English 262

The Expanded Field of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E
contemporary poetry after 1975

(charles.bernstein @ english.upenn.edu)
Spring 2016
T/Th 3-4:30



Key E-Resouces:
EPC Digital Library
Gale Literature Resource Center  
Literary Encyclopedia
Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
Twentieth-Century American Poetry

Required Books at Penn Book Center
Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry, ed. Paul Hoover (2d edn) (NPM)
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Hello, the Roses (New Directions, 2013)
Bones Will Crow,, ed. James Byrne and kiko thet (Northern Illinois University Press)
Caroline Bergvall, Meddle English (Nightboat edns)

Digital Books:
Lyn Hejinian, My Life|
Douglas Messerli, From the Other Side of the Century (FOSC)

Further resources: Introduction to Electronic Literature (to be intergrated into this syllabus)


The first thing to do is
subscribe to the course Discussion list (via Google groups): wreading
email to list: re-wreading -- @ -- sas.upenn.edu

•The second thing to do is
to pick three poets for which you will be the respondent. Two classes before the chosen poet is on the syllabus, send one or two quetions for class discussion.

My intro the course
note: some of these require the password I send by email, not PennKey

The Expanded Field of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E

"Abosorption" entry for the Princeton Encl. Poetry/Poetics: pdf
further reading (optional): Artifice of Absorption
"Language Sampler
The Paris Review, Number 86 (Winter, 1982)

43 Poets (1984)

special issue of boundary 2

"Further Reading" on poetics for "The Practice of Poetics"

American Poetry after 1975, boundary 2


This syllabus is a work in progress and subject to change.

N.B. Alan Golding on my FB post on this anthology (8/24): "... as a start I'd point to the title, "A New American Poetry"--with emphasis on the "A." In that title, Douglas was calling up the title of Donald Allen's massively influential The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (featuring all those crucial poets from the 1974 Stony Brook that you mention) and (1) investigating what happened next with the multifarious lines of possibility adumbrated in Allen's anthology; (2) asserting something like an alternative "tradition" (two terms--alternative, tradition--both of which obviously bear scrutiny). The goal is to represent particular lines, affiliations, developments, etc. in so-called experimental US American poetry, not to be inclusive or try to represent the range of practices that mark any given historical moment. The non-inclusion of, for instance, brilliant (as far as I'm concerned) poets like Rich and Lorde is explained by the fact that they come from very different lines (pun partly intended) from those that the anthology intends to represent. The anthology was part of a mid-1990s anthological reassessment / revisiting of the Allen anthology that includes Eliot Weinberger's *Outsiders* (hope I remember that title right) and the first edition of Hoover's *Postmodern American Poetry*. I for one think a lot of the choices in Douglas' anthology are interestingly independent and unpredictable--blessedly unaligned with the pieties of the "tradition" that he's partly representing--and I've always regretted its long-term non-availability. OK--sorry if that sounds as longwinded and pedantic as I fear it does."

DATES here refer to earlier version of class. The syllbus will be updated in January.

1. Intro

2. Aram Saroyan & Robert Smithson
as possible by now: but intoductory readings, listed above under "My Intro to the Course," but esp. "Expanded Field" [use psswd given in Welcome email!), which serves as a kind of introductory lecture for the seminar.
Robert Smithson, "A Heap of Language" (1966); commentary by Richard Sieburth

Aram Saroyan (Random House, 1968)

further reading (as time permits):
Pages (Random House, 1969)
Cloth: An Electric Novel (Big Table, 1971)

extensions: the Saroyan NEA scandal
Futher reading (optional):
this work opens onto a more extensive international movement in visual and concrete poetry form the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the "minimalist" poetry of Grenier and Coolidge and to the visual art movement of this name (Carl Andre, Richard Tuttle)
d.a. levy (1942-1968), Tibetan Stoboscope (1968); about this work; more works
Carl Andre poems: Map of Poetry, "now now" (1967), alphabet, from Sackner collection

Wreading assingments this week and after:
As a general rule, try to imitate the poems read either in form or style: make poems with similar structures or apply the strutcure to a pre-existing text (another poem from the syllabus; see wreading experiments).
So for this week and next, try a homophonic translation (see experiments list) after Melnick (Sept. 11), or extract the sort of restricted vocabulary of early Coolidge from, say, Mayer (below); or create a Coolidge Space-like "arrangement" poem from other Coolidge works (for Sept. 9). For Saroyan/Smithson: perhaps try a visual/concrete poem or do one of the cuts up or recombinations of his poems: maybe making a more traditional looking poem with his vocabulary (if possible).

Journal response for this week: If this kind of material is new to you, comment on your initial reactions: anything you like or dislike, both specific and general. Of the poems in the introductory reading or by Saroyan: again, at first reading, what poems did you like best/least (or would you not make your response to specific sections of the work but to the work overall)? Why? Then try it out on Saroyan or d.a. levy or Smithson. Contrast Saroyan and Smithson (or levy). What happens when so much empahsis is placed on the visual arrangement of language? What is the relation to adverstings, graphic design, and visual art? Saroyan, Grenier, and Coolidge are not usually viewed as visual or concrete poets, if you know about visual/concrete: why?
Try the Poem Profiler as a self-test, if you have not used this before. In other words, run it on your own general preferences.


Nuyorican poets
Willie Perdoma — "Nigger Reecan Blues" on Def Jam Poetry: YouTube
; text
Pedro Pietri, "Puerto Rican Obituary": YouTube,   & ealier;   text & https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=13&v=0UqZAYVivzQ
Mayda Del Valle, "Tongue Tactics": YouTube
Felipe Luciano, "Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger": YouTube & at Sing-Sing & text
The Last Poets, "When the Revolution Comes"

Maggie Estep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=37&v=dzPcWA639lU

John Yau 
Hoover anthology selection 
John Yau on PennSound (not Close Listening converstion) 
"Ing Grish"; Yau reads this poem on Close Listening (text in Hoover)
"Kingdom of Poetry"

Rachel Zolf, Janey's Arcadia
[optional: Zolf at PennSound and at EPC

Clark Coolidge
NPM & FOSC (567) (= read selection in the Hoover and Messerli anthologies, page number in FOSC is usually given, though not there is an index at back)
Coolidge Gale intro (by Bruce Campbell)
My 1978 essay on early Coolidge
PennSound page
from Code of Signals, from Notebooks 1976-1982 (pp. 43-56)
EPC Coolidge page selected:
from Space, from The Maintains, from Polaroid, from Own Face, from American One, from Mine: The One That Enters the Stories, from The Crystal Text, and from At Egypt
from Quartz Hearts
Further reading: many full text books from EPC and Eclipse linked at EPC page, various essays linked at EPC page.
•What is the vocalary of The Maintains and Poloroid (what part of speech are used). How does he use this to create sonic rhythms in these works? What (or where) is the "meaning" here?
•Discuss Coolidge's conception of "Arrangement"
•How does Coolidge use the line break versus prose format in his work?
Respondent: Dane
Trisha Low's questions: 1. How do you feel reading the work - do you feel grounded at all? in the familiarity of the simple words and pop-culture images? or are they rendered more foreign. Can we consider Coolidge's work a new sort of language altogether? 2. On Polaroid - how does the 'crystal' and the 'image' figure into this particular work? after all, it's not as immediately minimalist and visual like saroyan's work if a picture is an image, and coolidge's work seems to oscillate between word-constellation and density, how does this relate to saroyan's description of a huge 'cliff of rock'. Similar? Different? 3. Write a sentence that uses several nouns as verbs. Coolidge uses this method (or at least i feel he does), but how does that make you start feeling about this thing what they call the 'object'? i don't know yet, but i'd love to talk to you all and find out. 4. How does Coolidge's 'crystal axes' relate to the notion of the lens? I wrote last year about Zukofsky's "Songs of Degrees" 'one situation that fractures slowly and temporally, splinters in a reader’s consciousness and stick like shrapnel, reflecting and multiplying areas of identification ... and its slow transformation, the breakdown of lines into a different coherence, a linearity that is shattered and drawn magnetically together every time it moves'. You can read "Songs of Degrees" here.


