In 2009, the poet Monica A. Hand asked for definitions of “female aesthetics.” While there are no actual definitions of female aesthetics or woman aesthetics, there are working definitions of feminist aesthetics. I was intrigued by this notion of the female (vs the woman, aka l’écriture féminine and Hélène Cixous’s writing from the body) and what an aesthetics of female would like and who could who would claim this aesthetics. A bit later, I put together a panel on Twitter to discuss this concept, and I invited some of the participants from that panel as well as some additional people I thought would have something interesting to say, to have an informal symposium discussion via email. What followed was a series of questions, speculations, ponderings, and anecdotes with Racquel Goodison, Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee from August 13 to 20, 2009. The Conversant has agreed to publish that conversation in two parts. – Metta Sáma
Concerns traditionally central to poetics (pity and fear; to delight and to teach; truth, beauty; etc.) also matter in other domains of inquiry. This is the first installment of a series of interviews that pursue such “poetic” concerns with practitioners of other domains of inquiry, such as science and philosophy. When they were paired in a recent collaborative project involving scientists and artists, hosted by the Ucross Foundation, H. L. Hix took the opportunity to interview microbiologist Naomi Ward about her recent work, with particular focus on her recent paper disclosing a discovery about the bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A.
This interview, focusing on Jason Koo’s new book, America’s Favorite Poem, is part of Intersecting Lineages, a new Conversant series focusing on cross-community conversations with poets of color. Ben-Oni and Koo conducted this interview during the second round of the 2014 NBA playoffs in May, before the Heat lost to the Spurs in the Finals and LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland.
On the afternoon of June 12, Cathy Wagner and I sat down together (remotely) to watch The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 1. I’m a fan of the show, but Cathy had never seen this rendition of the aftermath of zombie apocalypse. To prepare, we’d both watched Night of the Living Dead and read parts of Zora Neale Hurston’s Tell My Horse (about Haitian zombies), as well as Matt Mogk’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Zombies. We g-chatted during and after the show, mulling over zombies and gender roles and the paleolithic diet and zombies and new motherhood and personal hygiene and race relations and the wars of the future and murderers and books and anarchist thinkers and zombies.*
In his monthly poetry podcast, Radio Free Albion, Tony Trigilio interviews poets about their recently released or forthcoming books. Always informal, each interview is a conversation—two poets talking about the work and play of the creative process and showcasing some of the most innovative new work in contemporary poetry.
This interview series, “Conversations after the Fall: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Poets,” began as part of my Thomas J. Watson Fellowship year (1992-1993), and has been revived, 20 years later, compiling new interviews with Russian and Russian-American poets. The complete archive will be published in book-form.
I met with Zhdanov in Moscow in 1996 and interviewed him about his life and poetry. In the text that follows, I have interpolated my translations of selected Zhdanov poems. Special thanks to Anna Kurt for her transcription of the original recording. —Philip Metres
In the fall 2013 semester, Jack Kerouac School graduate students in my Text & Image workshop read Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s The Collage Poems of Drafts. To prepare us for the book, we read DuPlessis’s conversation with Maria Damon, “Desiring Visual Texts: A Collage and Embroidery Dialogue” and attempted our own experiments, including knitting, cross-stitch, crochet, doodles, scribbles, and collage.
This is a series of ongoing interviews with women actively engaged with small-press publishing between the 1950s and 1980s. It comes from a desire not only to preserve their accounts but also to draw wider attention to the vital role of women editors and publishers in the mimeograph revolution and beyond. In these decades “poems were bouncing off the sidewalk” (Maureen Owen), and this series traces some of those madcap trajectories. This conversation was conducted from December 2013 to May 2014 via email, while Joanne Kyger was in Oaxaca and away from the Hearsay archives
Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! –Rusty Morrison
Andrew Wessels: As I attempt to begin this conversation, I am looking at, reading 85 in front of me. I am touching, holding 85 in front of me. I am doing both, and at the same time I fear that I am doing neither. This thing in front of me that simultaneously exerts itself fully as both a thing of language and a thing of paper. So I want to begin with what I fear might seem a dumb question: What is this thing before me?
Claire Huot/Robert Majzels: In your hand is a machine for the permutation of letters. A book. By definition, a book must contain a minimum of 85 letters, and these letters must be perpetually in motion. Meaning in a book is continually in motion. The writer/reader works the machine like a chariot passing through the the two hundred and thirty-one gates to paradise. Don’t forget to breathe.
October is Violence Against Women awareness month. This October we bring together six poets from and the editor of the anthology Women Writing Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013) to discuss research, invention, and resistance poetry. Women Write Resistance views poetry as a transformative art. By deploying techniques to challenge narratives about violence against women and making alternatives to that violence visible, poetry of resistance distinguishes itself by a persuasive rhetoric that asks readers to act. Leslie Adrienne Miller, Jennifer Perrine, Sara Henning, Sarah A. Chavez, and Laura Madeline Wiseman explore poetry of resistance in this roundtable discussion. These poets will be featured at the Omaha Lit Fest this fall. This year’s festival theme is warped: historical in/accuracy.
