Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Do Mind Dying*

old Amtrak Station; old playground...

Now nearly "done" with this book I've been writing, Hospitalogy, which is to say, given that I am, for now, "done" with western doctors (till I collapse or change my mind), I've begun, perhaps accidentally, perhaps fallen into, a manuscript that employs rather messy formal "grafts" to write thru various pasts and futures of my hometown, Detroit. The primary graft is Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, which I saw for the first time in Detroit in 2007. This isn't an accidental pairing so much as it occurred to me in a really vivid way the last time I saw the picture (at Bard College, screened by fellow L&T faculty Marie Regan), that a) the political-social world of 70s Watts district (post-riots) has great affinity, as depicted, with current-Detroit, which is a 1970s Detroit, which again is the future American city. A city that exists as a future for, eg, Chicago. This became especially apparent when during class discussions of the film, students wanted to discuss the film as an ethnography (a common first impulse), and yet would say things that I found particularly telling, namely that "back then" things were pretty bleak. Now, I take the film to be both bleak and not, but I also take Watts of the 70s, and Burnett's focusing in on labor and economy here help facilitate this, to look much like parts of many cities in the U.S. (and of course elsewhere), especially those "post-industrial" towns of the midwest. That is, the film looks, to me anyway, very current. And b) Burnett's formalism--lyrical, highly structured in relation to its famously troubled music, the neo-Dada/European filmic conventions--lends itself to a jagged, kaleidoscopic textual form (oscillation, eg, between poetry & essay, one interrupting or negating the other, or their mixing or lying as parallel, like train tracks...), one that shapes the specific sites of past and present Detroit in a way that might (not to say I'll accomplish this mind you) intervene in such a deeply metaphorical, but also very real, disjointed, and segregated, topography. A topography pocked with holes, blindspots, lacks both real and allegorical of market magic. I wrote a novel years ago--it's shit, and so it's never gone anyplace--that tried to move between the experiential / familial, and Solnit's (among other very good) sociological-historical accounts of this post-67 "arcadia." 

NOW: I write this because partly what I'm interested in FROM YOU, DEAR READER, is CORRESPONDENCE--EMAIL OR BLOG POST--responding to the simple prompt: WHAT DOES THE TERM "DETROIT" CONJURE UP FOR YOU? WHAT DOES IT CALL TO MIND? Real experiences, imagined musings, whatever--please send. Backchannel or here. I'm leaving the prompt as open/simple as possible, and I'd like, if this goes according to plan, to see how such correspondence could be used (with permission), if at all. An experiment for now. THANKS!
*Highly recommended: I Do Mind Dying: Detroit, A Study in Urban Revolution -- 1970? 71?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

EFCA Not So Much

Going back to my first blog post, I found this. A plea for each of us to make some calls urging Congress to pass The Employee Choice Act. Fast forward 4 months, and I write about how that worked out. More each day the Unabomber lifestyle, well, minus the bombing, makes a little more sense. I think now when I get nostalgic about organizing--a vocation I had to retire from once falling ill--I will read these posts, then perhaps some Common Dreams, night cap it with some Fox News. My arm is numb. I hope this does not kill my whiffle ball career. 

Poetic Terrorism on the Rise

Over the next several weeks, various text art-poetic interventions into and investigations of our lived environments--our city, our economic systems, and our commercial thoroughfares--will have been gifted by students in my poetry, pedagogy, & politics class. Here is one, from students Jeff, Sarah, and Juliet. These were mixed back into the batch of coffee stirs at Starbucks, hundreds of them within the thousands available for the latte mongers at the mall. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Open Letter / Notes on Frank Take 2



I've developed phobia of contact: the greater the distance, the greater the anxiety. Phone and email have become Derridean monstrosities. It's not that I don't want to talk to you. It's that I am terribly anxious to touch the phone, to place receivers to my ear—to feel the soft pads of the buttons. I don't know why.

For long stretches I'll wait to dance with you, my friends. I may even dream about you. Perhaps I am worried that you'll talk for hours on end, keep this body awake, all of it after I've asked one simple question about Mookie Wilson's lifetime batting average.

Since falling ill I've stolen away to a single room for most of the day. 2 liter Pepsi bottles are neatly lined against the wall, forming a perimeter within the perimeter of the space that houses me. That unhouses me. Andy Warhol's. 