4. (Sept. 11) David Melnick
David Melnick (EPC page) (1938- )
Ron Silliman's overview of Melnick's works
Read opening pages; beyond as time permits:
Men in Aida (homophonic tr. of Illiad) via Eclipse:
Men in Aida, Book One ; Men in Aida, Book Two
A Pin's Fee
(pdf) (1987-88)
further reading:
Mark Scroggins on Pcoet, including some biographical information
respondents Jason & Dylan: How his poems seem to waver between illegibility and language that you can “make sense of.” Words may be slightly misspelled. Do you find yourself filling in these gaps when reading the poems? Do you invent words and narratives that “might be there?” Think of Ron Silliman’s comments about an excess of context w/r/t AIDS and A Pin’s Fee: “A Pin’s Fee could be read as a journal of the plague years, San Francisco during the first full brunt of the AIDS pandemic. Yet that reading leaves us more with context than text.” To what extent are you inventing the poem as you read it? We found that our meditative exercise of retyping PCOET forced us to consider how Melnick may have generated these texts and to what extent the results are carefully measured or more in the vein of typed “abstract expression.”
•Use the poem profiler on Pcoet and discuss results
•What meaning do you find in the poems of Pcoet; what formal devices do you find?
•Give your reaction to homophinic translation; for those of you who know the Zukofsky, dicscuss in that context.


5. (Sept. 16) Lyn Hejinian
NPM ((poems and poetics) & FOSC (584)
Lyn Hejinian (EPC author page)
My Life (Green Integer digital edn)
Hejinian LINEbreak interview and PennSound page
Hejinian EPC page (note Eclipse links to digital books)
Intro to Hejinian by Juliana Spahr (note also Spahr on My Life) (via Gale Literature Resource Center)
"Rejection of Closure"
My Life blog

Respondent: Madeline:
How do you inhabit or not inhabit the "I" in "My Life"? How do you read subjectivity into Hejinian's work and how do you read the narrator as the other? I'm entranced by the appearance of aphoristic phrases among memories, imperatives and first-person statements--"We have poured into the sink the stale water in which the iris died. Life is hopelessly frayed, all loose ends." In the world "My Life" creates, how does aphorism--even cliched language--shape subjectivit[y/ies]? "But language is restless. They say there has been too much roughhousing." I find tremendous pleasure in "filling in the gaps." Hejinian's dreamlike images provide a lot of pleasure in themselves. Hejinian speaks about replacing uncertainty with curiosity in the open text. Where, in a closed text, interpretation may be frustrating because it seems as if a specific meaning is elusive, in the open text, it's an active and continuous project. Do you find yourself attempting to construct a cohesive narrative, or a cohesive sense of the narrator's identity? How do your attempts frustrate or reward you? Can our interpretations be both cohesive and fluctuating?

Valeria's dicussion points: 1) Hejinian mentions that the unconventional narrativity of her autobiographical work opens up possibilities for new "logics" in the relationships between sentences. How would you describe the type of "logical" continuity at work in between the sentences of My Life, for example? 2) Hejinian's work has a Steinian flavor, in that it explores the possibilities of returning reality to reality. (Stein wrote that "Rose is a rose is a rose" was the first time in 100 years that a rose had been red/read in English poetry.) How does Hejinian's project of "experiencing experience" compare? 3) I'm interested in the tension between "openness" and "the free-for-all" that Hejinian denies in Rejection of Closure. ("It is impossible to discover any string or bundle of words that is entirely free of posible narrative or psychological content. Moreover, though the 'story' and 'tone' of such works may be interpreted differently by different readers, nonetheless the readings differ within definite limits. While word strings are permissive, they do not license a free-for-all.") How does this boundedness-within-openness work?
Lily: ---Do you have an emotional reaction to this piece? Is it based on the content of Hejinian's sentences, or her form of sentence arrangement, or both? ---So, how does My Life live up to Hejinian's view of the world and view of how poetry should relate to the world, as taken from "Rejection of Closure"? Do you feel it's an open text? Where, if at all, do you feel closed off by her word choices or descriptions? What do you think of the constraint she placed on herself to write the work (37 chapters with 37 sentences each, because she first wrote My Life when she was 37. Then at age 45 she went back and revised it to be 45 chapters with 45 sentences each)? Does the constraint enhance, contradict, compliment, relate, etc.? to her desire for an open versus a closed text? How would My Life be different without this constraint? With a more "constraining" constraint (more rules to follow)? --Thinking physically about the form of the book, does the block text style and prose-i-ness bear too much similarity to a traditional memoir, or does its close similarity in physical form enhance her position on the need for openness in writing? --Where are places where her arrangement of sentences is successful, opens up her language to create meaning? Are there places where her arrangement is not successful? Can you read the whole book as "separate fragment[s] taken under scrutiny"(see above quote from p. 71)? Is that what Hejinian is advocating? --What do you think about the thread of seemingly transcribed sentences? EX the 2nd sentence in this quote: p. 46 "I stopped eating corn on the cob and lobster, not because I no longer liked the taste but because I disliked the mess. A cluttered room makes for a cluttered mind." I relate this to the current running through the book that speaks to how we learn language as children, and who has authority over that learning. But I go back and forth, thinking first that it's too subtle a point and that I wish she had dealt with that subject more often and more directly, but then I think that the point of the work is that it makes that commentary without trying to be an authoritative voice on the subject, and then that just leaves me pleasantly confused as to what I think. --Final quick thought I had between thinking I finished composing this e-mail and almost pressing "send": What is the relationship between My Life and Hejinian's critical works like "Two Stein Talks"?

6. (Sept. 18) Bernadette Mayer (EPC author page)
NPM & FOSC (689)
PennSound Close Listening interview and PennSound page
Mayer intro by Peter Baker (DLB): Access via Gale Literary Resources Center about Mayer
Memory (via Ecplipse) (read opening pages, as time permits)
Mid-Winter Day (via Twenthieth Century American Poetry e-site) (read opening pages, as time permits) (note: for all poems on this site: use "text" view to get rid of the line #s.
Further optional readings: More Mayer at "Twentieth Century American Poetry" (via library e-recources), included her selected poems.
Nick Piombino: "Writing and Free Association" and "Writing and Self-Disclosure" in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E #s 1 & 3.
respondent: Christina:
During the discussion of Hejinian last class her style was described as fluency with discontinuity. To what extent does Mayer follow this style? Could you argue that she has a sense of fluency like Hejinian does? Can you clearly define what Mayer's memories are about? Does there seem to be any connection between her memories? Mayer is also much more disorganized than Hejinian using run on sentences more frequently and elipses much more frequently too. What does this attribute to her poetry and the way you read it? How can we interpret the frequent use of elipses, pauses while Mayer struggles to remember her perceptions of certain memories? Breaks? Contemplation? As a reader how did you deal with Mayer's use of "you" in her poetry. Who is the "you" she writes about? Going back to Madeleine's question about occupying the "I" in Hejinian's poem can you do the same with Mayer? Who is the "I"? Also what about Mayer's use of poems within the general poem of Memories? How can we interpret that? Does it heighten the diary like quality to the overall poem? What is its functions? As with the majority of things I have read in this class I struggled a little, especially because Mayer is quite dense. It is fascinating to me just how different Mayer and Hejinian are from each other. I couldn't stop comparing the two writers to one another as I read them. Unlike "My Life" I could not occupy the "I" in this poem nor did I know who the "you" was either in "Memories" exactly

compare and contrast Hejinian's measured and programmatic vs Mayer's "free" associative style (as in Memory). Which is more personal? (warning: sophistical question).
Write an argument against Hejinian's view of closure.
Discuss the role of memory in Mayer and Hejinian.

Write an imaginary dialogue between Mayer and Hejinian.
Or, it's a classic of Eng. 111: do a "free write": write as fast as you can without thinking/analyzing/trying to direct thoughts for at least one hour.
Write down autobiographical fragments and order nonsequentially with repeats, as in My Life.

Serial sentences:  Select one sentence each from a variety of different books or other sources or from the anthologies.  Add sentences of your own composition.  Combine into one paragraph, reordering to produce the most interesting results.

Yolanda: 1. Many of Mayers poems are text dense. What is your initial reaction to the longer paragraphs of poetry in for example Erudito Ex Memorial or Studying Hunger? How do you approach reading poems like this? How does it compare to reading fiction? Can we label this poetry, or prose, or some sort of hyrbrid? 2. Do you think that reading Meyer and Hejinian in a different sequence, like reading Meyer first or Hejinian second would change the way you approached the poems? Would it change some of the conclusions that you drew when you compared the too? 3. Describe the methodology of Memory? Do you think that Memory takes the personal to an extreme? Do you think that what Meyer is doing is courageous?


