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 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.

Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Cathy Park Hong

Creative Writing grad student Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Cathy Park Hong’s BathHouse reading from earlier this semester:

In Sean Kilpatrick’s introduction of Cathy Park Hong,  he notes that “Each line performs like a thousand tongues dueling,” and that we will be privy to “See cultures splayed and reviled by a renegade architect.” Indeed, reading from the collection, Dance Dance Revolution, Hong delivers her work with a keen attention to the way language spars culturally and colloquially, jumping from English to Korean to corporate lingo to slang.

For Hong, language as a living organism of revolt and assimilation. Dance Dance Revolution, centered in a Las Vegas-esque Desert city, is peppered with phrases like  “Bling-bladda-bling,” alongside “Blood rust has been windexed to amber shine.”

Hong embodies the performative aspect of poetry reading, all the while remaining physically reserved behind the podium on the Student Center Auditorium stage. Nevertheless, she reads actively and emphatically, with careful inflection and dynamic speed and accents.

Hong’s work appears concerned with authenticity and artifice. “Once the desert was actually a desert,” she writes. What can be discerned as genuine, and if anything, or anyone can be so called, what is the nature of that determination? It would seem that if anything could be called genuine, it would be paradoxically something that crosses boundaries, blurs distinctions and therefore our means of measuring it against expectations of other genuine things. “Let’s toast to bountiful gene pool, to intermarried couples breeding beige population.”

Hong’s work is future-minded, troubled, but  brazen and strangely optimistic. Lines like “Bring me my napkin. My thumb is smudged with the horizon” suggest that living is an active, continuing encounter with the world around us, and we can’t help but change with what it means to be alive, and change the world with us.

Ned Randolph reviews Cathy Park Hong

Creative Writing grad student Ned Randolph reviews Cathy Park Hong’s BathHouse reading from earlier this semester:

Cathy Park Hong’s Dance Dance Revolution (W. W. Norton, New York, 2007) imagines a heightened collision between the language of commercialism in a futuristic, globalized world. She read from the work on Thursday at the most recent BathHouse Reading Series event at Eastern Michigan University.

The poem sequence features a fictionalized dissident from South Korea — turned tour guide — who is leading a historian through an imagined futuristic city, called the Desert, which resembles in many ways the surreal commercialism of Las Vegas.

Her tour guide speaks in a pidgin assembled from English, Korean and other dialects that spit out cliches as if they were jingles written for the occasion, such as “unabashed Succotash” and “I get laid in me Escalade, then I drink Crystal before I take out my pistol.”

The sequence of poems, which won the 2006 Barnard Women Poets Prize, bears a loose connection to Dante’s Inferno, where Virgil guides the reader through the nine circles of Hell.  This guide, instead, has on the surface sold her lyrical soul to commercialism as she touts in the language of commodities, musing on “Colgate white teeth” and her caveats for dating “even if them wining and dining me” as she leads her historian through a fictional hotels based on the cities of the world.

“Behold, the toilet!”

Hong reads without lights or special effects. Diminutive with a clear, melodious voice she riffs on commercials through the words of the guide who makes one nostalgic for the actual desert, a natural occurrence, in comparison to the commercial construction of the Desert in city.

The narrative of the historian (gender unspecified) is also interspersed throughout the collection, as he recollects his own experiences, including the Civil War in Sierra Leon, where it was safer to draw the city streets than to walk them. Though, he said, he was a poor illustrator. “Childish draftsmanship forced me to focus on smaller things,” his says in a poetic primer than I put in my own pocket for later.

“les’ toast to bountiful gene pool, to intramarry couple breedim beige population!” a celebrant offers.

Hong also read from her forthcoming book that consists of a trilogy of poems — from three imagined boom towns: an Old Western in the 19thy Century, Chengdu in president day China, and a cyberpunk city of the future.

From the first, she read three short sound poems, including two lipograms that relied on a single recurring vowel.

In the second, the narrator’s boyfriend from Chengdu works in a Rembrandt replication factory, where he paints five fake Rembrandt’s a day that are exported to a far off land called Florida.

The cyberpunk world is inhabited with “smart snow” which is nano-like computer dust that connects people without the need for computers. People can read others’ thoughts and vacation by spelunking in another’s mind.

Hong pulls from her own influences to sculpt her work in prose and verse. A former journalist, she tends to look to the world at large to inform her poetics. She spent a year in Korea interviewing defectors from North Korea in 2005. While there, she was amazed, she said, to find the Korean language so newly laden with English words, which was different from the Korean spoken by her own parents.

Still, in the bilingual household in California, she said, her family always spoke in broken sentences.

