20 November 2008

Leslie Scalapino says:

There’s no hierarchy (in existence), though it occurs socially created and created by animals, authority does not derive from it. The writing enables one to see that and be ‘without’ it. A poem can be a terrain where hierarchy can be undone or not occur (in the writing), but obviously the writing does not make it not occur in the world. So, its subject is also the relation of conceptual to phenomena, conceptual being an action also. Yet even proposing conceptual non-hierarchy frequently meets with great resistance (usually).

06 November 2008

How to recognize a poem

"If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. ... Is there any other way?"

--Emily Dickinson

29 October 2008

A Personal Blog is Art

A Personal Blog is Art, or so says Lani Geison of Blogging Personal.

The matter has been hotly debated, but I'll say that it's art, as well as practice, process, and personal expression. It's by nature a multi-media art, linking illustration and writing, or photography and poetry, or sound to text. (Has anyone experimented with sound? I'm waiting!) And that is why I'm so pleased with the results here with my Advanced Creative Writing students.

Recently I've been talking to a couple friends about how to publish their blogs. This is a strange concept because of course a blog is already published! The blogger command options are either "Save Now" or "Publish Post"--make it available for the whole wide world to see. But we're definitely in new territory, new territory brought about by our new age of Aquarian brotherhood and instant communication, courtesy of the cool technology. In this way, this semester we've created a community of published authors.

For the past two weeks, I've encountered a little techno-jam to the effect that sometimes my notes to students cannot be sent. Blogger Bleak Down. So I've gathered the wholly random notes and some links to help you all in exploring and getting a handle on each other's work.

To begin, in Reviving the Forgotten, Kally did something I wish everyone did more often. She opened a dictionary. Her post begins:

"The word prompt is defined as: "to move to action, to assist by suggesting or saying the next words of something forgotten or imperfectly learned." I find this Merriam Webster definition to be extremely relevant to the context within the poetry prompts. These are in fact exercises used to revive images stored in the memory, in order to complete a work."

Great points, I took it a step further and investigated the etymology of the word prompt. (Etymology is about all I use dictionaries for lately.) According to the Webster's New Universal here in the adjunct office, the roots range from "to incite" to "to distribute" -- both of which seem wonderfully relevant. For doesn't a prompt act to incite us to ideas, to writing? And isn't writing a sort of distribution--of mental materials and sparks?

Jezmarie, in her blog, First Timer...Be Gentle, has posed a crucial question re: description: This is truly the question of the class. I have a few ideas naturally, but I would love to see a few more responses from the rest of the class. (Okay: I would say that it's really important to slow down. Often, my first thought about a person or place is a cliche--and that is not helpful. So I need to think past the cliche and really look at the situation--the person, the problem. Also, I want to make sure I've got the senses included. The tangibles such as smell and taste and temperature along with physical description. Those help to guide me to a fuller, richer picture, which is what I'm trying to convey--desperately trying to get the images out from my mind into your mind--the magic process of imagination.)

That's enough for now, I suppose--though of course it isn't, it's never enough. I trust you are all reading Joyce and re-reading, too. Rereading is the only way to rejoice over Joyce....

22 October 2008

What Is True and Right for This Blog: A Question

As for myself, I'm delighted to be a blogger at last, like so many of my friends. However, I do feel a certain constraint in my position here, as the instructor in the creative writing class. Like someone might be looking to me for an answer. Or a question, a really good question.

In fact, these days most of the conversation in my in box and in my outbox has to do with politics. And politics, I've come to believe, is irrelevant and possibly deleterious to the job of instructing.

On the other hand, every half-wit poet knows to quote Williams on this topic....

“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there."

(From William Carlos Williams’ Asphodel That Greeny Flower.)

So here's a question: 

Have you ever read a book, story or poem that saved your life?

03 October 2008

FOUND: PURPLE LUNCH BAG (improved, illustrated post)

Thanks to the eagle-eyes of your fellow student Scott Merrill, a purple lunch bag has been saved. It is waiting for its true owner on the center shelf at the adjunct office.

01 October 2008

Happening Upon James Joyce (and his project)

No virtue was involved in my choice to study James Joyce in college. I was eighteen years old, beginning my sophomore year in college, and I simply signed up for an upper level class that had for its texts just two books: James Joyce's Ulysses and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. I didn't know James Joyce from Henry James from Joyce Carol Oates, but I thought that I could handle two books, even if they were big.

So, when I make an assignment that asks you to blog on the topic of James Joyce's project, it's not like I haven't learned a lot in the past decades. It's clear that he had many projects, and I thought that you students would alight upon whichever interested you most.

