Poets and Critics

2011-2014 CALENDAR


February 4-5 EILEEN MYLES > + Feb. 4 poetry reading


December 14-15 FRED MOTEN > + Dec. 14 poetry reading


December 15-16 ANN LAUTERBACH > + Dec. 15, 8pm poetry reading

May 12-13 ANNE WALDMAN > + May 12 Poetry Reading, 8pm, Maison de la poésie de Paris : Anne Waldman & Patrick Beurard-Valdoye


FINAL SYMPOSIUM Dec. 11-12 COLE SWENSEN > + Dec 11 Poetry Reading, 8pm, Maison de la poésie de Paris : Cole Swensen & Nicolas Pesquès

Sept. 26-27 CLARK COOLIDGE> + Sept. 26, 8 pm Poetry/Music Reading, CLARK COOLIDGE & THURSTON MOORE, Maison de la poésie de Paris

April 11-12 MARJORIE WELISH > + April 11, 7:30 pm Poetry Reading MARJORIE WELISH & JACQUES ROUBAUD, Galerie éof, Paris


December 13 & 14 LISA ROBERTSON> Thursday December 13 7:30pm poetry reading with Lisa Robertson, Anne Parian and Pascal Poyet, galerie éof, Paris.

September 27 & 28 REDELL OLSEN

May 29 & 30 PETER GIZZI



September 29-30 VANESSA PLACE at Université Paris Est Marne-la-Vallée

June 30 July 1 CAROLINE BERGVALL at Université Paris Est Créteil

June 15 DAVID ANTIN at Université Paris Est Marne-la-Vallée

Flash Labels by NBT

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sept. 27 & 28, Redell Olsen at Université Paris Est Créteil

On Thursday September 27 and Friday September 28, we will be welcoming Redell Olsen for a two day symposium on her work as a writer, critic, artist and lecturer. Where? Université Paris Est Créteil, salle 117, Maison des Langues. How to get there? See here.

Redell Olsen poetry books include: Book of the Fur (Rempress, 2000) and Secure Portable Space (Reality Street, 2004). From 2006 - 2010 she was the editor of How2 the online journal for modernist and contemporary poetry, poetics and criticism by women (For an overview of the issues which she edited and her previous articles see here). She has recently published articles on Frank O'Hara, Abigail Child and Susan Howe. Her recent projects have involved texts for performance, film and site-specific collaboration. They include: Newe Booke of Copies (2009), Bucolic Picnic (or Toile de Jouy Camouflage) (2009) and The Lost Swimming Pool (2010). S P R I G S & spots (Cambridge: Wide Range Chapbooks, 2012) contains her poem for the silent film Lace (1930) which was first performed as a voiceover to the film in 2011. She is a frequent collaborator on projects such as the exhibition and bookwork Here Are My Instructions (with Susan Johanknecht, Gefn Press, 2004) and The Lost Swimming Pool(2010) (with Ruth Livesey, Drew Milne, Libby Worth and Gillian Wylde) which comprised text, film, sound and choreographic practice towards a site-specific installation in a disused swimming pool. With Drew Milne she is one half of the electric crinolines and with other members of the Centre for Poetics Research at Royal Holloway, University of London she co-organises the reading series POLYply. She is the MA director for the MA in Poetic Practice atRoyal Holloway and remains committed to exploring radical strategies of pedagogy in relation to the teaching of poetics and writing. In 2012 Subpress will publish her long awaited Punk Faun: a bar rock pastel and there will be a new book of recent work from Mountain Press.

here are my instructions. Eds. Redell Olsen and Susan Johanknecht (London: Gefn Press, 2004).This can be obtained by writing to SusanJohanknecht of gefn press.
Secure Portable Space (Reality Street, 2004) Available from http://www.realitystreet.co.uk/redell-olsen.php

An interview with Redell Olsen and poetry readings on Penn sound http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Olsen.php

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Not, A Conceptual Art Poetics" by Dell Olsen

Peter Gizzi and Stéphane Bouquet read at galerie éof on May 29

Jean Cocteau's Threshold Song : Orpheus (1950)


Robert Hampson on Peter Gizzi's Threshold Songs

Peter Gizzi: Threshold Songs

The volume inhabits the poetic world of the four elements – air, earth, fire & water – that is also the world of atoms & electrons, particles & waves, DNA &CGI.