This interview focuses on Nathan Hoks’s book, The Narrow Circle.
Elaine Bleakney: What a pleasure getting into Cabin Fever/Fossil Record. You’ve said elsewhere that the form of these poems take their inspiration from the painting of Eugene Leroy. Would you tell me about how your attraction to Leroy’s work relates to this choice?
Dan Brady: I was first attracted to the physical depth of Leroy’s paintings. If you look closely at most paintings, you can see individual brushstrokes, but with Leroy you don’t even have to try, the paint rises from the canvas toward the viewer. There is a tactile element to them. I imagine if you ran your fingers over the canvas, it’d feel something like running your fingers over a keyboard — similar depths and ridges. Underneath all that paint, somewhere, is a figure, a representation of a clear subject. That obscuring of the figure through depth was interesting to me. Almost like the subject was drowned in the very media which gave it life.
The People with Insert Blanc Editor and Publisher Mathew Timmons and Insert Blanc Artist Ben White, features the voices and ideas of The People that make up the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, the west coast, and beyond on KCHUNG 1630AM every 3rd Sunday at 3pm and podcast on iTunes as The People Radio. The People is me, The People is you, The People is we, and You Can Too! … like a Broken Record magically repaired.
In American Songbook (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), Michael Ruby’s fifth full-length collection, Ruby responds to recordings of 75 American vocalists, each an homage of sorts. Many musical traditions inform the poems, including blues, jazz, gospel, country, folk, bluegrass, electric blues, R&B, rock, disco and hip hop. This interview took place both in person and by email.
Elisabeth Workman and Sandra Simonds
In this Skype reading and conversation, Elisabeth Workman (on the left) reads from “Little Western” and “Landscape With Porn Stars” from Ultramegaprairieland and Sandra Simons (on the right) reads “I’m Miss World, Somebody Kill Me” and “Camp Vagina Lake” from The Sonnets. Sandra’s questions to Elisabeth: What is your relationship to Flarf? What is the relationship of the work to the sentimental, the political, the avant garde, etc. Elisabeth’s questions to Sandar: What was your attraction to the sonnet as a form? Could you talk about the paradox of the sonnet, influences, etc? & then: #Bloof, #feminism, #motherhood, #nihilism, #John Ashbery, #Bernadette Mayer, #Walter Benjamin, #narrative, #humor, #time, #the porosity of the domestic, #vertigo, #vulnerability, #estrangement, #twin worlds, #dance
For this special issue of The Conversant, guest-edited by Alex Wermer-Colan, we explore what it would mean to document a conference in print. We were particularly interested in the Renaissance of Roland Barthes as a topic because Barthes exemplifies “embodied inquiry” that The Conversant hopes to engage across its larger editorial practice.
—The Editors of the Conversant
In response to French literary theorist and critic Roland Barthes’s tragic death in 1980, Michel Foucault observed that Barthes seemed “completely developed” during his lecture course at the Collège de France only a week before the accident. Foucault recalled thinking at the time: “He’ll live to be ninety years old; he is one of those men whose most important work will be written between the ages of sixty and ninety.” Although Barthes passed away before he could create the rest of what scholars categorize as his “late” work, these last writings were, for Barthes, the result of a transition period that approximates the clichés of a mid-life crisis. In light of his mother (his closest companion) recently passing away, Barthes explores, in his final lecture course, The Preparation of the Novel (La Préparation du roman, 1978-1980), his subject position at a pivot point between his middle and his old age, and he comes to realize he must urgently prepare for what he imagines will be his actual “late” work. Barthes’s Preparation of the Novel staged the search for a vita nuova, a new life, a way of coming to terms with his mother’s recent death, and being reborn, motherless, with renewed purpose, dedicated to a project that would transcend the limited forms and genres his writing had previously taken. Barthes figures his anticipated conversion in terms of a Proustian search for a “third form” between or beyond the Essay and the Novel that, in the manner of what Barthes termed “the Neutral” (“le neutre”), would baffle or outplay (“déjouer”) the paradigm of theory and literature that his contemporary readers expected. Even if we can only hypothesize what hybrid or alternative work of critique and narrative, essay and novel, Barthes would have gone on to create, the brilliance, theoretical significance and formal innovation of his late work, especially his lectures, has yet to receive the international attention it deserves. We can, therefore, at the very least, celebrate the renaissance of Roland Barthes in Anglophone cultural and literary studies, as a series of posthumous publications and translations introduces to a larger public Barthes’s most innovative but underappreciated work.1