It's not that I dislike the outdoors or fear that you, of all people, would forget to can me with the beans, pack me neatly in the freezer, and be the wind for the flag I made from your unnecessary clothing. This body shrinks in contracture whenever confronted by something it desires. The neck, the arms, the chest, the back, the first cranial nerve that wraps round the face, the eyelid, the chin, the left leg, the adrenals. All are action potential, their frequencies tuned to the relative distance I am from semen stains. Therefore, often, I am absent. 

Then I should just come out and say it. Despite it all, sometimes I'm simply too goddamn tired to talk. I'd rather watch Nancy Grace. And I do, almost nightly. The girl’s dismembered body dredged from the pond of sensational retrobutionism.

My mother died a week ago and a student said yesterday, marveling: "you leave it all outside the classroom." I think she used the verb "to push." I didn't respond as I wanted to: "that's because I'm hiding something." But also maybe this fence keeps me in my world? Or this fence keeps you in your world? Unfortunately, once you hear that the word "pig" comes to mind.

I haven't driven at night for 3 years. I haven't gone to the bank in 2 years. I haven't got a clue what the cable bill costs. My partner's an honorary Jew! Possessives are hard to shake! I haven't returned to earth a fancy-tailed goldfish. (Secret wish.)

When I DO talk to you, such as now, there is a myofacial sensation of having caught fire in the face, which is very distracting. 

Secret wish: the heart sutra blossoms and that famous nothingness unfolds so that I can, in the onrush of darkness, use the phone and send a few emails to dear friends. In those moments I could frantically ask if when the unitary being of the self is exposed as a cruel joke, whether the imminent ripping and shredding into a calm continuum is anything like approaching an event horizon from some ship held up by strings on a TV in my soda bottle abode... 

I google myself on average once every 2 weeks. Part of this is vanity. I am, as you probably know, an oil man, VP of Savage Industries. I've had a good year watching the tides recede and leave behind layers of evidence of all my hard work. (Faceless date on pg. 72.)

I have to go now. It's dusk, and if there is one thing I can stand it's the view from my 2nd floor condo room window: the angels and the tall Northwestern evergreens trick you into the sensation of living in the forest. The highway is on the other side of an open field, a field which is mowed once a week by seasonal workers who ride tractors more reliable than the cars they use to haul them. To listen to the trucks go by is to wish for a charter. So I put earplugs on and stare into the blue-green for about forty minutes. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wild Horses Of Fire: WHOF Five Years In

Wild Horses Of Fire: WHOF Five Years In: "Since October 28th of this month (tomorrow) is the fifth year anniversary of Wild Horses Of Fire, I thought I would mark the occasion by ref..."

Friend Thom Donovan's blog is turning five years old this week, ancient by online standards. He raises a slew of interesting questions about social networking tools and their potential, or lack of potential, to initiate and sustain radical social enclaves, relationships, collaborative friendships, communities. Since I started blogging for precisely the same reasons as Thom--the desire to connect with, or stay connected to, those friends and colleagues of mine that are now very far away since I moved to Washington State, I can really appreciate the stakes of Thom's post, one that doesn't ring to me as the oft-asked "is blogging dead?" Under Thom's excellent starter questions regarding how facebook has changed his writing habits at WHOF, tho, I take to be an interest, maybe not yet entirely worked out, in taking the blog format and doing something ELSE with it, something other than what WHOF has been doing, which, by the way, has been alerting us to deeply alluring critical-creative objects week after week. That is, I take Thom's blog to be one of the more consistently interesting blogs. Myself not in a big city, especially New York or the Bay, this chalkboard serves paltry fixings and makes for a rather skinny archive comparatively. 