It is a work of mourning - from the technology of hospitalised dying:

When those green lights flash & blink, is that it? When the ‘it’ continues strangely for a bit, then falls into a line, is it over?

To the mythic realm of Orpheus, of Thoth & Anubis of the Egyptian death cult, of Charon and Mercury, of the Bardo Thodol. Myths of attempted (& failed) rescue & recovery of the dead; of judgement; of the process of dying & the liminalities of the after-death:

Is there a world?
Are they still calling it that?

The after-death of Bardo – with its lights & colors – that maps onto modern clinical accounts of the brain closing down – is also the poetical world of this volume – but cut with folk tales in their multiple versions.

Between the dedication ‘called back’ and the epigraph from Beckett (‘a voice comes to one in the dark’), the volume situates itself at the start in the liminal space of grieving and haunting – the two-way movement between our yearning for the dead – and the dead haunting us: ‘felt presences/ behind the hole/ in the day’. Gaps & absences, but also revenants, ghosts, memories – the otherwise present.

At the same time, the poetry apprehends another threshold: ‘death we carry/ within us’: the nature of living in time:

now that you’re gone
& I’m here or now
that you’re here &
I’m gone or now
that you’re gone &
I’m gone what
did we learn?

In short, negotiating the facts of ‘time-based carbon life’: a relationship to mortality that is a way of valuing life.

A childhood world of snowglobes, Pinocchio, cartoons as trace. At the same time, what seems often like a non-specific location that crystallises momently as New England through specifying lexis. A planetary awareness of ‘deep space’ – ‘stars scattered’, ‘solar wind’, ‘planet spin’ – Pascall’s terrifying interstellar spaces – but also a vantage point – like the posthumous perspective – a distance – like the mediated vision of lens & telescope.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

David Nowell Smith on Peter Gizzi's "Correspondence of the Book" in A Poetics of Criticism

On Coherence and Correspondence: Peter Gizzi.

In the blurb to A Poetics of Criticism, we are told that the essays collected within, including ‘Correspondences of the Book’, ‘perform the compositional mutation of enacting as they tell... explore the fluidities and possibilities within a poetics of criticism’. I must say I’m always suspicious of the language of enacting and performance, not out of some conservative grumpiness but rather the opposite: a worry that latent in the enactment-telling distinction we actually find form and content being replayed, when at its most powerful ‘performance’ should be able to short circuit such a reductive approach. And yet, reading ‘Correspondences of the Book’, I find myself in the slightly invidious situation of asking at certain moments, ‘what is the main claim?’, or ‘what is the central argument?’. Maybe this is a hangover from endless weeks of marking student essays, but I think it might point to something more interesting happening in Gizzi’s essay (if ‘essay’ it is). As it strikes me, the essay uses the declarative sentence, the assertive judgment, in such a way as to imply a ‘content’, but sets up correspondences between these declarative sentences which will resist their cohering into an ‘argument’. The sentences claim something, certainly, claim a good many things, but they do not thereby become ‘claims’. The essay demands that we read within this double-bind.
And so, the question I wish to pose of this essay is the following: in what ways does this essay cohere? What kind of coherence is at issue?
Firstly, we can note two apparently conflicting assertions on coherence, given in close proximity:

            The true test of poetry is in its ability to endure and cohere in time (180).
            Do not try to make it all cohere (181).

