it would absolutely not appear in BAP or any journal of note. But the reason isn’t that we’re no longer smart enough to read. The reason is that the poem would be coming fifty years too late. You can’t blame the culture for having moved forward from its own major milestones. That’s kind of the whole point, yeah? Anyway, there is one nice Pound quote about the value of editors (I believe he’s speaking here specifically about anthologists; Pound of course edited several)–“The weeder is supremely needed, if the Garden of the Muses is to persist as a garden.” We’ll leave things there. And as usual, because it’s the Chronicle, the comments section is bustling. So if anyone feels like scrapping, you’re welcome to join their fray (I see our own Mark Leidner is over there, spreading some genial insurgency) or have your own here. Like I need to tell you that.
PS- all artwork in this post is by David Foox. I don’t know how I got on his mailing list, but I’m glad I wound up there. These little guys right here are from the “elemental badgers” series. You are looking at the SOUL, FIRE, and AIR badgers. Up top is a painting entitled “I Am Not a Toy.” More at Foox-u.
[In closing out Kevin Sampsell week, Kevin gave us the inside track for the next two releases of his press Future Tense Books. If you aren’t familiar by now, give it a peek: Kevin truly makes releases that are unlike any other press around. – BB]
From the desk of Kevin Sampsell (Portland, OR)
As many of you know, we’re on the brink of releasing the poetry collaboration, OK, Goodnight, by Zachary Schomburg and Emily Kendal Frey (March 2010), but I’ve also been poring over manuscripts to figure out what other treasures Future Tense can deliver this year. This week we were excited to acquire two books that will come out this summer and fall.
In June, we will release a chapbook called Ventriloquism by Prathna Lor. I’ve been buttering up this hot young Canadian for a while now. I’ve sent him knitted hats and coffee-flavoured chocolates. I’ve spelled words like colour and favourite with the extra u in it. Finally, he sent a batch of story-type things. Ventriloquism features works that do that wondrous thing I love so much–when a piece of writing feels so fresh and original that you’re not sure if it’s prose poetry or flash fiction. It’s beautifully uncategorizable, with body parts flitting their way through deeper emotions that Lor’s language tries to dissect with grace and force and unexpected humour. It reminds me a little bit of my all-time favorite story writer, Gary Lutz.
In November, we will release a paperback book tentatively titled The Book of Freaks by Jamie Iredell. This is another book that seems so fresh and weird and laugh-out-loud funny, I’m tempted to compare it to modern cult classics like Letters to Wendy’s and The Age of Wire and String. The story about discovering this book is a recent and happy accident. While in Seattle just two weekends ago, I saw that Blake Butler and Jamie Iredell were reading at a place called Neptune Coffee. I was excited to meet Blake for the first time and hear him read. I was not familiar with this Iredell dude. At the reading, Jamie read a few parts from his great new book, Prose. Poems. A Novel. And then he read parts of this Freaks project. There was unexpected laughter. There was surprise. There was sheer uncut artistry at work. A few days later, he sent me the manuscript. A few days later, I wallpapered my bathroom with it so that I could always have it near. Sometimes, magic happens fast when true talent is involved.
Jamie Iredell lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
We’re thrilled to be publishing these two brilliant writers later this year. Both of their books display an effortless and immense kind of entertainment value that we feel is both accessible and revolutionary. Thank you for reading. Please stay tuned to futuretensebooks.com and/or email me to get on our email list: email@example.com
editor & publisher
(along with Frayn Masters and Bryan Coffelt)
Published in French in 2006, two years after his death, this book is a long lecture (which actually turned into a ten-hour seminar) that he wrote for the 1997 Cerisy conference on his work titled “The Autobiographical Animal.”
Here Derrida sets his sights on the philosophical problematic of the animal. Specifically, he is interested in exploring the limits of that interstitial space between that which we call animal and that which we call human. He coins the neologism “Limitrophy” to describe this exploration, “Not just because it will concern what sprouts or grows at the limit, around the limit, by maintaining the limit, but also what feeds the limit, generates it, raises, and complicates it. Everything I’ll say will consist, certainly not in effacing the limit, but in multiplying its figures, in complicating, thickening, delinearizing, folding, and dividing the line precisely by making it increase and multiple.” (29) He predicates this line of inquiry on his assertion that the entire history of philosophic discourse from Aristotle to Heidegger is guilty of misrepresenting or misinterpreting the basic ontological difference between that which we call animal and that which we call human.
He opens with a discussion of the Genesis myth, focusing on the way in which Adam is naked in the garden until he eats the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Instead of the typical reading of this action as a fall from grace, Derrida sees this as the inciting incident for the creation of humanity. Recognition of nudity, and the shame associated with it, is particularly interesting to Derrida because, as he puts it, “In principle, with the exception of man, no animal has ever thought to dress itself. [Thus] clothing would be proper to man, one of the ‘properties’ of man. ‘Dressing oneself’ would be inseparable from all the other figures of what is ‘proper to man,’ even if one talks about it less than speech or reason, the logos, history, laughing, mourning, burial, the gift, etc.” (5) These “properties of man” are the sites he wants to push against in this lecture.
February 26th, 2010 / 12:18 pm
Browsing our sales table today, I found a book by a National Review contributing editor named W.H. von Dreele. It’s a book of poems. “Funny” poems. It’s called There’s Something About a Liberal (Arlington House Press, 1970). Here’s one:
Dr. Goldwater, Call Surgery
Although I live in New York State,
I’d cheerfully accept my fate
If Barry sawed the seaboard off
And watched us vanish in a trough.
New York is full of liberals. Hah!
Yeah. Well. How about this:
Take me back to boola-boola;
Row me to the Raritan
Strum a uke for dear old Duke;
Raccoon it, on rattan.
Tired watching campus cuties
Brawling for their next degree.
Sock ’em up and lock ’em up.
Then throw away the key.
Really stuck it to those campus radicals, there. I’m glad those kids got shot at Kent State.
Also in the book? At least two Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick poems. Which I think we all know is a classy thing to write funny doggerel about, right?
This book calls for a contest, I think.
What say we help ’em out. We’re writers. Some of us are probably funny. If you are a liberal, drink deep from your well of self-loathing. If you are a conservative, bump your game up a little. Write me a funny, conservative-leaning satire in verse. Best poem gets a copy of There’s Something About a Liberal AND a copy of Ariana Reines book of slaughterhouse poems, The Cow. (Balance.)
Unsaid 4 has been discussed here before and I’m going to discuss it again. The magazine is fairly new to me and after reading all the glowing reviews of the fourth issue, in particular, I was really intrigued but that intrigue was coupled with a dash of skepticism that was short-lived once I began reading. From the very first story, Unsaid had my attention. There is a breathtaking range of writing in this issue and as I read, I would fold the corners of every page that had some really interesting turn of phrase. By the time I reached the end of the massive, 504 pp. issue, more than half of the book’s pages were folded (See Figure 1). I was not familiar with most of the writers in the issue so it was also great to be introduced to new (to me) writers and writing styles. A lot of the content from this issue is online at the Unsaid website and I highly recommend checking the magazine out if you haven’t already.
February 25th, 2010 / 5:44 pm