For myself, as I said in class, I begin with the belief that Dubliners is a pretty perfect work of fiction. But I quickly move to Ulysses, my first Joyce, and to the first notion I grasped: that the novel Ulysses, the story of one hapless Jewish cuckold wandering Dublin, hangs quite neatly on the Homeric epic The Odyssey. I was thrilled by the modernist interest in bringing the myths to bear in personal lives and works of art. No doubt I'd always felt that I was mythic. Perhaps Joyce did too. Or maybe he was just having a good time with all of us.

25 September 2008

What a Week

Prompted by my computer breaking down on Sunday along with the mortgage bail-out, the nationalization of AIG and the overall U.S. economy rescue mission, I did a heck of a lot of reading this week -- and it was pretty wonderful. I worried about connecting with my students, naturally, but I survived that by complaining to my husband and a few friends and continuing to read. First I read Papal Lies, a book my Pope-hating friend gave me about the popes of the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. The book is so out of print that it's not even listed on Amazon, but it was a fun romp through a seriously corrupted organization that leaves no question as to why Luther and a few others were angry back then.

Then I re-read a few of my friends' poetry books in progress, including Tonya Foster's A Swarm of Bees in High Court, which is composed entirely in haiku. I also read through Zone: Zero the wonderful and very difficult new book by Stephanie Strickland which Robin Reagler has featured on Big Window this week. This one definitely bears more than on re-reading, and I haven't yet played the interactive CD that accompanies it. I read the Japanese fabulist Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore in one day -- all 436 pages of a wild and magical novel that I highly recommend. And after hearing Tomaz Salamun read his poetry at St. Mark's Poetry Project Monday night, I bought and read most of his first book in English, Poker.

Poker was originally published in Slovenian in 1966 and was seen as revolutionary and subversive. Which is a pretty good definition of what I want from poetry--words that undermine the obvious paths of thought to (help me to) break into new vistas. Of course, when I came home from the reading and told my husband I'd heard the most marvelous Slovenian poetry, he behaved as if I were trying to act like an effete New Yorker. But, truly, he is the most marvelous. Here is a quatrain from the very middle of Poker. It sits alone on a page at the beginning of a long poem called "Things."

Between any two points in space
you can always draw a straight line
but where is the way
between the same place

Where indeed is the way? No doubt we'll all find it next week. Keep blogging, my students....

11 September 2008

What I'm reading

I'm reading Sophocles' Antigone, or actually re-reading it, which is actually more like thinking about it. The play is thought to have been first performed in late March, 441 B.C.

I fear B.C. is a politically incorrect term, as it means Before Christ and not everyone is Christian. I believe the new term is B.C.E. Before the Common Era. Forgive me!

The play was part of a public festival known as the "Great Dionysia," which celebrated Dionysius, the god of wine. During the annual Dionysia many of the famous Greek trajedies--and commedies and satires--were first produced.

The play is not Sophocles' easiest. It is the story of a myth, or the part of the myth that occurs at the tale end of the Oedipal disaster, after it's been discovered that their father was also their brother -- that is, their mother is also their grandmother. (You'll figure it out, if you don't know the story already) Other things have happened, such as their father poking his eyes out and their brothers killing each other. The people left in the family are the two sisters, a bossy, high-strung and righteous Antigone and her sweet mild lil sis, Ismene, and an uncle, Creon, who has taken the throne and immediately promises to kill anyone who attempts to properly bury Antigone's outcast, and already quite dead, brother.

In the first scene, Antigone meets her sister outside the castle--or whatever Greek royalty lived in--and says, "Ismene, my sister, mine own dear sister, knowest thou what ill there is?"

I'm impressed with how easy it is to read Antigone online. MIT has it here, Bartleby has it here, the awesome Diotima has it here, and Sparknotes--whoever they are--has it here.

It would be cool if all of those links worked.

More on tragedy--Greek--soon.

03 September 2008

Teaching Art

First, it's impossible. And often terribly insulting, condescending, and especially unwittingly condescending (my specialty). (Due to the many years of teaching art, of course.)

But that doesn't mean that the students enrolled in English 332 (Advanced Creative Writing) won't be learning a thing or two about art while in my vicinity in the next four months. But mostly they'll learn it out of my vicinity. Mostly they'll learn it by realizing they already know it. Buried somewhere in their noggins. Art and the old longing for more more more of it, dangit.

This is not my point.

My point is that classes start tomorrow, that the students will be advanced, that I want to lead them into the great world of their own art, their own generation, and so I am going to demand that they set up a blog. Each one of them. A weekly assignment about art -- about their art -- or just about art as they understand it. As their understanding enlarges. And I will keep up with them, a little loveletter here which is easier than posting on ab chaos lex.com and which will--may--will--may enlarge my own understanding of the process.

I am looking at my syllabus: Should I post it here? On the web?

My favorite line: Attendance and attitude are key to learning!

As if!

More will be revealed.

Peter called my iPhone snapshot art (and I've been thinking a bit about art)