New in 2015:cover

“Language Writing”
a chapter by Barrett Watten

in The Cambridge Companion to
Modern American Poetry
ed. Walter Kalaidjian

Table of contents:

1. The emergence of ‘the new poetry’
John Timberman Newcomb
2. Modern American archives and scrapbook
modernism / Bartholomew Brinkman
3. Experimental modernism
Alan Golding
… More

It is forty years since the Fall of Saigon, and the first event I record, in my lead piece in volume 2 of The Grand Piano, recalls my activities on that day. I hope it still means something to put this out there:

Politics

On 1 May 1975, I attended a public meeting of a communist organization. The Fall of Saigon, of course, did not simply coincide with that date; it had been taking place for weeks. The meeting was in a rented hall on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Two million people, according to mass media, had been forced to evacuate Phnom Penh. The speaker interpreted this report in a positive light: Khmer Rouge authorities were only trying to prevent disease and panic. Half the people in the room read revolutionary newspapers as the speaker addressed them, while the other half listened attentively. He went on: now is the time the movement for revolutionary change must commence. There can be no going back. By next year the organization’s size must double. We have a simple choice before us.
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Event 51: I Met (ACLA)

American Comparative Literature Association
Seattle, 26–29 March 2015
(after On Kawara)

renee hoogland
Anjuli Raza Kolb
Marjorie Levinson
Jonathan Stalling
Nick Admussen
Jinyi Chu
Jacob Edmond
Paul Manfredi
Florian Wagner
Yang Zi
… More

Tracking the Chinese Avant-Gardes: Literary and Visual
Organizers: Barrett Watten, Wayne State University
Jonathan Stalling, University of Oklahoma
Jacob Edmond, University of Otago

American Comparative Literature Association
Seattle, 26–29 March 2015; stream B (10:30–12:10)
Dashpoint, Seattle Sheraton

The past thirty-five years has witnessed the phenomenal growth of numerous avant-garde art and poetry movements in China, from the 1979 Stars exhibition and Misty School of poetry to the present. This seminar will survey the formal innovations, historical development, and cultural logics of the Chinese avant-gardes, working across genres and disciplines in doing so. It will present examples of formally innovative and culturally provocative art, from its period of emergence after the Cultural Revolution in the 80s to the traumatic break that occurred with the events of the June 4/Tiananmen Square movement to periods of growth and dispersion in the 90s and global recognition in the 00s. How have Chinese avant-gardes developed, dispersed, changed, been absorbed—what are their influences, accomplishments, contradictions, historical mission? How are the Chinese avant-gardes global; how do they respond to or resist globalization; how do they reflect, affirm, or critique China’s role in the global order? How are the Chinese avant-gardes a moment of cultural translation or hybridity between Chinese and Western/avant-garde aesthetics, philosophy, and/or politics (including gender)? How were emergent forms of transnational art, such as Conceptual Art or Concrete Poetry, interpreted in China? How do the Chinese avant-gardes negotiate the visual/verbal interface between pinyin and roman characters as a part of its task? And finally, what does the emergence of the Chinese avant-gardes, in their specific historical and cultural conditions, mean for the theory of the avant-garde, given its Eurocentric historical basis?

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Document 34: Les Revues

The following is Martin Richet’s translation of “Magazines,” the first prose poem in Opera—Works (1975); it appears in the first issue of his handsomely produced translation journal Jongler (ordering information below). It does not address the question of whiteness, which has been preoccupying us, but does address feeling states around the possibility of being a poet.

Les Revues

Tu es dans un bâtiment puis à l’extérieur. À seize kilomètres de là, tu le visualises à peine — tu vois le sol depuis le ciel au ralenti. En même temps tu sens l’hélicoptère qui s’enfonce dans la rue. L’avion fend un nuage.

Le simultané comme attribut du non ressenti. Le littéral comme attribut du ressenti. Un simple intérêt littéral pour la diversité du monde et les implications des choses.

Un abonnement à une revue que l’on considère vaguement divertissante et complètement dispensable. Un carnet de correspondance — une bénédiction — un baiser mérité. L’horticulture variégée vue à la lumière ambiante. Les petites boîtes de plantes, les pots en céramique, les tiges vertes coupées, des tâches simples.

La gestion compliquée des tâches simples. Tu t’abonnes à une revue, la revue arrive, tu y jettes un oeil et tu t’inquiètes.

Les revues, c’est possible ?

*     *     *
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Reaching further back into my personal archive of whiteness, I find this poem—written in Iowa City about 1971 or ’72 and published in 1975, on the theme. It is the second poem in my first book, Opera—Works. The title quotes a line from Charles Olson’s “The Kingfishers.”

The Whiteness Which Covers All

Magnum opus
white
marginal waves
nested in whiteness

The triangle dilated
fragments—
the voracious snake
hidden
in the sheets of—

White sea
flat under a white sky

The narrow eye, such that
it encompassed the
compelling frigidity.

I was
witnessed throughout.

From Barrett Watten, Opera—Works (Bolinas, Calif.: Big Sky Books, 1975), 6; reprinted in Frame (1971–1990) (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1997), 280. Copyright (c) Barrett Watten 1975, 1997, 2015.