7. (Sept. 23) M. NourbeSe Philip
Discourse on the Logic of Language; mp3
Zong: pdf; cf: introduction, #1, a few more pages
respondent: Christina: When listening to Discourse on the Logic of Language how do you guys feel? Do you believe she is talking about oppressed groups and which one? What do you think of the use of language in this poem and the way she structured it? Emmett discusses this point further in his response. Zong! Is incredibly powerful as well, but in a much more nightmarish way. Her portrayal of what happened on that boat is definetely well done. Leaving the reader with a sense of horror. A good part of the nightmare aspect is the way she formatted the poem and the repetition of words. How does everyone else believe the structure and use of repeated words in Zong! impact the way the reader perceives it. What do you guys think of her use of history in her poems? Does it add whole new dimensions and make it stronger? Would it be the same if she didn't make these references to history? What about her use of cadence in her poems? When you read Zong! how did you read it? Fast and choppy? Sorry this was so long! Also on the point Gabriel made, "Zong! is the most accessible piece we have read for this class so far." I would agree with him and it would be of interest to see what other people think of it.

8. (Sept. 25) Robert Grenier
FOSC (603)
•Grenier at PennSound:  Start with the two Close Listening Radio shows
•Sentences (complete) from Whale Cloth Press. In 2003, twenty-five years after its publication of the original edition of 500 boxed 5" x 8" index cards, Whale Cloth Press has made available a web-based version of this work. Before viewing: read the NOTE on the web version of this poem. Also see: image of the original box.
•"Rough" translations from Drawing/Poems, 2004
A conversation with Charles Bernstein (Jacket, 2008
respondent: Gabriel, Marion
Gabriel: It felt to me like, with both the drawn poems and Sentences, I was a scavenger digging around to find the poem. With Sentences, the reader is given a pile of white cards and they get to search for their reading material, deciding the order as they like. With the drawing poems, I sat trying to focus my eyes on following the shape of each letter's lines, trying to pull out meaning. Why do you think Grenier sets up these paradigms? Why make us scavenge for poems? What do you make of his comment in interview with Prof. Bernstein that books "don't burp. No matter how much beer you give them, they don't burp?" In Sentences, do you find yourself creating connections between cards? What kind of narrative do you make, if so? Is there a setting created by the poems? Do bird sounds, traffic, conversations, etc. place the poems in any distinct way? How can we compare the poems of Sentences to the minimalist poems of Aram Saroyan? Are they as illustrative as Saroyan's? Do you think that Grenier relies on the paratext and font as much as Saroyan, or even at all? Why do you think some poems are titled? What do the titles add and why do some poems not get this "privilege?" In thinking about the bird poems, are they only a sort of homophonic translation of bird songs? or is there more to what they do? What? Finally, what is the effect of the obscurity of Grenier's handwriting in the drawing poems? Why does he make us fight so hard just to see the word "moon" or "tree?" What is the effect made by, after several minutes of staring at one of the drawing poems, pulling something like "what is shining?" What does that do to us as readers?


9. (Sept. 30) Susan Howe
NPM (poems and poetics) & FOSC (275)
EPC page
PennSound, esp. LINEbreak program
Poetry Foundation
respondent: Christina
•how does Howe relate to the poets we have read so far?

10. (Oct. 2) Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) (
NY Times obit)
audio for the first three here (protected)
text: The Revolution Will not Be Televised (c. 1970) & youtube audio
text: Winter in America & youtube video
text: Enough;   youtube
text: Paint It Black; mp3, youtube
text: Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul;   youtube
Respondent: Madeleine, Benjamin
•Is this a song?: what is the difference?
•Compare each poet in terms of familiar language/unfamiliar language: give examples.
•Scott-Heron is a singer-songwriter, lyricist, poet? What sense does it make to include him with mostly text-based poets in this class? Is he a poet or a lyricist? How does his work resemble/influence later developments in hip-hop and rap?
•Compare to The Last Poets eg youtube of "When the Revolution Comes" (c. 1970) (text). You can hear The Last Poets on Spotify etc. (Also much more Scott-Heron on Spotify etc.)

11. (Oct. 7) Zeyar Lynn, Burmese poet
We will meet at KWH for his reading. I will introduce. Reading begins at 3:30pm -- it is scheduled during our class time.
Assigned book: Bones Will Crow, contemporary Burmese poetry
Language-Oriented Poetry in Burma
Close Listening shows
Jet Ni
Funeral of Rugged Gold, ko-ko theg
appart from commentary on Zeyar Lynn's work or the anthology, come in with some questions for him. I will do the show as Close Listening reading -- perhaps 45 minutes, rest will be discussion. As for Wreading -- try some homophonic translations (translating for sound as in Melnick) after listening to the sound files of his readings.
new: review of anthology

12. (Oct. 9) Ron Silliman
PROLOGUE for Silliman and Andrews: Mario Savio's 1964 speech, Berkeley"free speech" movement:


Ron Silliman@EPC
PennSound: LINEbreak interview
Tom Marhall DLB/Gale intro; Poetry Fdn bio
"Disappearance of the Word, Appearance of the World": read; print (L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Supp. #3 via Eclipse)
Ketjak: pdf download, web doc (first section of The Age of Huts or buy full book from UC Press or read rest at EPC)
"Sitting Up, Standing, Taking Steps" (Tuumba, 1978)
"The New Sentence"

-What do you make about the difference between the direct repetition Silliman uses in The Age of Huts and the indirect repetition he uses in “Sitting up, Standing, Taking Steps” (For example: Revolving door in the opening of The Age of Huts and the various representations of the color orange in “Sitting up, Standing, Taking Steps”)? -Of the two works, which is more personal? Why? -I was struck by the cover of The Age of Huts, not that it did not seem an appropriate representation of his work, it did, but it seemed to me to fit the difference between the two poetic works that I focused on. This work was much more about the forever, infinity, and the undying, much like a plastic bottle that will always be trapped in a landfill. What cover would you imagine for “Sitting up, Standing, Taking Steps”? -I listened to Silliman’s Linebreak interview before reading any of his works, and I found that Silliman’s voice was a key part of understanding his texts. His tone was authoritative, yet his intonation left patches of ambiguity open to the listener. How did you feel listening to Silliman read his work? -What role does the period play in Silliman’s work?

Sarah's Andrews questions:
The poets we’ve read so far seem to be primarily poets, but Bruce Andrews works as a political scientist. How does this affect his work, and inform your reading of it? Was it something you noticed? As an offshoot of the Andrews-as-political-scientist: How does knowledge of the political climate at the time Andrews is writing affect your reading of the poems? Re: his opinions on reading as construction (re: "The Poetics of L=")—does this make the poetry seem more or less difficult to read? Is it freeing, or a cause for more responsibility? Where do you think Andrews’s work falls on the scale of masculinity? And for what reason? Can it be quantified? Does Andrews’s work succeed or fail? Are these concepts mutually exclusive?

Discussion: Is there any connection that you can sense between Mario Savio's "Free Speech Movement" speech (clip above) and the work of these poets? Does the work of these two poets open up or require different approaches to reading than other writing (poetry or prose)? If so, detail. Andrews has written very long works, for example The Millennium Project: what does this scale suggest about readability: does is encourage you to read in different ways or does it test the limits of the readable? Ketjak is structured around each paragraph doubling the number of sentences from the previous paragraph and including all the words from that paragraph: how does knowing this affect your reading? What is your reaction to this kind of programmatic form? Jeopardy has an alphabetic arrangement: how does this effect your reading? Discuss and compare the essay styles of the two poets and comment/respond on their essays: what do you agree with most or least? These are both white male writers; how is this (if it is) reflected in their work; is this significant for a reading of their work?
Wreading: Try writing a work in any of the styles of one of these poems. Sample and recombine the poems to make a new work. Use material from Andrews to created a Silliman poem and vice versa (eg compose a Jeopardy-like work with words from Silliman). Procedural form (writing a poem according to some prescribed numeric pattern): try for example a Fibonacci (cf.  Silliman’s Tjanting): 1,1,2,3,5 to construct the units of a poem: words, phrases, lines, sentences. Invent new material or use anthologies for source texts. The Andrews System: Use a small cut-up blank pages or pad or memo book; over the week, write down from a couple of words to at most a couple of phrases on each page. Shuffle the pages to lose any temporal sequence. From the results, compose a poem.

