Miranda Mellis: An Introduction by Aaron Smith

BathHouse reading series welcomed Miranda Mellis this fall, and Aaron Smith (a current graduate student) wrote a wonderful introduction to her reading. I thought I’d share it here!

“Today we welcome Miranda Mellis, a powerfully surreal mind & voice in a world that cannot slow down or re-trace its steps. Our cultures have carved a heavy path through time, have created & shaped what we imagine as history, and Mellis works intensely to decode our collective views of both history & time, past, present, future, and other realities. She asks a continuous array of questions that guide her readers & characters through fictional realities that further question what is happening to us & them as individuals, and question how we perceive ourselves & our world.

Lucia, the narrator of The Spokes, at one point offers a direct analysis of past & present: “We’ve been this kind of human […] for two hundred thousand years […] If we don’t know ourselves, how can we know the ancestors?” Our vision of history is blurry at best, and the ways in which our knowledge of the past is commonly obscured cause us to un-learn countless ways of living that have much to teach us about collaboration & communication. Mellis’s vivid imagery opens doors to the past & versions of the present that we might otherwise overlook forever. In a 2012 interview with Green Apple bookstore, she explains:   “our everyday lives are outrageously pressurized in ways that we become habituated to, that become invisible, and then rear up in all sorts of painful intensifications, symptoms  & so forth. Forms of magic – magical thinking, magical transformations, and magical actions – represent reachable, alternative forms of agency & knowledge in lieu of  political power for the disenfranchised, abandoned, and oppressed.”

In another 2012 interview with City Lights bookstore, she alternately describes fiction as “an organ for detecting what otherwise goes unregistered.” By utilizing these “alternative forms of agency,” Mellis is able to both openly ridicule & rigorously analyze “what otherwise goes unregistered” for many people: the ways in which our cultures & histories push themselves forward at maddening speeds, inevitably crash & collapse, then slowly repeat the long, determined climb back to some epic climax. In The Spokes, her narrator Lucia argues that “Sometimes the impossible is the missing ingredient.” This element of “the impossible” is what drives powerfully meaningful pieces of our own reality deeper into our minds when winding through the fantastic landscapes assembled by Mellis; over time her imagined landscapes begin to feel more familiar than our own.

I would like to close with a quote from The Revisionist; a paragraph that stands alone on pg. 63, and in many ways defines the sense of time that pours through all her parables:  “There were so many different kinds of time. There was time measured in objects & time measured in space. There was time enclosed by language […] There was the way a person measures the distance between what she once felt & the moment she realizes she no longer feels that way. There was also the void, for which time was conventionally the foil.”

Miranda Mellis teaches at Evergreen State College. She is the author of The Quarry, The Spokes, None of This Is Real, Materialisms, and The Revisionist, which was the subject of a 90-foot mural at Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis. Miranda is also a founding editor with The Encyclopedia Project, a hybrid publication that plays with the ideas of reference book, literary journal & arts catalogue, blending all into a hybrid series of cross-referenced hardcover volumes. Please welcome her to our small pocket of time & space.”

Taylor Cyr Reviews November 2012 Bathhouse Events

I’m sitting in the scratchy auditorium chair, flipping through my phone. I got here early because I hate crowds and I wanted to get a seat close to the end so I can make a quick get away once this is over. I know, I know -I’m a terrible person. These Bathhouse events are for the students. And as a creative writing minor, I should be interested. I should be attentive. But the fact is I just got done with a long day of class and the only thing I’m thinking about is how early do I need to go to bed to get up in the morning without wanting to shove a fork in my eye?

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Karen Thompson Reviews November 2012 Bathhouse Events

Day 1

On the first day of the Bathhouse readings we listened to Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Camille Roy, and Rachel Letvisky read from some of their past works as well as new pieces either recently published or currently being written. Having four creative writing classes this semester I’ve read pieces from every one of those writers.

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Bathhouse Past

Last Month On November 28th and 29th Emu Students and the extended community invited Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Camille Roy, and Rachel Levitsky to read at the Bathhouse event on campus. The EMU students have written reviews of the event and the blog is only too glad to share this with you.  The writers each read from either published works or work in progress. Dimitri read a short excerpt from Farm of Mute due to release soon by Mammoth Books. Camille read from a book of her poetry titled Sherwood Forest published by Future Poem. Rachel Levitsky read from her book, Neighbor, available from Ugly Duckling Presse.

Camille

Reading from Sherwood Forest

Rachel

Rachel reading from Neighbor

 On November the 29th each of the writers gave a short presentation or talk on work that concerned them. Dimitri has given the blog permission to re-post his essay about narrative and finance. Rachel conducted a short presentation on the Office of Recuperative Strategies, a way of intervening in the archive, among other things. Camille gave her opinions on community and what it means to be a part of one; as they may change in ways that are not aligned with the ways you are changing. After all the presentations, there was a Q&A session where the audience was invited to test more readily the various writers’ opinions.

