Category: September 2012 Issue

Can Struggle Be Shared?

Photo: Darren Ell, darrenell.com.

An Open Dialogue on Protest with Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, Michael Nardone and others

For over six months, tens of thousands of students across Quebec have been on strike to protest the government’s plan to increase university and college tuition fees by 75%. During these months, the strike has been supported by a number of protest actions, including mass demonstrations that shut down Montreal’s downtown, bridge blockades, and “casserole protests” that brought entire neighborhoods out on the streets to bang pots and pans in defiance of the government’s emergency measures to quell the student uprising and limit protestors’ rights to assemble.

The following is an excerpted transcript of an open dialogue that took place at the Sense Lab in Montreal on June 24, 2012. The gathering brought a number of Montreal students and activists together with Bay Area poets and antagonists Jasper Bernes and Joshua Clover to discuss student and social movements in Quebec and California.
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Mark Nowak with H.L. Hix

Photograph by Ian Teh, from Mark Nowak's Coal Mountain Elementary

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Mark Nowak’s Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004); the interview was conducted in March 2009.

H.L. Hix: If I were offering a succinct apology for your book to a reader who had arrived at it expecting assorted examples of what Adrienne Rich calls “the columnar, anecdotal, domestic poem,” I would start with the last page, and [what I take to be] your assertion that this is a “people issue,” and that even if one of poetry’s roles is the expression of personal emotion recollected in tranquility, another of its roles—more pressing, less often realized—is the insistence, in the face of corporate and governmental ways of framing matters, that economic and political issues are not primarily “money issues” or “security issues” but people issues. Does that bear any relation to how you would speak of the book?

Mark Nowak: Absolutely. People, working people, are always front and center in my work, as well as the first audiences for its reception. Their voices are writ in bold (literally). Continue reading

Prageeta Sharma with H.L. Hix

Prageeta Sharma
Prageeta Sharma

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Prageeta Sharma’s Infamous Landscapes (Fence Books, 2007).

H.L. Hix: Do the lines “I am not sure what I have in my hand: // A hatchet, a club, or a long-winded sentiment” (10) reflect, beyond the confines of their sense in this particular poem, a more general uncertainty about poetry?

Prageeta Sharma: In some way all of my work explores a kind of uncertainty about poetry, perhaps an apprehension; but not about poetry—more about the subjectivity inherent in all personal truths or values. Continue reading

Ronaldo Wilson with Andy Fitch

photo of Ronaldo V. Wilson
Ronaldo Wilson

Over the summer, Andy Fitch has interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Ronaldo Wilson’s forthcoming book Farther Traveler: Poetry, Prose, Other (Counterpath Press, 2012) and took place on July 19th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts. 

Andy Fitch: I wonder how you would place this book on a trajectory from Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man, to Poems of the Black Object, to Farther Traveler. Does “farther” in the current title imply an extension of preceding projects? Does this book’s diverse compendium of forms derive from a deliberately hybrid construction? Does it collect divergent pieces? Does it theorize, in some way, the collection?

Ronaldo Wilson: Farther Traveler’s definitely in conversation with the previous books, because doubling elements inform its creation. I wrote Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and Poems of the Black Object around the same time. In both, I’d worked through larger questions of form and daily practice. There were various interruptions, completing the poems while writing a dissertation, and living in New York, forces not necessarily in opposition to the poems, but distractions that fed them. Continue reading

Richard Rothman with Alex Stein

Photograph by Richard Rothman

Richard Rothman and Alex Stein met on a flight from New York City to Denver. This conversation took place a few days later, on May 16, 2010, in Boulder, Colorado.

Richard Rothman: On the plane, you spoke of the perfection of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape—of how the play consumed all the energy it created, and how that perfect arc of order, to you, was also a description of the perfect art. You said that civilization was in a casket and that Beckett was one of the pallbearers carrying it off. When I first read Beckett, in high school, I didn’t understand him. It wasn’t until I got older and came across a quote that the whole thing pulled together for me, the artist and the condition. Beckett had written, “There is nothing funnier than human unhappiness,” and suddenly I understood. Except that, granting its wonder as a saying, I would amend it to read: “Yes, it might be true, there is nothing funnier than human unhappiness, except, of course, when it happens to be your own.”

Alex Stein: How much of everything is in our veins and how much is just an accretion of chance and experience?

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Feeling Exceeds The Form: Timothy Liu with Christopher Schmidt

Timothy Liu
Timothy Liu

Christopher Schmidt: I want to start with a line from Don’t Go Back to Sleep, your latest manuscript, which you’ve generously shared with me. The line is “Question lyric authenticity.” What qualifies as lyric authenticity for you, and how should we go about questioning it? Does it have anything to do with your earlier description of lyric as “a return to paradise, but unsullied by language.” Is lyric an attempt to return to some state of innocence? Or is poetry more authentic when it acknowledges its fall from origins?