BathHouse Reading: Brenda Iijima – Tuesday, March 22, 6:30 pm

BathHouse Reading Series 2011

Don’t miss the final BathHouse reading of the Winter 2011 semester featuring Brenda Iijima, taking place Tuesday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Dreamland Theater.

Brenda IijimaBrenda Iijima was born in the hardscrabble town of North Adams, Mass. She is the author of Around Sea (O Books, 2004), Animate, Inanimate Aims (Litmus Press, 2007), Subsistence Equipment (Faux Press, 2008), Revv. You’ll-ution (Displaced Press, 2009) and If Not Metamorphic (Ahsahta Press, 2010) as well as numerous chapbooks and artist books. She edited the collection Eco Language Reader (Nightboat Books, 2010). Currently, she is working on a body of work entitled Some Simple Things Said by and About, a chronicle of how humans have used animals as surrogates. She is also doing research on women who were murdered in North Adams during the 1970’s when she was growing up there. She is the editor of Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs (

The Dreamland Theater is located at 26 N. Washington in Ypsilanti.

Aylen Rounds reviews Cathy Park Hong

Aylen Rounds reviews Cathy Park Hong’s recent BathHouse reading:

Cathy Park Hong, BathHouse Reading, 2/17

Poet Cathy Park Hong was the featured writer for February’s BathHouse Reading Series, held on the 17th. She read from her latest book, Dance Dance Revolution, as well as excerpts from a forthcoming collection (tenatively) titled Engine West.

Hong was personable and warm right from the start, which helped her audience want to engage with her work — even if they didn’t always understand it. This went a long way  in the case of the excerpts of Dance Dance Revolution, a collection of poems about an imaginary desert city with a narrator who speaks in a pidgin comprised of English, Korean, Spanish, and old and new slang, prohibiting the audience from comprehending many individual words. Despite this seemingly large obstacle, at the very least, the excerpts Hong chose to read from Dance Dance Revolution certainly intrigued those in attendance who hadn’t (yet) read the book.

Engine West is another collection of work exploring imaginary cities – three of them – an Old West town, an imaginary city in modern-day China called Sheng-Du, and a futuristic place described by Hong as cyberpunk. Stylistically, it weaves together sound poems and narrative poems.  Hong read excerpts from each of the three sections. The Old West selections were “sound poems,” illustrating Hong’s love of rhythm and the musicality of poetry (one of the things she said in the Q&A section after the reading was “when a poem works, it’s usually the music.”) Following this were narrative poems from the Sheng-Du collection, which featured some incredible imagery (“Bring me my napkin. My thumb is smudged with the horizon.”) She closed with three pieces from the futuristic city, which featured an invention called “smart snow”– snow which would, using Internet technology, allow everyone inside everything —- creating a boundaryless future.

Overall, it was an evening that showcased breaking boundaries beyond just the thematic : crossing the lines of genre, of language, and of time, Cathy Park Hong gave her audience here at EMU a memorable presentation.

BathHouse Reading: Cathy Park Hong – Thurs, Feb 17, 5:30 pm

BathHouse Reading Series 2011

Don’t miss the next BathHouse reading featuring Cathy Park Hong, taking place Thursday, Feb 17, at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Center Audtitorium.

Cathy Park HongCathy Park Hong is the author of Translating Mo’um (Hanging Press, 2002) and Dance Dance Revolution (WW Norton, 2007), which was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Hong is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a Village Voice Fellowship for Minority Reporters. Her poems have been published in A Public Space, Poetry, Paris Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, Harvard Review, Boston Review, The Nation, and American Letters & Commentary, among other journals. She has reported for the Village Voice, The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, and Salon. She serves as a poetry editor for jubilat magazine and is an Assistant Professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten

EMU grad student Gerard Breitenbeck reviews the recent BathHouse reading that featured Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten:

Ned Randolph introduced first Eric Lorberer who went on to speak about public art, art in a shared space and related questions of ownership and permanence vs. ephemerally. He focused on the Ashbury Bridge in Minneapolis. A person crossing it should look at it differently than the artist who created it. Armajani is an Iranian born artist who gravitates toward art for purpose and public consumption. He loves gazebos, plaza, and especially bridges. His professed hope is to create works “Halfway between sculpture and architecture,” works which only get their full meaning through their pragmatic use.

Lorberer describes how the Ashbery Bridge was created jointly between worlds of politics and art, as well as the combination of three different bridge structures: steel tresses, suspension bridges, and arch bridges. One of the governing notions is the collision or joining of multiple worlds, as shown in the bridge’s mirror effect, the colors light blue and light yellow, and the use of beams and spaces as poetic breaks (ashora). All of which makes the bridge both an operational bridge and a living mediation on “bridgeness”, the idea of bridging and crossover and connection itself.