Thom does ask why it is that those of us on facebook--admittedly I am--don't use this platform in more (I paraphrase) interesting ways, for more sustained and radical projects. For sure facebook has been used for flash prose writing, collaborative poetry, etc., but I take Thom to be asking about the potential of the platform as a whole virtual ecosystem. I myself am simply reluctant to do so. Even here I'm reluctant to do much more than point things out, offer brief summaries of things I'm working on for more (to me) interesting environments, or adverting my books or Wheelhouse projects--not a whole lot else. Facebook is even less giving as potential to be a "book book" (Donovan evoking Spicer), I think because it's an even more corporate/miltaristic landscape than blogger (its contracts viz. turning over evidentiary material to private corps for instance are larger).  Even so, that's not the only reason people shy away. I mean, there are several open-source platforms like blogger AND now like facebook that are not corporate, that do not come pre-packaged with the conservative donation schemes, etc. So I think, too, these platforms, oddly, since they are more interoperative, are less attractive as radical spaces, potential common areas. Greater interoperativity perhaps means less "control" of the shape of an archive. Or if not the shape, then the access to it. Maybe this is untrue, but if it isn't, what does it mean that the more interoperative the software or platform, the less likely artists are to use it for artistic purposes, eg? Under various names I've used porn sites as insurrection platforms, places where I can "inject" video poetry as upload into the environment, and tho I'm not claiming these pieces to be particularly fascinating artworks, I am drawn to the porn site, especially the amateur site, for reasons of non-interoperativity (low number of options of use, few options with regard to different ways to interface with other platforms). 

Anyway, I do hope blogging stays vital, given that many times in my classrooms I've used blogs such as WHOF as portholes and for use towards critical essaying, as ways to model different conventions given different constraints put on us by the environment and media themselves. But I also like that not a ton of people read my blog (or at least I'd imagine not a ton do), as I am writing to specific people, am writing half-cocked (this, a place where I can semi-publicly, semi-privately, try out questions to see if the "fit" or to share in something I think people I know more or less well would like). That is, I'm writing to people who I largely consider my friends, colleagues, and am, despite the distance and the indirectness, in a kind of conversation, trying out ideas before I enter into a sustained relationship with those ideas, asking friends or would-be friends what they think of x or y, or to take a look at a or b--because these, since 2007, are people I can't just call up and make a date to see. The 1 on 1 conversation, as I am always wont to say (in accordance with a kind of organizing ethos) is what I'll take nearly any day. Well, beyond admitting that this blog is, in part, born of loneliness, there are very good other reasons to play with this particular medium, to see what radical potentials it has, and I think WHOF and other places do this. Black Radish Books' blog is now, like other places before it, trying out ways to make the site a place of real-time gathering. So I admit there's that interest too for me, though perhaps not as strongly so as for Thom, whose constant push to radicalize environments in the service of friendship I really admire....

And so on that note, here's to the 5 years of WHOF! And here's to what's next for the blog. 

New-Old Chapbook from Occultations

Now that there are 33 copies left of the review print run of Occultations--which is to say, now that I'm getting close to a larger print run with corrections to the book--I figured for any interested I'd direct your attention to an old (well, 2008-9) version of one section, which became a chapbook Kate Robinson designed and Wheelhouse Press published, "Modular Arterial Cacophony." Available here as pdf.

Of interest for me, anyway, is the drastic editing process this section, like the others, has gone through (and continues to go through). Here the work is much more flashy-as-vispo (or bad vispo, as it were), where despite Kate Robinson's beautiful work in executing what I initially wanted--a sort of Talmudic design--we ended up, later for the full-length book, doing what at this point I figured undoable, to watermark each page with the leaked Bybee memorandum on Gitmo torture, among other documents, form a palimpsest with text behind text, that enacts the question of the use value of this poetry in relation to these disasters, and perhaps any aesthetic move likewise. So while we were thinking of that design, this "Talmudic" alternative--as rather obviously related--we decided to follow through on. Further, nearly each page of this book was re-written, save for the bracketed text, found writing "placed" on the page according to my position within a rectangular room, speakers emitting the main prose poetry back to me while I was armed with...books. That is, these prose poems are starkly different from what shows up in Occultations, for better or worse (or worst), so as I begin to ask you, in these difficult times, dear reader, to purchase the last few copies of Occultations @ SPD so that the larger print run can occur, to feel free to have this chapbook, and, as per the directions/copyright at end of it, to use it in any way you wish--public domain gone wild. This includes as paper weight, toilet tissue, composting lesson, etc. Blah.

                                     inside of letterpressed chapbook, designed by Kate Robinson, 2009

More importantly, this is to celebrate Kate Robinson's artist book work (since with this chapbook, "modular," she was working under the constraints of my design, it's not her best work, mind you). Kate has produced other beautiful letterpress work for a few years now, now doing same in the book arts program at Mills College, where she is thriving. If you are looking for an artist book designer, look her up--her contract work I think is still on offer.

