This interview took place during the summer of 2013, in Paris. The conversation is structured in two parts; the first concerns the relations of language and writing, the second the relations of language and politics (as well as some concluding thoughts on the current politics of Europe). The concept of translation sets the context of the conversation and acts as a bridge between the two parts. This interview was originally conducted and recorded in French and transcribed/translated to respect the fidelity of the original interview.
Pablo Bustinduy: I had the chance to meet you while translating one of your books into Spanish, and I guess you’ve had many conversations of the kind we had then. I was looking at your library and wondering: do you know how many languages your work has been translated into? Do you have copies of those editions?
Jacques Rancière: It’s difficult to know, because there have been different types of translations—books, articles, also pirated translations—and there are many that I simply don’t know about. There are probably translations of my work into at least 20 different languages, including many that I cannot read, of course, like Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Turkish or Arabic. I do have plenty of those books. For me, many of them are something like souvenirs of a relationship, not exactly objects of collection but of some sort of witnessing…witnesses of a friendship, a connection, the fact that there are people who read the Korean or Turkish equivalent of what I tried to convey in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, for instance.
Karla Kelsey and Aaron McCollough, editors of SplitLevel Texts, talk to their latest authors, Carla Harryman and Catherine Meng, about their new books.
Karla Kelsey & Aaron McCollough: Catherine and Carla—thank you for doing this interview with us. We are so pleased to release both of your books as the second “pairing” of SplitLevel Text titles. The first question is broad but comes out of working so closely with W—/M— and The Longest Total Solar Eclipse of the Century, and speculating about process. We wonder if you could describe the relationship that you had to time when you were composing your books and whether or not it shifted during development and, if so, how. Do you feel your books are “of” or “in” a certain time? “About” or “at?”
Catherine Meng: Most of my work is the product of self-imposed constraints. I prefer to write first drafts in forms or off of word lists in particular. I find a sort of security once I assign myself perimeters in which to write into. In this instance, it was Daniil Kharms’s mandate in The Blue Notebook to write every day “at least half a page”—if you don’t write at least write “today I wrote nothing.”
Cecilia Vicuña is a poet, visual artist and filmmaker born in Santiago de Chile. The author of twenty books of poetry, she exhibits and performs internationally. A precursor of conceptual art in Latin America and an early practitioner of the improvisatory oral performance, her work deals with the interactions between text and textile, language and earth. Her multidimensional works begin as an image that becomes a poem, a film, a song, a sculpture or a collective performance. She calls this participatory, impermanent work “lo precario” (the precarious), a series of transformative acts or “metaphors in space” that bridge the gap between art and life, the ancestral and the avant-garde. In Chile she founded the legendary Tribu No in l967, a group that created anonymous poetic actions throughout the city. In l974, exiled in London, she co-founded Artists for Democracy to oppose dictatorships in the Third World. She has lived in New York since l980.
April 28, 2013
The first and last time I saw you perform was at Naropa in, I think, 2005. I remember ephemeral fragments of the performance in the auditorium filled with bodies, dim lighting, a soft and gentle movement beginning from somewhere, I forget where, in the room. I remember clearly and for some reason only, the words the word is thread. And red (or was it white or was it both?) thread hung from the ceiling (or was it not hanging, but spread around between bodies seated in aluminum chairs?). I was standing only a few feet away from you and heard whispers, barely audible in memory. I hesitate to listen to your recordings. I am trying to work through memory of that occasion.
“memory is the chain of resurrection
memory is the future
because you will
remember in future tense
you will remember
whatever you did
and others did
and others will do
that is the change”
Facebook was the only way to reach you. I’m thinking now of the three w’s, as in www: waves/weave/we or world? I’d love to hear more about these connections between word (thread), weave (the binding of body and text—written word on paper or digital) and waves (of information in the Internet). “Writing is a sensorial disorder, she says, arranging her threads. Writing wants to be three-dimensional.” (Dennis Tedlock, Spit Temple).
