Friday, January 8, 2010

Carla Harryman Interview

In talking with Charles Bernstein a couple nights ago (he gave a great reading here at Evergreen this week, & was good to see him, & Leonard Schwartz, who I hadn't talked to since taking the semester off), I found myself on the receiving end of a lot of insight regarding teaching / discussing the ideology of the classroom (and ideology generally) in the classroom.  Thanks much to Charles, who helped me add some needed texts to my syllabus.  It was a serendipitous discussion, as we're both teaching at moment, both classes circling around politics and pedagogy.  A couple current texts came up for discussions along these lines--both, we agreed, are some of the best new books of late.  One was, as I mentioned in another post, Disaster Suites by Rob Halpern.  The other, Carla Harryman's Adorno's Noise.  

I've long been struck by how little attention Harryman's work is given compared to her male counterparts.  Not that Harryman isn't a major influence for contemporary artists.  But yet again, Harryman and The Grand Piano are not usually mentioned in the same sentence.  Google these via Boolean search and you'll wind up with approximately 177 unique entries.  For Barrett Watten, you get nearly 400, same volume.  Not that lack of some vast popular/viral takeover is indicative of anything to any degree of interest beyond a passing one on this topic, but I've read Adorno's Noise, released last year by Essay Press, about a dozen times now, and still very much discovering things, getting a kind of static shock from it--even "Orgasm," an essay of all of about 50 words.  The work, like Harryman's other work, is extremely difficult to place, exacting, precise in its deliberations.  It's not just that my background is in philosophy of music; the book really is, beyond everything else it is, a study in the form of the essay (which makes Essay Press the best possible home for it, in my estimation). 

Well, I'm liking Bucharest at moment, at least the American Studies Program at the University there, specifically its undergraduate journal, Intersections.  There's a nice interview with Harryman in this latest issue.  Harryman's somewhat politic to linger on genre here as to why it is difficult to "place" her work.  Part of what I love--what's influenced my work a great deal--is this genre concern, where essay for Harryman deliberately meets poetry and prose, and where the written is embodied on the page and in the literal performance of much of her work (Neo-Benshi, and other poets theater conventions).  The difficulty of placement is an act of political resistance, and so one would, and should, and want to expect that work such as Harryman's is going to remain occulted by more commercialized texts (tho, think of how many options the bookseller has when trying to file the newly acquired Harryman book!).   Gender, quite simply, as has been discussed so often, is one culprit in Harryman's (at times) backgrounding.  Not just the gender divide within the Language Poetry culture of the 70s and 80s, but more generally, and now: we just love our male-identifying(ed) poets.  Can't seem to get enough of them.  

Well, glad to see this interview.  Glad it is so rich as well--thinking of using some of it along with Adorno's Noise in my classroom this year.  

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