There is another disjuncture in these two assertions: both come after a citation, the first from Jack Spicer, the second from John Ruskin. Yet if the latter is paraphrase, the former does not, at least at first, bear any obvious relation to the Spicer quote: To make things visible rather than to make pictures of them (phantasia non imaginari). If this is to be a claim about coherence in time rather than about making-see versus representing (lamp versus mirror in Abrams’s famous distinction) then sotto voce the correspondence of quote and paraphrase demands us to surmise that making-visible, even visibility itself, are temporally conditioned.
Perhaps a key word here is that almost inconspicuous ‘all’: the coherence of poetry is not a totalising coherence. Again, it strikes me that what is at issue is time: to make ‘all’ cohere will not allow for temporal change; coherence must ‘endure’, rather than impose itself as a single moment imposes itself over time.
But does this insight into time itself, as it were, endure throughout the essay? What I’ve identified here, somewhat tentatively, is a thinking of ‘in-time-ness’: coherence is always temporal. Yet when Gizzi speaks of the ‘real’, he suggests this lies outside time. Here I see a series of associative moves which I suspect come from Lévinas. We start with the ‘image’ (how does this relate the ‘picture’ that Spicer denigrates for poetic phantasias?), ‘which is always the image of the face—our own and those of our masters—[and] remains broken and separate from ourselves, yet intact over time’. This sentence, or conjunction of sentences, points in far more directions than I can pursue now (‘our masters’ not only indicating a troubling presence of political authority but also relating back to the mastery of Dickinson’s robin, and setting the two into correspondence; the disjunction of the face meaning we are always outside ourselves, even in that marker of our identity—the face as point of contact and entanglement of inside and outside). My question is the following: how does ‘remain[] … intact over time’ relate to ‘endure and cohere within time’? This is less a question of verbs (remain intact versus endure and cohere), than of prepositions: ‘over’ versus ‘within’. The former points to an outside of time which the latter will not. Lines later we find this train of thought developed:

Here the real or the face of the other—like the sun—is too much to bear. It must first be refracted inwardly to be recorded or translated into a site of writing in order to be seen or witnessed in time (183).
Here I am reminded not only of Lévinas, but Kant’s account of the noumenon, which lies outside of time, and is what is truly real, but which we never experience except within time (our a priori intuition). Or perhaps, given its unbearable brightness, we can think of Plato’s ‘Cave’ allegory, where we must look at shadows because the pure ‘idea’ is too blinding (remember also the visual trope of eidos, image). So maybe the coherence of poetry in time is a function of writing itself, which is a refraction into time?

Jasper Johns, Study for "Skin" 1, 1962
This then refers back to the essay’s provocative opening assertion: ‘The surface of meaning wears a mask, and it is only with long attention that the actual face of the poet comes through the mask of lines’ (179). Does this mean that we, as readers and critics, are ultimately looking through the poem, searching for the poet behind the lines? Is this akin to the ‘real face’ which we can only see ‘refracted’ in writing and time? Of Dickinson, Gizzi says, she ‘transforms her language to reveal her more subtle mind. Her ability is to make her language become her feeling mind’ (181). Again, the surface of meaning wears a mask, and that mask is language. And behind language lies mind. Yet at the same time, we see this mask merge into the face behind it, which must trouble the surface-depth opposition out of which it is first articulated. Because here language is not the mask of mind but the mind—and the mind is no longer simply the mind, but a ‘feeling mind’. So Dickinson’s language in fact transforms the parameters of what mind is.
There are many other things to say of this essay, and the web or constellation of correspondences it sets in train: in particular the different vectors pursued by ‘correspondence’ itself: epistolary and epistemological, as well as its echo of Baudelaire’s forêts de symboles. And if I have focused on its reflection on time, then we also find running alongside this a dense working of tropes of space, place, distance, and the body. In particular, that if writing is a refraction into time, it is also the filling of a void between self and other, a spatial refraction. And finally, that paradox by which such refraction (also called ‘to displace an object into art) is the only means by which one might encounter ‘our first light when we were the things themselves’.
But to finish I want to return to the question of enactment. Gizzi’s essay is not simply a reflection on correspondences, but an enactment of correspondences, and which coheres not as a system (even if I have tried to tease out a latent epistemology within it) but as it enacts these correspondences. On the one hand, the pronouncements on surface, on the real, on the mind—all these imply that enactment is a surface effect, a process, which refracts the real but does not constitute it. On the other, there are certain cruxes where language does become transformative, where its enactment will dissolve the conceptual boundaries within which it is supposed to function. Is this tension irresolvable—that is, does a criticism of enacting correspondences live within this tension? Or is the ultimately of criticism-as-enactment to move off from this tension and dissolve the oppositions—surface/depth, time/real, image/making-seen—themselves, and find an anterior point of coherence?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Peter Gizzi : Correspondences of the Book

From A Poetics of Criticism, eds. J. Spahr, M. Wallace, K. Prevallet & P. Rehm, Buffalo, Leave Books, 1994.


Reprinted with kind permission from Peter Gizzi. (c) Peter Gizzi