In 2007, I founded the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series. This series curates between 10 to 15 readings a year in Norman, Oklahoma, and features poets spanning a broad spectrum of poetry communities and styles. Past poets who have read include Tom Raworth, Hank Lazer, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Arthur Sze, Natasha Tretheway, Myung Mi Kim, Charles Alexander, Joe Harrington, Afaa Weaver, Shin Yu Pai, Leonard Schwartz, Hugh Tribby, Gerald Stern, Sy Hoawhwah, Alexandra Teague, Kate Greenstreet, Dean Rader, Zhang Er, Julie Carr, Tim Roberts, Grant Jenkins, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Duo Duo, Wang Jiaxin, Glenn Mott, among many more.
In this Everett Series conversation, Myung Mi Kim and I discuss her work in relation to a set of tensionally paired nodes (such as fragment and whole, monolingualism and polylingualism), and explore questions of teleology in experimental writing in relation to other cultural discourses, like philosophy and religion.
Myung Mi Kim is a Professor of English and a core faculty member of the Poetics Program at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. She is the author of Penury, Commons, DURA, The Bounty and Under Flag.
Mary Cappello: You open your new collection of essays with a wonderfully suggestive epigraph from Terence: “That is true wisdom, to know how to alter one’s mind when occasion demands it.” Of course the words “occasion” and “occasional” function in variously meditative ways in your collection, and I don’t want this question to serve as a spoiler, but I was curious to hear your thoughts on the difference between being what used to be known (and maybe still is) as an “occasional poet,” and how the idea of the occasion(al) figures (differently) for you in these essays, or in the history of the essay. Mainly, I’m struck by the way the Terrence epigraph might speak to the utter adaptability of the essay form, and therefore—here’s my question: of the essayist? What might that mean for you?
David Lazar: Thanks for this question, Mary, because it’s rather central for me. The occasional poet, say in the Laureate sense (Larkin turned down the Laureateship because, among other things, he couldn’t imagine writing “occasional poems”) hews to an event, current or celebrated, of public import. The poem may veer to more personal moments, but it’s essentially a public form and its themes shoot larger rather than smaller. The occasion in the essay is frequently quite different. Certainly, large themes and events may come into play. One hopes they do. But more often than not essayists are moved to write by events, ideas, problems, questions, coincidences, conundrums…that are smaller and closer to home. Because the voice in the essay is so often intimate, we like to know, fairly early on, why it is the essayist is writing the essay, what brought her here, in short what the “occasion” of the essay is, what stirred her to write. And I divide the occasion into two crude categories, “ostensible” and “actual.” The actual occasion might be there right from the beginning, upfront. But it also might be discovered; it might be hidden from us, the way dreamwork hides our deeper anxieties, and the “ostensible” occasion, which got us writing, allowed us to wade into where we needed to go to find our “real” or at least more necessary subject. So this partially explains my invocation of Terence. The other part is simply the necessity of being able to think and change one’s mind while writing an essay. In fact, it’s impossible to write essays without being able to do this. Let me go further: I can’t imagine wanting to write essays unless this is an essential part of your makeup—the desire to change something in yourself, to move it off the mark, unsettle it. When I begin an essay, I have a rough idea of the subject and the occasion (the two might merge or overlap) and perhaps a few things I think I might want to say at some point, some pieces of narrative I think might be useful. But then when writing I might find that the essay needs to be broken up in a certain way (which I do very selectively) or that my original idea was just a hedge, or that some of the thoughts at the beginning of the essay were timid and that I need to go much further, or that they were reckless, and I need to pull back. If you look at the Montaignian essay or the Hazlittian essay you find coils of intensity. Part of my resistance to the subgeneric categorizations of the essay (segmented essay, ekphrastic essay [aren’t all essays ekphrastic?], lyric essay), in addition to the fact that they’re just academic inventions of creative writing programs that are mimicking the academic development of poetry, is that they stifle the ability of students to do what they most need to do: allow their minds to voluptuously, expansively, historically and contradictorily develop a sense of what they might say in an essay, and then how to write stunning sentences to speak them. The second part is hard to teach. I mean, you can always do forms.
