>> Documents <<

Announcing publication of
Questions of Poetics: Language Writing

and Consequences

 

41sw0hBUqdL

 

Questions of Poetics is full-on Watten, a book with sharp edges, relentless intelligence, and an unwavering conviction that the arts have serious work to do.”
—Peter Nicholls, author, George Oppen and the Fate of Modernism

Questions of Poetics represents a major statement by one of the highest profile poet-critics of the day. Its arguments concerning genre, form, particularity, and negativity represent a solid, easily grasped, portable way of thinking about the ongoingness of the avant-garde, its continual diversification and reinvention. Moreover, Watten offers a persuasive reappraisal of Language writing and its place in American literary history.”
—Brian Reed, author, Nobody’s Business: TwentyFirst Century Avant-Garde Poetics

Official release date: September 1, 2016. For the University of Iowa Press flyer, see here; for ordering options, see here.

Thursday, May 5

Michael Gottlieb

Luc Tuymans @ David Zwirner
Tracey Emin @ Lehman Maupin

The Tale of Tales, dir. Matteo Garone (IFC)

Friday, May 6

Michael Golston
Bruce Andrews

Unfinished @ Met Breuer
Andy Warhol, Electric Chairs @ Venus
Jean-Michel Basquiat, images and words @ t/k
David Hammons @ Mnuchin
Allen Jones @ Michael Werner
Anne Collier @ Anton Kern
Richard Serra @ Gagosian
Sigmar Polke @ David Zwirner
Mike Kelley @ Skarstedt
Jasper Johns @ Mathew Marks
Carlos Motta @ PPOW … More

The following is a collectively authored and lightly edited chronology of significant events and publications in poetry and poetics from 2010 to 2015. Submit 3–5 entries, including year and month, to barrett.watten@gmail.com for inclusion. The project is intended to sample an expansive account of poetic activity during this period, as an aid to memory, reflection, and action.

 2010

April   Alice Notley, Reason and Other Women (Chax Press)
Rae Armantrout wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

June   Rethinking Poetics conference, Columbia University; organized by Bob Perelman and Michael Golsten

July   95 Cent Skool: Summer Seminar in Social Poetics, Oakland; organized by Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr

October   Final volume of The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography (Mode A/This Press)
Gail Scott, The Obituary (Nightboat); a novel close to poetry and the impact of First Nations genocide on urban psycho-geography

November   Ed Roberson, To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan UP)

December   Kit Robinson, Determination (Cuneiform Press)

2011

August   Durruti Free Skool, sequel to the 95 Cent Skool, Berkeley
ARMED CELL 1, ed. Brian Ang, distributed at Durruti Free Skool

September   Start of Occupy movement, which would include significant participation and related publishing by poets

November   Performances of The Grand Piano at University of California Berkeley and California College of Arts, San Francisco (dates t/k)

2012

 

 

January   Death of Stacy Doris (January 31)

February   Franziska Ruprecht’s Dichtwerkvariété events combine performed writing with American variety show style in Munich, Germany

April   Lyn Hejinian, The Book of a Thousand Eyes (Omnidawn)

May   Death of Leslie Scalapino (May 28)

September   Death of Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (September 12)

November   Amiri Baraka at the African-American Museum, Detroit (November 16)

2013

May   East Bay Poetry Summit

September   Carla Harryman, W/M (Split Level)

November   Ronald Johnson, Ark (Flood Editions)

2014

January   Death of Amiri Baraka (January 19)

March    Nathaniel Mackey, Outer Pradesh (Anomalous Press)

May   The Water Street Journal; an act of sublime and politically radical piracy published on May Day without a barcode and distributed free in Ypsilanti, MI

December   10th anniversary of Dos Madres Press, Heterotopia Book Store, Cincinnati (date t/k)

2015

January   Franziska Ruprecht, Meer-Maid (Wolfbach Verlag)

February   Tony Sanders (d. February 11) wins the Bernard F. Conners Prize

March   Kenneth Goldsmith performs Michael Brown’s autopsy report at Brown University (date t/k)

June   Cancellation of Berkeley Poetry Conference after complaints over inclusion of Vanessa Place; the conference is restructured and renamed Crosstalk, Color, Composition: A Berkeley Poetry Conference

August   Death of Stephen Rodefer (August 22)
Hungarian PEN awards Charles Bernstein the Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry

September   A poetry reading with three black men and one working-class man of unspecified ethnicity in an Ypsilanti house to celebrate one among them who has suffered from police harassment (September 11)

New in 2015:cover

“Language Writing”
an essay by Barrett Watten

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.
… More

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 ?

*     *     *
… More

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]