Third Factory's Attention Span Roundup

Thanks to Kevin Killian and Susana Gardner (and of course editor Steve Evans), Occultations and the new book's publisher, Black Radish Books, ended up one of Third Factory / Attention Span's Frequently Mentioned (reviewed) books of 2010 / Frequently Mentioned Presses of 2010!  For these mini-reviews & others, make a visit.

Hospitalogy / Illness / Wellness

Thanks much to Amber DiPietra, who I've written on in relation to her work below, for posting a blurb about my hospital poem practice, those poems of mine that have wound up in Hospitalogy. Hospitalogy was at one point part of my new book Occultations, but the thing kept growing as I kept having to see doctors or get to the hospital, and so eventually it turned in to its own book(s). Good timing too, as a) I'm wrapping up what I have edited now as book to be gotten off my desk (I'm cured!), and b) I'd been hoping to link to DiPietra's website/non-profit community "Write to Connect." Write to Connect is a meeting place for artists interested in and/or participating in practices relating to "illness and wellness." This, plus (relatedly) mutual friend and also fantastic poet Eleni Stecopolous's "The Poetics of Healing" blog, which I've put up as link on the blogroll to the right. 

I'll soon be writing on Stecopolous's new, beautiful, game-changing Armies of Compassion (Palm Press, 2010), which includes a radical re-write of one of my favorite chapbooks of all time, Eleni's  Autoimmunology. The chap can still be found online (I think?) thru Deep Oakland. Mine is one of two review-essays I'm due to write over the next several months, the other being CA Conrad's new Wave edition of The Book of Frank. Daunting coupla months! 

The three of us--Eleni, Amber, and myself--along with most other members of Nonsite Collective, as people who've experienced or are passionate about narrating the problematics of "disability," we have a great deal in common regarding outlook on illness & ecology as relates to wider politics and practices, plus some really productive underlap too. So hopefully as I begin to write on Armies I won't butcher the work too much. In the meantime, highly recommended. Just as I'd recommended DiPietra's work in my earlier post. Both have taught me tons in such a small amount of time... 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Coupla Late Night Jags

I'm now beginning the process of clearing up some space on the blog, gathering up longer posts, links, etc. So, tonight's new file, now available as pdf for anyone interested, is a draft essay I wrote as part of my talk/discussion on the commons for Nonsite Collective. In reading Amber DiPietra's recent workplace somatic on her blog (my post on this at beginning of the archives), it occurred to me that for those with low vision, my entry on the Nonsite website is quite small, hence would make for difficult reading (my bad in uploading it this way). Less an essay and more a series of questions I'm mulling (and that those in attendance really helped me flesh out) regarding various relationships between commoning or reclamation of public spaces, the body as site(s) of resistance and as potential commons, and both labor organizing and poetry's roles in creating for potentially radical social formations.  Always interested in feedback, so feel free--but do make comments on the Nonsite Collective website, where you can find basically the same essay-thing there. 

Second, just now really digging into the new issue of Con/Crescent, link in a post below. Wow. Such cool essays. Really into Matthias Regan's "Towards a Harmolodic Poetry" right now. As the name might suggest, Regan uses as springboard objectivist theses on prosody, moves from there into the SF poets on same (Projective Verse), then quickly relates this work & Regan's own to experiments in contemporary hip-hop and jazz, close-reading Ornette Coleman on "harmolodics." Really looking forward to closely reading the rest of these pieces on, in one way or another, "music." Including the Thom Donovan-curated series of pieces on poetry and hip-hop. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Evergreen Course Description, Winter 2011 !!

For any interested...

Experiments in Text: Transgressive Art & Transgressive Bodies

Credits: 4


Faculty: David Wolach,

Days & Times: 5-7p Wed & 4-6p Sat

Location: TBA

Enrollment: 24

Web Site:

