Sunday, February 26, 2012

AWP Chicago 2012: Where I'll Be


 I’ll be participating in the following events at AWP this coming week in Chicago. I hope to see you at any of them, or any of the number of other panels and readings that I’ll be attending.

Route 66 Off-Site Reading
Friday, March 2, 2012
3:30pm until 5:30pm
Buzz Café, 905 S. Lombard Ave., Oak Park, IL. 60304
This reading, coordinated with thanks to Grant Matthew Jenkins, features experimental/conceptual poets from states along Route 66. Get your kicks at 3:30pm!

Tentative lineup:
Grant Matthew Jenkins
Claudia Nogueira
K. Lorraine Graham
Mark Wallace
Bob Archambeau
Sloan Davis
Susan Briante
Farid Matuk
Greg Kinzer
Joseph Harrington
Simone Muench
Hadara Bar-Nadav
William J Harris
Dennis Etzel Jr.

To get there by subway:
Take the Blue line to Austin-Blue
Walk to 905 S Lombard Ave, Oak Park, IL 60304
1. Head west on Garfield St toward S Taylor Ave 0.1 mi
2. Turn right onto S Lombard Ave 0.1 mi
905 S Lombard Ave, Oak Park, IL 60304


Saturday, 9:00 A.M.-10:15 A.M.
S117. Building and Surviving an Innovative Writing Program
(K. Lorraine Graham, John Pluecker, Anna Joy Springer, Janet Sarbanes, Mark Wallace)
Crystal Room, Palmer House Hilton, 3rd Floor

Participating in an interdisciplinary writing program committed to innovative pedagogies is exhilarating and confusing, especially if it’s a new program and you are a professor building the curriculum or a student in the inaugural class. A recent graduate, a current student, two tenured faculty members, and an adjunct professor discuss their experiences with innovative writing programs: the three-year old MFA at UCSD, the established MFA at Cal Arts, and the growing undergraduate BA at CSU San Marcos.


Stop the Sentence: A Night of (Inter) Active Readings
Saturday, March 3, 2012
7:00pm until 12:00am
at Outer Space Studio
1474 N Milwaukee Ave.

7:30 Matthew Klane
8:30 Cara Benson
9:30 Michelle Naka Pierce
10:30 Ronaldo Wilson
11:30 Tracie Morris


Teresa Carmody, Feng Sun Chen, Gloria Frym, BJ Love, Mark Wallace

Claire Donato, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Luis Humberto Valadez
Catherine Wagner, Tyrone Williams, Tim Yu
& a tribute to Akliah Oliver with a video by Ed Bowes & Anne Waldman

cris cheek, Laura Goldstein, MC Hyland, Tim/Trace Peterson, Michelle Taransky, Edwin Torres, Christine Wertheim

David Emanuel, Jennifer Karmin, Edwin Perry, Jai Arun Ravine,
Adam Roberts, Kenyatta Rogers

That means you!

Venue logistics --
doors open 6:45pm
in the Wicker Park neighborhood
near CTA Damen blue line
third floor walk up
not wheelchair accessible

Red Rover Series {readings that play with reading} is curated by Laura Goldstein and Jennifer Karmin. Each event is designed as a reading experiment with participation by local, national, and international writers, artists, and performers. The series was founded in 2005 by Amina Cain and Jennifer Karmin.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: E! Entertainment by Kate Durbin

Kate Durbin’s E! Entertainment, published by Insert Press, is certainly entertaining, but its ultimate effect is unsettling. The Conceptual Writing-like flat reportage of surface physical textures and human interactions gives a sense, throughout the text, that a great deal is missing, or the equally unsettling sense that maybe there isn’t anything important missing after all. Psychological motivations for the various characters (some are characters from well-known TV shows, while others appear as themselves in the context of Reality TV or media reports) are blotted out in transcriptions that record the surface of what they’re doing at the moment, as if that surface is all that matters:

“You just sit here by yourself?” asks Heidi, looking up to the ceiling. She laughs. Audrina starts to smile, then purses her lips together. She looks up at the ceiling too, nodding, her lips still pursed. Shot of Heidi looking up at Audrina. “Um,” says Heidi. “Spencer and I are having a little housewarming party and wanted to see if you and Lauren wanted to come” (16).

Why they do what they do is at times implied, at times simply not there. The result is a text that shows people as bodies in motion, watching and being watched, with some of the motions disorienting or odd or even pathological, and others having a kind of intense banality that can be even more disorienting than the oddities.

The book is broken into several sections of interconnected  prose paragraphs mingled among sometimes blurred film stills. The first follows several of the main characters from the TV show The Hills (2006-2010); the second describes some scenes from the show Dynasty (1981-89). The third section features Lindsey Lohan, through the words of reporters, as she appears in court, and the final segment seems to be from the short-lived Anna Nicole Show (2002-03) that starred the short-lived Anna Nicole.

The degree of bathos and abjection increases from section to section. By the time of the Lohan and Nicole sections, the actresses’ public personas are breaking down as the actresses themselves do the same, so that the distinctions between a public performance and a person become frighteningly lost:

ANNA: Huh? I don’t know. Oh. You said open ‘em. With a wha—for a waterpark? I wanna go. Why not. My baby’s over there sleepin. I think I just have a little gas. I think I just I think I’m having some gas trouble. It hurts and I need some gas poot stuff so I can poot it out. (54)

The lack of interpretive commentary from Durbin is crucial to the book’s oddity. She neither accuses this world of being shallow and degrading or revels in its supposed glamor. While she makes no attempt to call any of the situations banal, the lack of any attempt at psychological or social insight leaves readers with the sense that while these things are indeed happening, there’s nothing really making them happen except the fact that they’ve been created in order to be watched. I found myself wondering why and how these things and people had come to be, but realized that the author would be providing no answers.

Of course, ordinary capitalist television shows almost always feature a heavy-handed morality. The normal titillations of capitalist urges (money, beauty, sex, power, etc) get thrown hypocritically against a finger-pointing, numbingly conventional sense of right and wrong. It’s as if the two opposing urges (to lust or to condemn) shape in the dialectic between them the lives both of successful television characters and television viewers, and eliminate all other possible ways of feeling and thinking.

By removing both the titillation and the morality, E! Entertainment leaves readers with the disconcerting sense that there’s no significant reason why these things are happening beyond the possibilities they create for voyeurism. Readers wanting a moral framework (Marxist or psychoanalytical or Christian or anything else), or even a simple explanation of why things are happening, will have to impose them on the text. Instead, what E! Entertainment shows readers is bodies wrenching awkwardly with desire, anxiety, and physical pain, struggling with each other and talking to each other and dramatizing in public the fact of themselves. What finally turns the book into a kind of contemporary gothic is the developing dread, the sense that the whole show is leading in the direction of decay and collapse. The voyeur watches others go through their act of pain and dying in order to avoid the uncomfortable and unspoken truth that the voyeur too is headed in the same direction.