Monday, October 18, 2010

Circulating in Le Mans

El Blogeador is taking advantage of the free access to the Orange Network in the Paris airport Novotel Hotel to upload these photos from the just completed international conference, "Poets and Publishers: Circulating Avant-Garde Poetry (1945-2010)."

It seemed only fitting that a conference on avant-garde circulation should be beset by strikes interrupting circulation throughout France. We all stayed in good humor, though, and the majority of us managed to find a way to get to Le Mans and the Universite du Maine (why is it that universities with "Maine" in their name are so friendly to poetry?), where Helene Aji and Manuel Brito, along with their able colleagues, had organized days of avant exchange among poets and critics. We were from Spain, France, the USA, Canada, Italy -- and we were all there to talk about the news that stayed. There were papers on Scottish small press publications, on visual poetics, on artists' books, on post-Umbra African American poetry, even on Robert Duncan's typewriters.

And there were poetry readings by Jacques Darras and Jerome Rothenberg.

On the second day, strikers stopped the tram cars in their tracks in Le Mans, but that didn't stop our poetry. Most of us support the position of the strikers anyway, so just lengthened our stride a bit and visited with the workers and students in the streets.

My own Paris trains were removed from the schedule, but that just meant that I got to see the Cathedral of Chartres out the window of the much slower train that eventually got me to the conference, as I will eventually get back home. The welcoming students I met at the university and on those trains that ran did much for my own circulation.


Monday, October 11, 2010


In the same day's mail I received the new issue of Callaloo with its special Ed Roberson section and this wonderful new book of Roberson's that has just been released by Wesleyan University Press. Click here for information about the new book.

The Callaloo includes new essays by Brent Hayes Edwards, Evie Shockley, Joseph Zamsky and Joseph Donahue. (Evie's is part of her forthcoming book. Watch this space for further word on that.) There are wide-ranging interviews with the poet conducted by Kathleen Crown and Randall Horton, and a generous offering of recent poetry by Roberson. My own essay in the issue, "Face to Face with the Blues," is a critical consideration of issues of race and ethics in Roberson's late poems. (The journal surprised me by coming out when it did. I've been planning to speak from this essay next month -- but it's probably still OK as the presentation includes visual and audio materials that are not reproduced in the journal issue.)

The photo of the poet you see here is one I took when he read at the University of Louisville a couple years ago. You can find the Project Muse link for the special issue here. If you're one of those hard copy fetishists, here's the link to the Callaloo site, where you can subscribe.

Friday, October 08, 2010


I imagine I am not the only one who did a triple take upon seeing an editorial by Dinesh D-Souza in this morning's WASHINGTON POST.

The first and second takes were gasps of disbelief; that the WASHINGTON POST had given space to D'Souza to push the vile inanities of his new book claiming that President Obama's father, long absent and long deceased, is "shaping his values and actions." Yes, that book. The one that caused a furor when D'Souza ran an article in FORBES that they didn't bother to fact check till after publication.

The third take came, though, when I arrived at the credit line at the bottom of the editorial, where I was informed that D'Souza is now the president of The King's College in New York. Last I checked, Mr. D'Souza held no advanced degrees. He has spent most of his years in various conservative think tanks, though to judge from his published works little thinking was going on. This is someone who (just take a gander at his earlier book THE END OF RACISM and check up on a few of his footnotes) simply cannot be trusted to represent sources fairly and accurately. On his last visit to Penn State University, he told an auditorium full of students that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to non-citizen aliens, an assertion that would certainly come as news to even our current conservative Supreme Court. For that matter, if "persons" within the borders of the United States and subject to its laws do not have access to the protections offered by the Bill of Rights it's difficult to fathom why some conservatives want to rewrite the Fourteenth Amendment to remove such protections from them.

But the 450 students of The King's College now have this sterling example of scholarly integrity to lead them into the future. I suspect at the least he will have little difficulty raising funds.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Last night Amiri Baraka came to Penn State's HUB-Robeson Center for an evening of poetry and music. The music was organized by drummer/composer Ronnie Burrage, leading a burning group featuring Marvin Horne on guitar, Russel Blake on bass and Carl Ector on violin. The evening kicked off with performances by student Hip Hop artists who worked with Burrage's group.

Baraka has probably done more work with jazz artists than any other living poet and his performance last night continued to produce startling innovations. My own favorite was a recent piece, "All Songs Are Crazy."

Baraka turns 76 today; You'd never know it from the energy of his work on the stage.