This course explores some of the complex cultural, personal, aesthetic, and political relationships between "transgressive" bodies and "transgressive" writing and art. What does it mean, in the west, for a body, or for an artwork, to trans-gress societal norms? We will look at contemporary work that takes the transgressive body—deemed sexually dangerous or deviant, for instance, or "dis-abled" and so "unfit" for work—to be a crucial site for social resistance, an "invisibility to be made visible" through collaborative/collective artistic practices, practices occurring often alongside, or as, protest. Though this is primarily a creative writing class, our writing will push itself outside its comfortable zones, its usual modes of operation. Emphasis will be put on experiments in breaking genre and mixing media, collaborating on pieces as well as making individual works, developing a poetics in relation to the social. We will discuss and critique the rich tradition of "somatic" practices in the world of performance and live art, including the work of artists such as Marina Abramovic, but we will also explore important recent experiments in poetry and prose by authors such as Hannah Weiner, Kenneth Gaburo, and CAConrad. Students will work both individually and collectively to investigate the radical potential of the transgressive body through making several pieces of art-writing. Our end goal will be to curate a show and live reading that complicates our thinking and breaks down barriers of many kinds: formal barriers of the work itself, social barriers within the Evergreen campus, as well as that between Evergreen’s campus and the broader Olympia community.

This work will be an extension and reimagining of PRESS, a reading series devoted to the intersection of text arts and radical politics. For more on PRESS, check out the blog at: And for more on David’s poetic and pedagogical experiments, check out his public website at

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reviews, anyone?

Both Spectre & Occultations, Mark Lemoureux's and my new books respectively, have been graciously posted by The Poetry Project as books received/for review. Any takers? Drop me a line here or via email... 

Meanwhile, here's a link to Mazen Kerbaj's website. Check it out.  Just added his blog KERBLOG (why'd it take so long?) to the blogroll here. Check it out.

Oh, & PLEASE check out the new issue of Con/Crescent. You'll be happy to have done so. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Labor Day Re-Up

For anyone interested in my notes on the Bay Area Labor Day Event, that blog post is now archived as a pdf--with consistent spelling of Andrew Joron's last name. Find it HERE. Note: ignore and/or correct the spelling & grammar, otherwise unedited. Labor intensive.

I post this now because on November 7th SPD is hosting a follow-up conversation, details on the Labor Day Event blog. Happy to see that continued efforts are being organized. Thanks again to the organizers for a really rich set of discussions.

5 Questions with Temporary Services

Thom Donovan introduces me to Temporary Services, a socially-engaged arts collective in Chicago. Immediately struck a chord with me in regard to what the Wheelhouse Arts Collective strives to do. Check out what they do and why, sample some of their work via Thom's interview and overview: 5 Questions with Temporary Services

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

After Party at Dirty Frank's

At the Bar, After The New Philadelphia Poets Reading: David, bright lights, w/CA Conrad's head barely visible, bottom left. Photo courtesy of Carlos Soto-Roman, reading comrade

Monday, October 18, 2010

Susana Gardner's Third Factory Mini-Review of Occultations

Huge thanks to Susana Gardner for writing a mini-review of Occultations, including this book as part of her list of 2010 book recommendations/short reviews for Third Factory's Notes to Poetry. Kevin Killian, & now Susana. Both of whom I admire. And like Killian's list of reviews, I love Susana's. Elizabeth Bryant's wonderful Nevertheless Enjoyment) and Kaia Sand's Remember to Wave, one of my favorite books out this past year, gets props too. If you don't have Sand's book, get it!  Again, many thanks to Susana.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rachel Zolf PRESS Report Now on PRESS BLOG, Tangent Reading

This is really an IOU for a fuller report on 2 back-to-back events: Rachel Zolf reading at Evergreen for PRESS on October 15, and my reading with Rachel and Portland poet B.T. Shaw for Tangent in Portland the following evening. 

An IOU, as, due to the sudden death of my mother, I was unable to attend the reading we'd set up for Rachel in Olympia. Elizabeth and I were in Detroit. So THAT particular reading's report will be written out in full on our PRESS blog, along with the audio file of the reading and discussion. I know several were interested in our books that evening, so due to our not having them as promised, feel free to go to SPD and support our small presses by getting your hands on either Occultations, Neighbour Procedure, or both. For now, there's a brief summary of the feedback we got so far up at the PRESS blog.

--------------------TANGENT REPORT-----------------

One day after Zolf's PRESS reading/discussion, we headed down to Portland to give a reading for the Tangent Reading Series, co-curated by Kaia Sand, Jules Boykoff, and Rodney Koeneke. Joining us was Portland poet and The Oregonian editor B.T Shaw. I debated whether to participate in the reading given how terribly out of it I am, but we decided it'd be good for me, a respite of sorts, to go ahead with it, spend some time with some of the most beautiful souls we know. Kaia, Jules, Rodney, and all who came out, including David Abel, Maryrose Larkin, and other Spare Room Collective folks, Allison Cobb, Jen Coleman, Lionel Lints--the close-knit Portland poetry scene, basically--were so kind and generous. 