13. (Oct. 14) Ted Greenwald
Makes Sense (pdf)
FOSC (620)
EPC: start with this selection
PennSound: start with Close Listening
respondent: Dylan

Oct. 14: Jaap Blonk at KWH

14. (Oct. 16) Caroline Bergvall
class visit
Required book: Bergvall, Meddle English (Nightboat)
EPC page, carolinebergvall.com
see esp. introduction (my commentary on this and link to excerpt) and Chaucer pieces.
"Say Parsley" (Shibboleth) & Video: Data piece conceived for the siting of our installation at MuHKa, Museum of Contemporary Arts (Antwerp, 28 May- 17 August 2008). The list of written Flemish, French and English words tries to match the spoken English list.
•What Do We Mean by Performance Writing?   
•Close Listening (aka Studio 111)
•"Via" & text (note text not linked at PennSound page)
•Shorter Chaucer Tales
•"About Face": Early working notes towards Goan Atom 2 (2000); opening section
•Marjorie Perloff on "Via" and "About Face" (pp. 221-24) or better at Jacket (search).
•Brian Reed: Lost already walking: Caroline Bergvall's VIA
Respondent: Benjamin, Marion

1. What role does constraint play in Bergvall’s work? 2. Is it possible to historicize Bergvall’s work without ignoring certain aspects of her performative poetics? Which is more important? 3. Are Bergvall’s poetics more apparent in her poetry than those of the other poets we’ve read? (I’m thinking about Arkadii last week denying the existence of a brightline between the two) How does reading her commentary on her poetry affect your reading of the poems?

15. (Oct. 21) Bruce Andrews @EPC
PMP, FOSC (1056)
PennSound: LINEbreak interview & transcript
The Poetics of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E (2001)

"Love Song" #116 (mid-1970s)
Film Noir (1978): sample a few pages ...
Jeopardy (Awede, 1980)
from Live at the Ear: "I Knew the Signs by Their Tents" (1988): (5:43)  text & mp3
The Millennium Project (c. 1990): sample a few pages ...
Mistaken Identity: #1 & #4 (The East Village, 2001)
Respondent: Dane, Dylan
Andrews in L=: [Vol. I, No. 1] [Vol. I, No. 2] [Vol. I, No. 3] [Vol. I, No. 3] [Vol. I, No. 4] [Vol. I, No. 4] [Vol. I, No. 5] [Vol. I, No. 6] [Vol. II, No. 8] [Vol. II, Nos. 9-10] [Vol. III, No. 11] [Vol. III, No. 11] [Vol. III, No. 12] [Supp. 1] [Supp. 3] [Vol. 4]

16. (Oct, 23) Maggie O'Sullivan / Tom Raworth
•my intro
•PennSound: Close Listening
Maggie'Sullivan's web page:
• "All Origins Are Lonely" (and see note on these).
•and "own land" (from Waterfalls).
•from Red Shift (99 Poets / 1999)
• "Courtship of Lapwings"
Veronica Forrest-Thomson, "Cordelia"

Out of Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America & the UK, ed. Maggie O'Sullivan
Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry, ed. Keith Tuma
Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970
, ed. Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain Bonus Track
Additional reading: Tom Raworth, Maggie O'Sullivan, J.H. Prynne in PM2
Veronica Forrest-Thomson, "Cordelia"
Tom Raworth on PennSound and at EPC
O'Sullivan on PennSound
O'Sullivan, "Red Shift" in 99 Poets
O'Sullivan books at Eclipse
Bob Cobbing, Sockless in Sandals: Collected Poems of Bob Cobbing, Vol 6, introduction by Peter Finch (1985)

Trisha Low on O'Sullivan:
1. let’s talk about embodied text vs. immediate generation. Do you find O’Sullivan’s work to be particularly feminist? How do we read it/ how does your throat feel when you do? Do you find it to have a certain kind of violence? Think about murmur. 2. let’s also talk about her visual work in relation to her text/ the material book as form, and the organic feelings of the linework beside her text – does it enhance the experience of reading? Embody it? Change the way you see words? How does this relate to the form of her work, the use of punctuation and fragmentation? 3. Also let’s talk about the role of the organic – does she embrace it? Reject it? Re-frame it? Particularly since she speaks about collage, sticking, inscription, but also about the natural in ‘all origins are lonely’/ think the origins of the species/ Darwin/ what does it even mean to speciate and categorise?

EPC: read poems in "Writings" section
PennSound: Close Listening
Listen Up: text, MP3 (from Close Listening)
June's questions on Raworth:
1. While reading his collection on EPC, particularly “All Fours,” I discovered that each stanza of Raworth’s poems seems to isolate one from the other, and that they can exist each as their own separate poem. I found this to be exciting and completely relatable. His stanzas float like balloons and pop as I run through them, the same way my thoughts are running through my head right now. Nothing ordered, just sprouts of ideas sticking out of the ground leaning towards the sun, needing to be watered. Did you find the disjunctively of the poem as endearing as I did? Or did you wish there was a connectiveness that he could have made work for him without relying on the typical "building" of a long poem that he refers to in Tracking (notes)?
2. Raworth weaves light into his poems consistently; in All Fours “not very good lights things happening / younger all clean and prosperous,” in Tracking (notes) “light as feeling?” and that whole first section, in A Serial Biography “There are degrees of darkness, that’s sure.” And “in this darkness how can you tell if you still see?” And “Unless on the other side of the wall they built another lightproof soundproof room.” And the song I happen to be listening to right now “there was a time when my world was filled with darkness, darkness darkness…” (Miike Snow, Animal). What does this repetition invoke in you? Did you find yourself striving for some sort of light, some form of a spiritual awakening, like I did? It reminds me of the moments during dusk when the sun is still peaking and you catch the reflection in a corner of shiny trees amidst a dark forest.
3. Raworths stream of consciousness form invites “observations of the everyday,” commentary on his daily existence, and reflection of his mundane as well as abstract thought. But he changes style throughout his works, abandoning a strict adherence to any one use of form as well as content. What is your reaction to the range of content and form in Raworth’s work? Does any specific combination suite him better than others? Social commentary and stream of consciousness? Political commentary and satirical verses? More specifically, do you find the methodology of Listen Up to be effective?
Lilly on Raworth:

How do imagining and writing through this log book format allow Raworth to write about writing? Other poets write about the shortcomings of language and culture and how culture uses language and how language uses culture all the time without this extreme and imaginative log book form, so what does it do for Raworth here? What makes us consider this poetry and not prose? Or: reading this as work coming from a poet, does that put us in a frame of mind to read this for specific types of comments and meanings? Generally, how//why is it generative for a poet to assume this position as a cultural/outerspace/futuristic observer? What is Raworth trying to say about time with this piece? Working within the fiction of the piece, many pages are "unfinished" and only a few pieces are given. Reading the piece, the tone is in the present but also makes reference to events that happened in the past and will happen in the future, or things in the poetic language in-between state ex "He planted that word twenty years ago so that its weight is now exactly right" (I wish we had a copy of the text, there are so many lines I'd pull out but I don't necessarily want to transcribe too many lines, don't know where the breaks fall, etc.). One other thing I thought would be interesting to talk about is movement in Raworth's poetry. For example "All Fours" does some really interesting things with the idea of that moment where you're/it's/he's/she's/we're ready to move or act, but never actually get to do so in the poem. It's like most of the stanzas are coiled springs that never actually release. Is that a good or bad thing? Who knows? I couldn't really get in to "Tracking" but I do think that this stanza could be interesting if we're going to talk about movement and to talk about "Logbook

Additonal (optional):
J.H. Prynne
: "In Cimmerian Darkness" (Kitchen Poems)
Vernonica Forrest-Thomson (1947-1975), "Cordelia"(from late 1970s)
Extensions: More on Thomson: Prynne memoir; Brian Kim Stefans intro & Alyson Mark's intro; poems in Jacket

17. (Oct. 28) Harryette Mullen
Muse & Drudge (pdf, restricted)
if you were to buy a book of Mullen's start with Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge, In any case read the first 6 poems of Trimmings and the intro on the preview.
Muse & Drudge excerpt
Contemporary Authors (via GALE) intro
Poetry Foundation page
EPC page
MAPS page
Essay from 99 Poets (1999) (PennKey req.)
Audio (PennKey req.)
(optional): Interview 2000 African-American Review
Hogue interview
Respondent: Alan
1. There’s a lot of stuff here. Cultural stuff, historical stuff, made up stuff, some of the poets stuff… Are you overwhelmed? Why or why not? In what ways does Mullen orchestrate Muse and Drudge to be overwhelming or easily digestible? 2. How long did it take you to read Muse and Drudge? How did the pace correlate with the language? 3. Given what she has said about her imagined audience, do you think the poet is making some sacrifices by attempting to reach the “outsiders”? If so what are these sacrifices, and are they worth it? 4. Every week the class has been and the syllabus has been structured so that the links, and commonalties between writers are obvious (they are outlined on the syllabus). But this week the poets are really different. Why are we reading these three together? What similarities do they have (if any)?
Valeria on Mullen
1) What do you think about the epigraph of Muse & Drudge (“Fatten your animal for sacrifice, poet, but keep your muse slender” – Callimachus) and about the theme of sacrifice, muse, drudge, burden, in general? How does the epigraph relate to the poem? 2) Does the final pause in Muse & Drudge come easily? Does the poem seem to “end”? Is there a sense of completion? 3) Do you like the way Mullen reads? How do the pauses work in her reading of Muse & Drudge? How does she bring across the wordplay and interplay of different voices in her reading? Does the tempo or anything else about her reading seem surprising or strange to you?

