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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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China

Ancient Chinese Ceramics Gallery. Museum catalogue. Shanghai: Shanghai Museum, n.d.
Chen Haiwen, ed. Old Industries in Shanghai. Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 2010.
Childhood Friends Getting Fat: Moving Image of Liu Xiaodong, 1984-2014. Exhibition guide. Shanghai: Minsheng Art Museum, 2014.
Chinese Calligraphy Gallery. Museum catalogue. Shanghai: Shanghai Museum, n.d.
Huang Yan. Yan Ink: Ink Research Series. Exhibition guide. Shanghai: Leo Gallery, 2014.
Huang Yaping. Sun Yat-Sen in Shanghai. Trans. Pan Qin. Shanghai: Shanghai Century Publishing Co., 2010.
Köppel-Yang, Martina, ed. Advance through Retreat. Exhibition guide. Shanghai: Rockbund Art Museum, 2014.
Li Dong. Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2004.
Ming Yang Pei, ed. Chinese Propaganda Poster Collection. Shanghai: Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center, 2013.
Shanghai Lady Postcards. Shanghai: Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center, n.d.
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Document 28: In Memory

rhw

Artist: Shiy De-Jinn;
photo: Jan Watten

In memory
Raymond Henry Watten
20 August 1922–23 August 2013

Minneapolis, MN–Santa Rosa, CA

HOME

On Summit Street
across from a marble
monument, a large spray-
painted sign with his
initials in red block
letters. The background
is black. Next to the initials,
RHW, is a high contrast
image, a snapshot of him.
It is late summer, a
humid afternoon with slight
breeze. A bus goes by.
He comes out to meet it.

—from Opera—Works (1975)

I was a new arrival at the Iowa Writers Workshop, c. 1971–72. Given the kind of confessional, autobiographical, narrative poetry the workshop cared about, workshop leader Marvin Bell thought to prompt: “Write a poem about your father!” This is what I came up with. I did not return with a poem in which I was sharpening a tool behind the woodshed, wondering what to do next. The red-on-black high-contrast image appears to be a screen image for Salvador Allende, killed in the Chilean coup in 1973. My father did not represent Pinochet, but he was in his career a military officer and research doctor during the Vietnam War. He wrote a thoughtful support letter in my campaign to resist the draft, I should add. The location of the image (imagined) translates the psychogeographies of Charles Olson and Robert Smithson onto the quotidian landscape of Iowa City. Of course all such cultural references are to my own family romance. It strikes me that the season and weather described in the poem are those of today precisely, 23 August 2013, while in the poem, the bus and his emergence from the “home” of the title do not coincide. As now they just did.

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Guide front 1200

A Guide to Poetics Journal:
Writing in the Expanded Field,
1982–1998
Ed. Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten
Wesleyan University Press, 2013

A Guide to Poetics Journal, the print component of a hybrid publication project that will be completed with its digital half, Poetics Journal Digital Archive, in early 2014, is now available from Wesleyan University Press. The press has provided a link that you may use to receive a 30% discount: use promotion code W301 at the following site: here. For more information on this venture, see the publicity flyer linked here.

Table of Contents

Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten
           Introduction            

           Part I: Numbers 1–4

Steve Benson
Close Readings: Leavings and Cleavings

Charles Bernstein
Writing and Method

Beverly Dahlen
Forbidden Knowledge

Alan Davies
Language/Mind/Writing

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trash 130718 1200

The day Detroit threatened to declare bankruptcy–with a population loss of over 50%, and with 18 to 20 billion debt declared by new accounting–this was the scene in the alley behind my studio in the Canfield Lofts, in the pleasant and prosperous midtown area. A friend commented, “Basquiat!”; I thought “Rauschenberg”; Smithson would declare it a “nonsite”–there is a certain aesthetic appeal to the image, certainly, partly due to the water drops on the window, from a recent heavy rain and high temperatures, creating painterly effects. Pink graffiti meets material overflow as sensory excess. As art, the image presents itself to the senses so we would all agree that the pleasure we would feel is certainly not due to its depicted content.

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A listing of titles acquired in my recent tour of Bay Area book sellers.

Literary and Cultural Theory

Brill, Dorothée. Shock and the Senseless in Dada and Fluxus. Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth University Press, 2010.

Löwy, Michael. Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situationism, Utopia. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.

Maza, Sarah. Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

Rensmann, Lars, and Samir Gandesha, eds. Arendt & Adorno: Philosophical and Political Investigations. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2012. 

Poetry

Alexander, Will. Compression & Purity. San Francisco: City Lights, 2011.

Brathwaite, Kamau. Trench Town Rock. Providence, R.I.: Lost Roads, 1994.

Brown, Brandon. Flowering Mall. New York: Roof Books, 2012. Signed by the author.

Cooper, Wayne. ed. The Passion of Claude McKay: Selected Prose and Poetry, 1912-1948. New York: Schocken, 1973.

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