Having difficulty knowing whether my reading went well or not, things a strange blur at moment, but I did manage to wrangle fantastic poet James Yeary into doing an interactive piece of it, a distraction zone staging in which he's given earphones and a recording of me reading a re-mix of the Bybee torture memorandum, listens and writes what comes to him, while Elizabeth and I are reading the polyvocal section of Occultations that makes use of this document. James is asked to stop writing when the recording ends, stand, and interrupt our reading with his own. He was an excellent sport about it and did some excellent spot writing. When I ask participants to write in similar fashion, i.e., via distraction and in concert with live reading, the work that results then, by author's choice, either becomes part of the ongoing series / cycle "Your Nerve Center Taxonomy" - or it doesn't. James graciously said that I could do whatever I wanted with his writing, which means I get to share it with you here, and later in print form. Note that he was writing this in real-time while having to listen to not two, but three audio inputs. Not that I think the results are bad writing, not at all. But figured I should let you know that James' work is often quite different, often quite precise and sparser. Anyway, here's what he came up with and read aloud last night:

give as an inattention  Scotland
the inatten wash sweet dash
harom figures individual why keekee
inatten service to shock stereo
complicit stereo varies flame the
subject as a form of down the muscle
is indecent our form as a down
inatten using four distortions
two stresses on the plinth debt
debt throu excerpted inactivity
pharmacalogical debt cooperative
repeat space as a pronounced form
an distress an you would like to
less cooperate predisposed to debt plinth
which is a proximate of sewn [seven]

So, many thanks to James for this. I felt good and cared for all night, got to laugh a bit and, of course, to hear Rachel and Shaw's amazing readings. Rachel's work I know well of course, having heard her read in New York years ago, that reading in fact one of those that helped decide for me to seriously write (by "seriously" I mean semi-consistently).  So, I got what I wanted: to hear her read again, as though Neighbour Procedure is perhaps my favorite book out this year (one of a handful anyhow), it's a different experience hearing her perform the work. Zolf read "Acknowledgment," which I would have requested had she closed out without it. Was just a real kick in the ass hearing the work. And B.T. Shaw's work, which I didn't know very well, having only read individual poems in journals, really drew itself into a complicated conversation with Zolf's work, with Occultations too--each new work responding in some way to the paradoxes and contradictions of art and the "docile body" taken up, used, spent, and otherwise weaponized by neo-liberalism/militarism. Shaw's manuscript in progress, investigating a military officer's murder of his wife, base life, military culture, all of it woven both lyrically and via the found, appropriated, and remixed, the performativity hence situating itself as related to the performativity of Occultations and Neighbour Procedure. For me a really happy discovery of a work! (Not to mention a lovely human being.)

Most importantly for me it was a night that allowed me to feel "in my body" for a moment, and so I thank Jules, Kaia, Rodney, B.T., Rachel,  those who came out, and the Open Space Cafe, for a truly necessary (for me) evening. As does Elizabeth who'd been nearly single-handedly taking care of me for the past few days.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Use of a Different Kind...

Can't help but point you to this poem by Thom Donovan, untitled as far as I know. Bumped into it this morning. Right in time for discussions on "use" and aesthetic practices in my poetry & pedagogy course... 

Posted over at Wild Horses Of Fire: "Let art lay fallow here...

Friday, October 8, 2010

A few quick notes

The Black Radish Blog, link below, in addition to a lovely review of Mark Lemoureux's new title Spectre, has also added a side-bar of links to reviews and features of all the titles published thus far: Occultations (full print run to come), Marthe Reeds Gaze, and Spectre. Check out the new digs.
OlyBlog just went live with the announcement of Rachel Zolf's PRESS reading at Evergreen on Friday, October 15, 7pm. Scroll down the posts for details. And join us!
Con/Crescent, the great journal edited by J. Townsend and Nicholas DeBoer just posted a link & synopsis of the PhillySound Feature of Occultations by CA Conrad and friends. Thanks much for the shout-out.

Bookslut interview with Dottie Lasky! Check it out  HERE.