18. (Oct. 30)
Nathaniel Mackey / Michael Palmer / Bob Perelman

Nathaniel Mackey (EPC page)
PMP (Poetry and Poetics), FOSC (1028)
PennSound; of specific interest here, beyond the Close Listening show, is the relation of "Chant des Andoumboulou"("Song of the Andoumboulou"), at end of PennSound pages, to Mackey's poems of this title. Plus "Close Listening" show
Note: go via library e-resources Project Muse to get the special issue of Callalloo & other essays on Mackey (see esp. Mackey issue and Brent Edwards essay): these articles are listed on EPC page but must be accessed via library Muse pages.
Mackey interview at Contemporary Literature (2012)
Mackey on duende, "Cante Moro"
Song of the Andoumboulou: 23 – In the recording, Mackey’s reading is accompanied by some instruments. To me, the presence of tribal drums seems natural and enhances the poetry, but the screechy saxophone really distracts and detracts from my enjoyment. Do you disagree? What are the differences between reading the poetry, listening to it spoken by Nate Mackey, and listening to this musicalized version? "The Song of the Andoumboulou is addressed to the spirits. For this reason the initiates, crouching in a circle, sing it in a whisper in the deserted village, and only the howling of the dogs and the wind disturb the silence of the night." Does Nate’s poetry evoke this at all? Sound like something that would fit in with this scenario? Does the sax perhaps evoke the voices in the actual singing of the SOTA (especially towards the end of the song)? What do you make of the fact that SOTA is a funeral song? What are some of its funereal aspects? Is there a funereal idea present in more than just the content? Many aspects of nature are mentioned a lot throughout the series, and it seems that they have a tendency to be repeated. What part do these various aspects of nature play? Why are they so heavily mentioned? How does Mackey’s poetry itself convey his interest in the relationship between music and poetry? There are a lot of music-related words; are they sufficient? Or are the words or the form themselves musical? When Mackey reads his poetry, does that add another aspect of musicality? I was somewhat surprised when he mentioned the influence of flamenco. There’s several cultures that Mackey mentions; Spanish, African, Australian – did any of these influences surprise you? Do you think they all cohere nicely?
respondent: Jason

PMP, FOSC (732)

Perleman Jacket feature as intro
EPC (see full text of his early books at Eclipse link, eg. A.K.A.
Poetry Fondation: "The Unruly Child"
Two poems in The Future of Memory: "Confession" and "The Manchurian Candidate"
respondent: Gabriel

PMP, FOSC (664)
Palmer intro by Keith Tuuma (DLB/GALE)
via 20thC AmPo:
"Prose 9","Speech (Across Time)" from Blake's Newton
"Song of the Rounded Man" & "The Project of Linear Inquiry" from Notes from Echo Lake (2Oth c AmPo)
"Sun": text (public) text (Penn only) and audio: note there are two poems from the book of this title with the title "Sun"; this is the shorter; the other, on-line, is "Waste Land" length.
From Baudelaire Series: "Dear lexicon", "A man undergoes pain sitting at a piano"
Note: Selected poems via 20th c AmPo
The Gale introduction mentions how Palmer’s use of the wild lyric works against Anglo-American mpirical tradition. How does his politicization of form compare to the other poets we’ve studied? Is it any more or less effective than, say, Bruce Andrews? How does Palmer’s work with memory compare to Hejinian’s in My Life? Where does the lyric [traditional and wild] fit with the rest of our readings? Do you think the repetition/return of previous phrases and images jumble the sense of narrative, or help to create it?

Respondent: Jennifer

19. (Nov. 4.) Ann Lauterbach class visit. She reads at KWH at 6
Ann Lauterbach
Lauterbach has a new book that I recommend, Under the Sign: as a start read the parts on Amazon preview and get the book if you would like.
I also recommend her Selected Poems, If In Time; again read the preview but also consider getting new or used (seems like you can get that for the cost of shipping)
PLUS take out a book by Lauterbach from the library

Lauterbach intro
by James McCorkle
PennSound page: Close Listening, etc
If In Time: Selected Poems 1975-2000 from Penguin (excerpts)
"On Flaws: Toward a Poetics of the Whole Fragment"
Respondent: Jennifer
1. What do you think is the relation of the fragment to the ‘I’ in her poetry, particularly since statements come up that seem intensely personal – ‘that is all I recall of childhood’ but there isn’t really a sense of anchoring in her work. Do you find her poetry flippant on some level? 2. Do you see her work as proposing a passive, or a static mode of resistance to normative conceptions of the feminine ‘I’, which is to say, overly sentimental, not goal-oriented, concerned with a singular experience? Is there transformation in her work? 3. Let’s look at New Brooms (one of my favourite poems of hers) do you think space // narrative is important to Lauterbach? Which kind of space // narrative? Do you think there are extremes here, and if so, how do they function?
Alexandra: cp Schuyler, close reading of "Template"

20. (Nov. 6) Etheridge Knight / Lucille Clifton / Rae Armantrout

Etheridge Knight: wiki, Poetry Fdn, poets.org, PennSound
Haiku (via LION at library e-resources as are other poems below)
The Warden Said to Me the Other Day; audio at PennSound
For Eric Dolphy; audio at PennSound
Con/tin/u/way/shun Blues
A Poem for Myself,audio at PennSound

Rae Armantrout
my intro
PennSound, including Close Listening
NPM, FOSC (722)
EPC page
Poetry Foundation: lots of poems on this site
Poets.org poems
Respondent: Dane

Lucille Clifton --(poets.org)
from Good Woman selected (pdf; psswd req):
from Good Times Tyrone/Willie,
pp. 38-45 (note: "Buffalo Soliders" are Arfican-American soldiers)
from Good News About the Earth -- "Heroes" (whole sequence), pp.
from An Ordinary Woman, pp. 111-129
extensions: The Book Of Light (1993) [via 20th century American poetry]

What do you think of the wiki article on Etheridge? (do you think his attempts at writing are vain, is all writing a vain attempt at justifying wrongs, or a failed attempt to proved that somehow you are unique?? -Dolezal, Randall (from the Poetry Foundation article) feels that because Knight was from the streets, "He may be a deeper poet than many of the others because he has felt more anguish." à What do you think of this comment? In some ways I feel as if it belittles other types of anguish and other human fights because can only know the pain we’ve experienced. Does his pain, or his perception of his punishment as extreme make his pain any more real or painful? And does this in turn affect his poetry, or change your reading of his poetry? -Does his voice give Knight a certain type of authority? -Knight makes it clear that race plays a huge part in his art, his life’s trajectory, and his perception of himself and the world. I get the sense, though, that he’s fighting something else. It feels as if he’s masking some other, more personal, more universal pain. What other motivations do you think color his work? Or are there no other hidden monsters behind his lines of poetry?

There appears to be little consistency of form in Clifton's work. In other words, syllable count, meter, structure all vary wildly from one poem to the next. Does this point to a deficiency of technique on the part of Clifton? Is it more or less appealing than, say, “Muse and Drudge”? How are the variations important to her overall poetic project, if they are at all? How does the difficulty in pinning down the historicity of the work come into play? For instance, I'm only assuming the “for adrienne” poem is for Adrienne Rich, and I'm only assuming “malcolm” is about Malcolm X.” “eldridge” seems to be about Eldridge Cleaver. But what about the rest of the names? Clifton provides little context for their use, so they're partly left in suspension. Does this weaken their invocation or strengthen it? Does not knowing who the referent is have a noticeable impact on the work at all? Finally, some poems have titles, some have none. Is there a discernible reason for the shifting between titled and untitled? Would adding a title to the untitled poems alter their structure significantly? Likewise, you removing a title from a titled poem weaken it significantly?

