The Conversant long has admired Lemon Hound’s lively, multifarious engagement with contemporary literature. In partnership with Lemon Hound, and in the hopes of encouraging further dialog between Canadian- and U.S.-based poetics, we have decided to re-publish a monthly excerpt from the Lemon Hound archive.
Daniel Zomparelli: I read your two books consecutively (The Place of Scraps by Jordan Abel and children of air india by Renée Saklikar), and in my opinion the books have similar themes. They both take a tragedy, differing in scale obviously, and the poet interjects into this tragedy to create a moment of questioning and thoughtfulness. It reminded me of how poetry can successfully bring about discussions on very serious real-world concerns. I was wondering if you could each speak to what you were hoping to achieve in writing these books?
Since the late 1990s, Marc Bousquet has been one of the most trenchant critics of labor practices in higher education. He disabused received wisdom about the job market, showing how its depressed state resulted not from a natural cycle, but from deliberate strategies, in his essay, “The Waste Product of Graduate Education: Toward a Dictatorship of the Flexible” (Social Text 70 ). And he has exposed other dubious practices of the corporate university: the rise of the administrative class; the way that professors have become managers, overseeing a pool of cheap teaching labor across the curriculum; and the way that undergraduates have been conscripted into the discounted work force in the current university. These analyses culminated in his book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (NYU Press, 2008). Beginning in 2008 he has taken his commentary on higher ed to the blogosphere, with a regular column for the Chronicle of Higher Education in conjunction with his website.
While he was in graduate school, Bousquet cofounded Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, which published its first issue in February 1998. He also co-edited, with Tony Scott and Leo Parascondola, Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and edited The Politics of Information: The Electronic Mediation of Social Change (Alt-X Press, 2004). His pathbreaking work led to a special issue of Works and Days 41-42 (2003), guest edited by Teresa Derickson, that reprints five of his essays and fourteen responses.
Born in 1963, Bousquet grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his father was a manager for the Social Security Administration. He studied at Yale (BA, 1985), where he had courses with several of the Yale Critics well known at the time. Afterwards, he moved to the EastVillage in New York to write, working as an advertising copywriter and ghostwriter. In 1991 he decided to return to academe, entering the PhD program at CUNY (PhD, 1997). After a postdoc at Indiana University, he got a tenure-track job at the University of Louisville in 1998, moving in 2005 to Santa Clara University and in 2012 to Emory University.
This interview took place on November 15th, 2008 at Marc Bousquet’s house in Los Gatos, California. It was conducted by Jeffrey J. Williams and transcribed by Heather Steffen.
Jeffrey Williams: Your new book, How the University Works, diagnosing problems with higher education, notably the disposability of grad students, the managerializing of faculty and the exploitation of undergrads, just came out and has become something of a rallying cry, especially for younger academics. Maybe you could talk about how you came to be a critic of the university.
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 in 2016.—Philip Metres
Philip Metres: Can you talk a bit about your poetic education, at home and in school? I’m interested in what you were reading, who you were talking to, etc. (the subtext of this question is that I’m wondering how much poetry was in your academic education, particularly how much recitation, but also how much it was valued in your home).
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.
We at The Conversant delight in the prospect of spring and celebrating the end of winter. Winter brought its share of snow and Louis MacNeice’s poem “Snow” reminds us that the poetry world is “incorrigibly various” and that “the drunkenness of things being various” is a sublime intoxication. In this spirit, Eric Hoffman has brought forth two very different volumes, By the Hours: Selected Poems, Early and Uncollected, and a critical biography of George Oppen, Oppen: A Narrative. This interview focuses on these two recent publications. –Jon Curley
Jon Curley: Your most recent poetry collection, By the Hours: Selected Poems Early & Uncollected, carries an epigram from Emerson beginning: “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth…” I was struck by how that affirmation also underscores a distance, the seeking of, the remoteness from perfection and the need, in life as in poetry, to use vocation as a testing device. Would this interpretation gibe with your sense of your poetic exploration?
The Conversant has invited some of our favorite journal and book publishers to curate interview series and dialogic projects focusing on their authors. textsoundhere has encouraged two of its contributors, Eric Elshtain and Mikey Peterson, to construct a film-based poetic collaboration.
Mikey Peterson is a video-audio artist, singer-songwriter and art educator. He creates experimental video art, which has been shown nationally and internationally in film festivals, museums and on television. Peterson develops and teaches video, audio, photography and animation classes in various Chicago-area arts-based education organizations. He writes and performs music with his band The Trust and develops musical dance poetry as a member of The Duende Bros.
Ugly Duckling Presse has just released Andy Fitch’s interview collection Sixty Morning Talks. Here Fitch interviews Cole Swensen about her book Gravesend. Recorded June 25th and July 20th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.
Andy Fitch: Could we first contextualize Gravesend amid a sequence of your research-based collections? Ours, for example, comes to mind. What draws you to book-length projects, and do you consider them serialized installments of some broader, intertextual inquiry? Does the significance of each text change when placed beside the others? Or do they seem discrete and self-contained?
Angela Hume: Brian, I want to ask you about lyric, as you’re thinking about it in Companion Grasses. “What is ‘lyric,'” you ask several times in your long poem “Quakinggrass.” The poem offers this response to its own question:
Little grammar of attraction
(What is “lyric”)—
The book fell open on its broken spine
(florere, “to flower”)—
“It’s quakinggrass,” I said—
Your dashes register the percolation of time through thought, or thought through time, pressing toward concept. To a certain extent, the lines are rendered fragmentary, even discrete, by their dashes, little caesuras. But they also aggregate, ideate, via their materials, from one line to the next. It’s not (necessarily) a linear logic. That is to say, the declarative “It’s quakinggrass” may or may not come as response to the preceding interrogative, “What is ‘lyric.'” In this way, the poem wrestles with the activity, or process, of its own thinking. This was, of course, the project of transcendental philosophy.
Importantly, the poem offers a particular figure here: that of inflorescence. This is a term that appears repeatedly in your book. Inflorescence: the arrangement of flowers on a plant—a flowering system. The collective blossom. Or, the process of flowering. The image, emplaced in Big Sur, California, is: the fragile flower cluster trembling on its slight stalk (briza maxima).
My question about lyric is also a question about your inheritance of both the Romantic tradition and the mid-century tradition of composition by field—the way you yoke one to its (seeming) other in Companion Grasses to discover lyric for yourself.
That said, I’m interested in the figure of inflorescence, very specifically, as a figuration of lyric. How does it work, in your mind?
This monthly series features highlights from the Cross Cultural Poetics archive. Cross Cultural Poetics is one of the longest-running radio shows in America focused on contemporary poetry and poetics. Based at The Evergreen State College and hosted by Leonard Schwartz, the entire archive, running from 2003 to the present, can be accessed on PennSound.
In March 2013, Jack Kerouac School MFA students in my Documentary Poetry course read Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder.They then discussed the book with her via email. In addition to describing how she dealt with primary source materials in the writing of Jane, such as her aunt’s adolescent diaries, Nelson also discussed somatic writing, the brutality of fact, and aporia.
Participants: Jaclyn Hawkins, Caitlan Mitchell, JH Phrydas, June Lucarotti, Ashley Waterman, Shitu Rajbhandari, Katherine Kauffman and Janelle Fine.
The Class: It seems like Jane became a haunting experience for you—Jane’s presence in your life, her presence in your dreams, etc. Did you feel closure upon your project’s completion? Have you returned to her (her murder) post-publication?