New Review of Mark Lamoreux's Spectre

Rhonda dean Robison responds to Mark Lamoureux's Spectre over at the Black Radish Blog. Nice review/critical essay. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Thought Fragments About Freire & The Banking Model of Education Revisited

A follow-up from a post I made last time I read, studied, workshopped Friere.


When I was in college I loved good lectures.  There was a particular professor who had radical politics and expressed a humanizing kind of indigence whenever we were talking outside of the classroom.  He left his politics at the door, and we were all thankful, because without ideology in the way, the whole performance, the delivery of facts about the most distant reaches of our universe, the warp-speed at which equations were scribbled on the chalkboard, kicking up clouds of dust, the dust synchronizing with the tempo of spleen-exploding jokes--asides--explanations-resolving back into jokes without so much as an "um"... the whole performance was worth the price of admission! (forty grand for those unlike me who had to pay tuition).  

Of course, this is ideology at work, an example of "banking education," to use Freire's term. The ideology of neo-liberal, quietist education a la Stanley Fish, to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for his poking me on facebook (click on "Reading Instructions" below the poem and its dividing line, and watch the movie!). 

Preparing for my first lecture of the semester, investigating Freire with respect to radical poetry, politics, & pedagogy, I suddenly remembered what I'd told my partner a couple years ago.  It was an observation born of the experience above, but also of my teaching at three institutions, all in most respects completely different in terms of stated mission, philosophy of education.  Whenever I lectured in a traditional, "banking" sense, whenever I performed teaching, e.g., giving a prepared, polished, delivery of some kind or another, students seemed to love it, always wanting more.  "David's lectures are uniquely performative," one student wrote in an evaluation of my teaching a couple years ago.  And yet whenever I entered the classroom with my vulnerabilities, my ideology, my anxieties exposed--whenever opening up the two hour lecture space to discussion, mutual problem solving, a "student-teacher, teacher-student" environment, students would often complain.  What's with that? I asked.  

My partner half-joking, but I think rightly, said that I probably was none too good at helping shape a good discussion, making a safe space for dialogic pedagogy to take place.  Rightly, because another student not too long ago wrote that I need to "trust the students more," which I take to be a really sharp observation/critique: I don't, in other words, trust myself (my humanity, my subject-ness among other subjects) enough to be trusting.  In a dialogic classroom, were real thinking to take place, to fail oneself in this regard is to fail others, to paraphrase Rodriquez.  

There is something different at work, tho.  Or beyond my failing to trust the total context, as it were, and lay bare here.  A different failing, one that speaks to a systemic failure, his problematic points aside (romanticism, side-stepping functional difficulties in cognitively activating brains, etc), that Freire grapples with, making Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed,especially chapter 2, so crucial for educators--"students" and "teachers".  I distinctly remember being an early college student (1st and 2nd year) and loving a good lecture.  A "good" lecture has all the markings of a "good" performance: eloquence, mastery of facts, and flare entertains here, and the larger narrative is completely predictable (like a Broadway show or realist Hollywood movies), yet the smaller narratives within it, like epicycles, are filled with surprise, schisms.  As such, as student I was spectator.  I got to play the passive audience member, and now that I think of it, if I only had 3D glasses and popcorn and a date, it would have been (me many years ago saying this) rad.  Or conversely, off the hook.  What do you remember about those lectures? I asks me.  That they were rad slash off the hook.  What else?  The universe is vast, statistical mechanics is hard!  What a disservice, I think now, for this professor to have left his humanity at the door, or, in performative terms, to have tried on a roll and stuck firmly to it.  This realistically thus downright anti-realistic caricature god / entertainer was so good at entertaining / throwing whole libraries of knowledge-systems at me that he inspired me toteach, instead of learn with.  This is an example of "taking the low road," as Fish puts it, which though seemingly difficult, is much easier than finding one-another's humanity in and through the world that has shaped us, but that we can equally, even if slowly, reshape.  What's gained here from being uniquely performative, scripted in ways that surprise?  To entertain and maintain classroom hierarchies?  And all the worse when it's a teacher in the arts (me, say) who is double-reinforcing that "fourth wall" between student and teacher (these respective roles) all the while espousing the efficacies of praxis-oriented post-realist theater that, thankfully for us revolutionaries, "knocked down that fourth wall a long time ago!" 