21. (Nov. 11) Tracie Morris
PennSound: Close Listening, &:
"Chain Gang
"From Slave Sho to Video aka Black but Beautiful,"
"It All Started" (last of the segmented videos)
& her article in boundary 2: American Poetry after 1975

22. (Nov. 13) Mei-mei Berssenbrugge [EPC page] class visit.

Assigned book: Hello, the Roses

PennSound: Close Listening & other readings
DLB/GALE intro
Recommended: I Love Artists: New and Selected Poems; e-version of early poems pp. 1-14.
Poems linked from EPC page ("writings")
interview with Zhou Xiaojing

Like the scientific method. I feel such a tension between her scientific method-like format and the abstract language it contains. How does this make you feel/what is the effect of undermining this apparently logical form with content that is not necessarily logical or rational? What is the effect of her objective language and matter of fact tone on the deeply emotional and personal observations she is presenting? To me Mei-mei sounds like a robot on the verge of tears when she reads. She maintains a consistent voice but slight tremors hint at the emotion brewing below. Do you find any ambience in her restrained tone, perhaps reminiscent of Tan Lin’s automated poem we listened to in class last week? Or of his own monotonous voice? Mei-mei is concerned with expression and emotion, Tan Lin denies such an explicit motive (although many of us felt moved by the beauty of his statements). How do the experiences of Tan Lin’s monotony and Mei-mei’s flatness of tone compare? In her interview with Charles, she mentions that her poems navigate philosophical complexities through imagery/tropes from nature, a Chinese concept. Do you sense this Eastern influence in her works? Do you sense the environmental illness Mei-mei she mentions in the images of space and the body? i.e. “You don’t have to consume the space to exist, distance, point-to-point, in which a beloved ruin is middle ground, for example.” or “Mebranes have the density/of an edge, and edges violent as lava


23. (Nov. 18) Steve McCaffery & Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
EPC page
PMP (poems and poetics), FOSC (1008)
DLB/Gale intro
at PennSound: LINEbreak
"The Unreadable Text" from Code of Signals pp. 64-99 (pdf)
"The Kommunist Manifesto or Wot We Wukkers Want": MP3 & TEXT. This is a translation into Yorkshire dialect of Marx & Engels' Communist Manifesto
Homolinguistic translation: "101 0s 1n" (1979) (3:08): MP3
"Namings" (1997) (14:00): MP3
"The Curve to Its Answer," from Theory of Sediment, & audio: Jan. 11, 1985 (5:10): MP3 (Live at the Ear)
"Cappucino: a Suffix Structure" (2009) (2:55) : MP3
Zaum Acrostic for Marjorie Perloff (2009) (5:29) : MP3
Opening pages of "Lag"
Respondent: Alan

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Julian Spahr on Dictee (log in via e-resources/JStor)
Project Muse (library e-resources) features many articles on this work, including one by Josephine Parks.
Respondent: Jason

Further reading (optional)
bpNichol, Translating Translating Apollinaire
& Nichol in FOSC

Robert Kelly's Celan

supplemental readings on Celan: optional!: Paul Celan (& Gale bio): "Todesfuge" audio (and other poems)  &  (commentary); Sprachglitter (commentary) [Unrestricted source for Celan sound files and poems]
Charles Bernstein, "Celan's Folds and Veils" (from Textual Practice 18:2, 2004) on "Todtnuaberg. "The Medidian" (1960), tr. R. Waldrop (note the book)

How do Kelly's translations differ from Melnick's or (for those of you familiar) Zukofsky? Even though this is a “translation,” does it have its own agenda? Does is operate on its own level or the same level as Celan's original work? Or both? Why only the short poems of Celan? Why not the longer ones too? Finally, does the knowledge that the words are approximations of German sounds enhance the sonic effects? Or, as Dragomoshchenko hinted, are the languages different enough that any attempt at approximation is primarily gestural rather than actual emulation?

24. (Nov. 20) Leslie Scalapino
NPM (poems and poetics), FOSC (1044)
LINEbreak at PennSound and other audio
"Bum Series"(from Way): audio
EPC page:
Lyn Hejinian and my memorial/intro essays
complete pdfs of early books
Scalapino on Whalen
Elizabeth Frost, DLB/Gale intro
Extensions: "Disbelief" (language poetry, the body, identity, innovation)
Respondent: Lumin

1. Scalapino writes, "I am concerned in my own work with the sense that phenomena appear to unfold. (What is it or) how is it that the viewer sees the impression of history created, created by oneself though it's occurring outside?" Keeping this quote in mind, how does Scalapino disrupt the distinction between internal and external "events?" How does this relate to historical narrative? 2. Scalapino writes on her interest in exploring the erotic. In poems like "A sequence," p. 35-9 in It's go in horizontal, how does the erotic language situate the reader? Did you find it particularly voyeuristic? Lastly, did you find the poem humorous? 3. In much of her work, the distinction between the public and the private is blurred. In what ways is this a political gesture?

1. Did Scalapino’s poems from the Chameleon series give the feel of the comic book cartoon style? (“Each line or paragraph is a frame, so that each action occurs in the moment…Cartoons are a self-revealing surface as the comic strip is continuous, multiple, and within it have simultaneous future and past dimensions.”) Did the paragraph capture this perpetual now? What to say about Scalapino’s discrete dynamism – does her form indeed defy staticness and itself become dynamic in her writing? 2. What do these things mean and how do they move in relation to each other: jealousy, creamed, immaturity, mechanical, inverted, paradise 3. What is the role of desire in the Delay series? What is the delay in the delay series? 4. Does Scalapino seem aggressive or stable? Does the writing feel in motion or at equilibrium? And since the answer to this kind of question is always both, how do they relate to one another in her writing?,

Amaris: Scalapino eliminates ego, time, space, and gender markers, to create a generic space. What does this mean? What does a generic space make possible? What is the relation of the body to writing in Scalapino's work? Can language provoke a re-vision, leading to an eradication of all the markers that burden the physical body? Scalapino's recordings seem to have a staccato, a pausing, she segments the lines and phrases with her breaths. In an interview, she remarks that she purposely eliminates a conversational tone from her poetry because she recognizes the rhythms & vocabulary of vernacular to conceal an embedded hierarchy in language. Do you think this levelling project is consonant with how she reads her poems?
Valeria: Scalapino raises the wonderful possibility that someone will come along, read her writing and "it will become part of what [they] are doing." I think for those of us invested in writing poetry, this is kind of what we all want, and I was happy but also a bit mystified to hear Scalapino state with such assurance that these are the effects of her poems. Because there's something utopian, isn't there?, about the way she does it, believes in the effect, in effecting change, in collapsing the distance between a poem and a person's day. And if she says her poems collapse the space between poem & effect, poem & action, is that not good enough? Does it not mean it's true?

Discuss this quote from Scalapino: "“Activity is the only community,” Scalapino writes in “The Radical Nature of Experience—on Philip Whalen, Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, and Leslie Scalapino.” “The conservative gesture, always a constant (any ordering, institutional and societal) is to view both activity and time per se as a condition of tradition. As such, both time and activity are a “lost mass” at any time. … My focus is on non-hierarchical structure in writing. For example, the implications of time as activity—the future being in the past and present, these times separate and going on simultaneously, equally active (in reference to Whalen’s writing, and similar to Dōgen’s conception of time and being)—suggest a non-hierarchical structure in which all times exist at once. And occur as activity without excluding each other. This is unrelated to social power (it can possibly transcend it) but is related to social intelligibility at some time. Social marginality is a state not producing necessarily, but related to, thought/form as discovery."

