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.
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?
The following interview took place in August and September, 2011, by email. Joanne Kyger was in Bolinas, California, and I was in Boulder, Colorado. The reference to Peter Berg (1937-2011) in the interview was occasioned by a series of memorials. One of the foundational activists and writers on bioregionalism and watershed awareness, Berg founded the Planet Drum Foundation. He died on July 28. The exchange late in the interview on Pai-chang and the fox is a reference to Case 2 in the Zen koan collection Mumonkan. Various translations are available.—Andrew Schelling
Andrew Schelling: In your poetry you allow entry to animals—or I could say, “the animal realm”—more than any other poet I know. Animals and birds are familiars, though they are generally not domestic animals, and you do not use them as symbols or emblems. Deer, skunk, jay, hummingbird, and dozens of others including mice in the house and offshore mammals show up, and you often address them as people. One of your books, Up My Coast, is a poetic and projectivist recounting of tales collected by the unusual ethnographer and doctor, C. Hart Merriam. Those tales depict a time before the present world got established, when people were animals or animals people:
First, there were the First People
And the First People changed
into trees, plants, rocks, stars, hail and
and then Animals made Our People.
Joanne Kyger: Up My Coast was an attempt to write the history of part of this coast—“pre-invasion.” I am fascinated by the First People, a way of speaking of ancient history. An animistic path. Where finally Animals create the people we are familiar with.
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 East Village 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.
Flying Object is a nonprofit art and publishing organization located in an old fire station in Hadley, Massachusetts. This Flying Object interview series will serve to document some of the writers, artists and performers that pass through—as well as activity in our own community.
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).
Over the years I have explored issues of “interlanguage” in my critical and creative work. As a translator, I often try to hover between the source and target languages as long as possible, in order to realize different interlingual states. But translation is only one way in which we can formally move between languages. Actually, transliteration has always been more interesting to me. My masters thesis at the University of Edinburgh was entitled “Prefacing the Text: Toward a Transliterative Telos,” and described a theory of reading that would work “against translation” as its end goal—instead offering a way to more powerfully transcribe one’s attending to the materiality of signification located in a phenomenology of enunciation/translettering. Since the mid-1990s, I have engaged in interlingual and transgraphic writing practices culminating in my book/opera Yingelishi, and in a series of poems I have been calling “DeRomanizing English,” where transcriptions of English in Korean, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese scripts articulate the space of what I call the “phonotactic rift.” Such a space indicates the exact points two languages diverge and overlap in their allowable sequencing of sounds (phonotactics). Transgraphic writing practices allow one to get to this place relatively quickly and intuitively. When we consciously compose a language in the script of another (digraphia), we enter this rift aesthetically/formally in what I would call “phonotaxis.” Whereas hypotaxis and parataxis compose by way of subordinating grammar or juxtaposition, phonotaxis composes by way of phonotactic constraints (the allowable sound sequences in a language). Yingelishi, for instance, is built upon such constraints. When we write across scripts (or read across them/transpronunciation), we can hear/feel the result of these constraints as an “accent,” a particular kind of prosody and music that I believe is fundamental to identity and consciousness (I call such spaces “interlanguage bodies,” for those bodies within which no accent is perceptible, beyond which everything is accent). Writing work attuned to this music is central to my poetics.
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.
Larry Sawyer curates the Myopic Poetry Series in Chicago and is the co-director of the Chicago School of Poetics. His books include Unable to Fully California, Vertigo Diary and Breaking Lorca. He has edited milk magazine since 1998.
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?
Nature Theater of Oklahoma talks again with their very first OK Radio guest, playwright/director Young Jean Lee, about American celebrity culture, our capacities for violence and repression, plus lots of dancing our way around Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (and added bonus feature: Young Jean explains the workings of the economic “Pareto” principle and how to beneficially apply it to your personal life!).
This interview focuses on Wendel’s new book No Apocalypse.
Shamar Hill: I am curious about the intention behind the title of your poetry collection, No Apocalypse.