Timothy Liu: If we strip these kinds of spiritual terms, like paradise, for a moment, what I would say is that the emotional life, the life of feeling, is what gives life value. And a lot of intense feeling happens at a pre-verbal level, before we ever master language. It’s amorphous, chthonic, unformed, but it’s there. Continue reading

The New Black: Evie Shockley with Leonard Schwartz

Evie Shockley
In honor of Litmus Press’ forthcoming collection of Leonard Schwartz interviews with female poets, we will offer an ongoing series of transcribed talks from Schwartz’s “Cross Cultural Poetics” archives. 

Interview with Evie Shockley, from CCP Episode #233: The New Black. April 7, 2011. Transcribed by Kelly Bergeron. Schwartz’s previous interview with Shockley can be read here.

Leonard Schwartz: Welcome to Cross Cultural Poetics. Poets and writers from all over the world talk about their art and their language. I’m Leonard Schwartz. Today’s guest on the phone from Jersey City, I’m very happy to say, is Evie Shockley. She’s a poet and return guest to Cross Cultural Poetics. She’s an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University and the author of a half-red sea, The Gorgon Goddess and the forthcoming study Renegade Poetics. Her most recent book is the new black. It’s published by Wesleyan University Press. About the book Claudia Rankine writes:

Evie Shockley’s the new black is our contemporary passage through a mosaic of historical and literary constructions. This stunning collection remembers all that has moved through the black body to bring us into the 21st century; and not since Jean Toomer’s Cane has the black female body in particular been portrayed with such compassion and love. This formally inventive work makes signifyin’ its casting call, as Shockley becomes the master “composer of genealogies.”

Welcome, Evie Shockley.

Evie Shockley: Hi. Thanks! Continue reading

Cross Species Poetics: Anne Waldman with Leonard Schwartz

Anne Waldman

In honor of Litmus Press’ forthcoming collection of Leonard Schwartz interviews with female poets, we will offer an ongoing series of transcribed talks from Schwartz’s “Cross-Cultural Poetics” archives.

Interview with Anne Waldman. Episode #213: Beneath the Surface, March 4, 2010. Transcribed by Samantha Siciliano.

Leonard Schwartz: Today’s guest, I’m very happy to say, is Anne Waldman. She’s the author of over 40 books of poetry, as well the founder, artistic director and chair, and faculty member of Naropa University’s celebrated Summer Writing Program. Her work has been translated into numerous languages. She’s active on the New York scene in multiple media including, currently, theatre. Her most recent book, Manatee/Humanity is published by Penguin. Welcome, Anne Waldman.

Anne Waldman: Thank you so much, Leonard. Continue reading

Mercedes Roffé with Leonard Schwartz

photo of Mercedes Roffé
Mercedes Roffé. Photograph by Estela Fares.

In honor of Litmus Press’ forthcoming collection of Leonard Schwartz interviews with female poets, we will offer an ongoing series of transcribed talks from Schwartz’s “Cross-Cultural Poetics” archives.

Interview with Mercedes Roffé. From CCP Episode #2: Cosmopolitan. 

Leonard Schwartz: Welcome to Cross-Cultural Poetics. Poets from all over the world discuss their work and their language. This is your host, Leonard Schwartz. Today’s guest is the Argentinean poet Mercedes Roffé, who we’re catching up in New York City, where she makes her second home. Mercedes is the author of many, many works of poetry in Spanish. Welcome Mercedes.

Mercedes Roffé: Thank you, Leonard. How are you?

LS: Mercedes, I’d like to ask you about your own work, but I’d also like to speak to you about Argentina, and poetry in Argentina. Thanks to your intervention, or thanks to your introductions, Continue reading

Caryl Pagel with Andy Fitch

Caryl Pagel

Over the summer, Andy Fitch has interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Pagel’s book Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death (Factory Hollow Press, 2012) and was recorded June 8th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: Can we start with your table of contents? It hints at a musty, encyclopedic cabinet of curiosities which then get delivered out of sequence and in elliptical, lyric fashion. Apart from obvious pleasures of designing the table, how does it relate to a book-length conceptual framework?

Caryl Pagel: You can decide if I should answer. I’m happy to, but this table’s one of the major things that changed when Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death went to print.

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Emily Pettit with Andy Fitch

Emily Pettit

Over the summer, Andy Fitch has interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Pettit’s book Goat in the Snow (Birds, LLC, 2012) and was recorded on June 7th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: Goat in the Snow opens with two questions. Questions appear throughout. What appeals to you in the interrogative gesture?

Emily Pettit: Everything. My mind moves fastest when asking questions. That’s part of moving forward through the world. It’s a good way to find out stuff. I try to ask a lot of questions.

AF: I’ll be curious how these questions relate to readers. Do they get addressed to particular people and perspectives? Do they call for a specific response?
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Caryl Pagel with Emily Pettit

photo of Carly Pagel and Emily Pettit

Over the next year, Andy Fitch will be asking participants from his Ugly Duckling Presse interview project to pair up and interview each other. By placing parallel interviews alongside his own, Fitch hopes to demonstrate that no one talk is definitive, that there are an infinitude of possible trajectories for such a discussion to take.

This exchange took place in the summer of 2012. The Conversant expects these links to degrade over time.

 

Emily Pettit: 

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