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.
By the 1980s, literary studies had begun to recognize traditions of African-American literature and of women’s literature. But the emerging African-American canon usually meant male, and women’s literature usually meant white. Hazel Carby, in her 1987 book Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the African American Woman Novelist (Oxford UP), showed otherwise, recovering a black “women’s era” of writers from the narratives of the enslaved to intellectuals and activists, such as Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells and Pauline Hopkins, active at the cusp of the twentieth century.
Carby did graduate work at the now legendary Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, co-editing, with Paul Gilroy, one of its noted collective volumes, The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in Seventies Britain (Hutchinson, 1982), which includes her essays “White Woman Listen! Black Feminism and the Boundaries of Sisterhood” and “Schooling in Babylon.” In the 1990s, Carby looked at the other side of the coin of gender, masculinity, publishing Race Men (Harvard UP, 1998), which surveys black public figures from W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson to C. L. R. James, Miles Davis and Danny Glover. Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America (Verso, 1999) collects a wide array of Carby’s essays, notably those from Empire Strikes Back, a cluster on black women in music and a set on multiculturalism.
Hazel Carby was born in Devon, England, in 1948. She received her BA in English and History (1970) from Portsmouth Polytechnic and an MA in Education (1972) from London University, and worked as a high school English teacher in London from 1972 to 79, as she recounts here. In 1979 she joined the program at Birmingham, receiving her MA (1979) and PhD (1984). She visited and did research at Yale in the early 1980s, moving to the U.S. in 1983. She taught first at Wesleyan University (1983-88) and then at Yale, where she is currently the Dilley Professor of African American Studies and a Professor of American Studies, and directs the Initiative on Race, Gender and Globalization. She is currently completing Child of Empire and beginning work on a new project entitled Treason-Workers.
This interview took place on 5 November 2007 in Hazel Carby’s office at Yale. It was conducted by Jeffrey J. Williams, then editor of the minnesota review, and transcribed by Marisa Colabuono.
Jeffrey Williams:Reconstructing Womanhood came out twenty years ago. In it you talk about black women writers of the 1890s who were virtually erased from cultural history, but you discover a “women’s era,” as one writer called it. Maybe you could talk about the moment when you wrote that book, which seems distant history for a lot of my students, and its cultural politics.
Hazel Carby: I think it’s good that it’s distant history for your students, because that means that they take for granted that there is a history of women writing, and that there is a history of black women writing. That was not taken for granted then. Much of the work of recovery was undertaken in isolation, in that the fields, whether you’re talking about women’s literature, whether you’re talking about American literature, or that more generic title of black writing, did not imagine that there were any black female writers there to be discovered.
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.
Toward the end of the Spring 2013 semester, Introduction to Critical Theory undergraduate students at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School read Suzanne Scanlon’s Promising Young Women (Dorothy, 2012) through the lens of feminist and gender theories from Susan Bordo and Judith Butler. Over the summer months, Scanlon engaged with our questions about gender and mental illness, as well as questions about her practice as a writer.
Interviewed by Alexandria Bull, David Chrem, Jacob Cohen, Lauren DeGaine, Charlie Epstein, David Hall, Elizabeth Kichorowsky, Anna Meiners, Jade Quinn, Georgia Van Gunten, Chey Watson and Indigo Weller.
The Class: We are curious about research that may have gone into Promising Young Women. The experiences of Lizzie and her fellow patients are specific and realistic—did you conduct interviews or observations of women in mental health facilities?
Jon Curley: Can you envision what kinds of poems, whether structurally or thematically, you might consider writing beyond the realm of your past practice? Are there elements of poems outside your usual patterns and activities you might try to integrate into your work?
Nature Theater of Oklahoma talks with Lebanese visual and performing artist Rabih Mroué—about so many things!—but mainly about difference and similarity, self and community, solo and group, inside and outside, original and imitation. Though we both make performance and theater, we come from very different backgrounds and environments and even different working situations. What are the influences that make us who and what we are and what we make? And what has been his particular experience growing up and making art in Beirut?