Questions I have now, and I suppose will be grappled with in various ways throughout this new semester have to do with the lecture format, its mirroring the control-oppression mechanisms of capitalism, where students become either passive audience members, or functionaries for one particular narrative (without cracks!) building.  The central question, as I write this, is this: does the lecture format, within a comparatively alternative educational model such as Evergreen State College (one of the places I teach, born out of the alternative education movement, where the norm is team teaching, open classroom, alternative education) have any use value?  Does it have pedagogical value---i.e., does it help in any way whatsoever in facilitating a collaborative and dialogic co-learning process?  My suspicion is that there is something the lecture model, the performative mode of the professor doing most of the talking, controlling a room in a certain fashion, etc, that does, in some environments, help facilitate. And my suspicion is that this can only be the case where the lecture model is the exception and not the rule.  And yet, where is this use value to be located?  And if my suspicion is correct, why is it correct?  I think one fruitful way to interrogate this question is to ask it differently: if the dialogic model that Freire proposes as revolutionary were to be the norm, and not the exception, how would the lecture be perceived, and what end would it provoke, if any?  A beautiful dream of a counterfactual, this.  Not unlike the question I often propose in the classrom, albeit in more particularized contexts, a question which lies parallel, here (posed often enough by Adorno): what would art's function be (or functions, potentially), were we to form a social system that, at very least, was one in which power is equally distributed, we treat one another equally as subjects, and we are recognized and celebrated each to our own desires and abilities?  Certainly there would be "art," but its various functions, let alone conventions, would in some way drastically shift. What might be some of the ways this term, and its supposed indeterminate but very real set of referents, would shift? 

Last, I suspect that the question central to me--that regarding the performative aspects of lectures so-called and their potential within a Freirean framework--has a lot to do with aesthetics.  That is, one might (I might) argue that rather than separate from aesthetics, repositioning education as an aesthetic event could help to flesh out what, in part, I take to be implicitly going on in Freire's critical pedagogy, the lecture having some potential as non-normative performance (hence requiring for a non-normative lecture).  Question then becomes: what would this look like?  And in what sense can the lecture become praxis-driven? Ranciere, I take (for example) to be fleshing these questions out via redistribution of the sensible.  More on that as our class looks at Ranciere's work a couple weeks from now.

Meanwhile, for any interested, here's a cross-wiring of blogs.  Our radical poetry, politics & pedagogy course blog is now up and running once again.  And how how ugly and problematic wordpress is proving to be thus far...  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Notes to Poetry / Kevin Killian Mini-Review

                           one of 64 images/drawings in Occultations

Many thanks to Kevin Killian for including his mini-review of Occultations as part of his Notes to Poetry from Third Factory. Many thanks to Steve Evans and Third Factory for the feature. Killian remarks, within a very kind review, that I must have given the designers hell in writing Occultations, given the visual work that's part of it. Indeed. I laughed when I read that because of the sheer hair-pulling-out that I caused with the design of the book. Anyway, I also like Killian's list overall. He includes in his 2010 list of short reviews one regarding Steve Farmer's new title, and, exciting to see, Rachel Levitsky's Neighbor. This IS a beautiful, tight, politically charged book of poems. And like Killian, I also think the poets theater piece in it is brilliant. The book in that piece performs its own emergence from (to use Baldwin's phrase) a "submerged being"--submerged, as in subjugated, or: in hiding. Killian also lists among his books Natalie Knight's new title from Punch Press. Archipelagos I need to order, had forgotten it was on its way to publication when I first heard she had a book coming out. Knight and I overlapped by a year at Evergreen--a student of Leonard Schwartz's, she graduated, I think in 2007, and I remember her being very talented, asking good questions during Leonard's seminars/guest poet readings, which I attended.  So, congrats to Knight. And again, thanks much to Kevin & Third Factory for the shout out.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

get ready for a sound

to George Quasha

     the future

     in two

     the shales

     as unalike

     washed up

     the loaded


*written as part of the Hospitalogy series, in relation & response to Quasha's Axial Stone work. See his different axial projects here. Not to be missed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gaburo Rehearsal Excerpts 2

Performance rehearsal of Maledetto, Kenneth Gaburo. To be performed in Nov thru Spring in OR, elsewhere. Schedule (hopefully) to come soon. See post at end of this blog for more on Gaburo & the piece. Enjoy?