June 02, 2007

I abandoned idea of what I've read since I stopped posting. But among compulsive end of semester reading (oh end of semester!)...

Harry Mathews My Life in CIA. Compulsively readable and yet constantly can't stop thinking what is up with the ladies? Oulipo, what is up with the ladies? Especially amused by the velvet suits our hero keeps wearing. Oh velvet suits. Oh living in Paris on family money.

Jennifer Moxley's The Line. It does have a narrative arc of sorts! At moments, had that oh dear; it hits too close to home. "Take yourself off the market before you become an embarrassment."

In Dodie Bellamy's New Yipes reader is a manuscript by Marsha Campbell. "Wearing a Tough Jacket." Might be similar plot to The Line but in different language? The difficulties of writing in the midst of the social? Something about reading these next to Harry Mathews makes them even more poignant.

I've been reading all this in midst of trying to co-work on paper on gender and poetry. So surrounding these are things Barbara Cole's letter to Rachel Blau DuPlessis in Open Letter from a few years back. And then DuPlessis's reply that becomes ""Blue Studio: Gender Arcade." Also Bellamy's "The Cheese Stands Alone" in Academonia. But also the older stuff. Like Rae Armantrout's “Why Don’t Women Do Language-Oriented Writing?”

From there to... John Beecher's Report to the Stockholder and Other Poems. And then its 70s version, the reprint that Factory School did of Sing a Battle Song: Poems by Women in the Weather Underground Organization. Social realist poetry. Where did you go? Come back.

And then, perhaps a sort of answer. Michael Scharf's For Kid Rock Total Freedom. I am loving "Mass Effects" in particular. But also title because on my never to be written essay list is an essay I wanted to write on the USS Cole playing "American Bad Ass" as it limps out of Yemen.

The other answer in Heriberto Yepez's Wars. Threesomes. Drafts. & Mothers. Need more time to write on this one.

Also in the never to be written category, wanted for some time to write something on reading Lee Edelman's No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive at same time as What to Expect When You are Expecting or The Baby Book or Hypnobirthing (with its unusually insipid use of hypnosis metaphors...baby dancing out of womb, urghs). But I confess, I give. This is too hard for me.


This for a forthcoming section of Jacket on Hillman's work...

What does it mean to dedicate a poem to “all who have suffered & died as a result of the war in Iraq.” By which I mean what does it write with others in mind? And what does it mean to write in forms, such as epic and lyric and epyllion, used by others? All at the same time.

This is what I find myself asking as I read Brenda Hillman’s “Nine Untitled Epyllions.” This is a poem written in spreads. In the book, the left side of the page spread is black; the right one white. The right side is all full of “they” and “you”; the right side all full of “I.” Both sides of the poem have beautiful language. And are self aware in how they use language that is often used when talking about beauty. Both sides mix classical references with contemporary ones.

An epyllion is usually romantic. This one opens with war.

I’ve been interested in the emergence of a concerted, collective attention by US poets, although of course not just by poets, to understanding this/these contemporary war(s). I’ve been making a list of this work and it begins like this: Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew up America, Jules Boykoff, Once Upon a Neoliberal Rocket Badge, Rob Fitterman & Dirk Rowntree, War, a Musical, Judith Goldman, Deathstar/Rico-chet, Meg Hamill, Death Notices, Drew Gardener, Petroleum Hat, Fanny Howe, On the Ground, Lisa Jarnot, Black Dog Songs, Carole Mirakove, Mediated and Occupied, K. Silem Mohammad, Deer Head Nation, Alice Notley, Alma or the Dead Women, Jena Osman, Essays in Astericks, Kristin Prevallet, Shadow Evidence Intelligence, Kim Rosenfeld, Trama, Barrett Watten, Bad History, and Eliot Weinberg, “What I Heard about Iraq.” But, of course, it doesn’t end there. It goes on and on. These have just caught my eye because they have nothing in common with each other (or maybe a few do have something in common, like one could say Mohammad’s and Gardner’s work is doing a similar sort of work with distorting found text and trace how this shows up in Rosenfield. Or one could say Goldman and Hamill and Weinberger are all using the news. Or that Boykoff and Mirakove seem to have something going on with the proper name. But when you sit down and read these books, they don’t feel that similar.). It is though as if the poets have realized that the declarations and righteous indignation of the anti-war poetry of the Vietnam war isn’t going to work for this/these war(s) and so they are trying out a bunch of forms, one by one, to see if any end up working, sticking, doing anything.

When I read all these works together though I feel like I begin to think differently. Most obviously, I rethink poetry as one driven by narratives of uniqueness. Poetry sometimes returns and dwells on tradition, on similarity. Poetry sometimes turns to the experimental and/or the avant garde, to the dissimilar. Both approaches help with understanding this/these war(s) as something old and new. Hillman’s poem, in particular, is about the dialogue between these old forms and new forms of writing about war(s): “The / needle improvises shown each / wideless war betweens” (51). Perhaps, it suggests, if we want to get any scope in our understanding of war through time, we’ve got no option but to turn to poetry, one of the oldest genres, and one with close ties to war.

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