Lorberer takes us visually through the poem Ashbery wrote for the bridge. While most public poems duplicate the experience of the page, here the poem as traverses the length of the bridge. Overall, Lorberer demonstrates how Ashbery and Armajani present a bridge as something more than just a way to get from one place to another. Not only does it frame the city around it,  it is a site unto itself, a location to visit for the sake of it’s art and beauty; and yet to experience it, one cannot help but find themselves on the other side, having used it for what it most basically is.

After a short break, Ned Randolph then introduced Barrett Watten, a founding L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet. Watten focused his talk on the author as site. He began by discussing some of Robert Smithson’s works, including the site-specific pieces Broken Circle, Spiral Jetty, Buried Shed; as well as non-site works such as the Mirrors series. Watten then showed how Smithson began moving the mirrors outside into physical landscape, incorporating nonsite work in the site specific. He spoke of the entropic nature of much of Smithson’s work, such as the Glue Pour; that is, pieces which draw attention to the irreversibility of artistic creation.

Watten spoke of the visual component of the work of language poets, as is evidenced in Smithson’s Heap of Language. He then showed us three sites in which Watten’s poetry had been transformed into site-specific art. The first was the Addison street project in Berkley, which utilized small plaques in the sidewalk with poetry embossed on them, a direct mimicry of the page. Next came the Introduction to the Letter T, an Amajani project, in which a lengthy original poem had been distilled into a series of tiled images into a walkway, as well as two whole lines from the poem: “Things should correspond to open doors” and “There should be more outside.” Last came the Des Moines public library chess courtyard, in which various lines of another lengthy poem were incorporated into fences outlining the environment.

Watten closed speaking of the poet Laura Riding Jackson’s final and uncompleted  project, a dictionary called “Rational Meaning,” which endeavored to be the last word with proper meaning of words, conceiving that in any given context there was but one ultimately correct word. For instance, Jackson would contend that the words “Structure, building, edifice, form, and construction,” aren’t interchangeable. In other words, Jackson came to believe that Language rather than usage defined meaning, which is a curious position for a modernist to take, and opens up a host of interesting questions with respect to how we conceive of the role of language in art and our lives, as well as the location and possibility of artistic intention and meaning.

David Boeving reviews Eric Loberer & Barrett Watten BathHouse reading

It’s the first BathHouse review of Winter ’11. This one is courtesy David Boeving:

Eric Loberer began the initial reading for the 2011 EMU Creative Writing department’s BathHouse reading series by providing an extensive portrayal and interpretation of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (better known as the John Ashbery bridge) as it relates to the category of site-specific art. The bridge, which exists and thrives in Minneapolis, Minnesota between The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and a piece of land owned by the municipality, acts as a type of performative connection between not only the city and its art community, but also the citizens of the city, those that visit the bridge, and also the traffic passing below it daily. The construction of the bridge, designed by Siah Armajani is consciously reflective of at least two of these connections, if not all. On one side, the bridge is colored a hue of light yellow, on the other, a beautiful blue. This distinction of color seems to relate directly to the divergent sides of the ideological spectrum leading up the bridge itself: the government and the art community. This distinction also seems to be reflected by what can only be referred to as an asymmetric symmetry about the bridge itself. On one side, the support of the bridge arcs down, on the other it arcs up; this relationship creates a type of mirror image that, along with the color differentiation about the structure, separates, yet connects the two opposing yet interconnected sides. John Ashbery’s poem then, which is spread about two flat rails on either side, both leading the poem in separate directions, can be said to do a similar job connecting the art world with the municipality.

Speaking after a short break, Barrett Watten continued along the theme of the night by commenting upon and reading some of his own work that was utilized by Siah Armajani, as well as art’s relation to public space in general. One of the first topics he considered was the work of Robert Smithson, such as the infamous Spiral Jetty, as well as Broken Circle, and other non-site works. He introduced the idea of site specific works, such as the two mentioned above, but also some of Smithson’s non-site works, which include Heap of Language, and other works that have taken an entirely new look at language and art design. Watten’s own work (which was read brilliantly) and analysis seemed to be commenting upon the relation of poetry public space. Essentially, his work, as well as that of other writers whom have been published into public space seems to interact with the environment around it in many ways. It is an influence for the architect or sculptor considering it, and sometimes vice versa. It also, once published, has a powerful relationship to not only the space which it changes drastically, but also the people inhabiting that space. Sometimes this relationship goes unnoticed, but regardless, it is present by comparison to how the space existed prior to be changed by the artist and poet.

In all, both presenters did a wonderful job commenting upon art and public space, and the relationship that they share. The only stipulation that one may have about the evening, would be that the presentations were not indeed long enough. Although it was one of the longer readings/presentations that I had ever attended, it seemed a bit rushed at points. Regardless, the reading was a great success. The evening overall was informative and entertaining, to say the least.