The current discussion on the “whiteness of the avant-garde,” following Cathy Park Hong’s article in the journal Lana Turner, has brought up the question of whether avant-garde poets fail to deal with a supposed “color blindness” in their radical forms and experimental practices. The following is a section from Bad History, written in 1992 and published by Lyn Hejinian and Travis Ortiz’s Atelos Press in 1998, that addresses the cultural construction of whiteness—my own, in fact. It was written the summer following the Los Angeles riots after the beating of Rodney King, and is informed stylistically by the art writing I had been doing in Artweek during that period—many instances of which took up matters of cultural politics across the spectrum of race, class, and gender. It would only be a short while before I took up my teaching position at Wayne State University in Detroit, but that is another story. Those calling out the “avant-garde” as not confronting its racial cultural logics need to look a bit further.

To Elsie

On being the white male heterosexual I’m supposed to see myself “as”—but who’s looking? For William Carlos Williams, as a pure product Elsie was the exception that proved the rule of his own impure lack of identity—the non-solution of “no one driving the car” being the prescient mastery of a situation the poet’s white male heterosexual heirs would have to negotiate sixty years hence. And so indeed have we come to see ourselves predicted as the outcome of our incommensurate acts—Williams in ironizing himself as “not” the pure product he would libidinally like to be; we in retreating from the historical sentimentality of his look. Now we can only admit to having no such desire left as Williams would have liked to preserve—unless we are willing to be seen, in self-contradiction, “as” violent dissociations of Williams’s self-objectification. But does the resulting desire—”not mine”—convey any more politics than the one I could claim by negating my own lack of identity in the white male heterosexual’s violently self-destructive but cannily self-preservative acts? Think of Chris Burden shooting at a jetliner in 1973—it is of course granted that he missed. Such desire can have no object—either it casts itself out as its own unknowing or it is observed, from a distance, as something needing to be controlled. Are you someone who needs to be controlled? … More

Document 31: Zero Hour

Just published
in an interdisciplinary,
transnational essay collection

Barrett Watten, “Zero Hour/Stunde Null:
Destruction and Universals at Mid Century”

in Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik
Nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven
auf “America’s Germany,” Katharina Gerund
and Heike Paul, eds. (Bielefeld: transcript
Verlag, 2015); for more information click here

With Herbert Sirois, Michael Hochgeschwender,
Frank Mehring, Jeanpaul Goergen, Philipp Baur,
Reinhild Kreis, Dorottya Ruisz, Dieter Meindl,
Phillip Beard, Werner Sollors, Winfried Fluck

from the introduction:

Barrett Watten problematisiert die Vorstellung einer Stunde Null als politisches und als ästhetisches Konzept aus der Perspektive eines “radical historicism,” der konsistente und wohlgeformte Erklärungen und Narrative zugunsten von Brüchen, Krisen und Kontingenzen in Frage stellt. Die Stunde Null wird als metahistorisches Ereignis verstanden, das vor allem hinsichtlich seiner verschiedenen Repräsentationen und deren kultureller Arbeit untersucht wird. Watten identifiziert retrospektive, antizipatorische und punktuelle Konstruktionen des historischen Moments in literarischen und visuellen Darstellungen und setzt diese in Beziehung zu dem historischen ‘Ereignis.’ Er untersucht exemplarisch die antizipierte Zerstörung als poetisches Prinzip in den Werken von William Carlos Williams sowie die retrospektive Konstruktion der Stunde Null in dem Film Judgement at Nuremberg (1961, Regie: Stanley Kramer) und in den Fotografien von Lee Miller. Er illustriert anhand dieser Beispiele seine zentrale These, dass Zerstörung die notwendige Vorbedingung des Universellen ist” (introduction, p. 15). [Translation t/k]

Document 30: Digital Archive

archive cover

 

 

Wesleyan University Press
announces publication of

Poetics Journal Digital Archive
ed. Barrett Watten and Lyn Hejinian

A complete collection of key texts in the
development of contemporary poetics

 

 

 


Poetics Journal Digital Archive is a resource that re-publishes virtually all of the articles originally published in Poetics Journal, organized alphabetically by author and in searchable form. The archive features indexes by contributors, original publication volume, and keywords.

The archive was designed to be used with A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the Expanded Field, 1982–98, an anthology that includes thirty-six articles selected from the run of the journal, organized in three chronological sections, along with comprehensive introductions by both editors, contextualizing headnotes, publication history, keywords, abstracts, and bibliographies for each article.

Together, the Guide and Archive comprise a print/digital publication that will make the best use of both media. Some of the essays published in the Guide are abridged versions of the originals, and readers will find the complete versions in the Archive. Nearly all the articles published over the life of Poetics Journal are included.

The writing that appeared in Poetics Journal reflects the development of a range of ongoing creative and critical approaches in avant-garde poetry and art. In making this content newly available, we hope to preserve the generative enthusiasm for innovative writing and art it represents, while encouraging new uses and contexts.


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Event 49: Tomb of Fourier

Maquette of destroyed statue of Charles Fourier

Modern Language Association
Vancouver, Canada
8–11 January 2015

371. The Surrealist Enlightenment
Presiding: Jonathan P. Eburne, Penn State University, University Park

1. “Material Wonder as Catalyst for the Surrealist Collection,” Katherine Conley, Coll. of William and Mary
2. “Thanks for the Memories: The Repetitions of De Chirico’s The Disquieting Muses,” Joanna Fiduccia, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
3. “Sapere imaginare: Surrealism and Quantum Physics,” Nathalie Fouyer, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
4. “Light of the Image @ Four Corners: Breton’s Ode to Charles Fourier,” Barrett Watten, Wayne State Univ.