Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I was feeling a bit stronger the next morning and made it back to Kelly Writers House in time to catch Adeena Karasick's preview of her new mashup, "All The Lingual Ladies (Put a Frame on It)," complete with an Adeena/Beyonce photoshopped illustration. (We are assured there will be a video.) Fred Wah's talk came around to one of the more poignant moments of the symposium when, during Q&A, he talked about his long-ago response to Nicole Brossard's reading of her poem "Ma Continent." Hearing him wrestle with his own earlier comprehensions with Brossard there in the audience was one of the highlights of the two days for me. a. rawlings spent a few moments recalling her early intorduction to sound poetry, then moved to a performance with Maja Jantar of a sound piece based on a line drawing/score by Jantar. I had never met Jordan Scott before, but knew of him through his book Blert, and was intrigued by his critical overview of his work. In my estimation, Jeff Derksen's talk was the best critical encounter with contemporary conceptualism to date. I had not known of the earlier Concepualists from the Eastern bloc nations whose work Derksen referenced late in his paper, so this was yet another revelation for me. In the exchange following Derksen's talk, Christian Bok said twice that he was being "probative," but he was not. I have no idea what that was about. Bok's reading of his own manifestoes later, though, was certainly probing. You'll want to give that a listen once these events are up at Penn Sound.

The evening readings included a couple poets I'd never heard before: Jordan Scott and Stephen Collis. And the evening closed with poetry I had never heard in public before: M. Norbese Philip producing a veritable hauntology with her reading from Zong! My own sense was that the emphasis on sound throughout the day had the effect of making us attend to the sounds of poets like Wah and Brossard in ways we might not have otherwise. The sound of the single voice giving voice to text is still something well worth exploring.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


North of Invention, oragnized by Sarah Dowling and Charles Bernstein, brought ten Canadian poets together at Kelly Writers House for two days of lectures, discussion and poetry readings. An additional two days of programs followed at New York's Poets House. The Philadelphia portion was streamed live and will be re-envisioned via the Kelly web site at a later date. Sound files will be up at Penn Sound, too.

Lisa Robertson started things off, introduced by Julia Bloch, with a talk that served as a great frame for the debates that were to follow. She was followed by talks that ranged from formal presentations to performance work from M. Nourbese Philip, Stephen Collis, Christian Bok and Nicole Brossard (who I had last seen at the University of Maine reading with Fred Wah, who was here in Philadelphia as well). Starting with Collis's presentation, there was a running sub-debate over the claims made by contempory conceptual poets. Bok closed out the afternoon with a tremendously fun walk-through of his recent work using the structure of a virus to generate a poetic exchange. During the Q & A, Bok said that he was communicating with life "in its own language." Fortunately for his audience (and for his poem), it appears that life has adopted the Roman alphabet. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have caught the virus, and was too ill to come back for the evening readings.

But I was there again the next morning, and will add another post soon from that day's presentations.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

MLA 2011 Part II

. . . though it did seem at times that if you wanted to be part of the discussions around poetry and poetics you either had to get up early or stay late. The panel on historical poetics proved that a fair number of people are wlling to roll out of bed early in the morning to argue metrics -- I had fun --
Other early risers attending the panel Evie Shockley organized on the poetry of Afaa Michael Weaver got the additional surprise of hearing a short reading by Weaver. Back when he was just Michael, he published a poetry mag out of Baltimore titled Blind Alleys, where the then-still-student me found himself published alongside Lucille Clifton. In conversation with Shockley after the panel I was musing that one of the great understudied topics of recent literary hitsory is the central role played by the D.C./Baltimore area in the poetry of the late 1960s through the early 80s. (The story since then needs attention too, but that's another chorus.)
In the last set of late afternoon sessions I chaired a Poetry Division panel on Jazz and Poetry, with presentations by Patrick Pritchett, Meta Jones and Michael New. As you can see from the photos, this was among the more thought-provoking sessions.

You had to walk a long time and leave a trail of bread crumbs so you could find your way back if you wanted to get to the session on poet Dennis Brutus, which was enlivened by the sounds of the motorcycle expo going on just beyond the window behind the speakers.

and then we were all off to the last reception . . . .