25 (Nov. 25) Alexander, Strang, Gizzi, Ward, Inman, Willis, Thomas

Will Alexander
PMP ((poems and poetics)
PIP author page: "Haiti"
Poetry Fdn: The Psychotropic Squalls, Apprenticeship, Song in Barbarous Fumarole of the Japanese Crested Ibis
More: "The Pope at Avignon," "Inalienable Recognitions"
PennSound: start with first minutes of "Ignato Lounge" show ... more as possible
1984 poems from New Wilderness Letter.
2013 interview
Respondent: Lumin

Catriona Strang, Low Fancy (Toronto: ECW Press, 1993) (pdf via PEPC Library)

1. Surrealism? Rimbaud? Does someone feel more qualified than I to talk about these vectors as influences in Alexander's work? In what ways does surrealism of the 1930s manifest itself in the poetry, either form or content? 2. According to the article from poetry foundation, Harryette Mullen describes Alexander's language as using "rare, unusual, specialized, foreign, or archaic words" for their "precise denotative meaning, connotative meaning, metaphorical resonance, aural or phonemic qualities, or all of the above" Do you agree with her statement? What's the cumulative affect of all the unfamiliar words / words in unfamiliar contexts? Do you feel decentered, bewildered, reassured, transported? Speaking of transported, what role do places and place names serve for Alexander and his poetrypoetics? 3. How does listening to Alexander read his own poetry compare with the experience of reading? Does it change the poetry to lose that stumbling sense one gets when one reads an unfamiliar word, and submit to Alexander's voice instead? 4. Automatic writing?
Diane Ward:
"Approximately" from "Language Sampler"
Tender Arc and Nine-Tenths of Our Body from Code of Signals, edited by Michael Palmer (PDF file at Duration Press, pp. 37-42)
To what extent is Ward's poetry thinking put down to paper as opposed to a pre-meditated hundred revision outlined piece of work? I'm interested here in the relationship between poetry and drawing; sketching as a mental activity. As cliche as it may seem, I'm wondering how dreams play into her work. Is it a classic take on questioning perception; is it a poetic technique an possibly a vessel for describing poetry in and of itself? Her work is accessible in the sense that the words are parts of traditional sentence structures, but many of her juxtapositions are not, and how is this a commentary on what could be Ward's views on life and poetry? Did the work speak to you? I found myself having trouble losing myself in her narrative; there would be occasional blisses but it was work to stay involved (i found myself letting it run past a lot of the time and had to do a lot of rereading) How did the experience compare with say, Clark Coolidge? Less cerebral? More intuitive? Less concerned with linguistic constructions and more with content?

P. Inman: EPC page: Ocker //// PennSound: Close Listening
Peter Gizzi:
EPC page:
Three Poems (2010) from Sybil 
Blue Peter from Conjunctions
Hard as Ash from Avec Books
A History of the Lyric from No: A Journal of the Arts
A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me

PennSound: Close Listening
Respondent: James
1. In works like "A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me," Peter Gizzi presents a disjunctive narrative. To compare--or frame--Gizzi says in an interview with Poetry Daily, "I think I am a narrative poet—I’m just narrating my bewilderment as a citizen.” Was is difficult to read this work in a narrative framework? 2. What did you think of the "I" in these poems? Was there a clear, single speaker? Does the "I" hypertextual, does it assume reference? 3. Did you find these poems difficult? What were the challenges in reading the work?

Further reading: Anne Waldman in NAPM and on PennSound
"Make Up on Emptry Space"
"Fast Speaking Woman" on PennSound and Google book of part of the poem.


Fall Diversion:

MONEY, 1985 by Henry Hills

(.mov, 47mb, 14.27)
(1985) is a manic collage film from the mid-80s when it still seemed that Reaganism of the soul could be defeated. Filmed primarily on the streets of Manhattan for the ambient sounds and movements and occasional pedestrian interaction to create a rich tapestry of swirling colors and juxtaposed architectural spaces in deep focus and present the intense urban overflowing energy that is experience living here. MONEY is thematically centered around a discussion of economic problems facing avant-garde artists. Discussion, however, is fragmented into words and phrases and reassembled into writing. Musical and movement phrases are woven through this conversation to create an almost operatic composition. Give me money! Starring: John Zorn, Diane Ward, Carmen Vigil, Susie Timmons, Sally Silvers, Ron Silliman, James Sherry, Peter Hall, David Moss, Mark Miller, Christian Marclay, Arto Lindsay, Pooh Kaye, Fred Frith, Alan Davies, Tom Cora, Jack Collom, Yoshiko Chuma, Abigail Child, Charles Bernstein, Derek Bailey, and Bruce Andrews.
More information on the film


26. (Dec. 2) Disabilities
Jordan Scott from Blurt
about the book (includes and excerpt)

See also Scott's lecture and reading on PennSound (search for both events)

  • "My viewpoint in the video is that of an autistic person. But the message is far broader than autistic people. It is about what kinds of communication and language and people we consider real and which ones we do not. It applies to people with severe cognitive or physical disabilities, autistic people, signing deaf people, the kid in school who finds she is not taken seriously as a student because she does not know a lot of English, and even the cat who gets treated like a living stuffed animal and not a creature with her own thoughts to communicate. It applies to anybody who gets written off because their communication is too unusual." (from Amanda Baggs Wiki page)
    see also Wired interview
    Baggs contorversy & her response in comments

  • watch this one below with the SOUND OFF!

Watch ASL Poets in the Spotlight on PBS. See more from Independent Lens

27. (Dec. 4) Dialect / Ideolect / Other Language / The Real
Respondent: Madeleine

Myung Mi Kim (epc)
& at PennSound (including a Penn Close Listening)
PF -- poems and bio

Lois-Ann Yamanaka: Hawai'i pidgen poems:
audio: "Sista Boss of the Food" (enter PennKey)
texts: "Dead Dog Rip", "My Eyes Adore You" (enter PennKey)

1. How does the performance and the content of the Sista Boss of Food work together and influence your listening? Think about your first reaction to the sounds of pidgin. What was it like? Reading and hearing these poems are really different experiences. How so? 2. What similarities and parallels can we draw regarding race/gender in the works of Yamanaka and Morris’s poetry? How do the poets present these issues differently? How are your conclusions different? 3. In Yamanaka’s poems seem to me like performances within a performances. Agree? Disagree?

John Yau, "Ying Glish & NPM

Yunte Huang, SHI


Sharon Mesmer, "Annoying Diebetic Bitch": youtube and text; PoemTalk: "I Accidentally Ate Some Chicken and Now I'm in Love with Harry Whittington" & in NPM

Drew Gardner, "Chicks Dig War": youtube & text; NPM (poems and poetics)

K. Silem Mohammad, Deer Head Nation and Sonnagram & in NPM

"The Flarf Files." See also: a negative view of Flarf & Jacket's Flarf feature

Further reading:
Marie Buck, Life & Style
Nada Gordan NPM
Gary Sullivan, "Hello and welcome to poetry phone..." (3:58). NPM


Kamau Brathwaite (LION intro)
"Blues' "Caliban" "Harbour"(from Black + Blues, 1995 via LION); "Kumina"; "Wings of a Dove": text, audio on PennSound (Segue); see also (extenstions/optonal) poems here.
Respondent: Lumin
Questions: (1) Kamau Brathwaite is very concerned with the colonizing experience of the Carribean and of Africa, especially the consequences it has had for language and art. Can you locate the slavery/colonization in his voice? In his writing? If so, do you think that he is manipulating it (as in he is in control of how he plays with the force of colonization in his writing?)? Or do you think that this colonizing force is controlling him? (2) What do you make of the difference between the recorded poems and their written forms. More specifically, do you see the same disconnect that I do: the recorded poems consciously flow (even when he speaks in cumbersome English), and his written poetry is consciously fragmented? (3) “Wings of a Dove” is strikingly different from Brathwaite’s other works, what do you make of the way his reading of this poem makes clear progressions, of the way he plays with sound (rather than the extreme patience he usually shows with his words)? (4) Brathwaite uses repitition in every poem. The second time he uses a phrase, is it the same voice/ the same I?
>>> How crucial is oppositionality (yup, made it up) to poetry and to engagement with the reader, can the reader also engage with topical works like Hejinian’s? How does your understanding of a work as oppositional change your view of the artist and, thus your view of their work? Kamau’s I is “my people,” his “us” a different “us” than that in Ward’s “Approximately,” it’s a selective us, one that excludes others and warmly welcomes others in. What does this exclusiveness do to his work? How much do you feel as if in Ward’s and Lautenbach’s poetry you are personally invited to be the “you” “us” or “we”? For that matter, Gareth, are you having trouble “losing yourself” because you do not feel invited into the work/ that Ward is inviting you into the space, or to become a part of the creation by becoming a part of the dance of the narrative itself? (This one is not just for Gareth) Is this different from the inclusion you feel in Kamau’s poetry?