Dimitri’s works are available below the cut.

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Bathhouse and more

This week is jam packed with creative writing.  Bathhouse reading series presents  two performers. November 28th will be a reading featuring Dimitri Anatasopoulo, Camille Roy, and Rachel Levitsky.

Then, join us on the 29th for a panel discussion with our presenters moderated by our own Carla Harryman entitled: Intersections: Community, Politics and Art.

The event takes place at Roosevelt Hall from 4-6pm both days, so if you cannot make one there is another. For more information be sure to check out the reading series page.

But wait, there’s more! After the Bathhouse reading EMU’s Nicholas Mourning will be performing at Wednesday Night Sessions at the Mentobe Cafe in Farmington. This is the final reading of the year so be sure to catch it if you can. Other “fantastic” authors include Steve Gillis, Mary Minock, and Horam Kim. The event beings at 7pm and should run about one hour.

In other news Dr. Rob Halpern has recently been awarded the Sexiest Poem Award! Congrats to Rob, one of the Creative Writing faculty here at EMU.

BathHouse Reading – September 28, 5:00 p.m. – Laura Wetherington, Jill Darling and Sara Williams

The Bathhouse Reading Series brings in a number of writers and artists —both innovative established writers and exciting up-and-comers—who perform readings of their work. See video of past readings and performances in the Photos/Video section. For more information on these readings, contact the EMU English Department at 734.487.4220. All events are free and open to the public.

September 28, (readings by EMU faculty)
Sponberg Theater, 5 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
Laura Wetherington, Jill Darling and Sara Williams

Laura Wetherington is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s MFA program, UC Berkeley’s Undergraduate English Department and Cabrillo College. Her first book, A Map Predetermined and Chance, was selected by C.S. Giscombe for the 2010 National Poetry Series and is forthcoming in October from Fence Books. She has poems published or forthcoming from Otoliths, Verse, Eleven Eleven, Bombay Gin, Oxford Magazine and Just Magazine. Laura co-edits textsound.org with Anna Vitale.

Jill Darling earned her MFA in creative writing from Colorado State University and is working on a Ph.D. dissertation at Wayne State University on 20th century American experimental women writers such as Gertrude Stein, H.D., Lyn Hejinian and Claudia Rankine. Her chapbook Begin With May: A Series of Moments was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008 and full-length book Solve For was published online by BlazeVOX the same year. Jill’s poems and creative essays have been published in Upstairs at Duroc, The Bombay Gin, A, Phoebe, Aufgabe, Highway 14, Poets and Poems, Factorial, New Millennium Writings, Quarter After Eight, /NOR, 580 Split, Poetry in Motion and the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders.

Sara Williams graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz in Creative Writing and Literature. She earned her MA in Creative Writing from Eastern Michigan University focusing on writing and art. A 2010 InsideOut Literary Arts Project Writer-in-Residence at Detroit’s Bagley Elementary, she currently teaches creative writing at EMU.

Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Brenda Iijima

Another review from Creative Writing grad student Gerard Breitenbeck; this time Gerard reviews Brenda Iijima’s recent BathHouse reading:

Professor Carla Harryman introduced Brenda Iijima to the Dreamland Theater in downtown Ypsilanti, speaking of her strengths as a poet who writes both inventively and politically. Following Professor Harryman, a small group of her undergraduate students presented their own poetically minded introductions, insightful and often surprising soundscapes.

Iijima begins by playing a video of her from Youtube, which depicts her dancing in a flowing dress on the front lawn of her mother’s house, in a salute to women labeled derogatively as witches.

“You might be bored by oxen, or you might be predisposed to oxen.” The Donkey poem explores what it is to be a donkey, or rather, what common language would conceive a donkey to be. Lines like “They are donkeys, they go by the name donkeys, humans call them donkeys, they are recognizable as donkeys” suggest the distance and alienation language affords humanity, particularly from other animals as we reduce them to the most utilitarian conception we can muster.

Iijima continues this theme with meditations on Mules, Pumpkins, Pork, Polar Bears, and Swans; inviting us to consider the nature and implications of how we conceive of the animals and plants around us. By placing under a microscope the reductive, exploitative language we use to relate to other living things, Iijima prompts an internal and external discussion on the nature of how language has been constructed, and for what purposes it finds itself employed. It would seem, Iijima leads us to consider, that like the Donkey and its similarly burdened counterparts, language itself has been subjugated for the purposes of alienation, hierarchy, and patriarchal hegemony.