28. (Dec. 9) Tan Lin
EPC page: "Soft Index"(and abstract) & Heath (free pdf) (cp this to Amazon preview of First Edition); and at least glance at EDIT series
Insomnia and the Aunt
on Tan Lin: Danny Snelson on HEATH
Tan Lin on Kenny G & Disco
interviews: Jacket 2, Rhizome, Galatea Resurrects, Bombsite

PennSound audio: Close Listening shows
PennSound video
Print books: Heath (new edition) and Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking (Wesleyan)
Respondent: Emmett

Further Reading:

Conceptual Ambient Constrain
Newest Old Schools: Land O'Lakes vs. Nutrition Facts

Christian Bok
Steve McLaughlin



UbuWeb Conceptual Writing Anthology; introduction by Craig Dworkin

Robert Smithson, "A Heap of Language" (1966); commentary by Richard Sieburth 

Rosmarie Waldrop, Shorter American Memory

Joan Retallack, The Woman in the Chinese Room,  A I D /I/ S A P P E A R A N C E, and PennSound

Issue #1 and Issue #2 (Steve McLaughlin, Jim Carpenter)


Flarf vs. Conceptual Writing, Poetry Foundation Issue (Kenny G) and Icons (Brian Kim Stefans)


Further reading (optional):
Ron Padgett -- Antlers in Treetops, with Tom Veitch & Padgett selected poems at LION
Rod Smith, Protective Immediacy (Roof, 1999) & selection of new poems at Sibyl
Susan Holbrook
Kit Robinson, The Dolch Stanzas (1976): facsimile (not this work compose of most commonly used words: see Wiki on "Dolch Words."
Indexes: Paul Violi "Index" poems, an instruction manual, a travel guide, a quiz or examination, etc.
Tan Lin index

Farrell Inkblot Record excerpt; flash version

Nick Thurston's Historia Abscondita (pdf), an appopriated index work.
Allen Fisher, The Poetics of Complexity Manifold (99 Poets/1999)
Vanessa Place, Statement of Facts


1. “During a reading in New York, I read one flarf I'd sent to the list, "New Year's Post," and surprisingly, it went over incredibly well. My notions of what might be "bad" or "wrong" were being questioned by the response.” – This is something that’s been plaguing me a bit this semester. What makes a poem bad? Can we ever call a poem entirely “bad” or entirely “good”? If so, where is the cut-off? What makes “goodness” and “badness” more than personal preference? 2. What do you make of the breaking down of barriers between philosophy and poetry that is found in Retallack’s work? I’m thinking particulary of The Woman in the Chinese Room. I feel that the philosophy is contained by the poetry, that they are not on an even footing. Is it possible to transport poetry into a philosophical context? What would that look like? Can they ever be truly equal and inseperable? How does one’s knowledge of the very philosophical concept that is addressed in the title affect one’s reading of the poem? Without that context, would it have been as meaningful or significant? 3. People describe Retallack’s work as “creative, playful, and serious.” Does any one of those characteristics stand out to you? Perhaps I need to re-read, but I didn’t see the work as “playful.” Do you agree? Disagree?

What do these works do for you as a reader? What is the effect of this conceptualization of poetry; do you enjoy it? do you think it's abandoning something we shouldn't abandon? Is it just different? Is it some way inevitable; is the logic applied here, the philosophizing, the understanding, a necessary move for poetry, as the essay said not improving on how we state something but now simply understanding that that is the only way it can be stated?
Talking Points
Sarah: Given the political import of the work done by the Oulipo, which, given its heavy mathematical influence may seem particularly dry, I seized on a point in Craig Dworkin’s introduction to the Ubuweb collection: “But what would a non-expressive poetry look like? A poetry of intellect rather than emotion? One in which the substitutions at the heart of metaphor and image were replaced by the direct presentation of language itself, with "spontaneous overflow" supplanted by meticulous procedure and exhaustively logical process?” I pondered this idea. It first strikes me as a particularly masculine idea to have a hyper-intellectualized poetry in which emotion has no role. However, this seems more like an idle wish on the part of strict conceptualists. Form is necessarily political (whether it’s upholding the status quo or challenging it). Even the most strictly conceptual pieces still leak emotion, and that’s what makes them worthwhile (to paraphrase my earlier quote from Kenny Goldsmith on PoemTalk: even adhering to constraints is adhering to them with an intent). What makes Joan Retallack’s AID/I/SAPPEARANCE, for instance, interesting is not only its novel structural concept, but the way the concept conveys the loss associated with AIDS. I think back to Reznikoff’s Testimony, which is both a conceptual project and an emotionally devastating one. Finding emotion within conceptual works, rather than diluting or corrupting the concept, provides it instead with new depth. Taking a straight thought experiment and providing it with renewed relevance. Emotion is inescapable.
Valeria: Flarf: There seems to be this constant tension between these poems appearing really "bad" on the screen and sounding really wonderfully satirical when performed.
Renee: Speaking of mothers, this week’s work leaves out, completely, the idea of the ancestor. Flarf is a young man’s game, even Sharon is dressed as one. A teenager’s words and interests stuffed onto the pages and into the mouths of adults who have spent enough time out of college to be tired of independence.
... mocking seems to be a huge part of this poetry and I’m not sure whether I’m comfortable with that. Because of this I can’t fully engage with it. I find myself rebuking my own laughter and retreating into the admonishing corner of superior morality. ... I guess what I’m saying is: what about the ethics of Flarf/Conceptual Writing? I cannot continue to mine for data nuggets with the machete of the “cut” button if some of the nuggets are alive and drowning in their own excretions.



Artists Books

Drucker/Bee, A Girl's Life

We will meet in Van Pelt room 502, far east side of the 5th floor (Rare Book Reading Room).Class will end early! No later than 8:30. So we will go without break, a bit over two hours. We will meet at the Special Collections library for this session, looking over the particular books, which please preview over the week before our meeting. Special focus on books by Johanna Drucker, Scalapino, Hejinian, Berssenbrugge, Howe, Susan Bee, Arakawa/Gins, Alison Knowles, and various Granary books collaborations by the poets otherwise on the syllabus.

Don't pick this one as a "respodent": I'd like each of you to pick a book to "present" at the meeting and we will go round for one to the next. Feel free to pick other books artists books from the collection. I am suggesing Drucker, Bee, Granary, and Arkawa/Gins just to keep it managable.

Books can be viewed in Van Pelt room 502, far east side of the 5th floor (Rare Book Reading Room) Hours: noon-4:45 Mon-Fri. NOTE LIMITED HOURS!

Johanna Drucker's Artists Book site (but view books in library)
Arakawa/Gins: The Mechanism of Meaning (images) (but view book in library, though not on reserve; it's at the Fine Arts Libary))

Granary Books:
The Dessert by Jen Bervin
Time Samples by Alison Knowles
Flicker by Emily McVarish
Francie Shaw and Bob Perelman, Playing Bodies
Arakawa/Gins, Mechanism of Meaning (Fine Arts Libarry)
Emilie Clark and Lyn Hejinian, The Lake
Susan Bee:
Entre, with poems by Régis Bonvicino (Collectif Génération/Global Books, 2009)
The Burning Babe & Other Poems, with poems by Jerome Rothenberg (Granary Books, 2005): complete book (pdf); page 1, page 9, page 12, page 13, page 17, page 19, page 26, page 30, page 31, page 35
•A Girl's Life, with writing by Johanna Drucker and collaborative design (Granary Books, 2002): page 5, page 43
•Bed Hangings, with poems bySusan Howe (Granary Books, 2001): image 1, image 2
•Log Rhythms, with poems by Charles Bernstein (Granary Books, 1998) (complete book at UBU)
•Little Orphan Anagram, with poems by Charles Bernstein (Granary Books, 1997) (excerpts from Riding the Meridian) complete book at Artists Books Online

These are the book on reserve:

 Susan Bee & Johanna Drucker, a Girl's Life
Bob Perelman and Francie Shaw, Playing Bodies 
Johanna Drucker, The Word Made Flesh 
Jen Bervin, The Desert 
ALison Knowles, Time Samples 
Emily McVarish, Flicker 
Emilie Clarke and Lyn Hejinian, The Lake 
Johanna Drucker, Testament of Women 
Johanna Drucker & Brad Freeman, Emerging Sentence 
Johanna Drucker, History of the/my Word 
Johanna Drucker, Luminous Volumes 
Johanna Drucker, Night Crawlers on the Web 
Johanna Drucker, Simulant Portrait 
Susan Bee & Charles Bernstein, Little Orphan Anagram 
Charles Bernstein & Susan Bee, Log Rhythms 
Jerome Rothenberg & Susan Bee, Burning Babe & other poems 
Clay, Steven, Granary Books, When will the book be done? 
Golem by Jack Spicer from Granary 
Mimi Gross & Charles Bernstein, Some of these Daze